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Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Page: 8948

Economy


Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:11): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. I refer to the minister's statement yesterday that 'this side of the chamber are focused on policies that strengthen growth'. Minister, is Mr Nigel Ray, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, correct to say that, under the Abbott-Turnbull government, Australia is experiencing 'a prolonged period of below-par growth, the likes of which we have rarely seen outside of a recession?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): Firstly, that is not actually what he said. The question as framed by the good senator is not actually what Mr Ray said. I know that Labor seems to be getting some pleasure out of the fact that we are going through a more challenging global economic situation as a country at the moment, but the important point that I would make again—and I have made this point several times before—is that both the Australian economy and the budget are in a better position than they would have been if Labor had stayed in government. If you are concerned about where the economy and the budget are now, how much worse do you think things would have been if the mining tax had stayed in place; if the carbon tax had stayed in place; if the unsustainable spending growth trajectory imposed on Australia by the worst finance minister in the history of the Commonwealth had stayed in place; if we had not rolled out our ambitious free trade agenda—helping our exporters be more successful in markets like China, Korea and Japan; if we had not rolled out our very ambitious infrastructure investment program, investing in productivity and enhancing infrastructure around Australia? The truth is that what Mr Ray did yesterday, very appropriately, was to explain a change to a technical assumption in the projection years of the budget. I do not expect Labor to understand, because Labor does not understand about how to manage money. People across Australia know that whenever Labor is in government they make a mess of the budget and the coalition has to fix it up.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides. I remind you that it is disorderly to interject.



Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that yesterday Treasury indicated that economic growth will be even lower under Treasurer Morrison than was forecast under Treasurer Hockey in his last budget?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! You are delaying question time.



Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:14): That is actually not what Mr Ray did. I do not expect the Labor Party to understand the disastrous effect that the Labor policies that we inherited have had on Australia's economic fortunes. We are working to take all of that lead out of Australia's saddlebag to strengthen growth and create more jobs. The truth is that the economic forecasts and projections for 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook will be finalised following the release of the September quarter national accounts on Wednesday, 2 December.

The other truth is that, forever and a day and for a very long time, in the final two years of the forward estimates—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator CORMANN: and I appreciate this is a technical point that goes right over Senator Wong's head—there is a technical assumption of a return to, effectively, the full employment rate, and, given that we have lower population growth— (Time expired)



Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that, despite promising to build a stronger economy, the Abbott-Turnbull government has presided over economic growth well below trend. How does lower growth build a stronger economy?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): Let me say it again very slowly: economic growth in Australia today is stronger than it would have been if Labor had stayed in government. If we had stayed on the trajectory that Labor put Australia on, economic growth today would be lower. Australia continues to grow while other commodity-based economies like Canada and Brazil are in recession. I do not expect Labor to understand this, but over the last two years we have been working on making our economy more competitive, more productive. We will be making a very significant announcement soon on how we can provide the appropriate incentives to drive stronger innovation across the economy in order to strengthen growth and create more jobs. If you look at the results that we have achieved, there have been more than 360,000 new jobs in the two years that we have been in government. The truth is that Labor is misrepresenting— (Time expired)