Budget and tax reform

House of Representatives - 21/05/2018

I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 cognate debate with Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2018-2019, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2017-2018 and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2017-2018, and to state, in case there was any doubt amongst honourable members, that this month's budget has been a great budget for Brisbane. More than 75,000 people across the electorate of Brisbane will be getting tax relief next financial year commencing in 40-something days' time, meaning the hardworking people of Brisbane will be keeping more of their own hard-earned money as reward for their efforts because this government's strong economic plan is starting to pay dividends.

A year ago, talking here on last year's budget, the topic was business tax cuts and we just heard that last year's budget still manages to distract members of the opposition. Last year, we talked about how this government was predicting what would happen if we backed Australian businesses, notably the small and medium family businesses which together make up such a large proportion of Australia's economy and its enterprise. We talked about why supporting those small and medium and family businesses might pay certain dividends. Now we are here seeing the very real evidence that the key planks of this government's strong economic plan are working—the tax relief already delivered for small and medium businesses, our innovation agenda, the new free trade agreements and the growth of our defence industry. We see evidence of these policies working certainly in Brisbane, right across Queensland and indeed across Australia.

Last week, two notable economic milestones were reached. Queensland's population reached five million and the target of one million jobs being created since the coalition government was elected was reached—about half a year earlier than was hoped for originally. The first milestone is a sign of the confidence Australians have in the great state of Queensland, including the 3.5 million who choose to make their homes in the south-east corner, centred on the wonderful place that is the City of Brisbane.

The second milestone, those jobs, is an unambiguous sign that the government's strong economic management is paying the dividends that we were talking about here in this place a year ago. A million jobs means a million livelihoods out there improved, a million more people having the security, dignity and prosperity of work. Record jobs being created, business investment rising, the budget strengthening is the story underpinning the budget.

Nationwide, our policies are coming together to help Australia's small and medium businesses create all of these new jobs faster than jobs have ever been created in the history of this country. Last year, a record 1,100 jobs a day were created, on average. That means, as I said, more Australians are being productive. It also means more Australians are paying taxes, and fewer of them are relying on welfare. That is a powerful outcome economically and morally. And it is enabling, in turn, this government to provide and guarantee the essential services. For instance, in the budget there is a record level of support for seniors and a record investment in the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, with certainty, it is enabling the government to fully fund the NDIS out of consolidated revenue.

This is all at the same time as being able to give tax relief to the Australians whose hard work and success have helped to bring this about. That is the real power of supporting Australia's small and medium businesses and it is the power of supporting hard-working Australians. The government's policies are fostering the conditions and the framework so that so many more Australians can prosper and so many more Australian businesses can grow and hire even more Australians. It is very good news for the 31,000 small businesses situated in my electorate of Brisbane. The feedback we received when the Treasurer visited Brisbane just last week, after the budget, was very positive. Local business people and local workers all clearly support the tax cuts as fair and well targeted. The return to surplus next year was a very welcome improvement, as were the guarantees to the essential services
that Australians rely on.

Nationwide, the government's income tax relief, as announced in the budget, will benefit 10 million Australians, including over two million Queenslanders. There couldn't be a bigger contrast with our opponents, whose shadow Treasurer, last week at the National Press Club, pledged to retain the top marginal tax rate at 49 per cent indefinitely. As usual, Labor's approach is all about high taxes, not lower taxes. I want to talk about infrastructure for a moment. Others have already noted here today that, in this budget, we deliver a record $75 billion in an investment pipeline of key infrastructure projects right across Australia. More than $20 billion of that infrastructure bonanza is for projects in Queensland, including in and around Brisbane.

I have previously welcomed in this place the $300 million the government is investing in the Brisbane Metro. That congestion-busting project is critical because of the strong population growth in Brisbane and the extra workers that it brings into the Brisbane CBD, and because of the very high proportion of commuters in Brisbane that use buses rather than rail. It is a vital project to keep our city moving. It will cut daily travel times, reduce bus congestion in the CBD and improve bus services to the suburbs. For a daily commuter, it may mean over an hour of travel time saved each and every week—time that everyone would rather spend at home with their families and friends.

Last week, I was really pleased to join with the Brisbane Lord Mayor and the federal Minister for Infrastructure to inspect the site of the proposed underground metro station in Brisbane's cultural precinct. So, soon, there will be a world-class public transport project to accompany Brisbane's world-class cultural and entertainment offerings—QPAC, the Art Gallery, GoMA, the State Library and the Queensland Museum. In addition to the Brisbane Metro, the budget includes a whole raft of other infrastructure projects helping the people of Brisbane and southeast Queensland. It includes $1 billion to ease congestion on the M1 highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and a further $3.3 billion for additional upgrades along the Bruce Highway to improve safety and reduce congestion, taking the government's total investment to $10 billion and supporting around 2½ thousand jobs. These are all game-changing infrastructure projects that in various ways will improve the lives of millions of people who call south-east Queensland and Brisbane home.

The budget also continues the Turnbull government's strong commitment to supporting Australia's best health and medical research, including a record $6 billion in budget measures. In the same way that last year's budget really identified and singled in on the opportunities in our defence industry, this year's budget is really homing in and identifying the big opportunities that sit in front of Australia in the space of medical research. We have established the Medical Research Future Fund to provide long-term sustainable funding for medical research. It already has a balance of $7 billion and it's on track to reach $20 billion by 2021.

This budget includes $2 billion in disbursements from the Medical Research Future Fund to fund various research projects and priorities. Investment in medical research is critical to providing new treatments to diseases and to improving the quality of life of all Australians through things such as treating brain cancer in children, reducing premature births and developing new medical devices. It's all about improving and saving lives and it's part of our commitment to delivering the essential services that Australians rely on, guaranteed, as I said, by the strong economic plan that underpins our ability to guarantee the services.

Health and medical research is an area in which Australia is world class, and I'm proud that many of these amazing researchers are calling Brisbane home. Last week, it was really exciting to have the chance to visit the UQCCR with the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt. The minister announced $1.2 million in funding being awarded to UQ's Professor David Paterson through the Medical Research Future Fund. Professor Paterson's research is about tackling antimicrobial resistance and has the potential to save 30,000 lives, which puts the work that we do here in this place into some perspective.

I've also recently visited Queensland's largest medical research centre, the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. I've had the opportunity on many occasions visiting there to hear from some of the scientists and medical researchers there about their fascinating and very important work.

Australia has all of the necessary ingredients to bolster its position as a world leader in medical research, but it's essential that we don't rest on our laurels. In this budget, the centrepiece of the government's commitment to health and medical research is a new investment of $1.3 billion in the National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan, to be overseen by Professor Ian Frazer, AC. It's about identifying discoveries and translating ideas into practice and commercial successes and it really has the potential to turbocharge the health and medical research industry just as the government's strategic investment in the defence industry sector in last year's budget is doing.

As well as improving health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of Australians, this will create up to 28,000 new skilled medical research jobs and develop the next generation of Australia's world-leading medical research industry. Groundbreaking biological and medical technologies have a significant place in the future of health care, and so this government's growth plan will also provide for a minimum of 130 new clinical trials and add a 50 per cent increase in exports and new markets in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The growth plan includes half a billion dollars of funding over 10 years for the Genomics Health Futures Mission, which will help more than 200,000 Australians live longer and get better treatment tailored to their medical needs. The first genomics project will be Mackenzie's Mission, with almost $20 million being provided for screening trials for rare and debilitating birth disorders, including spinal muscular atrophy, fragile X and cystic fibrosis.

Another research investment is $248 million over five years for an expanded Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases And Unmet Need Program and new international clinical trial collaborations. We're also providing funding of almost a billion dollars a year to the National Health and Medical Research Council and have funded the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund to help transform biomedical discoveries into commercial opportunities for Australian researchers.

That's just one aspect in summarising the plan for a stronger economy and what it means in one great area going forward for Brisbane and for all of Australia. But I did also want to mention in passing that the budget does include, contrary to some of the talk of cuts that we hear repeatedly from the other side, record funding for hospitals and schools, guaranteed funding for disability services and a comprehensive approach to aged care so older Australians can live healthier, more independent lives.

This budget ensures the government lives within its means, with a forecast return to moderate balance in 2019-20 increasing to a projected surplus of $11 billion in 2020-21. Importantly, we're no longer borrowing to pay for essential services and we have the lowest average real growth in payments of any government on either side of politics over the last 50 years.

I also wanted to mention quickly in passing that in my electorate of Brisbane more than 5,000 local families stand to benefit under the budget from our reforms to childcare. That'll come into place on 2 July and is obviously on top of their tax relief. There is also the guaranteed funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That will be directly helping 1,800 people and their families in my electorate of Brisbane. This budget is the next step in our long-term economic plan to deliver all of those essential services on which we rely and to provide tax relief to hardworking Australians to thank them for the hard work that they and so many small and medium businesses have done over the last year in helping to get Australia back into this strong position while simultaneously living within our means.

I want to spend a moment comparing and contrasting what I've just outlined to some of the things that we've heard from those opposite. I want to spend a moment talking about the politics of envy and the case that Labor is now pushing, because it does seem that they have absolutely nothing else to talk about—certainly not a significant economic plan. I was in the chamber earlier and I heard the member for Lyons. He said one thing that was right; he identified that I was laughing—chuckling, I think, was the word he used—in response to his contribution. I was laughing because these are just discredited Labor lines that are being rolled out like robotic union Daleks. I think they hope that if they say them often enough they'll become true. His speech and so many other speeches that we're hearing from Labor reveal that they have no actual plan. At the heart of all of those uninspired Labor
lines is this false war that they're trying to whip up, chasing the divisive politics of envy.

Sadly, we all had to endure the opposition leader's budget reply speech a few weeks ago. For those lucky enough not to hear it, let me summarise it briefly. Labor essentially said that they would spend a stack of money that they don't have on all manner of things. They said that they could pay for it because they'll tax banks and big companies more. That's essentially what they said. So, 10 points out of 10 for the politics of division and envy, but, sadly, zero points for adding things up and zero points for honesty. If you look at their numbers, you'll see that there are no changes in the forward estimates to the taxes being paid by big businesses and banks—not in our forward estimates and not in theirs. In their forward estimates over the next four years, their biggest tax takes include $10 billion from retirees, which is the biggest; $6 billion in additional taxes on small and medium businesses, the ones that we just identified as having created all of the jobs and prosperity over the last year; $2 billion from
homeowners; and precisely zero in additional taxes from big businesses and banks. That stands in stark contrast to the multinational tax avoidance laws that this government's passed—sadly, without Labor's support.