Matter of Public Importance - Economy

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:04): The title of this debate, 'The need for the economy to work in the interests of working Australians', is typical Labor division and misunderstanding of what government is about. We want to have a good economy not just for working Australians but for all Australians. Why the Labor Party would single out that the economy should only be there for working Australians is completely beyond me. Why don't they care about non-working Australians?

It brings to my mind the old adage that you don't weaken the strong to benefit the weak. You have to have an economy that not only provides for the strong—that is, those who have a job—but also looks after those who don't have a job: those who, through disability, are incapable of working; those young people attending schools, who are not working Australians. To get them the sort of education that Senator Birmingham and the Turnbull government are giving them, you need a good economy. You have to have an economy that is going ahead, is working, is positive and is properly managed.

I've been here a long time now. I've seen a few Labor governments come and go. None of them have been any good. When Labor governments are in power, you always see that they just spend money, spend money, spend money. They have no plan on how to raise that money, except by increasing taxes. That's typical of Labor, whether it be the Hawke government—when I first came here—the Keating government, the Rudd government, the Gillard government or the Rudd government. It is always the same—always spend taxpayers' money and, if you run short, borrow from overseas, which means you then pay huge interest rates to overseas lenders. That means that the things that you could use that interest rate money for get left behind.

We want an economy that is working well and is properly managed—one where we live within our means. Why do we want to do that? It's because we need to look after those non-working Australians as well as the working Australians. You can only do that if you have a good economy. That's what the Turnbull government's economic plan, budget plan, is all about. If you'd read the budget papers in any sort of detail, you'd understand there is a plan there. It's a workable plan. It keeps an eye on Labor's debt. It tries to reduce the debt that Labor ran up while, at the same time, keeping the economy going and saving our AAA credit rating.

In response to the previous speaker talking about the numbers of unemployed: unfortunately, the facts completely disagree with the submissions made by the previous speaker. Let me give you the real facts. A record number of 12,166,900 Australians are employed. I emphasise 'a record number'. That's never happened before. A record number of 8,356,000 Australians are in full-time employment. The total number of people working in Australia has now increased for the past nine months. Full-time employment has now risen by 166,700 in the six months to June 2017—the largest increase in full-time employment in the first half of the calendar year on record. So there we are. Full-time employment has risen in the first six months by what is, in fact, a record for the first six months of any year ever. Since the coalition came to office in December 2013, more than 700,000 jobs have been created.

You can have Labor speakers get up and give you some figures, and I'm sad to say the Labor Party are very good at this. Never mind about the truth of your information, your facts or what you say. Just throw any figures around and someone, somewhere—particularly the ABC, if they're listening—will pick up those figures and broadcast them to assist the Labor Party. But they will ignore the real facts, which I've just given you. Those facts are by the appropriate authorities. They're uncontestable. They are there, and yet Labor will still tell you we're in an employment crisis. I add that employment has now increased by 240,200 people, or two per cent, over the whole year, above the decade average rate of 1.6 per cent. Let me explain that and emphasise it again: the 10-year average rate has been 1.6 per cent; in the last year, it's been two per cent. It shows that the Turnbull government's plans have indeed been working.

I heard at question time and in other debates today that the Labor Party are attacking the PaTH program for internships. I have been waiting to say this: did you know that the first person to take up the internship program was none other than the Labor member for Herbert? She put on an intern. She had it publicised in the paper and said, 'What a wonderful program this is!' And yet here we have the Labor Party today criticising it. Whoever's speaking after me in this debate might indicate why it is that the Labor Party think that this is an awful program of the Turnbull government and yet one of their own elected representatives is using the internship program. I might say to those Labor senators in the chamber today, perhaps you've also used the internship program to assist in your office. If I am wrong on that, perhaps you will be able to tell me and speak for yourselves, but I am aware of a number of politicians using it. I looked at it. I haven't done it yet, but it is a good program. It provides an internship for a period of four to 12 weeks, and a youth bonus wage subsidy of up to $10,000 is available to help more businesses hire young people.

We are certainly dealing with ways that the government can help to create jobs. But the best way to create jobs, of course, is to have an economy that is moving ahead, not one that the Labor Party wants: an economy driven by envy and class warfare—a proposal where you want to drag down the rich and drag down those property investors, although, as I was interjecting at question time, those property investors are pretty widely spread across the community. I know—and I won't name names—a number of my colleagues sitting opposite me in the Labor Party are pretty good property investors too. You have this rhetoric from the Labor Party against the different means by which investors are encouraged to invest in property, and yet, at the same time as the Labor Party is officially questioning or criticising these approaches, I am aware that many of my friends opposite are actually taking advantage of those sorts of provisions that are available. We are interested in an economy that is for all Australians, and the Turnbull government is doing it.(Time expired)

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