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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2054


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:28): I rise to speak on the daily motion by the opposition to suspend standing orders—the 42nd occasion on which it has failed to suspend standing orders in order to indulge opposition members rather than debate the real issues before the nation. Mr Speaker, I will tell you why standing orders should not be suspended. It is because I am looking forward to the debate, which is the next item of business, which they are trying to defer—a debate on the national economy. I want to see what the shadow Treasurer has to say about the national economy because the MPI today is:

The urgent need for the government to restore confidence in their management of the national economy—

an amazing position for them to move at a time when, under Labor and under this Treasurer, we have faster wage growth, lower inflation and record public and private infrastructure spending. For the first time, Australia has a AAA credit rating from all three of the world's leading rating agencies. It is no wonder that they put this item on the agenda as a matter of public importance but then move a motion to run away from it. They are running away from their own record and running away from a debate on the economy. We see that day after day. The Treasurer sits next to me in question time and he gets lonely because he cannot get a question. He chats to Minister Macklin and he chats to me, but he has no opportunity to get questions on the economy from those opposite. That is why we should not suspend standing orders.

I want to debate the economy. I want to debate the strong growth that we have and the fact that the OECD predicts Australia will have the fastest-growing major advanced economy in 2012, which will be the 20th consecutive year of economic expansion, the longest period ever. I want to discuss how our economic growth has led to over 750,000 new jobs and how we have an unemployment rate of just over five per cent, compared with the Howard era average of 6.4 per cent. I want to discuss how we have higher wages under this government and how the weekly pay packet of the average working Australian has grown 7.4 per cent in real terms since late 2007. I want to discuss how Australians are benefiting from lower interest rates by comparison with the Howard government. On average, mortgage repayments are $3,000 a year lower than they were under the Howard government.

I want to discuss how this government and this Treasurer have produced lower taxes. Australians now pay less tax than they did under the Howard government and the third-lowest tax in the developed world. I want to discuss how we have contained inflation. The underlying rate of 2.6 per cent remains squarely in the RBA's target band. I want to discuss the unprecedented pipeline of private sector investment, led by the Minister for Resources and Energy—$455 billion in the resources sector alone. Whilst those opposite have run around and cried like Chicken Little about the minerals resource rent tax and the price on carbon, the private sector itself has responded by putting in that investment—and some of those opposite have responded by buying shares in coal companies and in the resources sector. They say one thing but they do another.

I want to speak. I want to be able to have a debate—that will be ruined if we suspend standing orders—on the record infrastructure spending. I want to talk about the fact that this government has doubled the roads budget, increased the rail budget by more than 10 times and committed more to urban public transport since 2007 than all previous governments combined over 107 years. The MPI that they are trying to knock off here speaks about confidence. Well, investor confidence in Australia and its longer term prospects—that is, the yields on 10-year bonds—has never been higher. We have a stable banking sector, Asia's second-biggest stock market and the world's seventh most active foreign exchange market. All of that has been achieved. No wonder those opposite are trying to knock off their own MPI by moving for this suspension of standing orders today.

But the great Labor goal is not to have economic growth as an end in itself; we believe that economic growth is about building a more socially inclusive and cohesive society, about enhancing opportunity, not entrenching privilege like those opposite do. On each of the fundamental debates that are before this chamber, that is where the two sides stand, whether it is on the minerals resource rent tax, where we say the big miners can and should pay more and the big miners say they can pay more but those opposite are not interested; whether it is on building superannuation to 12 per cent, which those opposite oppose; whether it is on the investment in infrastructure that those opposite oppose; or whether it is on making sure that we transition to a carbon-constrained economy in a way that strengthens the jobs of the future or just put our heads in the sand and move to their system, which has the same target but which is dominated by climate sceptics and has an approach of market scepticism as well, because they believe in a direct government approach to these issues.

But we believe all of this is about helping people, giving them a lift up. That is why under this government we will see the income-tax-free threshold rise to above $18,000.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House should return to the substance of the motion before the chair.

Mr ALBANESE: These are the issues that I want to discuss in the MPI about confidence in the economy, which is why the suspension should not occur. The suspension should not occur because I want to be able to discuss this government's achievements, such as introducing the new education tax refund to help parents with the cost of schooling, including uniforms, and the fact that we have delivered the biggest one-off increase in pensions in Australia's history—and they are saying over there that on 1 July they will claw that back. What will that do for confidence in the economy, the subject of the MPI which has been put forward by the shadow Treasurer and which those opposite are trying to knock off by suspending standing orders to indulge their fantasies here today? That is why we should not support this position.

We want to discuss what you do with the strong economic growth that we have achieved and that those opposite complain about. About the National Disability Insurance Scheme, those opposite now say—

Ms Macklin: On the never-never!

Mr ALBANESE: 'That will just be on the never-never.' It is an aspiration; they do not have any policies anymore. Well, I say, as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, you cannot drive on an aspiration. What we have seen from the Leader of the Opposition, who has turned the coalition of yesterday into the 'noalition' of today, is an abandonment of any principle, an abandonment of any policy. He now says that what we should have is just aspirations. Not only are they opposing funding for the Pacific Highway in their own electorates on the North Coast of New South Wales; they are getting together with their National Party colleagues in New South Wales to say: 'No; we don't want to do any more on the Pacific Highway; we think it's just up to the federal government.'

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will be directly relevant to what we are discussing.

Mr ALBANESE: I will, Mr Speaker. The reason we should not knock off the MPI by having this suspension of standing orders is that we should be discussing the MPI and the economic issues put forward by the shadow Treasurer. They put it forward but they are not prepared to make their case. It is not surprising, because what we heard from the Leader of the Opposition in his contribution in this debate today is essentially that, when it comes to the issue of asylum seekers, not only is he so negative that he now says no to all of this government's policies; he now says no to his own policies—his own policies that they had when they were in government. When they were in government, they supported Nauru. They supported Nauru, and it was not a signatory to the UN. But now they will not vote for legislation—and this motion is to bring on a bill, to have legislation voted on, which is consistent with their policy but which they show their relentless negativity in opposing. This suspension should be rejected because the day-after-day moving of suspension motions has reduced this process to a farce. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The question before the chair is that the motion moved by the honourable Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.

Mr Pyne interjecting

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: I am about to put the question. The Manager of Opposition Business and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not interject. The question before the chair is that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.