Motion on the economy 17/9/18

September 17, 2018

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (10:38): Australians won't be lining up to congratulate the Prime Minister or the Treasurer on the economy in the same way that the member for Forde seems to be doing today. When I'm out and about in my community, the message I hear from people about our economy is very clear. For most people their experience of the economy is defined by stagnant wages, insecure work, declining living standards and, most importantly of all, struggles with the cost of living. All of those things are related, as people feel that everything is going up except their wages. People feel, with some justification, that the rules of the economy are written to benefit somebody else at their expense.

The member for Forde and I share a pretty big border in Logan City in our part of the world. So, I can only assume that he has been hearing the same sorts of things that I have been—and that he has been completely ignoring them. Obviously on our side of the House we welcome that relatively strong headline economic growth figure of 3.4 per cent that came out a couple of Wednesdays ago. Given the really quite healthy global conditions that we're experiencing at the moment, we expect there to be a strong headline growth number in this country. Of course, we in the Labor Party are proud that Australia is in its 27th year of continuous economic expansion. We're especially proud of the role that we played during the global financial crisis in ensuring that that remarkable run continued.

Mr Tim Wilson: Shame! Shame!

Dr CHALMERS: Those opposite say, 'Shame!' and that really just says it all. Those opposite are talking about debt now, having doubled the debt. Those opposite have doubled the debt. They should hang their heads in shame.

There are plenty of other data in the national accounts which show that there is other cause for concern in the data. Company profits are growing more than five times as fast as wages in that most recent data. Incomes aren't keeping up with the cost of living, household savings are at a decade low as people dip into their savings to pay their bills and to keep their heads above water, and living standards are falling. Real net national disposable income per capita, which is a proxy for living standards, has barely grown under the Liberals and actually went backwards in the most recent quarter. That's before we get to the flat investment figures and other areas that should trouble us.

Despite all of these worrying trends, those opposite actually expect a pat on the back for an economy which isn't delivering for middle Australia. It isn't delivering for people who work and struggle in my electorate of Rankin or the member for Forde's electorate—indeed, right around the country. The reality is that the economy is growing despite the settings of the government and not because of them. We've had three prime ministers and three treasurers in the last five years but still the same old failure of those opposite to understand or care about the concerns that I've raised in my contribution today. If they actually cared about growing the economy in an inclusive way, they wouldn't be giving the biggest tax breaks to those who need them least. They wouldn't be ripping $17 billion out of our schools or neglecting skills and training. They wouldn't be destroying the NBN. These are all things which hamper growth in this country rather than contribute to it.

Unlike those opposite, we on this side of the House understand that the economic growth needs to be inclusive and it needs to be bottom up. It needs to come from investing in people's capacity and their productivity. It needs to come from targeting tax cuts to those most likely to spend them in the economy. That's why we've got bigger, fairer tax cuts for middle Australia. It needs to prioritise tax breaks for companies which will actually invest onshore and in Australian jobs. Twelve thousand businesses in Forde and 12,500 in Rankin would benefit from our Australian Investment Guarantee.

The economic mismanagement of those opposite extends to the budget as well. It's a matter of some shame to them that net debt has actually doubled in the five years of Liberal government in this country. Gross debt crashed through half a trillion dollars for the first time in the nation's history. On Friday, we had a new record of $535 billion under the Liberals.

Government members interjecting

Dr CHALMERS: They can chirp all they want; this is their record. Both kinds of debt are growing faster under the Liberal Party than they did under Labor, and we had a GFC to contend with. People are sick of this divided, dysfunctional and unstable government led by an illegitimate PM whom they didn't vote for and who doesn't represent or even understand their interests or concerns.