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Address to Business SA Breakfast, Adelaide

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Address to Business SA Breakfast, Adelaide

Posted on Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Thank you so much. It’s lovely to be here. I want to thank so many of the business leaders of South Australia coming out so early in the morning to listen to me and I want to particularly acknowledge Matt Williams, the candidate for Hindmarsh in the upcoming Federal Election - thanks for being here this morning, Matt.

It is great to be here in South Australia, a state of undoubted economic dynamism and industrial creativity. I was reminded as I was coming here this morning that this is the state that has given us the stump jump plough, the state that’s given us the Hills Hoist. Most importantly, as we are at the wine centre, it’s given us the wine cask and I think it’s important to acknowledge the creativity of the business people of South Australia.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to give you one fundamental message. The Coalition gets business, the Coalition trusts business, the Coalition understands that our country needs business in a way that the current government simply doesn’t. Now, it hasn’t always been the case with the Labor Party. Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Hawke/Keating Government did understand in the marrow of its bones that without a healthy economy, you couldn’t have a strong society. They understood that you needed strong and profitable businesses in order to have a healthy economy. But unfortunately that lesson, hard learnt by the Hawke/Keating Government, has been completely forgotten by the contemporary Labor Party in Canberra and right around Australia. The essential difference between me and the Prime Minister is that I see business as creators, she sees business as exploiters. She thinks that bosses are greedy, businesses are polluting and workers are victims. Now, sure, there are some things that are imperfect in this world, no doubt about it. But the bottom line is that business creates wealth. Government doesn’t create wealth. I understand that. Too many people in the current government don’t.

So, my mission - should I become the Prime Minister of this great country - is to try to ensure that as far as is reasonably possible, the businesses of Australia can flourish, because if the businesses of Australia can flourish, the workers of Australia can do better and the families of

Australia can do better and, in the end, that is what government is about: it is about delivering a better life to the people of our country and a very, very important condition of delivering a better life is to ensure that our economy is as strong as possible; our businesses are as prosperous as possible.

Now, every day we see new examples of the fact that this government does not get business. Nigel McBride has already alluded to the MYEFO statement brought down on Monday. Labor’s micro surplus has essentially been achieved by adding to the burdens on business. The $8 billion of company tax bring-forward is the principal element in the $16 billion worth of saves that the Treasurer announced on Monday.

Now, the Treasurer thinks that making business pay 14 months of tax in just 12 months isn’t a problem; it doesn’t really matter. He ignores the fact that for many businesses, there will be a big increase in paperwork by moving from quarterly to monthly company tax payments. He also ignores the fact that in just 12 months, people are going to have to put their hands on 14 months of tax. Now, imagine if our mortgage lenders said to us, "oh sorry, in this year you’ve got to make 14 months of repayments, not just 12 months of repayments." Would we think that doesn’t matter? Would the homebuyers of Australia think that it was a matter of no account to suddenly have to pay 14 months of repayments in a single year? Of course they wouldn't. Well, that’s what the Government has done to business.

So, ladies and gentlemen, this is a government which just doesn’t get business, it doesn’t trust business and it doesn’t consult with business. There’s been a great deal of play from the Government in recent months about wanting to work with business. There’s a business tax group that the Government is working with - not a word of consultation with that business tax group before these changes were announced. So, my commitment to the people of Australia is that I will not make changes that dramatically impact on peoples’ lives without taking people into my confidence first. I will not make changes that dramatically impact people without talking to them about it first and if any of you have worked with me as a Minister in a previous government, you would know that this is my style.

As Workplace Relations Minister, I talked to people on both sides of the industrial fence before making changes. As Employment Minister, I talk to the Job Network before making changes. I published exposure drafts of contracts before expecting people to enter into them. As Health Minister, I consulted very, very widely with the medical profession, with the other health professions, with the pharmaceutical sector, with the medical devices sector, with patient groups. All of these were part of my understanding that, in the end, government is about working with people, not working against people. I am about building up the social fabric, not seeing it fray by failing to consult and by failing to take people into my confidence.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to give you in the brief time I have this morning an understanding of how Australia will be different and better under a Coalition government and I think as I go through some of the ways in which our country will be changed under a Coalition government, you will understand that what I have in mind is achievable. It is achievable and it’s necessary, because we do need to do better than we are right now.

The first thing that will be different under the Coalition is that there will be no carbon tax. When I say there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, I am telling the truth and the carbon tax - as you here in South Australia would well understand - is acting as a reverse

tariff on Australian jobs. All of you in manufacturing particularly know that you are under fierce competitive pressure from imports. Now, why should we make it harder to do business in Australia when there are not such impediments on our rivals overseas?

The carbon tax will go. If we want at a single stroke to increase our Gross National Income by $5,000 per person per year in 2050, we get rid of the carbon tax. If we want to boost our GDP by a cumulative one trillion dollars by 2050, we get rid of the carbon tax. How do I know that this would be the case? Because the Government’s own modelling shows that our cumulative GDP is one trillion dollars less in 2050 with the carbon tax than without it. Our Gross National Income per head is $5,000 lower with the carbon tax than without it by 2050.

So, this carbon tax is a reverse tariff hurting Australian jobs, effectively protecting overseas jobs. It’s socialism masquerading as environmentalism, because when you actually look at it and you boil it down, it’s a great big new tax, it’s a great big new bureaucracy, it’s a great big new slush fund, great big new handouts. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that it goes.

The mining tax will go under a Coalition government. Now, one of the great disappointments for the people of South Australia was the failure of the Olympic Dam mine expansion. Now, the mining tax and the carbon tax were not the only reasons why BHP decided not to go ahead with the Olympic Dam expansion but I ask you to consider this. Did the mining tax make it more likely that they would expand Olympic Dam? Did the carbon tax make it more likely that they would expand Olympic Dam? Was it more likely that they would expand Olympic Dam given the regulatory burdens that we now face, the cost pressures that we now face, the industrial militancy that we now face? What this government has done made it so much harder for the Olympic Dam mine expansion to go ahead. Conversely, under a Coalition government, it will be so much easier for an expansion like that to go ahead.

We will get government spending down. Now, every day we get more examples of unnecessary government spending. On top of the $5 billion worth of border protection blowouts that we had already had, the Treasurer announces a further $1.2 billion of border protection blowouts in the MYEFO statement on Monday. There are examples large and small of unnecessary government spending - the border protection blowouts, a very large example; the $20 million that the Treasurer announced on Monday in additional National Broadband Network advertising, an example of unnecessary spending. All of you are in business. The National Broadband Network has paid its CEO more than it’s actually raised in revenue so far. Great business, isn’t it? How many of you would like to be in a business where the CEO earns more than the total revenue so far collected? But that’s what this government is doing. $30,000 for a portrait for Peter Slipper. Now, that’s a very important use of taxpayers’ money, isn’t it?

There will be a return to the rule of law in the construction industry under a Coalition government with the immediate restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission with full power, full authority and full funding.

There will be a very substantial attack on red tape under the Coalition. We’ve promised $1 billion worth of red tape reduction every year. Every government agency and instrumentality will be asked to quantify the cost of its compliance and reporting requirements on business and each agency and instrumentality will be given a target for cost reductions every year and public service bonuses will be paid on the basis of meeting those targets.

We will get participation up. We will try to ensure that everyone of working age is working - preferably in a job, but if not, for the dole.

We will try to ensure that there is a genuine level playing field for businesses large and small with a root and branch review of competition policy.

We will ensure that Australia starts to get the 21st century infrastructure that it needs. Amongst other things, we won’t make major infrastructure spending decisions without a published cost-benefit analysis.

You all know how important it is to spend money wisely and yet this is a government which has made massive, massive spending decisions, without any published cost-benefit analysis first. Well, we won’t do that because we owe it to the taxpayer to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent carefully and prudently.

We will try to ensure that we have more efficient public institutions like schools and hospitals. Education and health are close to 15 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product. So, we need more efficiencies in those sectors and trying to ensure that we have community-controlled public schools and public hospitals will be an enormous step forward.

Finally, there will be real engagement with Asia. Now, the Prime Minister is about to make a statement on the Asian Century and good on her for focusing on Asia because it does offer Australia vast opportunities and yet, when you actually look at what this government has done as opposed to what it has said, it has damaged some of our most important relationships in Asia. The suspension of the live cattle trade with Indonesia, an absolute disaster. Banning uranium sales to India, an absolute disaster. Well, it’s time we treated our Asian neighbours and partners with respect and that’s what will happen under a Coalition government.

I was in a room just a week or so back with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. There were three Australians in the room, there were four Indonesians in the room. Of the seven people, six had been to university in Australia. Indonesia is a country of great opportunity and potential for Australia. We’ve got to build on that. One way of building on the opportunities that we’ve got is to have a new Colombo Plan, only this time, a two-way street Colombo Plan where our best and brightest study in the top universities of our region as well as our region’s best and brightest coming to study in Australia.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that our country will be different and better under a Coalition government.

As I travel around Australia I sense a tremendous frustration in the Australian people. We know that we have so much potential. We know that this country can be more than it is right now. Right now, I think that the general assessment that people have is that we are a great country and a great people being let down by a bad government. That’s the problem that we’ve got - a government that does not trust the Australian people, does not take the Australian people into its confidence, that is more interested in its own survival than it is in good policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, my final message to you is I will listen to you, I do understand how important your work is, not just to your staff, not just to yourselves, but to the whole country.

We cannot have a strong society without a strong economy to sustain it and we cannot have a strong economy without profitable private businesses.

Thank you so much. It’s an honour to be here today.