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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7591

Economy


Mr HAYES (FowlerGovernment Whip) (15:07): My question is to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. Will the Assistant Treasurer outline the economic forces at work in Australia's transitioning economy? What is the government's plan to tackle these challenges and are there any obstacles?


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) (15:08): I thank the member for Fowler for his question. He is right: Australia is an economy in transition. We are experiencing transformative forces which will happen regardless of who is in power. These forces are well known. We are living longer. Asia is re-emerging as the prime economic region of the world. We are heading towards a lower pollution envir­onment and a more sustainable world. We recognise that the role of digital information will continue and expand and, of course, we are growing our services economy.

What these forces mean is that we need to have good public policy, not just relentless negativity, if we are to be able to handle and manage an economy in transition. This means that Australia should not be afraid of the future. Led by our Prime Minister and our Treasurer, our plans have included enabling the creation of 258,000 new jobs in the last 12 months alone. We will price carbon to create a low pollution economy and a clean technology industry. We will share the prosperity of the mining boom by cutting company tax and lifting compulsory superannuation from nine to 12 per cent to ensure that millions of Australians have more adequate retirement income. We are managing an economy in transition for our expanded resourcing for skills and training. We are certainly intending to bring the budget to surplus by 2012-13. We have a massive pipeline of $430 billion of future investment in the mining industry and we certainly intend to further engage with the growing middle class in Asia.

But I was asked what the threats are to these plans, what the threats are to an economy in transition, and I believe that there is a very clear and present danger to the plans for a successful future for Australia. This is the threat of low expectations, the tyranny of low expectations, the fear of the future, the obsession by those opposite to freeze the Australian economy in the past. The threat is most clearly articulated by the relentless negativity of the Leader of the Opposition. On any question, he will always say no. He does not want to increase superannuation, he does not want to decrease company tax, he does not want to have a price on carbon, he does not want GP superclinics, he does not like the National Broadband Network and he does not want to improve schools and libraries. Indeed, he does not even want Malcolm Turnbull to talk.

The Leader of the Opposition is so negative that the member for Hume in the Liberal Party meeting this morning had to say, 'Why is it, Leader of the Opposition, that you have a staff member gagging us from being able to speak?' We know what happened. The member for Hume is a freedom fighter. He will stand up. Then the member for Hume was told in the Liberal Party room this morning, 'Mate, we are just making suggestions on being good team players.' Unfortunately, at the same time as the Liberal Party room was meeting in this relentless negativity—the truth hurts, doesn't it?

Mr Andrews: Mr Speaker, a point of order on relevance: how can this possibly be directly relevant to the question?

The SPEAKER: Order! The question talked about threats or obstacles—I cannot remember and cannot read my own writing so I cannot remember which it was. There has been an attempt made by the minister to directly relate his remarks to that comment, but it is overly laden with debate, which is again something that I am concerned with. I have indicated before that, if the debate is directly relevant, it is allowed, however regrettable I might think that is.

Mr SHORTEN: I was asked about threats to the future of an economy in transition. One of the threats to the future, as I said, is a relentless negativity and this relentless negativity extends to gagging Malcolm Turnbull all the time. As the member for Hume was asking his question, at the meeting of Liberal press secretaries—I know you are smiling, Joe—the Leader of the Opposition's press secretary says, 'Mate, if the Sunday shows ask your boss to come on television, check with us and, if we don't want you to go on television, don't tell them that we said no.' The opposition is making such an art form of negativity. They have no policies. On Q&A Joe Hockey, the member for—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Assistant Treasurer will bring his remarks to a conclusion.

Mr SHORTEN: And we all know that, whilst they have almost no policies, they have got one. It is to bring back Work Choices industrial relations.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.