PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra:
Mr TUDGE (Aston—Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (15:31): The shadow member for union protection, Mr O’Connor, would have you believe that they are so excited about our small-business package that they cannot wait to come in here and pass the bill. Let me give a couple of quotes to indicate exactly how strong their support is. This was Bill Shorten’s quote in relation to the small-business package in his budget-in-reply on 14 May this year. He described small business package as:
A giveaway to start a fire sale at second-hand car yards and Harvey Norman it doesn’t go very far.
That was the quote from Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, in relation to a small-business package. I would not say that that is overwhelming support from the Labor Party. What about Bernie Ripoll? What did he have to say just before we announced our package. He is these shadow spokesperson for small business. He said:
in an attempt to grab a headline and say his own skin, the Prime Minister is proceeding with his ham-fisted plan to introduce a two-tier corporate tax system against the wishes of Australian businesses.
Mr Billson: Gee, that sounds like support!
Mr TUDGE: That sounds like fantastic support! We know that the Labor Party does not support small business. We know that they are not the party that does that. When they were in government they had six small-business ministers in six years.
Mr Billson: Kim Beazley nailed it.
Mr TUDGE: As the Minister for Small Business is telling me, Kim Beazley himself nailed it, when said, in 2000:
We never pretended to be a small business party, the Labor Party; we never pretended that.
He was an honest Labor member. He was an honest Labor leader—Kim Beazley—when he said that, and he is exactly right. The Labor Party is not a friend of small business, because when they were in government they chopped and changed their small business minister every single year. They introduced the carbon tax. They introduced 20,000 regulations upon the small-business sector, and they introduced greater union laws to allow them to enter every single business in the country against the wishes of the small-business owners. The Labor Party often mistake the interests of the unions with the interests of the workers, and as we know from what is going on in the royal commission right now, that is not always the case. We know that exactly.
This matter of public importance really goes to the philosophical divide between our two parties, because it goes to the heart of how we support higher living standards. On the Labor side, Labor believe that you can support higher living standards by providing more welfare, by expanding governments, by taxing more and by regulating business, whereas we on this side of the chamber know deep in our veins that you can only enhance living standards on a sustainable basis if you have productive enterprises, if you have profitable enterprises, and if you have a strong, productive, growing economy. That is the essential, fundamental difference between our two parties. They believe in tax and welfare, whereas we believe in jobs and enterprise. It is jobs and enterprise that fundamentally underpin the living standards of this nation. The reason we believe in jobs and enterprise, in part, is that the members on this side of the House have a philosophical alignment with jobs and enterprise, because most of us have worked in enterprise. Nearly every single member on this side of the House has been involved in the private sector, if not run their own small or larger business. On the other side, nearly every single member on that side has been a union official, and very members of the Labor Party have ever run a private sector enterprise. In fact, 50 per cent of all the Labor members of parliament were former union officials. If you go to the Senate, 71 per cent of all the Labor members were union officials. That is where they get their direction; from the unions themselves.
In our first 18 months in government we have been doing everything we can to boost the economy, to drive productivity growth, and to enhance living standards. We got rid of the carbon tax. We got rid of the mining tax. We abolished $2.4 billion of red tape. We have $1 trillion of environmental approvals. We have signed three free-trade agreements with three of our four biggest trading partners—free-trade agreements that were in the too-hard basket for the Labor Party.
We are getting on top of the debt and deficit disaster which is a handbrake on our overall economy. And, of course, we have announced the biggest small business package in Australian history in order to turbo-boost what is the engine room of our economy.
What does that actually mean? What do all of those measures we have prioritised in our first 18 months translate to? What it translates to is economic growth in the first quarter of this year that is amongst the fastest in the OECD. It is the fastest growth we have had since the year 2000—it was 0.9 per cent in this quarter—with a 2.3 per cent growth on an annualised basis, which is higher than what it was under the Labor Party.
We have had export volumes up five per cent in the quarter; the strongest quarterly increase since 2000; and 8.1 per cent higher over the last 12 months. The jobs growth is 250,000 new jobs created since we came to office. That is four times higher jobs growth in 2014 compared to the last year of the Labor government. That is what raising standards means; because if you have a job then you can look after yourself and look after your family so much better.
I know that the Labor Party are fond of quoting the NATSEM—the statistical modelling organisation. NATSEM did some analysis and found that the standard of living of Australian households rose by 1.2 per cent in 2014 compared to a decline in 2013 when Labor was last in power. NATSEM modelling says that living standards actually declined under the Labor Party—and they have gone quiet on the other side now because they do not like to hear this—where they have increased in 2014 under our government.
When we look at Labor’s record, we know what they were up to. We know the types of things that the Labor Party were doing when they were in government. And they are ashamed of their record, because it was a taxing record, a spending record, a wasteful record. And it did not contribute to the living standards of Australians. They destroyed the budget. They had debt and deficits so high, which of course meant that we are spending $12 billion a year just on the interest payments alone.
They have put in 20,000 new regulations. Do you think that helps the small businesses and the economy in our country? The numbers on the unemployment queue went up 202,000. And they will remember the industries they directly—not indirectly—destroyed. They directly destroyed industries such as the home insulation industry, and the live animal export industry—cattle, in particular.
We have a very proud record on this side of the chamber of supporting business and supporting enterprise. At the end of the day, you must have strong, supportive enterprises in order to grow the economy. That is what it comes down to, and that is the fundamental difference between this side of the House and the other side of the House. We believe in jobs. We believe in enterprise. We believe in growing the economy. Everything that we are doing is trying to make the economy stronger; whereas everything the Labor Party has done in office and everything they are proposing to do involves higher taxes, higher expenditure, more regulation, and more downward pressure on living standards.