Joe Hockey – Address to the Queensland Media Club

by 14 July 2013

Thank you for the warm welcome.

I have a deep respect for the fourth estate and I appreciate being invited to address the Queensland Media Club.

In the last 24 hours I have learnt a new party trick from Kevin Rudd.

It’s fantastic.

Yesterday Mr Rudd gave a speech where he promised nothing more than a group hug with business and the ACTU and more meetings overseas.

He mentioned buzz words like ‘productivity’ and ‘competitiveness’ but promised no timetables, no programs and no outcomes.

He mentioned Tony Abbott 20 times, even though one Fairfax journalist said he hardly mentioned him at all. Of course Mr Rudd did not want to be negative! But here is the catch.

Mr Rudd’s office then backgrounded selected journalists with what the journalists may have wanted to hear –briefing them, supposedly, on what Mr Rudd actually meant by his speech.

One journalist thought he committed to new coal seam gas rules in NSW.

Another journalist thought he was supporting electricity privatisation.

Other journalists are still reporting Mr Rudd is going to increase Newstart allowance, replace the fixed carbon tax with a floating carbon tax, invest in new infrastructure and still miraculously deliver Labor’s first surplus on the current Budget timetable despite a deteriorating economy! You see, it’s a great party trick.

Mr Rudd won’t campaign on his record; instead he is campaigning off the record. Why? Because if he spoke “on the record”, then it binds him to all those big promises.

He either does not want to deliver promises on privatisation, tax cuts and bigger spending or he can’t deliver those promises.

Mr Rudd wants to get credit for policies he never announces.

Better still he never actually delivers any of those policies he never announces.

It’s called “plausible deniability” – because he never said what the journalists write down as his policy.

I call it a Kevin “conjob”. We have seen it all before.

Between 2007 and 2008 Kevin Rudd launched a total of nine wars – including wars on drugs, inflation, unemployment, whaling, disadvantage, downloads, pokies, doping in sport, and finally bankers’ salary deals.

Not to be done with wars on everything he promised two big revolutions…an education revolution and not once but six times he promised a ‘productivity revolution.’ I am not sure if the ‘revolutions’ came before or after the wars but the words are all flim flam.

He talks big, runs a stunt a day and has no ticker for the hard decisions.

That’s why he is torn between reality, history and celebrity.

Well enough of the games. Let’s deal with the facts.

Economic Growth

There are serious economic headwinds facing Australia.

Economic growth has been much weaker under Labor than under the Coalition. Real GDP growth averaged 3.6% under the Coalition and only 2.3% under Labor.

Growth is currently running at 2.5%, significantly below trend and well below previous forecasts.

Business conditions and capacity utilisation are at four year lows.

Given this soft growth performance it should be no surprise that the economy is not generating sufficient employment to provide jobs for everyone that wants to work, and as a result the unemployment rate has increased to 5.7%, the highest in four years. The budget papers forecast the unemployment rate would be 5.5% by June this year, so that is another broken Labor promise.

The uncomfortable fact is that there are now more than 700,000 Australians out of work who want jobs.

Unemployment is now 200,000 higher now than it was when Mr Rudd was Prime Minister first time round.

In May 2011 the Labor Government promised 500,000 new jobs over 2 years. Time is now up and barely half the target number of jobs have been created.

Labor has failed to meet their own targets on jobs growth.

In contrast, the previous Coalition Government generated strong jobs growth and left the unemployment rate with a “4” in front of it.

The Prime Minister had no new ideas to deal with these challenges.

The Coalition does.

The core of our plan to grow the economy is to recognise that it is the private sector – not the government – that creates investment and wealth and jobs. The Coalition will remove the sand in the gears of the private sector, to get out of its way, so that it can do more to generate prosperity for Australia.

Reducing the burden of taxes and regulation, ensuring fair and competitive markets, and reducing the size of government will boost business investment and spending. And from investment and spending will come growth and jobs.

Living within our Means

Firstly, under the Coalition, the Government will live within its means by returning the budget to surplus. And we will stabilise and repay the $340 billion of Labor debt.

After promising only a temporary deficit in 2008 Mr Rudd’s government has delivered the five biggest consecutive deficits in modern Australian history. From 2009 to 2013 the deficits have totalled $192 billion.

The budget papers forecast two further deficits totalling $29 billion to take the cumulative deficit over seven years to over $220 billion.

Labor does not project achieving a surplus until 2017, four budgets and two elections away. And even then all I hear is Mr Rudd talk about balancing the Budget – not delivering a surplus.

But then again this Government has never delivered a surplus and I guarantee that even if they win the next election, they never will deliver a surplus.

The core of Labor’s budget woes is excessive spending.

Labor splurged $88 billion on stimulus in response to the events of September and October of 2008. We fully supported the first round but then Kevin Rudd’s excesses took over and the waste began and we are still paying for it.

In fact Mr Rudd felt the need to have the third biggest stimulus package in the world after the United States and South Korea.

But the waste was ridiculous.

27,000 $900 cheques were sent overseas even though they were meant to stimulate our economy. I suspect New Zealand is forever grateful! What’s more 16,000 $900 cheques went to dead people. Not even Kevin Rudd could get them to spend their money in time.

Mr Rudd spent $2 billion to put pink batts in people’s roofs then spent $480 million to take them out. All with the tragic loss of four lives.

And Mr Rudd spent $16 billion on overpriced school halls. It was meant to cost $14 billion. And even as recently as last month there were still 31 primary school BER projects which had not been completed, five years after the GFC[1] [2].

The Prime Minister says that Australia has a low level of debt.

The facts are that Government debt has risen in every year of the Labor government and will continue to increase in every year of the forward estimates.

The increase in debt under the current Labor Government’s first 5 years has been the fastest, both in dollar terms and as a share of GDP, in modern Australian history.

The last time Mr Rudd was Prime Minister he was borrowing well over $100 million a day. Now he is borrowing an additional $49 million every single day.

By the end of this year Labor will have increased debt by over $220 billion since its election in 2007.

The Government has already increased the legislated debt limit on four occasions, firstly to $75 billion, then $200 billion, then $250 billion and then $300 billion.

Treasury has confirmed that gross debt will be $290 billion by Christmas this year and that Labor will break their own $300 billion debt cap within the next two years[3]. The expected peak of Commonwealth Government Securities on issue subject to the cap will be a record $340 billion.

This debt has to be repaid and it has to be serviced.

The interest cost alone is $13 billion a year. That is $35 million a day in interest.

The annual interest cost is more than enough to cover the full year costs of the NDIS.

Yesterday the Prime Minister did not announce any new initiatives to balance the budget or repay the debt. The chaotic state of the budget does not seem to be of his concern.

Well it is of concern to the Coalition and we will put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable course. We have done it before, and we will do it again.

We will do this by eliminating the waste and unnecessary spending, not by raising taxes.

We have already announced significant savings, totalling well over $15 billion, including abolishing the $1 billion per year Schoolkids Bonus, reducing the public service headcount by 12,000 through natural attrition over two years, rephasing the increase in the superannuation guarantee from 9% to 12% by two years, not proceeding with the low income superannuation contribution, reducing the humanitarian refugee intake from 20,000 back to 13,750, and abolishing the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

We will announce further substantial savings before the election and I can assure you that all our policy initiatives will be fully costed and fully funded.

I expect the same standards from the Government…..although they have not yet given that commitment.

Taxation

The Labor government has constantly resorted to new and increased taxes to plug their budget black holes. The Prime Minister has not announced any plans to reduce the burden of taxation.

The Coalition will act quickly to reduce the burden of taxation by immediately moving to abolish the $9 billion per year carbon tax and the mining tax which raises a mysterious amount of money.

The carbon tax has raised costs for both households and businesses. It has fed directly into higher electricity and gas prices and a higher cost of living. It must go.

The mining tax is an impost on our most successful export sector, and no country ever won the economic race by handicapping its best performers.

But we will keep the personal income tax cuts and the fortnightly pension increases because we understand the intense pressure families are under on the cost of living.

We have also announced a white paper process for real tax reform that will lay down a new tax agenda for the Australian people’s approval at the subsequent election.

Of course our opponents will never tell you about their new taxes- 39 of which they have introduced or increased since Mr Rudd was first elected in 2007.

Productivity

Productivity growth is the key driver of a prosperous economy. At the end of the day it is the level of a nation’s productivity that determines the standard of living of its citizens.

The Coalition is proud of its record on productivity.

Labour productivity growth was about a half of one percentage point higher under the last Coalition government than under Labor.

That is a fact.

Unlike our opponents we will take concrete steps to boost productivity. And, as a great relief to you, we will not be asking everyone to hold hands and sing kumbaya which is Mr Rudd’s preferred policy development process.

Well I suppose in his mind the 2020 summit was a screaming success! Tony Abbott and I have a 6 point plan for productivity growth.

This week we released a 30 page plan to boost productivity and reduce regulation.

In the 2007 election Mr Rudd promised that for every new regulation an old regulation would be removed.

Well that was another screaming success.

In six years the Labor Government has introduced 21,000 new regulations on Australian businesses and community.

In return it has abolished just 1,000 regulations.

We will reduce the burden of regulation on business by $1 billion a year through reducing red and green tape.

The Coalition will cut excessive regulation by reforming the process by which new regulations are created, implemented and reviewed.

We will repeal costly and excessive regulations. The remuneration of senior public servants will be linked to quantified and proven reductions in regulation.

We will have a one stop shop for environmental approvals which will cover both state and Federal obligations. An idea so welcome Mr Rudd has resorted to plagiarising it.

We will set aside two Parliamentary sitting days for the repeal of legislation each year.

Workplace Relations

The Coalition will help make Australian workplaces even better, by improving the Fair Work laws to provide a stable, fair and prosperous future for all.

The Coalition’s plan will ensure that the Fair Work laws provide a strong and enforceable safety net for workers while helping business to grow, create new jobs and deliver higher real wage growth.

Under a Coalition Government, the pay and conditions of workers will be protected.

We believe in reward for effort and we believe in protecting people’s jobs.

We also understand the need for healthy businesses to create opportunities for workers to get ahead and ensure that nobody is left behind.

The Coalition’s Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws will keep and improve the Fair Work laws – including the independent umpire. We will provide better protection for members of Registered Organisations, guarantee workers have the right to access fair flexibility, ensure union right of entry provisions are sensible and fair, promote harmonious, sensible and productive enterprise bargaining, and ensure workplace bullying is comprehensively addressed.

We will ensure the laws work for everyone through an independent review by the respected Productivity Commission.

We will urgently review the Remuneration Tribunal for the trucking industry and implement many recommendations from the Fair Work Review Panel report.

We will re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission with all its old powers and the funding necessary to eliminate industrial thuggery and boost productivity on building sites.

The Coalition’s Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws will restore the balance back to the sensible centre. A Coalition Government will give workplaces, business and workers the hope, reward and opportunity they need to ensure a long term, stable and viable future for everyone.

Participation

Another way to improve output is to increase participation in the workforce.

The Coalition will implement a suite a measures to lift workforce participation.

Our Paid Parental Leave scheme will encourage more highly skilled women to remain in the workforce while they have families. Australia continues to have a comparatively low level of ongoing female participation.

Our policies to provide a subsidy to employers to hire and retain mature Australians will help keep experience and wisdom in the workforce.

Our policies for unemployed young Australians will assist labour mobility and will encourage them to move to where the work is.

Getting people working is good for them and good for the economy.

The Coalition will get more Australians working.

Infrastructure

Australia needs to build more roads, freight rail, ports and other infrastructure. We need to remove the bottlenecks that stifle our industry and waste our time in the daily commute.

The Coalition will get Australia moving.

We will help build Melbourne’s East-West Link with a $1.5 billion commitment. We are committing a further $1.5 billion to Sydney’s Westconnex as well as $1 billion to Brisbane’s Gateway Motorway upgrade. We will have more to say on the Toowoomba Range crossing, Adelaide’s South Road and Tasmania’s Midland Highway. We will duplicate the Pacific Highway within a decade. We will also build key roads in Perth and will have more to say about the Bruce Highway in coming weeks.

We will build an NBN for $60 billion less than Labor and still deliver the internet speeds you need, sooner.

Yesterday the Prime Minister mentioned that there was a priority list of projects which had been subject to cost benefit analysis – but then failed to mention that the most expensive infrastructure project of them all, the NBN, which has not been subject to such a cost benefit analysis itself.

The project is in meltdown with open warfare between the Board and its Chief executive. It is behind schedule and has had massive cost blowouts.

Kevin Rudd did his own cost/benefit analysis of the $90 billion project on the back of a beer coaster on his VIP government jet.

The Coalition will ensure infrastructure spending delivers value for money. All infrastructure projects with a value over $100 million will be subject to a cost/ benefit analysis.

Small Business

Small business is the engine room of the economy but Labor has had 5 small business ministers in 2 years.

The Coalition believes to its core that small business deserves better.

We will aim to double the annual rate of small business growth in Australia if elected.

Scrapping the carbon tax, cutting regulation, and building better infrastructure will all directly help small business.

In addition the Coalition will ease the paperwork burden by moving the administration of the national paid parental leave scheme from small businesses to the government’s Family Assistance Office, it will extend unfair contract protections to small business, and will simplify the administration of superannuation reporting.

And we will introduce a comprehensive “pay on time or pay interest” policy for Commonwealth departments and agencies that owe small business money.

And we will bring small business into the Treasury portfolio, placing it at the heart of economic decision making.

A Cleaner Environment

All Australians want a cleaner environment and lower emissions.

But we want to achieve a better environment without putting shackles on our economic prosperity through the imposition of the world’s biggest carbon tax.

The Coalition fully supports reducing Australian CO2 emissions by 5 per cent by 2020.

But it will do it through Direct Action, not by imposing a great big new tax on business and consumers.

It seems the Prime Minister might now be having second thoughts about Labor’s carbon tax, with hints that the government may move to a floating price scheme a year earlier.

I note he was quiet on this yesterday. Perhaps the Treasury briefing on the state of the budget pointed out that any reduction in revenue was unaffordable unless the associated spending was also reduced.

And in any case a lower tax would still be a tax, whether it is fixed price or floating, which can still be put up again once the election is over.

These sorts of policy fiddles will not fool the Australian people.

The Coalition is clear – we will get rid of the carbon tax altogether and use Direct Action to lower carbon emissions.

That is a policy path that even the president of the United States has embraced.

To facilitate Direct Action, a Coalition Government will establish an Emissions Reduction Fund to support CO2 emissions reduction activity by business and industry.

And last Friday Tony Abbott announced the Coalition’s plan for a 15,000 strong green army of environmental workers to provide real and practical solutions to cleaning up our waterways and natural environment.

Through these direct actions Australia will directly reduce emissions at home and achieve a cleaner environment while maximising economic growth and jobs.

Banking

A modern economy needs an efficient and competitive financial services system.

Under Labor competition in banking has been reduced.

For retail customers the market share of bank housing loans outstanding to the big four has significantly increased from 75% in December 2006 to its current level of around 85%.

At a wholesale level a number of major international banks have reduced their presence in Australia.

In October 2010 I proposed a nine point plan to lift competition in financial services. A number of my suggestions have now been implemented by the Labor government but there is more to be done.

If we win government there will be a “son of Wallis” root and branch enquiry into the financial system. This will be a high level review of the overall financial system. What I have in mind is a wide perspective look at where we want the financial system to be over the next decade and the steps we will need to get there.

The financial world has changed a lot since the GFC. There have been changes in the competitive structure of the financial industry, there has been closer integration of financial markets across the globe, there has been the near failure of banking systems in key developed economies, there has been a renewed push for tighter controls from global regulators, and there has been continued advancement in technology.

All of these changes have implications for the way the financial sector works and for its relationship with the real economy.

We need to ensure the competitive and prudential structure continues to facilitate the efficient flow of funds between savers and borrowers, that it promotes investment and growth, and that it provides a safe repository for savings.

My financial system enquiry should be embraced as laying out a roadmap for the future development of the financial sector in Australia.

Closer Relations with Asia

We want to expand the opportunities for Australian businesses. Stronger businesses mean a stronger economy and more jobs.

With foreign investment of such critical importance to Australia, we must continue to remove impediments to the free flow of goods, services and capital.

And we must foster closer relations with our Asian neighbours.

We will boost trade in food by opening up and developing more agriculture in northern Australia.

We will broaden the economic relationship with Asia to include services such as education and health and financial services.

We will seek to finalise free trade agreements with key Asian neighbours to more closely integrate Australia into the Asian economic zone.

We will establish a new “two way” Colombo Plan to enable the best and brightest from our region to build relationships and learn in each other’s countries.

And we will increase the study of foreign languages in schools with an emphasis on Asian languages.

More Secure Borders

And crucial for our relationships in this region is the protection of Australia’s borders.

The Labor government has lost control of our borders. The boats keep coming and the people smugglers keep getting richer.

It is the single greatest policy and financial failure of Kevin Rudd but there was not even a mention of it by the Prime Minister yesterday. Perhaps that is not surprising.

It is a policy failure because Mr Rudd got it wrong when he abandoned the proven policies of the Howard government.

The “pull” factor of what is essentially an open door policy by Australia is encouraging thousands of people to risk their lives on leaky boats. 46,000 people have already come and the flow is continuing at around 100 arrivals a day.

Each boat arrival costs taxpayers $13m. Boat arrivals are also the most costly policy failure in Australian history, with a blowout in costs to taxpayers now approaching $12 billion. That is the equivalent of 10 brand new major teaching hospitals in Australia.

The Coalition’s message to the government is that it won’t be rhetoric that stops the boats.

Only returning to the full suite of proven policies of the Howard Government will finally put the people smugglers out of business and stop this tragic trade in human misery.

The Coalition will turn back the boats, where it is safe to do so.

We will reintroduce temporary protection visas.

There will be a presumption against refugee status for boat arrivals transiting through Indonesia who lack identity papers.

And there will be tougher minimum sentences for people smugglers with mandatory non-parole periods.

The Coalition will stop the boats.

Self Indulgent Government

Ladies and gentlemen these are just some of the detailed plans the Coalition has been working on for Australia’s future.

Our economic plan is to build a more prosperous and more secure Australia.

The Prime Minister had an opportunity yesterday to lay out his plans for Australia but all we got was self congratulation and promises for more talking and group hugs.

The only concrete policies we have had from this recycled Prime Minister have been policy announcements on new procedures for voting for the parliamentary leader of the Labor Party. Even then his proposal looks as though it is being watered down.

With Kevin Rudd you buy a beer and you get a shandy.

The Treasurer is not any better. All he has done is launch his book which tells us Labor should not have got into bed with the Greens.

He wants a divorce but he is still very much in the marriage.

Seriously who cares about the Labor Party? Australians want a government that cares about them, their families and their jobs and their businesses.

This is all self- indulgent inwardly focussed flim flam.

It shows Labor only cares for itself with no regard for its responsibilities in governing the country.

Labor is playing the fiddle while Rome is burning.

Nothing has changed under the recycled Mr Rudd.

The spending is still out of control, the debt is still climbing, a carbon tax and a mining tax are still in place, the economy is weakening and the boats are still coming.

Much has been said, but nothing has been delivered.

Strong communities do not need celebrities as leaders.

Australia does not need Kevin Kardashian as Prime Minister…again.

We need an experienced and united team to govern the country that focuses on good policy not Facebook ‘Likes”.

At the end of the day the choice for Australians is very simple.

A vote for the same old Kevin Rudd is still a vote for same old rotten Labor Party.

Can our great nation really cope with another three years of Labor? Well, the only way to get rid of Labor is to vote for the Coalition.

We will restore the hope, the reward and the opportunity that our people deserve and expect.

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