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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14561

Mr COLEMAN (BanksMinister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) (09:48): Thank you for the opportunity to rise to speak on this motion. It was very interesting to hear the shadow minister stand up and speak, because before the Labor national conference late last year the shadow minister was busy seeking to give you the impression that she was going to secure a commitment for an increase in Newstart. There she was, out there revving up the stakeholders. There were all kinds of expectations from the shadow minister that she was going to deliver an outcome on Newstart. And didn't she get those expectations revved up. But I'll tell you what: ACOSS were very unhappy with the shadow minister by the end of the Labor national conference at the end of last year, because, after all of those expectations that the shadow minister was keen to rev up with the stakeholders about the increase she was going to deliver in Newstart, what did she deliver at the end of the Labor national conference?

She delivered nothing.

Do you know what Labor's policy on Newstart is? I'll tell you what Labor's policy on Newstart is. Labor's policy is to have a review. Bravely, Labor are going to hit the beach reviewing! We saw in it the years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government: review after review after review. But now the brave new policy from the opposition is that they're going to have a review into Newstart.

You're either fair dinkum or you're not. The numbers are either in your budget or they're not. And you haven't put the numbers in your budget. Labor are walking two sides of the street when it comes to Newstart. Labor like to give out the rhetoric when it comes to Newstart, but what's their promise? Their promise is to have a review. This is classic modern Labor. This is classic Labor. They want to give the impression that they're going to be doing something on Newstart, but they have not committed to do anything more than to have a review. Indeed, what was it that ACOSS said at the end of last year? ACOSS, the Australian Council of Social Service, had this to say about Labor and their discussions of Newstart at the national conference at the end of last year:

ACOSS urges Labor to improve disgracefully inadequate Newstart motion at the ALP Conference …

This is Labor. This is Labor trying to tell a story on Newstart, but the reality is that all they're doing is committing to a review. They have not committed to do anything more than a review.

The shadow Treasurer is desperate to try and mount some kind of attack against a budget which offers a lower taxing future for Australians, which offers a return to surplus, the first time in 12 years—back in black and back on track. That's something that you're never going to see delivered from Labor. Labor simply does not have the capability or the track record of delivering a surplus. He was desperate to make the claim that in some way this was some kind of material change to the budget.

Let's be clear: this is a payment being made in 2018-19. The total cost of the measure that we will be introducing, with legislation to be introduced shortly—and I hope and expect that Labor will be supporting it—is $365 million, almost entirely delivered in the 2018-19 financial year. I make that point again because it is a very important point: almost entirely delivered in the 2018-19 financial year. Despite the shadow Treasurer's attempt to make the argument that this is in some way any kind of change to the budget, the fact is that this is a payment in 2018-19, an incremental change. It's a change that we're pleased to be making. We'll be introducing that legislation very shortly, and I certainly look forward to Labor supporting this. I hope and expect that that is what we will see.

But it's important to look at the question of how best we deal with Australians in poverty. We are very clear on this side of the House that the best way to deal with poverty is to get as many Australians into a job as possible. That is why we have been so focused on delivering almost 1.3 million jobs since we came to government in 2013. We committed that we'd deliver one million; we have well exceeded that commitment, and of course we've now committed to deliver further jobs. That's a commitment made by the Treasurer in the budget last night.

Very importantly, there are now 230,000 fewer Australians of working age—between 16 and 64—who are on the welfare rolls. The percentage of working-age Australians who are on income support payments, now at 14.3 per cent, is at the lowest level it has been in 30 years. Every Australian who moves from welfare to work secures a personal victory—a victory in terms of self-esteem, a victory in terms of a sense of contribution, a victory, of course, in terms of an improved financial position for themselves and their families. We are very firmly focused on our policy of encouraging and assisting Australians to move from welfare into work. You do that by growing the economy. You do that by generating jobs. You do that by introducing measures which stimulate the businesses who employ Australians. Ninety per cent of jobs are in the private sector. That means it is vital to encourage businesses to invest and employ. That's why we've delivered tax reductions for businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million. We've reduced the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent so that more Australians will be employed. That's why we've committed to spending $75 billion—now increased to $100 billion—on infrastructure, because that is the way that you encourage investment and you encourage employment. It's why we have delivered free trade agreements with China, with Japan, with Korea, with Singapore, with Indonesia. These free trade agreements are about creating more export opportunities, more opportunities for business, more economic growth and, therefore, more employment. In the budget last night we saw a clear and continued focus on lower taxes and stimulating business activity, and, in turn, employment. That is the way we deal with poverty in this country. That is the way we encourage more Australians to get into the workforce. That is the way we assist people to make that transition from welfare to work. Every Australian who makes the transition from welfare to work achieves a personal victory.

It was very instructive to see the way that the shadow Treasurer sought to jump on this issue. Labor know that they are walking two sides of the street on Newstart. Labor know very well that they are claiming to deliver something when, in fact, they have not committed anything in terms of what they're actually going to spend on Newstart. If Labor were fair dinkum about, for example, responding to the ACOSS proposal of $75 a week—that's $3.3 billion a year in additional expenditure. What the shadow Treasurer needs to do is come clean with the Australian people: are you committing to spending an extra $3.3 billion a year? That is what you need to come clean about with the Australian people. You're busy talking about Newstart, but what you have not done is told the Australian people whether you are prepared to commit to $3.3 billion in additional expenditure each year. And what you have not done is told the Australian people, if they do have to find that additional $3.3 billion, how that is going to be paid for. So Labor is walking two sides of the street on Newstart. We have a very clear position about assisting Australians out of welfare into work.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The question is that the motion moved by the member for McMahon be agreed to.