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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4338


Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (16:00): It gives me great pleasure to rise to contribute to this matter of public importance. The matter before the House goes to the question of the government's economic management. I am very proud to stand here just the day after the Treasurer handed down a budget that will return to surplus. We all know that there is no greater symbol of the strength of an economy than being able to demonstrate that a budget is returning to surplus. That is something that we are very proud of.

It is interesting that the member for North Sydney's contribution today had a lot of huff and puff and the usual bluster that you get from him. It is his modus operandi. But when it came to actually putting some facts on the table, there was not a lot happening. He squibbed the central challenge that the coalition have to face on the question of a surplus because the central question that has to be answered by those opposite is whether or not they are committed to a surplus. That is the point that he did not address. It is an important point, a point whose answer I believe the Australian people have a great and strong interest in knowing. Are the coalition committed to a return to surplus?

An opposition member: Well why?

Mr BRADBURY: I hear the member opposite say, 'Well why?' Perhaps his colleagues can take him aside and give him a lecture in economics 101. I am sure the member for Dunkley would be able to simplify economic principles in such a way as to explain to the member opposite the importance of returning the budget to surplus.

But on this question of a return to surplus, those opposite have been a bit shifty and very inconsistent. Let us have a look at some of the commentary that we have seen from them. When asked this question of whether or not the coalition would return the budget to surplus, the member for Goldstein—who is with us in the chamber—said, 'Well, it just depends.' So there we have it from the member for Goldstein. It just depends. When the member for North Sydney—who has just left the chamber—was asked the question, he said, 'Maybe.' Then when the Leader of the Opposition was asked the question, he said, 'Well ,we will do it as quickly as possible.' But then when Senator Abetz was asked the question, he said, 'Look, we're not in the business of making extravagant promises.'

The promise that Senator Abetz says is extravagant is exactly what this government has delivered—a surplus budget. We will return the budget to surplus. We have done that in the budget was handed down. But we have heard the various mixed messages from those opposite on this question of whether or not they are committed to returning the budget to surplus.

Mr Robb: Defending your budget.

Mr BRADBURY: The member for Goldstein says he is defending our budget. That is nice of him to do that. But contrary to the already conflicting messages from those opposite that I have just stated, I note that on 18 April 2012 on ABC 24 the member for Hasluck said, 'I'm not totally supportive of finding a surplus at this point in time,' just to add even more confusion to the picture. The member for Goldstein raises his eyebrows as if to say the member for Hasluck is not a contributor to the economic team, but they could not do any worse, so maybe they should give him a seat at the table when it comes to being a contributor to the economic team.

On the question of economic management this government has a very proud track record. The member for North Sydney alluded to the question of jobs. Let us talk about jobs. Let us talk about the very significant role that government played in intervening and investing in supporting jobs through the global financial crisis. Since we have come to power, 750,000 jobs have been created in this country. At the same time, through the global financial crisis, 27 million jobs have been shed across the global economy. Those opposite do not want to hear this. They do not want to hear about the jobs that we have saved, working with the Australian people, working with the business community, investing in the skills and the labour of those who are actively participating in our workforce. They do not want to talk about that because they are not interested in the jobs of hardworking Australians.

In fact, when we handed down the stimulus package, when we came into this place and we voted for the package, the Leader of the Opposition did not even bother to turn up. He missed the vote. When he was quizzed about why he missed the vote, it became evident that he was up in the parliamentary dining room having a few drinks with, amongst others, the former Treasurer and he fell asleep. He fell asleep and missed the vote on the stimulus package. This is the package that we have heard those opposite seek to discredit so much, what has been one of the most effective responses to the global financial crisis. People all around the world are looking at what has been achieved in this country and the fact that today we are looking at an economy that has grown significantly from the economy that existed pre-GFC. Many economies around the world are struggling to return to pre-GFC levels, yet Australia has gone well and truly above that. At the same time we have low unemployment, we have contained inflation and the benefits of contained inflation were recently passed on in the form of a cut to the cash rate. The member for Goldstein is in the business of giving the green light to the banks to jack up interest rates. He is the No. 1 cheerleader when it comes to making the case for rate hikes. He might have been pulled into line. He went suspiciously quiet for a couple of weeks. I did not hear any response from him when the Reserve Bank did cut the cash rate. He was missing. We could not find him anywhere.

I want to talk about our record. That 50 basis point cut and the interest rate cuts that have been passed on to working Australians mean that a family in Australia today with a mortgage of $300,000 is paying $3,000 a year less in repayments. So, if you are the average family out there in Australia, you are paying less on your mortgage today than when those geniuses opposite were in office. Let's look at taxation. Those opposite make the allegation that we are the highest-taxing government. Taxation, as a proportion of GDP, is lower today than it was when they left office. In fact, if you look right across the forward estimates, taxation as a share of GDP—that is, overall levels of taxation—are lower under us than they were when those opposite were in power. So, when they talk about the new taxes, that is all good and well, but look at the tax base. Look at how much tax is being collected as a proportion of the economy. When you look at that you will see that this government is a lower-taxing government than that which preceded it. From 1 July, someone on $50,000 a year will be paying $40 a week less in tax. We have established that we are paying less on mortgages because interest rates are lower. We have established that people are paying less tax because tax is lower today than it was when we came to office.

Let's have a look at pensioners. What is the position of a single age pensioner? Let's have a look at that. As a result of the changes that we made—a historic increase in the pension—a single age pensioner today is receiving $4,000 a year more than they were in 2009. You can go back even further to when those opposite were last in office and it is an even bigger increase. But from 2009 to today, a single age pensioner has $4,000 a year more than they had in 2009.

Those opposite talk about management of the economy. Let's talk about the things that we have done that impact on the lives of working men and women around this country. Let's look at the education tax refund, which we have sought to refine and put into a form that delivers an even greater benefit to a greater number of people. Those on the other side did not support the education tax refund in the first place. It was not their idea, and if it is not their idea they will not support it. But now we have decided that there is a better way to deliver it, and they want to stand between the Australian government and the Australian people to block people getting that relief. They talk about cost-of-living pressures, and there are many cost-of-living pressures that families are facing out there, but when it comes to providing genuine, timely and targeted relief in the form that we are proposing, they want to vote against it. How can you justify coming into this place and voting against delivering cost-of-living relief to families? How can you do that? They should go back to their electorates and look the families in their electorates in the eye. They should be ashamed of what they are doing. They know no bounds with their inconsistency.

Those opposite came into this place day after day opposing a tax cut for business. I see the shadow minister for small business is sitting opposite. He is hanging his head in shame. I can appreciate the shame that he feels. When it came to supporting a tax cut for business, the Liberal Party—historically, at least allegedly, the party of business and small business—said no. They said, 'We can't support a tax cut when the revenue has come from the mining tax.' That is their principle. They are very principled people on the other side. They say, 'If the revenue comes from the mining tax, we don't care what you spend it on—even if it's a company tax cut—we can't support it.' That is what they say. We say, 'If you're going to block the company tax cut, we'll redirect the revenue that we collect with the mining tax and we'll deliver cost-of-living relief to families.' And what do those opposite say? They say, 'We think that's a good idea.' As much as I applaud them supporting the government's measure, there is a significant inconsistency there. The inconsistency is that they said that they would vote against the MRRT and would vote against all the expenditure measures, but now they are saying that they will support the expenditure measure.

When you have a $70 billion black hole—

Mr Robb interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: The member for Goldstein intervenes. He does not want to talk about the black hole, although it was $70 billion. The member for North Sydney passed around a few different details. He told someone it was $50 billion, he told someone else it was $60 billion and he told someone else it was $70 billion. When the $70 billion figure was released and leaked, he knew that it was the member for Goldstein. That is the inconsistency and the division that exists in relation to economic management on the other side. They will not commit to a surplus.

The member for Goldstein is going to go to the dispatch box shortly and he will tell us whether those opposite are committed to a surplus. In fact, last night he was saying, '$1.5 billion—that's not a surplus. $15 billion is a surplus.' So, when are they going to deliver a $15 billion surplus? They have a $70 billion black hole, which, as a result of the member for Goldstein's interview last night, has just become an $85 billion black hole. Our $1.5 billion surplus will increase over the forward estimates. The member for Goldstein says, 'Well, that ain't a surplus.' The challenge for the opposition is that tomorrow evening the Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to come into this place and set out an alternative plan. It is important that he does that because he has some work to do. There is a $70 billion crater—they know it, and they are hoping that they skate into office without telling people about it. That alone would be a terrible thing to do if that were where their plans ended, but, unfortunately, that is not where their plans end. They have already announced a so-called commission of audit. We know there is a $70 billion black hole—or $85 billion according to the interview of the member for Goldstein. They set up this special commission of audit so that, if they get elected, they will come forward and rip the guts out of services, rip the guts out of payments and rip the guts out of benefits that hardworking Australians around this country rely upon. (Time expired)