Economy Matters of Public Interest

Those opposite have raised this MPI because of concerns about the economy, but have once again lapsed straight away into speaking about spending on infrastructure, including Senator Bilyk, who has just spoken. Tax more, spend more, spend more quickly is the rhetoric. It’s fascinating that she has actually been prepared to harp back to the global financial crisis, where there were headlines for articles around the Building the Education Revolution program that said ‘Millions handed to axed schools in stimulus debacle’. Those articles talked about the fact that if you just pour money into infrastructure without suitable planning and making sure of its productive infrastructure, it’s not actually money well spent.

In contrast, we are a government that understands what actually makes a productive economy. It’s worthwhile looking at some of the facts. Let’s start with the test that the former shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, set in 2013 for the coalition government. He said that if we’re going to manage the economy well, there are a few things we have to achieve: keep unemployment below 6.25 per cent, keep Australia in the top 10 wealthiest countries, maintain our AAA credit rating with at least three stable outlooks and keep taxation as a percentage of GDP below 23.7 per cent. Well, tick, tick, tick and tick. The government has done each of those things.

One of the things that Australians recognise is that the reason we can afford to pay for the $10 billion infrastructure program—sorry, the $100 billion infrastructure program—we have over the next decade is because there are more Australians now in work than ever before. The participation rate is higher than ever before. Since the coalition have come to government, we’ve created more than 1.4 million jobs, the majority of which are full-time. Just in case you think the employment figures can be fiddled, it’s important to understand that, despite the high participation rate, we also see that the number of Australians of working age who are dependent on welfare is at a 30-year low. With less spending on welfare, because people are not reliant on it, and more people in work, what we see is that more taxation is available to the government because more people are working and paying tax and, therefore, we can invest in the infrastructure.

So we are investing in infrastructure without raising taxes in the way that the Labor Party had planned, which was comprehensively rejected by the Australian people in May this year. That’s despite the fact that, if you look globally, there are headwinds: Germany, the UK and Singapore are amongst a number of countries in the OECD that are recording negative growth in the June quarter. Yet Australia continues to grow. Our global trade volumes globally are lower compared to a year ago, and the IMF and the OECD have downgraded the outlook for world growth. Yet, despite that, Australia’s nominal GDP has grown by 1.2 per cent, and 5.3 per cent for the 2018-19 year.

So we can afford to invest in infrastructure. In my home state of South Australia we have seen a range of infrastructure programs funded. In fact, between 2013-14 and 2028-29 some $8 billion will be spent in South Australia.

Senator Farrell: All South Australian money—South Australian and federal Labor money!

As Senator Farrell knows, that is actually already underway, with things like the North-South Corridor going ahead.

There is another important thing that Senator Farrell should be hanging his head in shame about. Some of the best infrastructure being built in South Australia right now is in the Osborne naval shipyard, with an investment of is $535 million. Those opposite did not commission a single naval vessel to be built in Australia during their six years in government. The discussion would not be around: ‘Is there room for all of the projects that are underway? Will they be built here in time? Will we get the yards? Will we get the workers in time?’ They would be more concerned about the tumbleweeds at Osborne because of the ramp down, the valley of death that came from the inaction of those opposite.

Not only has this government managed the economy such that we have record employment and therefore the ability to invest in infrastructure; we’re investing in productive infrastructure and we’re investing in our defence capability, which means more sustainable jobs for generations of South Australians. It’s already resulting in infrastructure such as the Future Frigate facilities as well as the Future Submarine facilities being built at Osborne.