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Monday, 7 September 2015
Page: 6086


Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (15:24): Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President—

Senator Brandis: Has your membership of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance been confirmed?

Senator DASTYARI: No, I am a proud member of the Transport Workers Union and the United Services Union.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Dastyari, resume your seat.

Senator Ian Macdonald: On a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Could you please tell the speaker you are the Deputy President, not the Acting Deputy President?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you for that, Senator Macdonald. Consider yourself told, Senator Dastyari.

Senator DASTYARI: Thank you, Mr Deputy President, and I apologise for not upholding your office. Senator O'Sullivan unfortunately is no longer here, but he did issue a challenge to me that in my speech I would refer to the failure of this government to create jobs. I want to say to Senator O'Sullivan: challenge accepted; I drink Tooheys Extra Dry and you can deliver them to my office. We have a government that has increased unemployment since it came to office two years ago from 5.7 per cent to 6.3 per cent, a 13-year high. We had the extraordinary situation on the Insiders program where the trade minister, Minister Robb, spoke about the achievements of this government and actually cited employment—which has really been a failure. When the government's defence is that it could have been worse or that it should have been worse, that is no defence at all. For the first time in 20 years more than 800,000 Australians are out of work—800,000.

Senator Conroy: Is that a record?

Senator DASTYARI: It is a record. It is a 20-year record. Why is it a record? Because consumer sentiment is 10 per cent below where it was—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Under Keating it was 12 per cent.

Senator Bushby: Over a million under Keating and a lot fewer people in the country.

Senator DASTYARI: This obsession with Paul Keating, which those opposite have, baffles me. Consumer sentiment is 10 per cent below where it was at the time of the election and—something that is very dear to the hearts of those on the conservative side—new taxes and charges mean Australians are paying more tax than at any time since the Howard government. They are rising each and every budget year. Some have accused me at different points of taking a communist approach to taxation, and I would remind them that—and they may or not be the finance minister of Australia—under his leadership of Australian finances, new taxes and charges mean that Australians are paying more tax than at any time since the Howard government. Yet we have rampant multinational tax avoidance.

The budget deficit has doubled in the last 12 months and the Australian economy is stuck at below-trend growth of two per cent with annual growth trending down since the Treasurer's damaging first budget. It is also worrying that the nominal growth rate of just 1.8 per cent is the weakest since 1961-62. I understand that this is a government that is desperate to take us back to the 1960s ideologically, but I am disappointed that it needed to take the economy with it. Its claim to be a fiscally conservative government—

Senator Conroy: Fiscal vandals.

Senator DASTYARI: if it was not for the rampant increase in government spending, economic growth for this quarter would have been zero. That makes the claims from the finance minister, made just before the winter recess, that the government was 'heading in the right direction' when it comes 'to implementing our plan for stronger growth, more jobs and repairing the budget' so ridiculous. It is so ridiculous that at its two-year mark—its second birthday, for which I seem to remember the gift is wool—

Senator Bilyk: Are they trying to pull it over our eyes?

Senator DASTYARI: That is the reference I was going to make, but I thank you for jumping in there and spoiling my timing. An economic growth rate of 0.2 per cent is worse than both Greece and Spain—0.2 per cent. This is a government that has failed. It has failed at its two-year mark—and let's hope its second birthday is the last one we will be celebrating.

Question agreed to.