PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2019
SUBJECTS: The Government’s lack of economic leadership; COAG; Your Car, Your Choice; Government inaction on the need to fix fundraising; Syria.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY: Good morning everyone. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. We know full well that if the Australian economy was performing strongly, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg would be claiming credit for every skerrick of economic news. But when we've got troubling economic indicators, they run a mile rather than take responsibility for the impact of their policies. We’ve seen Josh Frydenberg return from the IMF meetings claiming that the problems in the Australian economy are all someone else's fault, all have to do with global economic circumstances. And yet we know, repeated as recently as last week in the Deloitte report, that many of the Australian economy problems are home grown.
Just to go through some of the challenges the Australian economy faces right now - we've got a serious productivity slowdown, productivity growth running at a tenth of its historical average. We've got a wages slump. Australian wages have been in the doldrums throughout the period the Government's been in office. We know that retail spending has been well down, particularly discretionary spending. That the Government's promised ‘cash splash’ has turned into a retail trickle in July and August. We've seen a rising rate of electricity disconnections as many Australian households struggle to deal with the fact that the Morrison Government has not put an energy policy in place. And we've seen around 2 million Australians unable to afford dental care. On a per person basis, Australian consumption has been flat over the last year. On GDP per capita projections, the IMF forecast Australia's growth rate over the coming period will be the fifth lowest of the 36 OECD countries.
Rather than blaming other people, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg need to step up and take responsibility. They need to bring forward infrastructure spending, bring forward the budget update, ensure we have those critical investments in infrastructure and education that will get productivity growth going again. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are claiming credit for the silver lining, but they won't take responsibility for the economic clouds. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: In terms of stimulus, Josh Frydenberg argues that some of this money is necessary to put away for a rainy day. What do you make of that?
LEIGH: There's no point having a rainy day fund when it's beginning to pour. We know already that the indications for the Australian economy are very poor. We see problems in retail sales. You know already that we have looming problems as when you see gold price going up and the bond yields going down. There are already signs that the Australian economy is flagging. Rather than blaming other countries, rather than blaming the states, rather than putting off what needs to be done, we need Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to step up and take responsibility for the state of the economy.
JOURNALIST: You might have seen yesterday the New South Wales Treasurer said that the Commonwealth and State financial relations need reform. Does the Government need to do more in that space?
LEIGH: There’s certainly more to be done in the COAG meetings, and indeed the cancellation of COAG recently is a further indication of the Government's unwillingness to work with the states and territories. Cancelling these key State and Commonwealth meetings fails to use the opportunities that are necessary in order to build a reform agenda. We need the Government to be doing more on the infrastructure front, to be working with other jurisdictions on some of these straightforward reform issues. I've been frustrated for example as Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities that the Government hasn't stepped up to fix fundraising in its consumer affairs meetings. We know there are opportunities to create more prosperity through helping Australian mechanics, providing them the data they need to fix modern cars. Simple straightforward reforms that could be done by a reform-oriented Government, but simply aren't being addressed by this lacklustre, do-nothing government of excuses.
JOURNALIST: A new poll out today saying that the majority of Australians wouldn't support a rescue mission for the wives of ISIS fighters in Syria. What's your take?
LEIGH: I certainly feel for the kids. We do though need to take advice from the security agencies on these issues. The government has full information available to it. Obviously we don't have very much sympathy for adults who deliberately put themselves in harm's way, but considerable sympathy for the kids to those families. But any intervention needs to be done on the basis that it wouldn't put Australian lives at risk.
No other questions? Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.