MONDAY, 22 JULY 2019
Subjects: The Morrison Government’s policy nudity and economic inaction, the Drought Future Fund, Newstart.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: They say that it’s only when the tide goes out you find out who's been swimming naked. As the tide goes out on the Australian economy, we’re increasingly discovering the policy nudity of the Morrison Government. We've got engineering construction down, new car sales down, retail sales in the doldrums and productivity flatlining. Unemployment in Australia is a full percentage point higher than it is in Britain or the United States or New Zealand. We've got productivity growth now, according to the Productivity Commission, which is ‘mediocre’.
And in the face of all of this, the Morrison Government is stubbornly refusing to bring forward the infrastructure investment that the economy needs. When we left here last time, it was after a vote in which the Morrison Government had failed to accelerate the schedule for tax cuts. Labor was calling for more Australians to get a bigger tax cut sooner, to provide that critical stimulus that the Australian economy needs. But instead the Morrison Government has failed to focus on the big challenges to the Australian economy. They don't have a plan for wage growth. They don't have a plan for boosting productivity. They don't have a plan for bringing down the jobless rate. We now have an unemployment rate in remote Australia of 10 per cent. For Indigenous Australians, 21 per cent. We’ve got 150,000 Australians who have been out of work for more than a year, 80,000 of them out of work for more than two years.
The Australian economy faces serious challenges right now and unless the government is willing to step up and take the action that is required, there is a chance that we leave ourselves exposed to some of the big challenges going around in the global economy - the prospect of a hard Brexit, of a worsening trade war. All of these worry economic policymakers, which is why the Reserve Bank now has interest rates down at a third of the level during the global financial crisis and is calling on the Morrison Government to do more on infrastructure, to bring forward those infrastructure programs. Labor is certainly willing to back the Drought Future Fund, but if the government's approach to the Drought Future Fund is to take money out of the Building Australia Fund, then effectively they are doing the opposite of what the Reserve Bank has called for. Because the Reserve Bank wants more spending on infrastructure, not less. They don’t want pea-and-thimble tricks. Farmers need additional money and if there is additional money in this fund Labor will back it in a heartbeat. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on Newstart. Should Labor be pushing harder for an increase to Newstart beyond [inaudible]
LEIGH: Labor pushed strongly at the last election. We argued for a higher level of Newstart and it's important to recognise that many Australians are living on Newstart for ongoing periods. I heard Matthias Cormann this morning saying it's a temporary payment. He might speak to some of 150,000 Australians who've been living on Newstart for more than a year, to the 80,000 Australians who have been living on Newstart for more than two years. It's not adequate and Labor believes it should be increased, which is why we went to the last election calling for a review of the Newstart payment.
JOURNALIST: Labor says it should be increased. Why not put a number on that increase?
LEIGH: It's up to the government the day to select a number. We believe the current payment is too low. It needs to go up.
No other questions? Thanks very much.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.