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Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Page: 2249

Senator McGRATH (QueenslandDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (13:14): If we are to learn anything from COVID-19, it's that the country needs to get a lot more serious about paying down the national debt and growing the economy. Yesterday the Treasurer outlined the significant blow the Australian economy is suffering from coronavirus. There's no doubt that important initiatives like JobKeeper are crucial to the national recovery and to ensuring our economy fares through the crisis in greater stead than the rest of the globe. However, now more than ever the challenges we face and their effect on the bottom line should pose a necessary reminder to all of us of the importance of strong economic management and sensible fiscal expenditure. Despite the commendable efforts of consecutive Liberal-Nationals governments to return the budget back to surplus, the coronavirus stimulus spending through such initiatives has undoubtedly added years, if not decades, onto our debt repayments, and, as the Treasurer said yesterday, there is no money tree. It is a shame that such hard work has driven economic growth to be obliterated in a few short months, because of the coronavirus. But it is at times like these that the country benefits from a balanced budget, sound economic policy and low national debt. It equips us better to ride out the downturn and the hardship during such uncertain times. A direct comparison lies with the miscalculated and reckless cash exodus of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, orchestrated by then Treasurer Wayne Swan.

It's more disappointing to see Labor already spruiking their socialist playbook to increase hardworking Australians' taxes and hobble the national economy in the process. It's this exact approach that created the debt in the first place. Fortunately, the Morrison-McCormack government knows that we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Rather, our recovery relies on economic growth through driving business investment and job creation.

Pulling out of the storm that is COVID-19 will be difficult, but it's not impossible. Now more than ever, we need to focus on practical and sensible solutions that reflect classical coalition principles to grow the economy, invest in infrastructure and upskill our workforce. Cutting tax, in addition to cutting red tape, is the best way to grow the economy. To help pubs, clubs and restaurants recover through this process, I support calls to temporarily, at least, scrap the FBT on hospitality in order to help them get through this storm.

But today I am talking about cutting inefficient, ineffective and burdensome red tape that is holding back thousands of Australian businesses. Upon being elected, our government has been able to consistently reduce the annual net cost of complying with regulatory reform. However, to ensure we lower regulatory burdens on Australian businesses, we must focus on cutting the larger and deep-rooted regulation. To do so, we must be wary of presuming that all regulations have similar regulatory burdens and we must recognise the evolving nature of government and that continuing changes in markets, technologies, preferences and attitudes can undermine the effectiveness of previous reforms. In other words, we must be cautious not just to tackle the low-hanging fruit.

That's why I am calling for regulatory reform to be put back atop the agenda and proposing accountability measures to ensure it remains a continuing consideration for the whole of government. I'm going to write to every minister, recommending that the coalition government establishes a government and departmental-wide audit of all regulatory impacts in order to not only identify existing and new regulatory burdens but to assess their effect. In doing so, I'm proposing that the whole of government should adopt a stewardship approach to cutting red tape, where all ministers and departmental secretaries are tasked with reducing the number of regulatory impacts. This approach would see each minister being directly responsible for the process of monitoring, reviewing and cutting regulation and would require the minister to update the parliament every six months.

Before the scaremongering chorus starts, I will state this plainly: less regulation does not mean fewer protections or worse outcomes. It simply means that government cannot be so rigid as to assume that regulation is always the best way to achieve these outcomes or to ensure those protections. If there is a simpler, faster or easier way for business to achieve the same desired result, we must be prepared to embrace it and allow industry the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. While we are thankfully ahead of the curve on the health front, we must now also position our economy to take full advantage of our first-mover status and offer every opportunity to get Australia and Australians back to work.

At a time when we are facing and considering the threats and opportunities that are impacting upon our great southern land, I want to raise in the Senate a man who saw the potential of Australia: James Cook. Cook was not just an explorer. His curiosity knew no bounds and his ability as a navigator and leader of men knew no equal. He is one of the greats. While much has recently been spoken and acknowledged on the anniversary of his arrival in Botany Bay 250 years ago, Cook's voyage along the east coast of Australia resulted in the naming of many great natural landmarks as we know them today. One of the significant areas is located not far from my Nambour office in the Hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, the Glass House Mountains. The Glass House Mountains were named by Lieutenant James Cook, in 1770. On Thursday 17 May 1770, almost 250 years ago to the day, Cook noted in his journal:

These hills lie but a little way inland and not far from each other, they are very remarkable on account of their singular form elevation, which very much resemble glass houses which occasioned my giving them that name …

The glass houses referred to by Cook were the glassmaking foundries in Yorkshire, England. Both the natural and national significance of these incredible mountains have been recognised in various ways since. On 3 August 2006, then Prime Minister John Howard visited the mountains and announced the Glass House Mountains were of national significance. Prime Minister Howard named them as the 32nd entry on the National Heritage List, joining important Australian sites such as the Sydney Opera House. When we can start freely moving around our great country again I—along with Andrew Powell, the LNP member for Glass House; Stuart Coward, the LNP candidate for Caloundra; and local federal MPs Terry Young and Andrew Wallace—encourage those who have not already done so to take the opportunity to discover the beauty and appreciate the historical significance of the Glass House Mountains.