MPI: Inequality

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) (15:22): It is very hard at the end of the year to get the energy to rise against these MPIs when no thought goes into them from members opposite and, really, they get more pathetic. You think you have seen the worst MPI ever? No, wait; there is a worse one coming along. 'The government's failure to address rising inequality' could perhaps be the single worst MPI that we have ever had in Commonwealth history. All that the member for Fraser really did was rail against inequality in the United States. He ignored the great Australian compact that sees more people share more wealth in this country than almost any society on earth. That is the truth of Australia. That is why we uniquely reject notions of class. We have always rejected notions of class, we have always rejected notions of privilege and we have always rewarded hard work, merit, enterprise and people doing things for themselves, not the government doing things for them. The member for Fraser is another emblematic example of what is wrong with Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. It is all fraud.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The assistant minister will refer to members by their titles.

Mr HAWKE: The member for Maribyrnong; the Leader of the Opposition—it is all fraud. Why is it fraud? It is fraud because the member for Fenner has written extensively on his right-wing views on economics.

There is no greater starting point for understanding the member for Fenner and what is wrong with modern Labor than the fact that they have deliberately pushed out everybody from the right of centre on the economic spectrum from the party. This is not the party of Keating anymore. This is not the party of Hawke. The member for Fenner now has to go through these embarrassing contortions in this House pretending to be left wing—and we know you are pretending, member for Fenner. You are faking it, and we know you are faking it.

Really, it is an embarrassing spectacle to come in here and pretend to be a left-winger. You should let your inner right-winger come out, because you have written so extensively on it. And we agree with so much of what you have written. I have got some of your books, member for Fenner, because they are a good read on economics in this country. You make some sense. And if your colleagues bothered to get some copies of your books and have a read, they would learn something too. They would learn something about company tax in this country because the member for Fenner was one of the people that understood.

Even the shadow Treasurer understood when he spoke and said that it was a uniquely Australian Labor value to lower company tax in this country. That was his view a few years ago because he was marketing the idea that it was the Labor Party that lowers the company tax to make it internationally competitive. That compact that has existed in Australian politics is understanding of the fact that, when you lower the company tax rate, it is not rich multinationals that sit on a pile of gold or money; it is more investment in our country, which means more Australians get employed.

Being competitive in international tax rates is an equaliser for all strata of Australian society, especially the workers. That is why this government has an enterprise tax plan to lower the corporate tax rate for Australian small businesses. And it is to the eternal shame of this Labor Party, the modern Labor Party, that they oppose a tax cut for small Aussie family businesses from $2 million to $10 million. They oppose a reduction in the tax rate for small Australian family businesses to allow them to compete with their international competitors.

We know that our company tax rate is now one of the highest in the world. We know in our region we are not competitive. We know that the average tax rate in our region is now at 23c and that in many of our competitor countries it is at 17c and 16c. We know that by lowering the burden of tax on small Australian family businesses from $2 million to $10 million, we will encourage job growth, we will encourage enterprise growth and we will encourage wage growth, member for Fenner, something that is so hard to achieve at the moment. It will unlock economic prosperity for this country.

Paul Keating cut the company tax rate. Paul Keating understood that you had to cut the company tax rate. You see this Labor Party and this member for Fenner pretending to be a leftie opposing the reduction of company tax for small and medium Australian family businesses. It is to the great shame of this Labor Party that they have done that, that they refuse to allow Australian small businesses to get a tax cut to compete.

We know what is going on over there; it is the Leader of the Opposition's Labor Party that has been brought into this parliament—nothing is true, everything has to be opposed and the economy can go to hell. And there could be nothing more unequal, if I was to address the member for Fenner directly, than passing on the biggest debt legacy in Australian history onto our children and grandchildren. For you to pretend that you had no role, that the opposition had no role in the creation of that debt legacy is false. Everybody knows it is false. Every Australian listening to this understands that it is false.

We have to do whatever we can as a parliament to reduce government expenditure, to rein in excessive expenditure, to get debt under control, to pay down debt, to get the deficit in and not pass on that intergenerational inequity to our children and grandchildren. It is the most pressing mission of this parliament. It is what Standard & Poor's is saying to us every day: you must get your budget settings under control. They are begging this parliament and they are begging the opposition to listen to the government in a serious message that we must restrain expenditure growth, that we must cut government spending and that we must deliver savings into this budget this year. They are lecturing you, they lecturing us, and no warning could be taken more seriously by this government.

We have already put through $6.3 billion in savings, but we need to do much more. We are sitting on $22 billion of savings that are currently before the Australian Labor Party. They refuse to agree to them, even though many of these things are in their own policies. It is just like the $6.3 billion omnibus bill. They railed against many of those measures for three years for their political advantage, then agreed to them in the election campaign and then agreed to them after the election, putting through the budget. And here we are in this cycle again. You are railing against many of the measures that we want to sensibly restrain expenditure growth, when you know they must be passed if Australia is to retain its AAA rating.

The Labor Party understand, but what will they do under this Leader of the Opposition and this member for Fenner? They will rail against these measures, for political advantage, for as long as they can. They will be budget wreckers and budget vandals. They know these measures have to be passed. They will end up passing them. They will either end up agreeing to them in the next parliament or they will ask us to agree with them if they happen to win the election. They know that now and yet they are willing to risk Australia's future prosperity, willing to risk our economy by threatening our AAA credit rating, by being budget wreckers. Nothing could be more unequal than risking Australians' future.

The member for Fenner wants to lecture us about inequality. They want to stand there as a Labor opposition and rail against our PaTH program to get people back into employment. Yet the member for Fenner will remember that in 2014 he advertised for unpaid interns to work in his own office. I have a copy of the ad right here. This is the question the member for Fenner poses to those unpaid interns:

Is it unfair not to pay people?

This what the member for Fenner postulates in his advertisement for unpaid interns. The ad goes on:

This is something we've worried about a lot. If we had an external source of funding, I'd love to run a paid internship program.

It's not like they don't have the CFMEU and $11 million of external funding, is it! The ad goes on:

But we don't. So our philosophy has been to work hard to ensure that interns/fellows have an experience that's stimulating and rewarding …

In the member for Fenner's office. So here we go. And not only did the member for Fenner make use of unpaid interns, free labour, for his office but he actually uses them as researchers for all of the books that he writes. He credits them, thankfully, in his books, but he does not pay them. Why would this opposition oppose this government's sensible measures to get young people back into employment through Prepare-Trial-Hire? Why would you oppose a program like that, where we are actually arranging to make sure they get a wage subsidised by the government, when you have members here advertising for unpaid interns and not paying them to write their own books? It is rank hypocrisy at its worst.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): Order! I remind the member for Hume, the member for Parramatta and the member for Fenner that we will have one person speaking at a time.