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Matters of Public Importance: Budget
Mr SUKKAR (Deakin—Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing) (15:23): There are few people less qualified to critique a budget than the member for Rankin. Every single speech the member for Rankin makes at the dispatch box comes back to one thing—how good the Rudd and Gillard governments were. Every single speech has that conclusion at the bottom. We were so harshly treated. Australians made a big mistake with the glory days of the Rudd and Gillard governments. This shadow Treasurer has absolutely zero credibility when it comes to speaking about budgets, much less critiquing last night’s budget.
Not just last night but throughout the extraordinary year of 2020 Australians have seen a government that has cushioned the blow. It’s a huge blow. We’ve levelled with the Australian people and said: ‘We can’t eliminate the blow, wish it away or in some way imagine it’s not there, but we can cushion the blow,’ and that’s what we have done. Last night the Treasurer, in an outstanding fashion, outlined to Australia the plan to get Australians back to work, the plan to get confidence back into the most important part of the economy that employs eight out of 10 Australians—the private sector. The private sector is the part of the economy that has been completely and utterly devastated by the consequences of the pandemic. Last night, what we saw was a plan to ensure that confidence could return, that Australian businesses could again have the confidence that they need to, in some cases, restart their businesses, to grow their businesses, to invest in their businesses and, most importantly, to employ their fellow Australians.
We are the party of jobs. When we came to government, unemployment was at 5.7 per cent. Just before the pandemic hit in earnest, in February, it was 5.1 per cent. We had the lowest welfare dependency in 30 years. What we outlined to Australians last night was a way to get back. Indeed, in the future, we hope to exceed those expectations that Australians have.
The Labor Party are today somehow trying to mock the budget and mock the spending initiatives and, indeed, mock the budget bottom line, which has been massively hit by the fact that our economy will be significantly smaller, over the medium term certainly, as a result of the pandemic. Implied in that is that somehow the spending initiatives that the government have put in place, again to ensure that we cushion the blow for Australians, are somehow illegitimate. On the one hand the Labor Party say JobKeeper is too generous to some employees; on the other hand they say it’s not generous enough to other employees. Again, they’re having a bet each way.
Last night, we outlined for Australians a plan to encourage investment in the first instance. Now, the announcement of instant expensing for depreciable assets for businesses with a turnover up to $5 billion—essentially every Australian business bar the largest 40 or 50 Australian businesses—is going to fill the order books of this country. As the Treasurer said in his speech last night, whether it’s the trucking company investing in a new fleet, the food production business investing in new plant and equipment or the small cafe investing in a new coffee machine, this will drive investment throughout the economy. Indeed, the feedback we have had, the feedback I had directly from industry overnight, is that it will do exactly that.
Importantly for our economy, giving businesses the incentives, through the tax system, to make those investments improves your productivity, which sees a huge dividend for the economy in the medium to long term. So, yes, this is about jobs today. This is about ensuring that we get as many Australians as possible back into work, get as many Australians as possible doing the hours that they want to do in the short term, but it’s also about the productivity benefits into the medium and longer term.
We also announced loss carryback last night, a very generous scheme that will allow for losses for two income years to be offset against taxes paid in the 2018-19 years or later. Now, anybody who understands the tax system will know that, yes, tax losses, in some instances, can be of benefit to a business in the future—(a) the business has got to survive that period that it’s making a loss; (b) it has then got to make a gain into the future that it can offset its loss against—but the decision that the government has taken very deliberately is the benefits of those losses are needed in those businesses today. That’s why we have provided a very generous loss carryback provision, which I introduced into the parliament this morning. That will mean money in the hands of businesses now. That will also mean, coupled with the instant expensing of depreciable assets uncapped, that more and more businesses will be able to use that cash flow again in a virtuous circle to reinvest into their business, to grow their business, to improve the productivity in their business and, of course, to employ their fellow Australians.
Another thing that I must say is quite remarkable is the criticisms from the opposition on the hiring credit and the very deliberate strategy we have taken to skew that hiring credit to younger Australians. We all know that in difficult economic times it’s younger Australians—those people who have less experience in the workforce —who disproportionately feel the impact. We don’t need to argue about that. Surely we all agree on that. So the idea that providing a hiring credit, as this government is doing, for those who have been on JobSeeker of $200 a week for those under 30 and $100 a week for those over 30 to encourage employers to take a punt on somebody and to encourage employers to bring them into the business is somehow illegitimate is a shock to me. I’m hopeful that it’s just the Labor Party all at sea today, not knowing what to say about the budget when and they have to say something.
I sincerely hope they don’t continue down that path, because we don’t want 16- to 29-year-olds, particularly the people at the younger end of that cohort, to be the lost generation, as so many people were during Labor’s ‘recession that we had to have’. I still know many people, including family members, who were scarred by that, particularly those who left school at the time. We are determined to make sure that does not happen here. So we are very proud of the fact that our hiring credit is directed towards younger Australians, and we do not resile from that in any way, shape or form. Another area where we certainly differ—and massively differ—from the member for Rankin, whom nobody takes seriously when talking about budget matters, is bringing forward our personal income tax cuts for 11 million Australians. Within a matter of weeks many millions of Australians will start seeing increases in their pay packets as a result of those tax cuts.
Australians saw very clearly at the last election the DNA of the parties. Our DNA is for lower taxes so that Australians can spend their money better and more effectively and have a better result in the economy than under the Labor Party, who wanted to whack on $387 billion of higher taxes. The Leader of the Opposition is running away from any questions about whether he stands by those taxes. Well, last night was a demonstration that we have faith that the Australian people can spend their money better than any government, and in fact now is the time when they need it. And there will be benefits to the broader economy because of it. Increasing demand in the economy and increasing consumption is going to support and work in concert with the other measures we put in place to support small, medium and large businesses in this economy.
As I said in question time, we have made another investment in supporting Australians into their first home through expanding the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. If there’s one thing that I want the Morrison government to be remembered for it is that we have facilitated more Australians into new homes than any government in recent history, and last night was another step along that path. So nobody listens to the member for Rankin, trying to review history in this way. (Time expired)