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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1105

Economy


Senator WALSH (Victoria) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Can the minister confirm the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey released today shows that median household income has decreased under the Liberal-National government? What is the median household income now compared to 2013?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:00): I thank the senator for her question. What I can tell the senator following the release of the HILDA report is that this government, the Morrison government, is doing everything that it can to ensure that our economy remains strong. The very first thing we did when we came back after the election in May was pass a series of tax cuts through this place—tax cuts that were designed to make sure that people got more of their own money—money that they had earned—left in their pockets. We also announced over the last period of time a very ambitious—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, on a point of order?

Senator Wong: It was a simple question: what is the median household income now compared to 2013? That's what the minister was asked. She hasn't got a brief. Perhaps she could take it on notice.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, the minister was asked about household income but was also asked an earlier question about the data and its trend over recent years. There were two questions. The minister is entitled to answer either or both of those questions.

Senator RUSTON: I have a great deal of pleasure in advising the House what the HILDA Survey did show. This longitudinal survey of Australian households over the last 17 years actually showed that unemployment picked up in 2017, particularly for women, who saw their employment rate rise—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, on a point of order?

Senator Watt: Mr President, on relevance, again. The minister seems to want to talk about everything in the HILDA report apart from what she was asked about. Can she confirm that median household income has decreased under the Liberal-National government? That's the question.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, that is part of the question. I do remind the minister that there were two parts of the question, both related to household income, and note that she has a minute remaining to answer.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator RUSTON: Thank you very much, Senator Cormann. The reason that it would be higher than it would be under those opposite is that we weren't actually ripping $387 billion out of the pockets—

Senator Watt: Mr President—

The PRESIDENT: I anticipate your point of order, Senator Watt. Senator Ruston, I remind you of the nature of the question and ask you to turn to it. Note that you have 47 seconds remaining to answer.

Senator RUSTON: I can advise this chamber that the average disposable household income rose by $527 to $55,000—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Watt?

Senator Watt: Do we need to explain the difference between median and average? We asked about median.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, it's been a while since I studied statistics, but median is a form of average.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is not a point of order on relevance to specifically ask for a type of answer. I think, in answering that, the minister had turned to the question and was being directly relevant. There's an opportunity after question time to debate this.

Senator RUSTON: But what matters to the people of Australia is that they've actually got more of their own money in their pockets. What matters to them is that they've got a government that's focused on a strong economy. What matters to the people of Australia is the fact that we are a government with a plan to continue to deliver for them. You come in here and give us a lecture about the economy of Australia, when your plan going to the last election was $387 billion of more taxes. I don't know what part of that was going to make a stronger economy for all Australians. But, as I said, average household income has risen— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Walsh, a supplementary question.



















Senator WALSH (Victoria) (14:04): Can the minister confirm that, after more than a decade of decreasing rates of poverty, the Liberal-National government has overseen an increase in the rate of poverty?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:04): Thank you for your follow-up question, Senator. The best way that the Australian government can get people out of poverty is by getting them a job, and we are absolutely focused on creating jobs and creating pathways so that people who want a job can get a job. One thing that I'd say is the ABS data shows that, in real terms, wages are growing. In fact, the sector wages are growing by 2.4 per cent—the highest since December 2014.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Watt on a point of order.

Senator Watt: So we're now getting an answer about wages. This question is actually about poverty. Could the minister just try once this week to answer the question?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ruston, this question did specifically mention poverty. I've said before that the introduction of the term 'direct' into the direct relevance test narrowed the previous test, so I ask you to turn to the question. Senator Ruston.

Senator RUSTON: Thank you very much, Mr President. As I actually answered in the first part of my answer, in responding to the question: the fact is that on this side of the chamber we understand that the best way to get people out of poverty is to actually get them a job. But not only that. The best way to make sure that we have a country that's strong and that can afford all of the social services that so many Australians depend on is to make sure our economy is strong. And I can assure you that the best way of making the economy strong is not taxing it by $387 billion. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Walsh, a final supplementary question.







Senator WALSH (Victoria) (14:05): Professor Roger Wilkins, co-author of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australiasurvey, says:

... in the mid-2005-to-2009 range when we saw very large increases in household incomes, but since 2012 there's been basically no growth.

Why are Australians worse off now than when the Liberal-National parties came to government in 2013?


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:06): What I'd like to do now is actually give you my interpretation of the data that was contained in the HILDA report, not somebody else's. What I'd like to advise the chamber is that, as I said, women's employment has increased significantly over the period of the longitudinal survey, including in recent weeks and recent years. Under the coalition there are 1.4 million new jobs and a plan to create more. Female workforce participation is at record highs. Workforce participation for those over the age of 65 has also been increased. More than 100,000 young people got a job in 2017-18—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong on a point of order.

Senator Wong: The question dealt with this proposition: between 2005 and 2009 we saw large increases in household incomes but not since 2012—that there's been no growth. The minister was asked a question about why Australians are worse off now than when the coalition came to power in 2013. Now, the minister has had 40 seconds. She has spoken a lot about workforce participation et cetera, but this is a question about the trend in household income under her government.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, on the point of order: on the previous question I drew the minister's attention to a very specific question. The nature of the final part of the question that was read out was: 'Why are Australians worse off than'—and it referred to a date. I think the minister is allowed some discretion in being directly relevant to such a broad question. Senator Ruston.

Senator RUSTON: Thank you very much, Mr President. In relation to talking about the incomes of households, it's worth noting that the average living standards have increased over the full 17 years of the period of the longitudinal survey. The average disposable household income rose $527, to $55,000—the largest increase— (Time expired)