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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14644

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Treasurer) (15:29): The shadow Treasurer and I agree on one thing—that the nation deserves better than the rabble we see opposite and the nonsense that we have just heard espoused from the opposition benches. You know what? I'd rather those opposite just came in and said, 'Thank you for cleaning up the horrendous mess that we left and for cleaning up the four highest-deficit budgets in our nation's history.' We'd all just rather they came in and said thank you, because, as the Treasurer announced last night, the budget is back in black and Australia is back on track.

For the first time in 12 years, the budget will be in surplus, a surplus that has not been seen by those opposite for 30 years, because they haven't been able to deliver one at all. This is not some wafer-thin surplus. This is not 'the four surpluses I announce tonight' from the member for Lilley. This is a $7.1 billion surplus, rising substantially over the forwards to $45 billion. In fact it's a $55 billion turnaround from the deficit we inherited from Labor six years ago. I'd rather those opposite just said thank you. But the problem is that they can't bring themselves to come in and say: 'Thank you for actually getting the nation's finances together. Thank you for keeping the growth of government expenditure to the lowest levels in 50 years. Thank you for turning around the deficits we left with a $55 billion turnaround to deliver a $7.1 billion surplus.' The problem is: those key numbers are nowhere to be heard on the opposition benches, because those opposite are embarrassed by their complete inability to deliver that sort of economic activity and they are doing everything they can to ensure the nation doesn't remember what the economy looked like last time they were in power.

Whilst any job is never done, the progress that this government has made is extraordinary. We are in a significantly better position on almost any measurement than when we came into office in 2013. Growth is higher. Unemployment is lower. There is a record number of Australians in jobs. Fewer people are on welfare—in fact, the lowest level in 30 years. And, of course, the budget is immeasurably stronger. So this election, which will be called, as the Prime Minister said, sometime in May, will be a choice between a government that is delivering a strong economy and a Labor opposition that will preside over a weaker economy. It's a choice between this government, which is fixing the budget, and a Labor Party that can't manage a budget. History has shown that Labor has not delivered a surplus in 30 years. This election is a choice between a government that is lowering taxes and a Labor-proposed government that wants $200 billion in higher taxes.

The budget clearly shows the next stage of our economic plan. It's about building a stronger economy and securing a better future, not just balancing the books, creating more jobs, delivering lower taxes and guaranteeing essential services like schools, hospitals, roads and higher funding across all of those areas of expenditure. The economy will always be stronger under a coalition government, which allows families to get ahead.

The budget surplus, of course, is $7.1 billion. In 2021 it will be a surplus of $11 billion, rising to $17.8 billion and $9.2 billion when the full effect of the tax cuts comes in. Of course, $158 billion of additional tax relief has been announced for hardworking Australians—more than a doubling of the low- and middle-income tax offset from 2018-19. Taxpayers earning from $48,000 to $90,000 will have a maximum of $1,080 in real cash in their pockets. A couple, of course, will receive double that. More than 10 million taxpayers will benefit, with 4.5 million receiving the full amount. The relief will flow quickly and be available to Australians after tax returns for the 2018-19 year are submitted, in just 13 weeks time. These are substantial tax cuts that people can see, feel, take and spend in simply 13 weeks time.

We'll also be delivering long-term structural reform by lowering the 32.5 per cent tax rate to 30 per cent from 1 July 2024. This will cover all taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 and will mean that 94 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar. It allows Australians to be aspirational, to seek to work hard, and to earn more for their family's budget. The instant asset write-off has been increased and expanded from $25,000 to $30,000 and can be used every time an asset under that amount is purchased. Of course, the capacity of businesses has also been expanded, up to $50 million, covering an additional 22,000 businesses employing 1.7 million Australians. Already 350,000 businesses have taken up the instant asset write-off, which just goes to show how effective that is.

But this government, of course, is not just delivering on our tax relief, our lower tax and our tax reform agenda. There is also enormous commitment to congestion-busting infrastructure. Our record infrastructure has now got higher, with an investment $100 billion, of which the congestion busting has gone from $1 billion to $4 billion—an extraordinary focus and investment of this government into rail, both regional and urban, roads and other areas of infrastructure.

On vocational education and skills, we're about ensuring that all Australians have access to the skills they need. An investment of $525 million will develop a world-class vocational education and training sector, equipping Australians with the skills they need and creating up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years for a whole raft of occupations that Australia needs. We'll invest in a National Careers Institute and a National Careers Ambassador. There'll be $50 million to establish 10 industry-training hubs. This is a budget that is delivering for modern Australia.

And we're doing more in health and aged care. The budget continues to guarantee Medicare despite the complete and utter lack of truth from those opposite. A range of life-saving medicines and services will be more accessible and affordable. As the Treasurer has said, since this government has been in power, over 2,000 life-saving medicines have been added to the PBS. In the last dying vestiges of those opposite when they were in government, they ceased all PBS listing. If there was ever a show between those opposite and this government, it is that this government has put over 2,000 new medicines on the PBS and those opposite had ceased doing that at the end of their term. There is $40 billion for the provision of life-saving and life-changing medicines in the forward estimates and $5 billion for a 10-year Medical Research Future Fund investment plan. There is $736 million for mental health, including youth suicide prevention, which, it is pleasing to see, has bipartisan support across the House. Australia should be rightly proud of that. There is $1 billion for Indigenous health and $1 billion for child dental services.

What this coalition government continues to deliver represents a strong dividend from economic management. This is what you get when the economy is in surplus, when the payment systems of the government are under control of the government. And it keeps moving forward. Our population plan will see the easing of pressure on big capitals while supporting the growth of the smaller cities and the regions. We'll continue to deliver and build on our record investment in infrastructure right across the country, including rurally. We'll reduce the cap on our migration program and plan for a more evenly distributed population growth. That's what this government is seeking to do. That is the dividend of a strong, sensible, seasoned budget and a budget that is believable. This is a budget that builds on the last five budgets the coalition has put forward— all of them with believable numbers, all of them with believable forecasts and all of them where numbers have been hit. Indeed, the shadow Treasurer and I can agree on one thing: this country deserves better than the words and hollow promises from those opposite. It deserves a government that says what it means and means what it says and delivers every time.