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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3295

Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business) (15:51): This budget is all about choices and responsibility. This budget keeps our economy strong, makes smart investments for our future and ensures every Australian gets a fair go. It is about supporting jobs and supporting growth, and we are doing that by investing in infrastructure, investing in the real economy, investing in people, investing in the things that make a difference, investing in the things that keep the Australian economy ahead of other economies, investing in the things that give us a future and put this budget on a sustainable path to surplus. That is what this budget is about. It is an honest budget about where we sit in the global economy, about what has happened over the past five years with our fiscal position—where Australia is in terms of its revenue base. We have made the structural changes, the big reforms. We have taken responsibility. We have made the hard decisions—not always politically palatable, not always the sorts of things you do in your own political interest but the things you do in the national interest, the things that have to be done. That should always be the measure of a government. It should always be the measure of a budget—doing the right thing by the economy, doing the right thing by Australians, doing the right thing by our kids in terms of education, looking after the most vulnerable in society through DisabilityCare, making the tough choices.

There is one thing that always comes to mind. When tough choices have needed to be made, no matter where the economy was at, no matter what time period it was in Australian history, it was always left to Labor governments to make those decisions. There was never going to be a good time for universal superannuation, but Labor did it because it was the right thing to do by the economy and the right thing to do by workers. On every other call, on every other hard decision, it is always us who are left with the responsibility—which we take—to make those tough decisions. We saw it again last night in the budget. We saw the tough decisions.

It does not matter who is in government; the revenue write-downs will be exactly the same. The difference here is the choices you make. That is why this budget is about choices. That number will be the same whether it is us or them getting that information from Treasury. It will be the same Treasury officials, the same Treasury, the exact same people who provided the Howard government with their figures, data and analysis for 11 years. But the choices will be different because we have stepped up to the plate and put a stronger economy, jobs and growth first.

If people have a job, they have a chance. That is why there is hope. That is why we still have a good economy. I actually say to people that is why we have an economy. I talk, as most people do, with people from all walks of life and international visitors who come to this country, and they cannot believe it. They look at our economy and say, 'We would give our right arm for an economy like yours.' A strong economy where unemployment is around five per cent is not good enough but certainly good in the current global environment. It was once considered full employment. I would like to think that means a lot of people are still in jobs.

Since we came to government, our economy has grown by 13 per cent. Compare that to every other economy in the world: the United States, Japan, Germany, France and anyone in the EU. Their economies have grown by barely one per cent over that same period. Ours is 13—hence why we still have jobs and economy, hence why interest rates are at historic lows in this country. I will never forget that when the Howard government was sitting on this side of the table they promised that interest rates would always be lower under a Liberal government. Wrong. That has not been the case. They are lower under us.

We have kept the economy strong and we have kept interest rates low. We have also kept inflation under control. Inflation is low as well. How does that translate to the ordinary person in the street? It means they have a job. Their mortgage is less. It means there is more investment in their children's future and their families because we support them through the money we have spent in education. We support them through better quality infrastructure in schools which everyone can see every day. It means we have paid for more, better quality teachers, for more programs and for special assistance where kids need a hand up because some kids do it a bit tougher than other kids. We have put money there as well. It is about delivering a fairer economy, not just a stronger economy. Plenty of people can look after themselves, but a government's responsibility is to everybody, not just the strong. It has to be fair as well, and that is what we have done.

So, yes, it is a tough budget. Yes, we have had to make the tough calls on savings—$42 billion worth of savings at the same time that revenue write-downs are around $60 billion over the forward estimates. That is a lot of money to make up, but we have stepped up to that challenge. We have made the necessary savings. We are not going to cut to the bone. We are going to pull up short of where the mob on the other side want to go, and that is cutting to the bone.

We have seen it in Liberal state governments. We have seen it in my state of Queensland, and that is easy to translate on the ground into massive, instant job losses and a stop in investment. Ports that were about to be built were stopped. No-one wants to pay for them anymore. There is no leveraging of government funds to leverage the private sector to invest in ports. Instead you just see a halt. At the same time that we see commodity prices coming off and a need for government to step up to the plate, what does the Queensland Liberal state government do? It stops the investment. It halts the growth. It cuts the jobs. It does the exact opposite of what you need to do. You need to invest in your people. You need to invest in skills. You need to invest in jobs and growth. And it is not just rhetoric; you do it through budgets. You do it through programs, through skilling Australia.

What did we do when we came to government in 2007? Some of the very first things are two that I am really proud of. One is that we made our first major investment in people who receive the age pension. We accepted and recognised that they were falling massively behind and we made a massive structural change, indexing age pensions properly, not handing out $500 cheques before an election, not piecemeal payments to people who have worked all their lives for Australia, for the economy, making a contribution. We did it properly so it would be indexed and permanent, and no government in the future can take it away.

The other major thing we did to keep the economy strong is invest in infrastructure. We set up the Building Australia Fund. We set up Infrastructure Australia. We did not just talk about it; we actually built roads. We actually build rail. We actually build ports. My good friend the member for Blair reminds me of the Ipswich Motorway—not that I need reminding of the Ipswich Motorway! But the reality is that we fought tooth and nail for over a decade to get that project up. In 2007 there was a local referendum on a lot of things, but there was one in particular on that road. It was: 'You vote for Labor; you get the road. You vote for the Liberals; you get nothing.' You get a pipe dream of some alternative bypass which was uncosted, unfunded and engineers were telling me was going to cost twice as much if it ever got built. And we have a good news story to tell. We have a further good news story to tell in this fiscally responsible budget. We have put more money on the table. We are signing an agreement with the Queensland state government. I do not care what colour they are; I want to deliver for the people of Queensland, and we are going to put $290 million to finish off the Ipswich Motorway job. Yes, it is tough times, yes, you have got to make savings, yes, you have got to cut in the right areas, but you need to invest in the right areas at the same time. That is stronger, with jobs and growth; that is smarter, by investing in schools and education and investing in our future; and that is fairer, because DisabilityCare—just like we did with Medicare—is looking after the most vulnerable in society and making sure that we have got a fair economy that delivers for everybody. That is what we are doing.

What an absolute sham it is when the other side come in here with this disingenuous matter of public importance: 'The failure of the government to manage the economy.' What did they do to manage the economy when it was their opportunity to step up to the block? Let me tell you what they did during the GFC: they opposed every single measure that the government put forward to support jobs and families. Every time they were dragged kicked and screaming, but opposed every single measure to keep jobs. Since we were elected to government, 960,000 jobs have been created in this economy. Every other economy in the world has lost jobs—globally it is millions of jobs—but in Australia we bucked the trend because government had the tenacity to make the investments. Yes, that does mean borrowing. It is good borrowing, and our national net debt position is a healthy one. It is as simple as that. It is around 11 per cent and it is affordable; we can afford that.

Where are we spending that money? We are spending it on ensuring that we have a strong economy, a fair economy and a smarter economy. I will never begrudge the money where we have spent it: on kids, education, infrastructure and jobs. It has been spent on making sure that we actually have a path to the future, a path to surplus—delayed, yes, but a path to surplus. The only time a AAA rating has happened is under a Labor government—with all three ratings agencies, AAA. The big test was last night: what were they going to say about our budget when it was analysed at an international level? They retained our AAA ratings across the board because it is a strong budget, a responsible budget, a fair budget, a smart budget and it helps people get through the global crisis we are all facing. (Time expired)