I too rise to take note of answers to the questions asked by Labor senators. I would like to follow up on the point that was just raised by Senator Urquhart. I agree countries do need to maintain their maritime capacity, which is why this government is investing heavily in our maritime construction industry and has brought forward the construction of future frigates and the offshore patrol vessel and announced a continuous build of naval ships so that we can actually provide that continuity and capacity in the industry.
I am intrigued by the opposition’s comments in this area. Under the current coastal shipping legislation, which is legislation that they created in 2012, we have seen a 63 per cent drop in the carrying capacity of the major Australian coastal trading fleet. So despite the fact that we have seen an increase in the amount of freight that is carried, the number of ships has decreased from around 30 to around 15. There has been a large drop in that capacity under the legislation that the Labor Party brought in, and yet they come in here complaining that something that we are looking to put in place may damage the capacity. Well, that is already happening under the current scheme.
I also notice that some of the statistics that were used throughout the MUA’s submission to the Senate committee referred to a $4.25 billion benefit in output and an additional 9,000 jobs under the current system on the assumption that there were 100 ships registered on the Australian international shipping register, and yet not a single ship has been registered on this register under Labor’s system. So part of the problem is they are forecasting great things, but the reality is that under the system they put in place it just has not developed that way. And yet, in areas such as naval ship construction this government is investing money, unlike the previous Labor government, into making that a sustainable future.
I would also like to talk briefly about the response to questions from Senator Bullock, where he talked about employment growth. I want to highlight the fact that it is the actions of this government that have created more than 300,000 new jobs at a rate significantly higher than in the same period under Labor. Members opposite have made much of the fact that in recent times we have seen an increase in the unemployment rate. Again, I come back to the fact that statistics can be misleading. ABC journalist Michael Janda—and remember that the ABC are no great fans or advocates for the coalition generally—wrote in an article when those figures were released:
The reason why unemployment jumped despite much better-than-expected jobs growth is that the participation rate soared 0.3 percentage points to 65.1 per cent.
What that means is that the actions taken by the coalition government have created an increased confidence and expectation, certainly nationally. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my own state of South Australia, where, after 14 years of Labor government, we have the nation’s highest unemployment rate because of the conditions there that are not favourable to people interested in creating jobs. Nationally, we are seeing this job creation and we are seeing an increased confidence, and so the measure of that ratio—the number of people in work versus the number of people looking for work—has gone up, yes. But we are also creating more jobs, which is a positive thing. That has come about because we have got rid of things like the carbon tax. Qantas attribute that as one of the reasons they have turned their profits around, because we got rid of the carbon tax. The mining tax has gone. And despite the peddling of fear by the opposition at the behest of the CFMEU, things like the China free trade agreement will mean more jobs for Australians. The protections that are in place for Australian jobs are no different under the chapter 10 provisions to those that existed under Labor. There has been no change, and there will be no change under ChAFTA, to domestic legislation that impacts on when people from overseas can take jobs. The ChAFTA will be good for Australian jobs.