PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: The member for Jagajaga talked about policy consistency. I can tell you one area where the Labor Party has been consistent every time they have been in government: that is, they destroy the budget and they destroy the economy. That is where they are completely consistent. You go back to the Whitlam era: they destroyed the budget and they destroyed the economy. You go into the Hawke and Keating era: what happened to the budget? They left a $96 billion black hole. Then you come back to the Rudd-Gillard era; what happened once again? They do it again—they completely and utterly destroy the public finances of Australia. The Liberal and National parties have to, again, do the hard work to repair the task.
Everybody knows the situation that we inherited when we came to government. There were debt and deficits as far as the eye could see. There was rising unemployment, business confidence was low and consumer confidence was low. Having inherited an economy in absolute tiptop shape, they destroyed it. They absolutely destroyed the public finances of this place. What is worse is that not only did they destroy the current finances of those current years with, I believe, the five biggest budget deficits in Australian political history but they set in place real expenditure of 3.7 per cent ongoing into the future—3.7 per cent real growth, which meant that we were locked into a Greek-debt trajectory going all the way to debt being 122 per cent of GDP.
That is what the Labor Party did: they set us on a course to follow the Greek-debt trajectory. We know what is going on in Greece right now. They have 26 per cent unemployment. They are struggling to pay the pensions and they have absolute social unrest as a result of the debt and deficit problems, which they never got on top of throughout their course.
This is what our government is doing: we are repairing the mess that we inherited. We did that from day one and we are continuing to do this with this budget. Already we have reduced the net debt by $110 billion. Labor does not like to hear this, because they have opposed every single one. Peak debt now will be $110 billion less. We have also reduced the deficits so, when you go forward and look at the projections, we are now going down to a deficit in four years time of only a few billion dollars. Therefore we are getting very close to a surplus thereafter.
When you look at the economic green shoots that are starting to appear because of the work—and again, they do not like to hear this—when you look at jobs growth, jobs growth has been 250,000 new jobs created in the last 18 months, that is 70 per cent higher than in the last 18 months of the Labor government. We have had record residential housing approvals, record business start-ups and have had retail sales increase by over four per cent in the last year. We have had economic growth go to 2.5 per cent now, when it was below two per cent under the Labor government. Exports are up. All of these are great economic green shoots.
What we are doing in this budget is turbocharging the small business sector, because they are the engine room of our economy. We are reducing taxes for them. We are absolutely going to make it easier for them to register new businesses. We are going to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get started. Most importantly, we are going to give them a go through accelerated depreciation so, if they purchase items up to $20,000, they can write those off immediately in that year. That is the approach that we are taking. We want to turbocharge the small businesses of this world, because we know that, when small businesses do well, we all do well: jobs start flowing, infrastructure starts going and investment starts occurring. This is what occurs when small businesses go well.
It is such a contrast to Labor’s approach. Labor thought you would get the economy going by sending $900 cheques to dead people. They thought they would get the economy going by putting pink batts in people’s roofs and then removing pink batts from people’s roofs. They thought they would get the economy going through set-top boxes for $350 that you could buy at Harvey Norman for $70. That was Labor’s approach. Our approach is to back small business, and we want to get on with it.