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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6829

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (15:51): I thank Senator Moore—she is a gift that just keeps giving. I saw this today:

The Coalition Government’s failure to provide the economic leadership our nation needs.

My first message to Senator Moore, of course, is about the absolute disdain with which Senator Dastyari treated this question. Before he leaves the chamber, if Senator Dastyari wants to talk about deputy leaders and foreign ministers he need go no further than Ms Gillard. One thing all of the leaders of our party know is that the deputy, Ms Bishop, was never there with a knife in her hand—do not worry about shooting sheriffs, it is that knife in the back—with every single solitary leader of this side or the other side looking to see whether the deputy was going to put the knife straight in. It is not the opportunity today to speak about public sector people in New York, but I will speak to Senator Dastyari and I will share with him the information that came to me from senior officials in our mission at the UN, and they will compare the performance of Ms Bishop with that of Messrs Rudd and Bob Carr—you would not have raised that comparison, Senator Dastyari.

I am delighted to speak about the performance of our government because it enables me to start with what the last crowd in government, the Labor Party, did. Of course they had inherited no net debt; they had a $20 billion surplus and they had $45 billion in the bank. There is an old saying in Western Australia: 'If you want to lose a surplus, vote in a Labor government.' And do not think that over six years they did not perform. The people of Canning will remember this on Saturday. What did they do with the $20 billion surplus in six years? They turned it into a $220 billion deficit. What did they do with the no net debt? They raced it towards $670 billion of debt. People in the gallery need to know that this country is borrowing $1 billion a month to pay the interest—not to repay the debt. Do colleagues know how much that is? It is two new primary schools a day. It is a new teaching hospital. The new teaching hospital in Perth, the children's hospital, is worth two months of interest on the debt. That is what this mob left us with. When Senator Moore invites me to comment on the failure of the economic leadership of our government, I say to her, 'Thank you very, very much.' Even in their last year Labor produced 11 estimates in 2013-14, eight of which they said were going to produce a surplus. We know the results of that. In government, just by way of comparison, the coalition's MYEFO estimate in 2014-15 was a $47 billion deficit. The budget estimate was $49.9 billion. What did it come down at? It came down at $48.5 billion. How close, how accurate—how excellent is that economic management?

Let me turn to the economic performance of this government. Already in two years the budget is $68 billion bigger. We have spent $50 billion repairing the budget. Is that economic failure? In two years there have been 313,000 new jobs, 440 a day, and half of them are for women. Compare that with the last three years of Labor—not 440 new jobs a day but 44—10 per cent of the coalition's performance. Some economic failure! It gets even better. In the eight months of this year, there have been 167,000 new jobs. That is 700 new jobs a day, seven days a week—outperforming the US, the UK, Canada and every other G7 country. Job advertisements are 16 per cent up from when we took over from Labor; retail sales are nine per cent higher; exports are 11½ per cent higher. Do I need to keep going on about the economic failure of the coalition government? I intend to. I intend to bury this issue. Dwelling starts have increased—and we know what new residential dwellings do. They create jobs in the construction industry. You would not believe it, would you? Residential dwelling starts are now 23 per cent higher than when we came into government two years ago—33½ thousand new dwellings. Multiply that by four, and that is the number of people in new homes—better than the absolute high point under the Labor government. One million construction workers are benefiting from this, a lot of them in the seat of Canning. Bankruptcies are at a 20-year low—15 per cent lower. Those opposite do not like this because they have to sit and listen to it—it is the fact. Investment in the services sector rose by 12 per cent last financial year, and the story gets even better. Last week Dun and Bradstreet said:

… we're seeing robust levels of optimism against all sectors in the Australian business community.

It is a shame for Labor in opposition to have to suffer this when we inherited what we did from them. In 2014 a record 223,000 new companies registered. Iron ore exports out Port Hedland were at a record level last month—34 million times, better than a million times a day.

What has the Labor Party done to assist us in this whole process? We remember the $5 billion of budget savings that Labor themselves announced prior to the last election that they were going to bring in with our support. What happened to that when it came into this chamber? They opposed it—they stood on the hose. That is what we are seeing with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Gough Whitlam was their great hero, and fortunately for Gough he lived long enough to find a Prime Minister worse than himself, in Ms Gillard, but when he went to China, the first opposition leader, he was lauded by the opposition side. This is an interesting story; Senator Bullock might know it but apparently when Gough met Mao Tse-tung he was introduced as the Leader of the Opposition and Mao reportedly turned to a translator and said 'What's opposition?'. Whitlam should quite rightly be accorded credit for his work in establishing the relationship with China, and yet we see today in this place and in the other place, with poor leadership from Mr Shorten and Senator Wong, this opposition standing in the way of hundreds of thousands of opportunities. We will lose $600 million if we do not ratify this agreement by the end of this year, and another $600 million three weeks later. This is what the Labor Party is doing.

Senator Moore refers to economic leadership for our nation. Let me go through that topic in a little more detail. This is how the coalition government is delivering more jobs, stronger growth and a better economy in Australia at a time when, around the world, Asia and Europe are absolutely suffering. Yet see what Australia is doing: $5.5 billion in the last budget in the new Growing Jobs and Small Business package, which is already kick-starting economic growth, better outcomes and employment in the engine room of our economy. The Labor Party do not know about the engine room of the economy called small business; they think it is all either government employment or big business, who they can try to dominate. It is small business, where we have that $5.5 billion.

Again, in the small business sector, we see $3.25 billion in tax cuts for small business and $1.75 billion in accelerated depreciation measures, encouraging small business to start up and expand. Do you know what they do when they start up and expand? Senator Ruston knows—they employ people. And if those employees work well they get permanent employment and so the whole thing grows.

The next thing we want to look at is $6.8 billion in jobactive, the new employment services system, helping people get jobs which they will be able to sustain over time. Then we have a record $50 billion for infrastructure. Senator Dastyari was courteous to give some accolades to Mr Abbott. Certainly he will be known as the infrastructure Prime Minister, because he has invested that $50 billion in infrastructure for the 21st century.

I conclude my contribution with the three free trade agreements that Labor could not get anywhere near. Since 2007, when New Zealand negotiated a free trade agreement with China, their trade has gone up by a factor of five. It has quintupled. In that time, ours has doubled. If anybody wants to know the value of the free trade agreement with China to this country's economy, it is two against five. That is where the potential lies. The other side had better get on board.