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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1435

Senator HUME (Victoria) (16:41): I rise today to speak in response to the matter of public importance submitted by our Senate colleague from Victoria Senator Collins. Senator Collins would like the chamber to consider an extraordinary breadth of subjects in a single MPI, breaking with the convention—and, dare I say it, the commonsense tactic—of using an MPI to raise a single issue for consideration by the Senate. Senator Collins has instead unloaded a stream-of-consciousness diatribe in policy areas, and one might better ask the question: what didn't Senator Collins ask the chamber to consider this afternoon? Nonetheless, Senator Collins has asked the Senate to consider:

The need for polices that address cost of living pressures, climate change, the undermining of wages and conditions, and the importance of ensuring children from any postcode in Australia, city, or country, can get a quality education.

While I barely know where to begin, begin I must, and particularly on cost-of-living pressures—an issue that, you know, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, is particularly important to this government and one that we take very seriously indeed. How very galling it is that a representative here of the Labor Party would bring up cost-of-living concerns, when in fact her party's contribution to the energy debate has been limited to an obstructive and blind commitment to a 50 per cent renewable energy target. Or—hang on—is it a 75 per cent commitment? No, wait—it's a 40 per cent renewable energy target. To be honest, I am not sure what it is, because it changes with the winds of political expedience. It really depends on whether you're campaigning in South Australia or whether you're campaigning in Batman. The Labor Party's commitment to the truly random 50 per cent renewable energy target is nothing more than a capitulation to the green-left flank of its own party, and Senator Collins knows full well that it will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on global temperatures or climate change. It will, however, dramatically reduce energy reliability and, ultimately, increase energy prices for Australian households. So does Senator Collins really want to discuss this today—a day after the Labor Party lost government and was sacrificed in South Australia on the altar of renewable energy zealotry? It beggars belief.

It is amazing, too, that Senator Collins has asked this chamber to consider cost-of-living pressures, when the ACTU's Sally McManus has come up with the perfect solution—a living wage. Betraying an Alberici-esque grasp of economics, Sally McManus has lobbied for a massive living-wage increase of 60 per cent of the average wage. But do not for a second be fooled, for a living wage is nothing more than a significant increase in the minimum wage, and the last person to implement a living wage increase of this magnitude was in fact former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who, in 1973, raised minimum wages by 27 per cent. And, of course, in its wake, we saw unemployment balloon and inflation skyrocket, harming the very people that Prime Minister Gough Whitlam wanted to protect—low-income earners and pensioners.

Even Mr Whitlam was forced to concede that employees can in fact price themselves out of the market, and the ALP's then Minister for Labour, Clyde Cameron, complained in 1974 that—wait for it—'union bloody-mindedness' was 'slowly but surely pricing thousands of Australian workers out of employment'. Will history repeat itself? If Sally McManus is pulling the strings of the opposition leader then inevitably it will, for the call on an unrealistic rise in the minimum wage is exactly what Mr Shorten announced to the National Press Club earlier this year. The politics of envy and grievance form the foundation of Labor's pitch to voters, and that is the elephant in the room.

Labor want to talk about cost-of-living pressures, but they want to address that not with effective policy at the source but through fistfuls of handouts for sectional interests. Rather than growing the economy, increasing the number of jobs and using basic laws of supply and demand to organically increase wages in a non-inflationary and sustainable way, the Labor Party have absolutely no plan whatsoever to grow the economy. They have no plan for jobs, no plan for growth and no plan for business growth—nothing. Instead, there are plenty of announcements of how Labor intend to punish people that they don't like—people who don't vote for them, people who invest, people who save, people who run a family business, people who don't want to be a burden to the public purse, people who just want to get ahead and people who choose to manage their own superannuation. And therein lies the nub.

I think we can agree that last week's policy announcement was a massive misfire. At the behest of the industry superannuation fund sector, who are the only beneficiaries of a less-attractive self-managed superannuation fund market, the Labor Party announced it would be removing legitimate refunds of tax already paid on dividends to those who pay low or no tax, calling them 'rorters', 'fat cats' and 'the top end of town'. When it became all too apparent that this harebrained policy disproportionately affects low-income earners and pensioners who have set that little bit aside in blue chip Australian shares, Mr Shorten generously told them that he will make it up to them through an increase in their part-pension. 'Don't worry,' he said. 'It may be rightfully your money, earned legitimately, tax already paid, but I am going to take it from you and redistribute it where I think it could be better used. Trust me; I'm from Labor.'

Make no mistake, Mr Shorten is a clear and present danger to the future prosperity of our great nation. He has no plan to create jobs, no plan to increase wages and no plan to grow our economy. And now, by promising to steal dividends earned legitimately from the savings of those who deserve our thanks and not our condemnation, Mr Shorten has tipped over Labor's promises into more than $200 billion of new taxes. That is almost the GDP of New Zealand that Mr Shorten will be taking away from your pay packet, from your pension, from your investments and from your business. He has forgotten the Winston Churchill proverb that a nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle; it is simply impossible. 'Shortenomics' is the greatest threat this country has seen in decades.

Much as I would love to, I simply haven't got the time here today to go into the importance of ensuring that children from any postcode can get a quality education. But, if the meandering words of today's MPI, let alone the dodgy maths of the policy announcements coming from the ALP, are anything to go by then, please, let that quality education include some basic economics because, if it was taught at school when Senator Collins was there, I think she must have been taking a sickie.