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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8599


Mr LYONS (Bass) (14:39): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on how the government is working with business to strengthen our economy and to deliver jobs? How has this approach been received, and what is the government's response?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! I simply say to the members for Mitchell and Herbert that if they want to improve their Statler and Waldorf impersonation I can get them time outside to work on it. Otherwise, they should sit there quietly.

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:39): I thank the member for Bass for a very important question, and one that is understood by everybody on this side of the House.

The government has been methodically putting in place a range of policies to deal with the challenges and the opportunities of a patchwork economy. That is why we are so committed to a tax reform package which will come to this House later in the year and which will deliver tremendous benefits to the 2.7 million small businesses right around this country.

We do understand how important it is to spread the opportunities of the mining boom right around our country, particularly to small businesses that are not in the fast lane of the mining boom. That is why we are so committed to the $6,500 instant asset write-off for multiple purchases by small businesses, to give them a real lift when it comes to their cash flow. That is very important for small business. It is the sort of tax reform that they have been looking for for years. It will be delivered by this government because we do understand the challenges of the patchwork economy.

It will deliver something like $1 billion to small businesses in 2013-14 and, of course, it is opposed by all of those opposite, who do not understand the challenges of the patchwork economy. That is why we are particularly putting in place a range of policies to deal with skill shortages and to deal with labour supply, because we do understand that for many businesses in Australia getting the supply of labour that is required can, from time to time, be very difficult. That is why we are putting in place a National Workforce Development Fund—that is very important. That is why we had, as the centrepiece of the budget, a whole range of reforms to increase workforce participation.

The one that I am most proud of, and which I know that everybody behind me is proud of, is the fact that we have increased substantially the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,000. That is very important for second income earners in so many households right around this country. When they do work a few more extra hours they might get more in their hand. This is a fundamental reform that we have put in place but, once again, is opposed by those opposite.

We have put in place a range of other measures to ensure that many of those who are out of the labour market have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get into the labour market, once again spreading the opportunity that flows from growth. So, that is what this government is committed to.

We are committed to putting in place carbon pricing and to assisting industry, particularly the trade exposed industries, because we understand that to be a first-rate economy in the 21st century we do need to be powered substantially by clean energy. We are doing all of these things to grow our economy and to respond to the challenges from a patchwork economy.

But, of course, those on that side of the House just continue to talk our economy down. They talk it down whilst they are digging a $70 billion black hole in their budget estimates—$70 billion. We have a plan to cut company tax; they have a plan to send it up. We have a plan to increase tax cuts to small business; they are opposing those. But, most importantly, we have in place strict fiscal rules and they have a $70 billion hole in their estimates.

Mr Hockey: You're a crack-up! You make me laugh.

Mr SWAN: A $70 billion hole; and you do not find $70 billion, shadow Treasurer, by putting your hand down the inside of the couch and finding it there beside all the chocolate wrappers.