MPI on the economy

29 March 2017

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:33): That was another contribution, just like in question time, that does not mention the fact that the deficit under that mob opposite has tripled since their first budget and does not mention a blowout in net debt of more than $100 billion. There was nothing about the consequences of that incompetence for Australia's AAA credit rating and what that means for mortgage repayments and confidence in our economy. We had another question time and another daily display of that rare combination that they have on that side of the House—of swaggering arrogance and staggering incompetence. It was another question time with them pretending that somebody else is in charge and pretending that they can have the power and ego of those jobs without the leadership or the responsibility, or taking responsibility for what has happened to the budget under their watch. It was another question time that showed that those opposite are not just out of touch; they are from another planet.

All you need to know about this government is that, under this government, there are tax cuts for the top end and there are pay cuts for workers in the electorates that we are so proud, on this side of the House, to represent. Let's just consider some of the choices that are being made over there. They have chosen to keep a deficit levy that gives a millionaire a tax cut; at the same time, they have chosen to cut family tax benefits.

Ms Henderson: Tell the truth.

The SPEAKER: The member for Corangamite was warned in question time as well.

DR CHALMERS: Judged by the Prime Minister's actions, he thinks that the three biggest challenges that we have as a nation are: (1) low-income workers are paid too much; (2) multinational corporations pay too much tax; and (3) it is not quite simple enough or easy enough to slander someone on the basis of their race. These are the priorities of those opposite.

Deputy Speaker, while I think of it, the truest thing that was said in question time today was when your offsider, the Speaker, said that the Treasurer's time had expired. We think that, too, on this side of the House. As they shuffled out of here with their long faces trying to avoid the Treasurer's gaze, he desperately searched around looking for some reassurance that his performance today was not as bad as he feared it might be and that he might not be up for the chop—the same fate that befell our old mate Joe. He looked around for some kind of reassurance and did not get it. All he saw were the long and ashen faces of those opposite who are mourning because they have lost the one thing that they care the most about—that is, any shred of economic credibility. They are in mourning on that side of the House because that which they prize the most is gone.

They think Australians are mugs. They think that if they tell them that they are all about jobs and growth enough, the Australian people will not cotton on to the facts that sit under that ridiculous slogan that they keep mouthing in here—the record underemployment, the record low wages growth, the negative quarter of growth in the quarter before last and corporate profits going through the roof while wages are growing at record lows. All of these things are the people-facing part of the economy—the part of the economy that those opposite do not understand now, have never understood and will never, ever understand.

We remember the last time that the member for Wentworth was the temporary leader of the Liberal Party—some of us were here in other roles; some of us were here in our current roles. We remember very well when he did his—as the member for Wakefield described it—'chicken Churchill' routine from this dispatch box about debt. As the member for McMahon said, he described the $188 billion worth of debt as a 'colossal' figure. He described it as a 'towering summit' of debt and, of course, now it is $317 billion. So if it was bad at $188 billion, what is it now on his watch?

I am grateful to the member for Fenner because the member for Fenner reminded me as we were talking last week—as we do from time to time—of another little doozy that the member for Wentworth did from this dispatch box right here. He said:

Mr Speaker, there will come a time when Australians will look wistfully at $188 billion of debt and ask not when our debt will rise to that peak, but when it will descend to it.

It was a very good question. How right he was. Net debt is now $317 billion and rising, $133 billion more than what he inherited.

It is long past time for those opposite to accept responsibility for the budget deterioration on their watch. Theirs is a recipe for division, inequality and immobility. Their trickle-down agenda does not accord with our values, not just Labor's values but Australian values—the fair go and they need to accept that that is the case. It does not accord with our values because an Australia which showers largesse on the wealthiest and most powerful while cutting the wages and payments to those on middle and lower incomes is not the country that we on this side recognise or cherish. On this side of the House, we are about growth which is inclusive, hard work which is rewarded and a decent safety net for those left behind.