SPEECH TO THE FEDERATION CHAMBER
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 12 MAY 2021
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At the outset I commend Julian Hill, the member for Bruce, for bringing this important motion before the House. This motion that's before the House is grounded in the very careful analysis that the member for Bruce has done, going through the myriad of ways in which the Australian economy and society have slipped backwards under this coalition government. He has documented that real wages in Australia were 0.7 per cent lower in 2019 compared to 2013. And in last night's budget we saw the terrifying news that, at the end of the forward estimates, wages in real terms will be lower than they were at the beginning of the forward estimates.
Let's just pause to think about that. The buying power of Australian workers will fall under this government's policies. Next year—just in one financial year—wages for the average Australian, after inflation, will go down $200. Australians, in buying-power terms, will be $200 worse off. This budget has a trillion dollars of debt. The party that once drove around the country with a truck, emblazoned on the side—the member for Forde’s smiling here. He certainly remembers this truck. Do you remember the number, member for Forde? It was $315 billion, written on the side. We now have a trillion dollars of debt being delivered by the Treasurer who used to say how much he admired Margaret Thatcher. You could only imagine what Margaret Thatcher would think about a Liberal Treasurer who had 'back in black' mugs printed and then had to have them smashed and who has never delivered a budget surplus and never will deliver a budget surplus.
As this important motion highlights, Australia's government debt has blown out under the coalition. The Liberals had doubled the debt before the pandemic hit and now they're on track to double it again; yet there's no lasting reform to show for that. There's no legacy as a result of what's been done. Contrast this with past governments that have invested in the future. If you look at the legacy of the Chifley and Curtin governments at the end of World War II, they didn't simply say, 'Let's go back to the economy as it was in 1939.' No. Instead, they said, 'Let's aspire to full employment; let's aspire to increasing homeownership.' They delivered on those outcomes. By contrast, under the coalition we've had rising underemployment. One of the reasons the Reserve Bank now says that we ought to be aiming for a full employment rate that is not five per cent but four point something is that the level of underemployment has gone up. The benchmark of unemployment needs to be lower to deliver the same outcomes.
The work that the member for Bruce has done highlights the problems of Australian homeownership. Australia is now the third most unaffordable housing market within the OECD. It highlights Australia's household debt as a share of GDP, sitting at 119 per cent, the second highest rate out of 41 countries assessed. That high level of household debt is directly tied to the problem of housing affordability in Australia.
On literacy and numeracy, every time the OECD's PISA testers come to Australia to test our year 9s in science, mathematics and reading they find that Australian teenagers are performing worse than they did on the previous test. We're going backwards not just in relative terms but in absolute terms.
The member for Bruce's motion highlights our climate policy, the fact that greenhouse gas emissions per capita have been the highest in the world, that Australia ranks second worst globally for government climate policy and has the second highest level of biodiversity deterioration in the world. On climate, we saw very little from last night's budget. There was no Biden-like investment in a clean energy transition and the jobs that flow from that; instead, there was just more rhetoric and a failure to deliver on tackling dangerous climate change.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra