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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 151


Mr TAYLOR (HumeAssistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation) (15:25): I am delighted to have the opportunity here to talk about leadership. But I am somewhat surprised that those opposite want to focus on leadership. In fact, I could spend some time talking about the 10 minutes of whingeing we just heard and how that might equate to leadership—and clearly it does not. When I think of leadership, I go to the facts. The first set of facts we should look at is how those opposite governed prior to 2013: prior to the time we came into government. Those opposite do not like talking about that—they have got selective amnesia for anything prior to the last couple of years—but I think it is an important starting point as we talk about leadership. And, of course, what we saw there was their definition of leadership, which was a surplus converted to a totally unprecedented deficit; and they call that leadership. We saw 1,200 deaths at sea; and they call that leadership. We saw endless program failures with pink batts and school halls; and they call that leadership.

We could focus on that history for the next 10 minutes, but I will not, because I will focus on the more recent failures of leadership we are seeing from those opposite. The first of those is that we saw them commit to $6 billion of savings, which they are unprepared to commit to now that the election is over. They pretended, as they always do, to be fiscal conservatives. But where is the fiscal conservatism now? It has disappeared. It has disappeared now that the Australian people are not about to vote.

The second failure of leadership is around superannuation. We saw those opposite bank the savings that we committed on superannuation. Where is the policy? We have not seen the policy. Again, no policy—the fiscal conservatives without fiscally conservative policies. Third, they pretended, again, to be conservatives on border protection. They were going to lead on border protection, but 30 of them—many of them here; put your hands up if you like—refused to support their policy for offshore detention centres. Again, a failure of leadership.

Finally, they pretended that they wanted to lead on gay marriage. But when it came to the opportunity to have a plebiscite to resolve this issue, again, they were unprepared to support a very clear measure for which we have a mandate from the most recent election.

Now, in contrast, the Turnbull government will be defined by delivery through collaboration. It is the absolute heart of our Australian democracy that we negotiate better outcomes for all Australians. Australians are looking for leadership for the people. To that end, I am firmly convinced that the Senate will be a better one than the last one: not leadership driven by the partisan politics of those opposite.

Now, let me focus for a few minutes on the economy—this is where we need leadership and we are seeing leadership from this side of the House. We know the Australian economy is growing at about three per cent a year—that is a striking number; that is a good number, by world standards, amongst developed countries. Business conditions and consumer confidence are well above their long-term average and we need to ensure that the right foundations for a strong economy remain in the years ahead.

We are focused on a lower taxing, lower spending government. There is no equivalence between raising taxes and reducing spending. They are not the same thing. You cannot call a tax increase a save. But those opposite want to do it. Do you know the reason? It is very simple. When you raise taxes you slow the economy. Any economist will tell you that. Those opposite wanted taxes on housing. They wanted taxes on investment, on capital gains. As we have just heard about, they wanted taxes on electricity. All of this will slow the economy and it is not the sort of economic leadership Australia needs to be prosperous in the years to come.

This morning the Turnbull government introduced the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill into the parliament to give effect to $6 billion in budget savings—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TAYLOR: Clearly those opposite do not want to commit to $6 billion worth of budget savings. What is your number—is it three, is it two? How much are you going to commit to? We do not know. What we do know is that they are wibbly wobbly; that is what we can be absolutely sure of. Anyway, this will give effect to $6 billion in budget savings that are necessary to assist in the critical task of arresting our debt and, just as importantly, protecting the economy against significant economic shocks. We live in a world where the prospect of economic shocks is significant. We do not know what the Chinese economy will do in the coming years. We do not know how the rest of the developed world will grow in the coming years. Those shocks, those speed humps, those potholes are absolutely the reason why the Australian people should be, and are, asking for the people in this place to be fiscal conservatives.

The government inherited $240 billion in accumulated deficits and a gross debt of $370 billion. But that is not the worst of it—we inherited locked-in programs with a growth rate in spending of seven per cent a year. There were landmines everywhere—because those opposite love to spend and they love to tax. And the Australian people know and understand that. As a result, Australian taxpayers are saddled with higher interest payments which are currently worth $16 billion, one of the largest line items in the federal budget. We are focused on preventing these scenarios that I have described and arresting our debt by making the necessary decisions to restore budget balance. That is exactly what we are seeing in the omnibus bill that we have put before the House today.

This bill is an opportunity for the new parliament to heed the challenge and promote this nation to a path of stronger growth and a stronger and more prosperous economy, and it is critical that those opposite come to the table and become the real fiscal conservatives that they pretended to be in the election campaign. The ratings agencies have warned us that, if we do not fix this problem, it is a very serious issue for this country. We will be faced with higher interest rates. We will be faced with a far more dangerous situation for important spending programs such as health, education and infrastructure. So this bill emphasises our commitment to future generations of Australians. This is a moral cause. This is a moral issue. Are the opposition going to leave future generations of younger Australians saddled with debt that they will have to repay for years to come because the opposition were not prepared to take the necessary steps to protect our economy, our kids, our grandkids and every future Australian from the fiscal disaster that they create every time they are in government? There was one exception—the Hawke-Keating era. But they are gone now. They are ghosts of the past.

There is a second, very important initiative that we have brought to the House today—the building and construction industry bill. We want to ensure that the rule of law prevails on building sites across the country. We want more roads, hospitals, schools and houses—because they do not cost what they should. Anyone who has been involved in the construction industry over the years knows that the lawlessness there, the lawlessness that we saw in the royal commission, is costing every Australian. Everyone who goes to school, who goes to hospital, who uses a road or who uses a railway is paying more than they should—and, most importantly, every Australian taxpayer is paying more than they should for these things because the opposition is not prepared to act on a very obvious measure that everyone knows is absolutely necessary to bring us to the cost levels that other countries see.

There is only one side of the House that will provide leadership in the coming years, and it is this side.