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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3289


Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (15:26): It is great to be able to contribute to this MPI debate, albeit to the very flawed the proposition that has been brought forward by the member for North Sydney. The member for North Sydney asserts that the failure of the government to properly manage the budget should be the topic of discussion. It is extraordinary that, in the circumstances of the strength and the resilience of the Australian economy, the member for North Sydney, who has been prone to come into this place and go anywhere in the country to talk down the economy, would choose to do that once more. He wants to talk about confidence, yet in every utterance that comes out of his mouth he talks down the economy. Let us have a look at the Australian economy and the resilience of the Australian economy.

We are 13 per cent larger today than we were before the global financial crisis. There is no major advanced economy in the world that has grown in that order of magnitude in that period of time. In fact, countries like the UK still have not got back to the starting line. They are in negative territory. Many comparable countries around the world have experienced consecutive quarters of negative growth. Here in Australia we continue to move ahead—21 years of continuous economic growth.

When it comes to employment, we have created more than 960,000 jobs since we have been in office. The Leader of the Opposition says he has a plan. He doesn't have a plan; he's got a little blue book. For some reason, someone in a focus group somewhere told him, 'Whenever you are doing an interview, stick it up under your chin.' It does not add any economic ability to someone whose former boss said was economically illiterate. It adds no credibility whatsoever. The Leader of the Opposition is out there saying, 'If we get elected, in five years we will deliver a million jobs.' I have got to point out to him that in just over five years that is what we have delivered—and we had a global financial crisis, where around the world we are looking at about 30 million jobs having been lost. Here in Australia we have created almost a million jobs in that period. We did that because we took the right decisions at the right time. We stepped up to the mark and we invested in stimulus activity to keep people in jobs. The Leader of the Opposition, we all remember, was not even in the chamber. He was, in fact, asleep on the lounge in his office. The biggest economic challenge to face this country in a generation and where was the Leader of the Opposition? He wasn't the Leader of the Opposition at the time, but he was asleep on the lounge in his office. He did not even vote on it. So unlike some of his colleagues, like the member for Goldstein, who runs around when it suits him and says, 'Well, I voted against the stimulus,' the Leader of the Opposition cannot even say that, because he did not turn up; he did not vote. And this is the bloke that wants to stand up and ask the Australian people to give him the privilege of managing the Australian economy as the Prime Minister.

We have outperformed every major advanced economy, whether in growth or in employment. Our unemployment rate is at 5.5 per cent. In fact, do not listen to me; listen to the former Prime Minister John Howard, who recently said:

We are still fortunate that we have an unemployment rate with a five in front of it. I wouldn't have thought that was going to be possible a few years ago, and I don't think many people would.

This is a ringing endorsement from the former Prime Minister John Howard, the man whose economic credibility the opposition say they want to reclaim—the mantle of economic credibility that he once had, as they suggest. He says the Australian economy is doing well. When it comes to overall performance, he says:

When the prime minister and the treasurer and others tell you that the Australian economy is doing better than most, they are right.

'They are right,' he says. Do not listen to the opposition when it comes to the strength of the Australian economy. In fact, you do not even have to listen to us. Listen to the former Prime Minister John Howard—or, more importantly, listen to some independent voices in this debate. Have a look at what the ratings agencies have to say: a AAA credit rating from all three major global ratings agencies delivered under this government and reaffirmed in response to our budget handed down last night—never achieved under the former government. For all the talk about how good they were as economic managers in government, they could not achieve the trifecta of AAAs. We have got it, we have done it and it is about time it was recognised, because we have managed the Australian economy not just to deliver the sort of strength of performance reflected in those figures but to make sure that people have jobs and that the economy grows.

Let us look at what some other commentators have had to say about the budget. ANZ have said, 'As was already well known, the deterioration in federal finances has largely been due to lower than expected revenues'—as we all know, except for the member for North Sydney. He reckons there is some mysterious explanation other than a deterioration in revenue. 'ANZ's assessment is that this is a budget broadly appropriate for the economic cycle. The substantial tightening of fiscal policy that would have been required to return the budget to surplus any earlier than outlined tonight would be too damaging to an already somewhat vulnerable Australian economy.' There you have it—ANZ. That sounded like a pretty strong endorsement of the budget to me.

Do not listen to the member for North Sydney, the man who talks big when it comes to the age of entitlement. When he had his chance to confront a measure that we had taken in relation to trimming the baby bonus for second and subsequent children, he got rolled. Maybe the member for Goldstein, when he gets up and gives us his usual contribution, would like to tell us whether he was right there behind Joe. Were you right behind Joe? Did you help him out or did you get rolled too? If they could not make a responsible decision in relation to a modest trimming of the baby bonus, you have to ask yourself what hope they have.

I could go through other commentators. Westpac said:

The improvement in the budget position is appropriately gradual over the four years.

…   …   …

The Commonwealth Government's net debt position remains extremely manageable.

It was not just Westpac that said that our debt position was manageable. I will just go back to former Prime Minister John Howard for one moment:

And our debt to GDP ratio, the amount of money we owe, to the strength of our economy, is still a lot better than most other countries.

In fact, if you look at the budget papers, our net government debt is about an eighth of the average among comparable major advanced economies in the world. So, when those on the other side come forward and want to start talking down the economy and the debt that we are lumbering future generations with, just remember that the whole world went through the global financial crisis. That is why it was called the global financial crisis. So you have to have a look at what happened across the globe. When you look at what happened across the globe, you can see that we came through stronger than anyone else. We punched through stronger than anyone else, and we are 13 per cent larger today than we were then, while others are struggling to get back to whether they were. We are creating more jobs, and now we are investing in the programs of the future.

Mr Hunt interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: I hear the member for—I cannot—

Mr Hunt: Flinders. You are an absolute genius—one of life's greatest geniuses!

Mr BRADBURY: Flinders. I hear him make a little interjection. He is a man who has all of the credibility you would expect from someone who wrote his PhD on pricing carbon to tackle climate change and then, when he gets a chance—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: Look, at least the member for North Sydney went into the shadow cabinet and put the case. He got rolled, but he put the case. The member for Flinders does not even know what he stands for. The bloke went through three years putting together a thesis. I would hate to think what he got for a mark, but he put in three years of effort and his conclusion was that, if you want to do this, the most effective and efficient way is to price carbon. Most people stick their hand up and run for parliament because they want to make a difference. They want to take their values and enshrine them in the law of the land. But some people—

Mr Ian Macfarlane: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I am reluctant to do this, but the reality is that the MPI is about the budget, and this stream of personal attacks by the Assistant Treasurer has nothing to do with the MPI.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): I thank the member for Groom for his point of order. I was myself on the point of bringing the minister back to the MPI before the House.

Mr Hunt: This is the best you can do? Hey, mate, it was an undergraduate thesis on zinc, cadmium and lead—undergrad on zinc, cadmium and lead. So you've just misled.

Mr BRADBURY: Matters that go to carbon pricing are very adequately set out in the budget. I thank the member for Flinders for his suggestion that this has been an undergraduate contribution. I will get back to his postgraduate contribution, which was back when he believed in actually doing something to tackle the problems of the planet. But now he is more interested in self-promotion, and that means within the Liberal Party that you do not get ahead if you assert the valid view that you tackle climate change by pricing carbon. So he has put his own interests and self-advancement ahead of the duty that each and every one of us in this place has to bring the values that we believe in, enshrine them in the laws of the land and make this country a better place. That is what we have done on this side.

When it comes to economic management, I have to say that, for all the facts and figures that the member for North Sydney wants to blurt out, you did not hear him talk about the tax-to-GDP ratio. The tax-to-GDP ratio, where we look at the size of the economy and the tax that the government is collecting as a percentage of the size of the economy, is the best measure of the tax burden. It is considerably lower today than it was when we came to office. It was 23.7 per cent when we came to office; that is what the Howard government was taxing people at. It is 21.5 per cent in the current year. They talk about the tax burden. As a percentage of the economy, this government is collecting less than 22 per cent of GDP in tax collection; they were collecting almost 24 per cent. If we were taxing at the same rate as they were when they left office we would be in a comfortable surplus, but the reality is there have been revenue write-downs and cyclical and structural factors that we face.

In terms of some of the structural factors, we have put in place a proposal to tackle some of the profit-shifting activity that has been going on, where big multinationals shift profits into low-tax or no-tax jurisdictions to avoid paying their fair share. I speak to many of these companies and they point out: 'This is not a question of morality; we are doing what is legal.' I say, 'Well, I don't think it's very moral.' They say, 'If you don't think it's very moral, you're the law-maker—change the laws.' You know what? That is what we are proposing: to change the laws so that we can make sure that multinational enterprises, which are some of the most profitable enterprises in the globe and profiting from economic activity occurring here in Australia, are paying their fair share—like all the mums and dads that head off to Penrith station in my electorate at five o'clock in the morning to head into the city to work each day. They pay their fair share of tax. The small, home based business in Glenmore Park is paying its fair share of tax, but these big multinationals often locate their profits in tax havens or low-tax jurisdictions and avoid their obligations.

We want to stop it. But every time we have brought an amendment into this place—and we have brought $11 billion worth of them—what have those opposite done? They have voted against it. If there is a rort, a rip-off or a loophole they will be in there trying to protect it. This goes to a question of values. We believe we have to crack down on these loopholes and that is what we are doing.

I do not have a lot of time left and in the time left to me I must take the opportunity to talk about the high-taxing ways of those opposite, and the latest iteration of their high-taxing tendencies is this paid parental leave tax. Tony Abbott is a man who can absolutely be believed on parental leave questions because, when he was last in office as a minister of the Crown and had a chance to do something, he said, 'When it comes to parental leave it will happen over my dead body.' Over my dead body! What a commitment he had to parental leave when he last had a chance. But now he has this you-beaut, mickey mouse, Rolls Royce version where a woman on $1 million a year can take $75,000 for that period while she is on leave. There are people all around the country who will never earn $75,000 a year.

And who is going to pay for it? Companies. Remember: this is the mob that told you, 'It is a great, big, new tax and when you tax a big company it's going to flow through and be passed on in higher prices and we'll all pay, so you don't tax big companies—you actually tax all of us.' That is what they told us, but all of a sudden they are proposing a great, big, new tax. They say it is fully funded. A 1½ per cent levy on 3,000 companies will not fully fund their program. They are going to have to jack up that tax or spread it on to more and more people. See the member for Goldstein—body language is a great thing!—as he starts to have that nervous itch and twitch. He knows that this is a shambolic policy. He knows it is a sham and that, if they are going to deliver it, they are going to have to jack up taxes by more than 1½ per cent on those businesses and that will mean higher costs for consumers. (Time expired)