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Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Page: 519


Senator CANAVAN (Queensland) (18:05): As you know, Acting Deputy President Williams, I am only new to this place, so I am not sure if there is provision in the standing orders for the Labor Party to withdraw a matter of public importance after it was submitted in the morning before we start business, but I think they might have wanted to withdraw today's. I was listening to Senator Bilyk's contribution very closely and she failed to mention one very important thing. Let's just look at what this matter of public importance, which the Labor Party would have submitted to the President at around 8.30 this morning, says:

The impact of the Abbott Government's chaos, dysfunction and division on business and consumer confidence.

The implication there, and certainly the implication in Senator Bilyk's contribution, is that business and consumer confidence is down. I am not sure that Senator Bilyk has kept up with the news today or if she just wanted to ignore it, but consumer sentiment came out today in the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index. Senator Bilyk mentioned the series in her contribution but failed to announce what happened today. She mentioned the figure for December correctly, but she failed to mention that last month it went up slightly to 93.2 and today it surged by eight per cent to 100.7, the highest level since January last year. Senator Bilyk failed to mention that.

I would like to ask the Labor senators who are following. Who do we have next? We have Senator Dastiari next. He is on the economics committee. He should have seen that release today. I would like to hear him explain that anomaly, because their whole matter of public importance is about trying to say that consumer confidence is down somehow because of this government. But it is not down, and if it is not down the whole argument falls down. It is gone; it is all over. Do I have to keep speaking for eight minutes? I suppose I will. It is gone. There is no argument for them to prosecute. Later I will go through some other economic stats which show the economy is actually quite strong. There are certainly challenges. We have gone through a terms of trade boom not seen since the 1850s, and that is slowing down, so there are clearly going to be challenges. But, all things considered, the economy is doing quite well.

I take you to the first half of the matter of public importance, which talks about chaos, dysfunction and division. If any party could help us identify chaos, dysfunction and division it would be the Labor Party. They are pretty good at it. I think they would be able to spot it if we needed them to. The last time they were in power and on this side, their mistakes were not as inconsequential as just a matter of public importance; their whole government was a running saga of chaos, dysfunction and division. I know you remember that, Mr Acting Deputy President Williams, and I certainly do. Right from the beginning it was a matter of chaos, dysfunction and division. Mr Acting Deputy President, you probably remember the 2020 Summit that they started. The Prime Minister was sitting on the floor with his notepad, looking very earnest and taking notes. All the best and brightest minds came to this place to try to find out what we should do for the nation, and they came up with one idea that they implemented: a tax review. So they had a tax review and then they came up with one idea to implement, and that was the mining tax. They implemented the mining tax. We spent all that money and we implemented a tax. It was the first tax I know of in history that actually cost the government money. The Labor Party found a way to implement a tax that actually cost them money—not just a small amount of money but a lot of money.

I remember when it was announced. I was in the lock-up. Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan announced it, and it was going to raise almost $50 billion in its first four years. It was not in the forward estimates at the time, but later, through a committee process, we found out that Treasury estimated that in the first four years of operation it would raise $50 billion. It fell a little bit short of that figure. They wanted $50 billion. We know now that in net terms it raised $300 million. They wanted $50 billion from the tax and it raised $300 million in net terms, and that is just what it raised for the Commonwealth Treasury. At the time they announced the tax, they announced all these weird and wonderful other spending programs with it. They announced mining exploration, tax credits, small business asset depreciation write-offs, an infrastructure fund. They announced all these different spending initiatives. The superannuation guarantee increases were probably the most costly. All up, they locked in $17 billion of spending with this tax. It was going to raise $50 billion and they locked in $17 billion of spending. They thought they had plenty of room but, in fact, they did not.

That is just one example. I am not sure that I will have time to go through all of these. I will focus on some that hit regional Australia, coming from this end of the chamber. Senator Nash would remember quite clearly the night that Four Corners ran a program about the live export trade. There was some very horrific footage and there certainly needed to be a policy response. Indeed, the first instinct of the then agriculture minister was right: he shut down the abattoirs. But that was not good enough for the Labor Party. They wanted to do more and, because of a TV program, they shut down our exports of food to our closest neighbour—more than 250 million people—overnight, without even the courtesy of a phone call. The Indonesians found out about it through the news. It was an absolute disgrace.

I will go through these. I like these ones. Remember they had all the wars, Senator Nash? They had the war on inflation and the war on obesity. Whatever happened to the war on obesity? I do not think we were successful on that one, Senator Madigan. Then we had a war on the greatest moral challenge of our time. We lost that one. After wars come coups and revolutions, and for good measure they had two of those. They backstabbed two sitting prime ministers and now they come into this chamber and try to lecture people about chaos and division.

I recognise that the Liberal Party have had a tough couple of weeks. I have publicly said that I hope they do not change aeroplanes mid-air, because I do not think it is a good idea. The example of the Labor Party is pretty clear. Once you go down that bloody path, it is pretty hard to come back from it. It has been a tough couple of weeks, but there is a difference between that side and this side. That side did it twice. That side unleashed the faceless men and executed two prime ministers in the space of three years; we did not. That side wasted billions of dollars and racked up $300 billion of debt; we did not. That side shut down an industry based on a TV program; we did not. There is a big difference to that side. That side weakened our border protection laws and let in 50,000 unauthorised arrivals; we have not. There is a big difference. That side, right up to today—Senator Nash, you would like this one—want to allow foreigners to buy farmland without any restrictions. They opposed the announcement today that we would reduce the threshold down to $15 million. We think there should be more review of those purchases.

I started this debate—and Senator Dastiari was not in the chamber for it—by saying their whole notion has no basis, because consumer confidence is actually up, not down, and it is the highest it has been since January last year.

Senator Dastyari interjecting

Senator CANAVAN: In my final minute or so, I will go through that, Senator Dastyari. ANZ job ads have gone up 13½ per cent over the past year, and that has been the fastest growth in 3½ years. We created more than 200,000 new jobs last year, and that is at the rate of about a job every 2½ minutes. Senator Bilyk's contribution was that four jobs were created. In the year before that, when Labor were in power, just over one job would have been created.

Business expectations are up. The Dunn and Bradstreet business expectations survey found the employment outlook right now is the strongest that it has been in 10 years. Our retail trade numbers have risen for seven consecutive months. Last year there were more than 200,000 new companies created, and that is a sign of confidence if nothing else. That is the highest level on record since ASIC started registering companies in 1999. The dwelling approvals are up 8.8 per cent in the past year. The consumer price index rose by just 0.2 per cent last quarter, after rising 0.5 per cent in the quarter before that. It is going at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent, well below the RBA's target band of two to three per cent. Electricity prices were flat in December, after falling by a record amount the quarter before, thanks to the carbon tax. These are the facts. We cannot take credit for all of them, but the economy is much stronger than it was when we came to power 16 months ago.