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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1738

Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (15:26): What a disappointing effort that was. It just shows you that Labor has learnt nothing. In fact, what we just heard from the shadow Treasurer is testimony to Labor's contribution in this parliament: stuck in the past, trying to defend its poor and punishing legacy and performing as if parliamentary life is a picket line. We did not hear one constructive idea whatsoever from Labor, and that does reflect where they are at, still licking their wounds after the electorate of Australia said, 'Enough is enough of this poor government that is driving our economy and our opportunities into a hole.' That is what they said about Labor and that is why the election was a resounding message that change was required.

What we have just heard from the shadow Treasurer is that apparently everything was just peachy, everything was just spectacular, everything was just where it wanted to be in the sweet numbers coming out of Labor. Why on earth would the electorate have wanted to change such a great bequest of genius and governance? Why? Because that was not the case at all. What we saw from Labor was 200,000 more unemployed people than was the case when they were elected, gross debt projected to rise on Labor's policy settings to $667 billion. Let us make it easy for those opposite, let us round it up to $700 billion to give you an idea. That number does not sound too big, does it, but it is actually seven with 11 zeros after it. It is an enormous number, and that is the bequest that Labor left. We saw cumulative deficits adding challenges and financial cost and burden not only to future generations but undermining our choices about what to do with the resources that are available to the government. The 50,000 illegal arrivals, the biggest carbon tax you have ever seen, 412,000 jobs lost in small business. I have made the point in this place that a small business job is a local job, a small business job is an Australian job. Do you know why Labor does not care about them? Because they are probably not a union job. The only time you hear Labor talk about a job is when they have been wound up by their union overlords to make a big deal and come back into this place as if this is an extension of the picket line. Well, life is not like that, Labor.

Let me share with you a simple observation that the Australian electorate sought to share with your previous government at the election: things were not going great, things were not peachy. Many of those economic trajectories that we went to the election to change, to seek a mandate to go about things differently to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure nation where opportunity is within reach, where we could be our very best. That is what they voted for. They voted for something that Labor did not have, and that is a plan. We had a plan. We have a plan. This continues to be our guiding plan.

Mr Husic interjecting

Mr BILLSON: Those opposite might heckle. They have got nothing to wave around except an appalling legacy and this commentary and this obfuscation as we as a nation know and this government knows that things need to be changed. We cannot stay on the trajectory that Labor had this nation on. We have outlined to you the financial problems you were creating and the embedded obstacles and costs that are costing jobs long after you went. The world does not change immediately, and you seem to think you should be proud of yourselves, because you are standing in the road of the very changes that are needed to build opportunity, create jobs growth in this economy and put our nation back on track. That is Labor's entire raison d'etre these days: be stuck in the past, try to account for their woeful legacy, perform as if life is a picket line and obstruct the very plan that needs to be implemented.

What is that plan about? The plan that the Abbott government is working very hard every day to implement is about seeing to it that workers and job seekers in Australia have more opportunities to build that stronger, more prosperous economy. That is why we want to scrap the carbon tax. What is it about Labor and this friendless tax that works as a reverse tariff and is increasing our challenge to be competitive and secure opportunities for ourselves? Why do Labor want to keep saddling up our economy with a tax that is not even effective in doing much about climate change but is particularly punishing and hostile to jobs, to opportunities and to small business? What do Labor want to do? They come in here wanting to talk about jobs and people's livelihoods and then do all they can to gum up policy measures that are designed to improve job prospects for our country, enhance people's livelihoods and build our economy. We can deliver opportunities through growth, by giving the economy the support it needs so people will invest and by having an adult government that does not make things up on the run but does its predictable work and consults with those that are interested and have expertise rather than coming in with a thought bubble masquerading as a policy idea—doing the hard work of policy, not the lazy Labor approach of chasing headlines as some kind of substitute for sound government. That is why we want to get rid of the carbon tax.

It is as if you do not believe the electorate but live in some la-la land where the carbon tax is actually helpful to people making a decision to invest or employ and is helpful to the viability of businesses that are an essential precondition to someone having a job. The show needs to be profitable, you guys. You might not know a private sector business unless you are out on the picket line in front of one, but there need to be viable businesses, and then opportunities are available, jobs can be provided and incomes can be paid. That is how it works. It is not that complicated. All the carbon tax does is to make that process more difficult and put us at a disadvantage, particularly in manufacturing. The Labor Party wring their hands, but manufacturers need to be world class every day; otherwise we do not secure the opportunities that are within our reach, because we disadvantage ourselves in that contest for work and the opportunity that is there. We want to make it our own, but you want to make it harder. You want to keep the carbon tax.

Today you have heard this chorus from the leading business groups, the representatives of those that create the private sector opportunities, saying: 'Labor, please back the carbon tax repeal in the Senate. Please do something constructive and helpful for jobs in the economy. Please do something to address the already difficult conditions that were created by Labor mismanagement and poor governance over the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government.' That is what they are saying, and they are also saying, 'Let the government get on with implementing its plan.' Is the only solution that Labor has to stand in the road of a plan that is designed to fix the damage that you have inflicted on this economy? Is that your strategy? Is your basic politicking over there on the Labor side to play spoiler for all of the action that you know is needed and that the electorate voted for when they said, 'Please, no more of the same; you've got us on a trajectory under Labor of loss of jobs, increasing numbers of unemployed and people uncertain about their economic futures'? Where is the merit in that argument of simply obstructing the work that needs to be done by a government that went to the electorate with a plan?

You have no plan. Let us get on with scrapping the carbon and mining taxes, slashing red tape, lowering taxes, reimposing the rule of law on construction sites, and creating a fair and competitive economy where big and small businesses that are efficient have the opportunity to compete. Let us get on with recognising that small business is the engine room of the economy and that growth in employment is so crucial. Why are you standing in the road of measures that are designed to support, and when implemented will support, small business in that crucial role of carrying the economy and delivering livelihoods and opportunities to our community? That is our plan. Labor has no plan. It has an excuse for its time in government. It has a blind spot about the consequences of its failed policy. It has nothing to offer in terms of a better policy prescription than our plan. All it wants to do is get in the road of the very plan that offers the best hope, reward and opportunity pathway for our country.

Labor have come in here with a motion in which they suggest they want to have a conversation about a plan for our economy and jobs, and the shadow Treasurer has not managed to make a single constructive contribution about the very motion he brings in here. Instead he has offered a commentary, cherry-picking a little bit of a remark here or something there that might be part of the doom and gloom agenda that Labor are trying to perpetrate across this economy when we have important work to do. We want to make changes. That is what the plan is about. We want to improve the settings for jobs and opportunity. That is what drives us. We want to secure jobs—better paying jobs—into the future, because we can compete, win work and profit from our enterprise. And what do Labor want to do? Just stand in the road of all of that effort.

So I have a bit of a tip here: why doesn't Labor recognise that the Abbott government is the government that we promised to be, that our plan is the plan that we articulated in great detail and that we are implementing the agenda that the Australian public voted for? Why don't you do that, Labor Party—or are you instead going to go around, find any opportunity for misery, disadvantage or lost opportunity, ignore the fact that those things are on the back of Labor's policy settings, and then stand in the road of the very tonic and strategy for the future that will bring about the stronger economy and jobs that this side of the parliament actually wants? (Time expired)