Economy Take Note of Answers

It’s always a pleasure to follow my colleague Senator Marshall, who is a very reasoned person, in these debates. I welcome his recognition that sometimes the facts and perceptions about the facts don’t always align. I think that’s been true for both sides of government for the Australian community over many years. What’s important is understanding what those facts are, recognising and empathising with the people who are affected, and then deciding how to reach an outcome. What is the outcome that is in the national interest and is in the interest of those people who are affected?

This issue around equality is probably one of the first and foremost differences between those who are on that side of the chamber and those who are on this side of the chamber. It’s not because we don’t recognise that some people are struggling—both of us do that. We interact with people in our community. The difference is what we are going to do about it. The focus for the government and people on this side of the chamber is: how do we help people get ahead; how do we help people to seize opportunity and to grow a future for themselves and their families?—as opposed to how we can help people to get even, which is the approach that is so often taken by those opposite. That concept of evening out the existing pie can only go so far.

If we look to the ABS, we see that the lowest 20 per cent of households on average receive cash transfers and social services benefits that are worth more than eight times what they pay in taxes. In 2015, the Productivity Commission found that 40 per cent of families pay no net tax after taking into account their transfer payments like the family tax benefit. By contrast, the top 10 per cent of income earners in this country pay almost 50 per cent of the personal income tax received by the government, and the top one per cent pay a staggering 17 per cent of all tax received. So this approach of ‘Let’s claw from people over there so that we can even it up here,’ logically has a finish point. It can only go so far before either they run out or you remove the incentive for people to actually work hard and invest in their own training and personal development, to get jobs and to earn money so they can pay that tax. So that pathway is clearly flawed in the long term.

This government has a different approach. This government is about growing opportunity, about providing the opportunity for people to get jobs so that they can seize opportunity and grow the national wealth. Then everybody can share in a growing national economy. That’s why it’s great to see that, in June this year alone, some 60,000 jobs were created. In the last financial year, 240,000 jobs, three-quarters of which were full time, were created. That’s the highest rate of growth since the GFC. Since this government has been elected, there have been some 700,000 jobs, more than 50 per cent of which have been created. This government is about creating jobs and opportunity, and its policies are working.

In terms of the data around inequality, members opposite have criticised the Treasurer for his comments, but I noted in question time today that they were very happy to quote the HILDA survey. That is the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, which has been a long-term, longitudinal study. It’s interesting in this debate if we look at the fact that Mr Roger Wilkins, who is the Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute and responsible for that survey, rejects the notion of growing inequality. He told the Melbourne Institute’s Economic and Social Outlook Conference, ‘If anything, inequality has been declining.’ He went on to cite a whole range of coefficients and facts that prove that inequality has been decreasing. The OECD, more recently, has also acknowledged that inequality has actually fallen in Australia since the global financial crisis, on a number of key inequality measures. And the ratio of income from the top 10 per cent compared to the bottom 10 per cent in Australia is well below the OECD average. That is why this government is committed to growing the pie and providing opportunities. This government is committed to growing the economy and to supporting more and better-paid jobs. It is committed to guaranteeing the essential services that Australians rely on, like Medicare, PBS, school funding and disability services and to putting downward pressure on the rising costs of living, such as electricity— (Time expired)