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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2606


Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:07): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Gillard government's management of the economy is delivering growth and supporting jobs?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am waiting to call the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:07): I thank Senator Urquhart for the question and her constant advocacy for Tasmania and employment opportunities in Tasmania. The Australian economy remains strong and continues to grow. Despite some of the toughest global conditions in decades, we have continued to grow and, more importantly, continued to provide jobs for working Australians. Since we have come to office we have seen more than 700,000 jobs created. It is a fact that more Australians are in work today than ever before, and our unemployment rate is among the lowest in the world.

While things are going well, there are obviously structural adjustment issues in the economy, and we accept that there is always more to do as a government. Government always has to focus on what else needs to be done. That is why we are so focused on delivering a budget surplus in 2012-13. We know that that enormously fast fiscal consolidation is in the best interests of Australians and in the best interests of those paying a mortgage and that it will set us up economically for the years ahead.

We are also making investments: record investments in infrastructure, record investments in skills—all the things that spread the benefits that flow from the mining boom. But also, by distributing those taxation benefits into things like superannuation and tax reform, they benefit working Australians and benefit companies. The mining tax which has passed this parliament will allow this government to ensure that all Australians benefit from the use of Australia's resources—that all Australians will get a share in the wealth being created. Mining companies will continue to make profits. They will continue to employ and grow. But other Australians will get improved superannuation benefits, and companies, some of which are doing it tough in the slower areas of the economy, will get tax cuts, provided that we can convince the parliament of these important tax reforms. (Time expired)

Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how the government's plans for company tax and small business tax cuts will help underpin further job growth?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): The important aspect of tax cuts for businesses is that they will allow them to continue to employ Australians and to grow their businesses and employ more Australians. By helping companies, we allow them to employ. We allow them to provide benefits to employees. So it is absolutely essential that we do what we can to support businesses in Australia, particularly those who are not necessarily in the fast lane, who are not associated with the mining boom. Some of those companies are doing it tougher, but they employ thousands and thousands of Australians. The company tax cuts we bring before this parliament will allow more jobs for Australians, so we urge the Liberal Party to join us in supporting company tax cuts rather than the approach they have now, which is to seek to increase company tax rather than support the government's plans to support small business in this country. (Time expired)

Senator URQUHART (Tasmania) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any alternative policies which put at risk future job creation in Australia?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): The Liberal and National parties' opposition to small-business tax cuts clearly puts in jeopardy their capacity to make a profit and their capacity to employ by making it tougher for business in Australia. By refusing to support them with tax cuts, they are making it tougher for those businesses and making it harder for them to employ Australians.

We in this government have sought to ensure that the mining boom benefits spread throughout the economy, that companies which are doing it tougher, which are having trouble managing to pay and hold onto labour, will have the capacity to help meet their costs by having tax reform and tax cuts. But the Liberal Party have got themselves in the position now where they oppose tax cuts for small business. They want to hand windfall revenue back to mining companies. They want to increase taxes on larger companies and they want to remove pensions and family payments from ordinary Australians. They have got themselves into a complete mess and they ought to rethink their position. (Time expired)