12 May 2023

Thanks very much, Tony, for that introduction. And good afternoon, everybody, thanks for the opportunity to spend a Friday afternoon of Budget week with you here.

Post-Budget Address to Australian Chamber of Commerce, Brisbane

Thanks very much, Tony, for that introduction. And good afternoon, everybody, thanks for the opportunity to spend a Friday afternoon of Budget week with you here.

I want to acknowledge the traditional owners in this part of the world, the Turrbal people, their Elders, customs, and traditions. And I want to thank those of you who have agreed to be part of this journey this year as we try to move forward in a spirit of unity and respect listening to each other, with a Voice to Parliament. 

Brendan, thanks for having us here at the RNA. Tony, again, Heidi, thank you for that. Those two lovely introductions. I share, particularly in Heidi's contribution, the same mix of optimism about the future and a bit of realism about the sort of conditions that we're confronting right now. And I'll come back to that in a bit more detail in a moment too. 

The heads of the state and territory chambers as well, and most importantly of all, the Logan Chamber of Commerce. Thanks for joining us here. I was joking with Andrew a moment ago now that I know that you're here it means I have to give a completely different speech at all of the other engagements next week when I come and see you when you're on your home turf. But I'm looking forward to seeing some of you next week as well.

I wanted to acknowledge the staff of the Business Chamber of Queensland, Div and all of her colleagues, I want to do acknowledge the staff here at the RNA as well for the lovely, wonderful lunch that we are sharing today. I want to acknowledge Andrew Fraser and acknowledging all of the sponsors, BDO, QUT and Australian Retirement Trust. 

I acknowledge Fraser not just because I've known him since I was about 20 years old, but also I want to acknowledge that Andrew and his colleagues at Australian Retirement Trust hosted a couple of weeks ago really wonderful opportunity for a couple of trillion dollars of capital to meet and to talk about the big economic opportunities of net zero and I wanted to come back to that too. 

Finally I want to acknowledge really the jobs and the opportunities that you create in communities, many of you right around Australia, but particularly here in southeast Queensland. I was speaking to Councillor Jon Raven a moment ago from down my neck of the woods. And this really is the kind of who's who of the business community in southeast Queensland. So I wanted to make sure that we begin by acknowledging and thanking you for the jobs and opportunities that you create in local communities like the one that I represent and Jon represents.

It's great to be home after a pretty busy week in Canberra - Budget week. It's great to be home after spending 11 of the last 12 nights in Canberra. I'm looking forward to the weekend here in Brisbane. And I've been looking forward to speaking with all of you, I do treasure this opportunity that Heidi and her colleagues have given me to say a few words about the Budget on Tuesday night. And then have a bit of a discussion after that, as well. 

I'm proud of the Budget that we handed down and as Tony said, what we tried to do was to hand down a Budget which was in the service of our immediate priorities at the same time as our generational responsibilities. And by that I mean a Budget which was as responsible as it could be, but also help people through a difficult time at the same time as we invested substantially in the opportunities of the future. That was really the task that my colleagues and I set ourselves as we put together this second Budget. And I'm pleased with the way that people have engaged with it since it was released on Tuesday night as well. 

There was a premium on what's responsible. There was a series of measures which are about the difficult, complex combination of economic pressures that we're confronting right now but there also was a bit of a sense that the next decade will be a defining decade for all of us. And as Tony mentioned a moment ago, the next decade will be very different to the last. That's a good thing in lots of ways, but also the type of growth that we want to see in our economy and the type of opportunities we want to see in our economy will be very different in the next 10 years compared to the last 10 years.

Now in the aftermath of the Budget, for good and welcome reasons, most of the focus was on the cost-of-living package, the cost-of-living package covering some increases to payments, some energy bill relief, and some other measures, in addition to billions of dollars invested in bulk billing to try and strengthen Medicare. That has been most of the focus of the few days since the Budget was handed down. And I appreciate and I welcome that. 

But I'm particularly grateful today for the opportunity to speak a bit more broadly about some of the other measures in the Budget, which haven't been on the front pages over the course of the last couple of days. I want to flesh out our growth agenda, which is focused on the supply side of the economy. And particularly with relevance to you, I think, in five different areas. 

Let me just gallop through those to give you a sense. 

The first one is energy and technology. And we believe as a government, and I think the business community, certainly the investor community believes that there are vast industrial and economic opportunities from the global transformation to net zero. And the Budget reflected that with $4 billion of new investment, Hydrogen Headstart - $40 billion in investment overall - really is our way of saying that we believe that our prospects in the coming decades, will be increasingly determined by our ability to get your business costs down. That's important. But also how do we fuel heavy industry? How do we create fantastic exporters as well as take advantage of these markets, particularly when the Americans and others are piling a lot of money into clean energy. How do we make sure that we are beneficiaries of that, rather than victims of that. How do we make sure that we can make the clean energy transformation work for us, not against us. So energy, and how that interacts with technology, with critical minerals, with so many of the opportunities that many of you will be familiar with. So that's the first one.

The second one is housing. And there's a new tax break in the Budget on Tuesday night, actually two new tax breaks. One of them I’ve discussed with a number of you here, including friends from the superannuation industry. But to change the way that we do the withholding tax on managing investment trusts, when it comes to the investment in build to rent properties. And so there's a tax break for build to rent in the Budget on Tuesday night, I've just actually been over with Hutchies and LendLease, across the street with Brendan. And we turned the sod on a 37 floor affordable housing building, which will make a big difference here in Bowen Hills, but also is exactly the kind of investment that we're trying to incentivise - good, affordable, accessible homes close to where the jobs and opportunities are being created. And so on housing, a new tax break for investment in build to rent. But also a faster depreciation of construction costs for build to rent properties as well. We hope that shifts the needle, we know that the industry says that would lead to something like 150,000 new affordable properties over the next decade. And that will be a wonderful thing, were to eventuate. So housing a big part of it. And that's before we get to all the other parts of the agenda, increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance, Housing Australia Future Fund, which we're trying to get through the parliament, extending the homelessness agreement with the states, investing in NHFIC, so that they can provide more funding for community housing providers. All this is a big, bold, broad agenda on housing. But the new parts focus on build to rent.

Small business - in a context of the Budget moving away from the really quite incredibly generous tax breaks on investment, which we supported during the worst of COVID. And we're trying to work out how we get that transition right from those COVID-related investment tax breaks into something which is a bit more normal. And so new tax breaks for small business instant asset write off, but also a new one for businesses that are trying to do their best to become more energy efficient to get the cost down, some investment incentives on that front as well. And for small business, some help with cybersecurity and some of the related issues there.

The fourth area is skills, a $4.1 billion investment in the skills agreement with a particular focus on the industries where we are particularly short, but also some foundational skills trying to work out how in an economy that's got three and a half per cent nationally. How we still have pockets of disadvantage around the country, foundational skills are part of it. And some of the other measures in the Budget are trying to build a participation agenda around skills, so that you can get the workers that you need, trained up the way that they need to be trained up. And that's related to the fifth and final one, which is a bit contentious, frankly, particularly after the Opposition reply to the Budget last night. And that is migration and population. And Heidi mentioned in her introduction, the challenges that many of you have finding staff and finding skilled staff. And obviously, our highest priority there is training. 

But we also want to make sure that we've got a well-informed, collaborative approach to migration as well. And my colleague, Clare O'Neil, who is the Home Affairs Minister, is engaged in a migration review. And one of our motivations there, and I spend a lot of time with her on the issue of making sure that we design the migration system so that it's in our interests. And part of ensuring it's in our interest is to make sure that you are getting the people that you need. And that we're not using that as a substitute for training, but as a responsible way of supplementing the skills needs that you all have. 

And where that all gets us and this is the final set of points before looking forward to a discussion with Heidi and then with yourselves. What joins all of this together, what seems like disparate areas of policy in the Budget is, and this is a tribute to the Prime Minister, is that we are genuinely trying to be a collaborative government. 

And I certainly appreciate, I’ve known Andrew McKellar for a long time, we try and do what we can work together to try and work together where we can. And not because we have unrealistic expectations about unanimity about issues. But because we genuinely think and I hope that you genuinely believe that we are a better chance to deal with some of the pressures in the economy, if we work collaboratively together.

So if you think about those three sets of pressures on us right now - inflation being the primary one, mostly coming at us from around the world but felt around the kitchen tables of this country - and also with some supply side issues that we want to deal with. Our economy is expected to slow this year, like the rest of the world as a combination of higher interest rates, and that slowing global economy. And you think about what we've got going for us - low unemployment, the beginnings of decent wages, growth, good prices for our exports. And we are a much, much better chance of making the most of that if we genuinely try and work together. 

So what we've tried to do in the Budget is provide a much more sustainable foundation in the Budget for that work. It's not a small thing that we're forecasting the first surplus in 15 years. But we not see that as an end in itself, we see that as a just a more sustainable, more responsible foundation for us to work together on the types of investments that governments need to make, in order to make it easier for you to create wealth and create opportunities and create jobs in local communities. And that's why you haven't seen us wandering around with the Back in Black mugs, and giving ourselves a pat on the back, because we see a more responsible Budget as the beginning of something rather than the end of something. We see it as a foundation for everything that we want to achieve working together with you. And we hope that you get that sense of us as well, certainly the example that the Prime Minister sets, certainly the work that the rest of the Cabinet tries to do is to try and engage with you where we can and that's why today is important. 

We genuinely want to try and find some common ground. In the Budget speech, I talked about a Commonwealth of common purpose. And this is really what I mean, how do we make sure that the government is doing its bit to find common ground with you. And how do we recognise the central job-creating opportunity-creating role that you play - the private sector plays - in achieving all of the things that we want for our country and for our communities in the years ahead. So on that note, thank you again for the opportunity to say a few words here and to have a discussion with you in a second. I really appreciate it. It's great to be home, great to be here with you. And I hope that you're as proud of what we've been able to achieve in the Budget as we are. Thanks very much.