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The Government's Failure of Economic Leadership

September 15, 2016

Mister Speaker

I speak today on a matter of critical public importance in my electorate, and that is the government's complete failure of economic leadership.

The Prime Minister promotes himself as an economic lion, but in fact he is a pussycat. He has had more backflips than a Russian or Romanian gymnast. I think that today's policy is very likely to change tomorrow. Australia, as he is constantly telling us, should not be leaving a great burden of debt to our future citizens—our children and, in my case, grandchildren. But in fact we are at risk of turning our children into a group of serfs: unable to afford a house, with part-time jobs and with very poor education.

To me, what we need to be doing is concentrating on the principle that economic growth is important only if it is important for our people, not for our corporations. Giving billions of dollars of tax cuts to multinational corporations is not the way to help our children.

Australia has recently celebrated 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth, and many people have much to show for it—but not all. After those 25 years we do not even have an official rate of unemployment that is acceptable, and unofficial unemployment is much higher than we are being told. Certainly in my electorate many young people who I have cared for and who I see cannot get a job. They were at risk from this government of having even their very minimal allowances cut back.

What is truly scary is that, monthly variations in unemployment aside, we have unacceptable unemployment. If there is another major international economic problem, we are at risk of falling off a cliff. We may be also, for the first time, living in an era where the destruction of jobs through technological change is happening faster than we can provide jobs. If that is the case, we need to be very careful that in seeking to address one problem—the budget deficit—we do not totally ignore other issues such as access to employment, housing and health care.

I saw a lady during the election campaign who had terrible heart failure. She could hardly walk into the polling booth. She told me she could not afford to see her cardiologist because of the gap cost. That, in Australia in the 21st century, is a great shame. The great tragedy with this government is that there is no clear or consistent direction. The country has no confidence in this government to provide a continuing rational program of providing services. All they talk about is this mantra of jobs and growth. The growth might be in corporate profits but it is not in services to our people.

This is a government that cannot see the basic economic truth that spending $50 billion on poorly targeted and ill-considered tax cuts to corporations will not make a difference to our people. How can you have faith in this government? I had a small business for over 30 years. I know that tax cuts may very well end up in my pocket, but that would not make me employ more people. Housing affordability, specialist care for medical problems and infrastructure—we are going to build a second Sydney airport, yet I heard this week it is very likely to open without a rail link—are very important to the people in my electorate. Economics is about people; it is not about budget deficits or corporate tax cuts, it is about people. Our TAFE system is being emasculated to the point where many children I see cannot get proper training in the jobs we need. According to this government, we are not going to fully fund the Gonski reforms, and that will mean our educational outcomes will fall further behind international standards. Youth unemployment is terrible. Most of the new jobs being created are only part time. And the superannuation changes from this government seem to vary every day.