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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1112


Mr HARTSUYKER (CowperDeputy Leader of the House and Assistant Minister for Employment) (15:25): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance. It is clear to those on this side of the House that nothing improves the prospects of Australians more effectively than building a strong economy. Nothing creates jobs faster than a strong economy. Nothing improves wages growth more than a strong economy. Nothing provides more opportunity for workers, young and old, to move from welfare to work than a strong economy. But the problem is that members opposite are living in complete denial. They are in denial of what they did to the Australian economy when they were in government. They are in denial of what they continue to do to the Australian economy from the benches of opposition.

When they were in government they built a debt mountain, and they are continuing to work on their very own debt mountain from the opposition treasury bench. At every turn they obstruct the government's efforts to bring the budget back into surplus. At every turn they obstruct the government's efforts to build a strong and secure Australia for the future. They obstruct us, yet they feign concern for workers. They are not concerned for the workers of Australia; they are concerned only for political expediency. The coalition is working to build a strong and prosperous economy. The coalition is working to fix Labor's debt and deficit disaster—and we are doing that not with the assistance of members opposite but despite them.

We have our economic strategy to create jobs and build a strong economy. More than 200,000 jobs were created last year at a rate of nearly 600 jobs a day. I will repeat that: we have created jobs at the rate of 600 a day. That is a new job every 2½ minutes. In 2014 jobs growth was triple the rate seen in 2013 under Labor. Job advertisement levels are at their highest levels in over two years, with yearly growth in job advertisements at a 3½ year high. Consumer confidence, according to the ANZ, sits above long-term average levels. Labor's legacy is one of 200,000 more people who are unemployed, gross debt projected to rise to $667 billion, $123 billion in cumulative deficits and 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat. That is their legacy.

When Labor's $9 billion carbon tax hit business, it made it more difficult for business to employ. It pushed up business costs. It made our businesses less competitive. We have removed that tax. We are about removing Labor's mess. We are about cleaning up their mess—their budget mess and their policy mess. We will continue to create more jobs. We will continue to ease the pressure on families. We will continue to build the roads of the 21st century. And we will continue to work to get the settings right to allow businesses to employ more Australians.

We had a situation where we were faced with billions upon billions of dollars of environmental approvals being held up by those opposite. This government has removed the roadblock that was put in place by the previous government.

We have seen Labor's policy inaction in government. You need look no further for their job creation prowess than the new government of Victoria, investing $1 billion, or wasting $1 billion, in not building a road that would have created 7,000 new jobs. You have to hand it to Labor—spending $1 billion to not build a road, to not create 7,000 jobs.

Mr McCormack: Anti progress.

Mr HARTSUYKER: Anti progress, anti job opportunities for Australians.

On this side of the House, we are about creating export opportunities through free trade agreements. After years and years of failure to deliver by members opposite, this government, within a very short period of time, concluded free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan. The free trade agreement with Korea removes a 300 per cent tariff on the import of Australian potatoes into that country. Some have predicted our agricultural exports to Korea will increase by around 7.3 per cent. That means more jobs for more Australians. Another example of our action on FTAs is the agreement with China, which removes tariffs on importing Australian dairy products. Australia's beef and sheep farmers will benefit from the abolition of tariffs ranging from 12 to 25 per cent; and all tariffs on Australian horticulture will be eliminated. Again, this means more jobs for more Australians. And we are working on a free trade agreement with India. Not content with the three free trade agreements already concluded, we are working on a free trade agreement with India which will unlock massive market potential for Australian exporters of goods and services and will create, again, thousands upon thousands of jobs.

We will be releasing a families package in the coming months to keep parents' costs down and put more money in their pockets. At the heart of our efforts to create more jobs is our small business strategy. On 1 July, we will be reducing the tax rate for small companies by 1½ per cent. Big business will pay no more. We are taking steps to lay this foundation for a stronger and more prosperous Australia, despite the efforts of members opposite to frustrate us at every turn.

This MPI is just another example of Labor's scaremongering. There is no plan to change the situation with regards to the minimum wage or penalty rates. The rates are determined by the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission. In line with our election commitments, the government have commissioned the Productivity Commission to undertake a review of the workplace relations framework. The terms of reference for the review seek recommendations for improvements that balance the need for workers to be protected and for businesses to thrive. All interested parties are encouraged to make a contribution to the review. Labor's scaremongering on this issue shows just how morally bankrupt they are.

When we came to government, we inherited an employment services system that was mired in red tape and not meeting the needs of job seekers or the needs of employers. I am pleased to advise the House that, from 1 July, there will be a new system, which will more efficiently and more effectively help job seekers move from welfare into work. Our new system will be based and focused on results, and the result we want to see is more Australians in work: more young Australians in work, more older Australians in work, more Indigenous job seekers finding work. We want opportunity for all Australians because we on this side of the House know that there is huge benefit in a job—not just a financial benefit but the benefit of a better quality of life and a sense of contributing to the community.

Our new employment system will replace Labor's system, which was wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on training for training's sake and was not delivering job outcomes. Our system is focused on paying employment providers to deliver the result we want, which is more Australians in work. The more Australians we have in work, the fewer Australians we have on benefits, the stronger our economy will be. Members opposite feign concern for the workers of Australia, but all they do is obstruct us in our efforts to create jobs, to create opportunities and to create a better employment services system that will better meet the needs of job seekers.

We have a new work-for-the-dole program starting on 1 July. Phase 1 has been very successful. Rolled out in 18 locations around the country, it is offering young people the opportunity to learn new skills that will put them on the path to a job. Many employers are telling me as I go around the country that, regrettably, young people are presenting at the gates of their business without the necessary skills to get by in the workplace. Well, work for the dole has the potential to give young people those skills and the opportunity of a job. Phase 1 of our work for the dole goes national on 1 July. With the implementation of the new employment services system, we will see work for the dole offered right around the country to workers under the age of 30 for 25 hours a week and to older workers up to the age of 50 for 15 hours a week. It will allow these people to contribute to their community, learn new skills and be better placed to get into work.

We are about better terms and conditions for Australian workers through growing a strong economy. Those opposite are about scaremongering. They are about holding the Australian economy back and, in doing so, holding the Australian people back. The best way to deliver higher wages for all Australians and a better standard of living for all Australians is to build a strong economy. It is a shame members opposite have not woken up to that.