This economy is in trouble. The government does not have an economic plan, and they’re resolutely not panicking. They’re standing there, arms crossed and fingers in their ears, while things get tougher and more bleak for Australian households. It is a crying shame.
Mr Wilson (3:56pm) — I think it’s fair to observe that there’s a substantial gulf between not panicking and being completely comatose. There’s substantial room for action between not panicking—which we’re being told the government is not doing every day—and just lying face down in the dirt. You can describe lying face down in the dirt, dead to the world, as ‘not panicking’ all you like. But the casual observer can see it for what it is. They can see that it’s this government doing absolutely nothing.
We’ve heard two extraordinary contributions. The member for Ryan said that this side of parliament was ignoring the recent election. You won the election. You are the government. Governments do things, governments have plans and governments implement plans. The member for Sturt even went one step further. Don’t worry; he’s not worrying about what happened at the last election. According to the member for Sturt they’ve already won the next election. They’re not doing anything now, and there’s no need to do anything between now and then because that one is in the bag.
The government are doing absolutely nothing in the face of serious economic challenges and big economic problems that are hurting ordinary Australian households and businesses: the worst wages growth on record, the weakest economic conditions since the GFC, the highest level of household debt and nearly two million Australians are either looking for work or looking for more work. That means that Australian households are worse off than when this government were elected. Household living standards have declined. It means people have less. It means that confidence is shot. People are worried. They’re struggling to pay for essentials, and they can’t afford to consider anything else. So consumption in the economy—the largest part of our economy: people buying and selling goods and services—is thoroughly depressed. That hurts local shops and tradespeople. It means people don’t take holidays and they don’t contribute to the vital tourism economy. Don’t worry, because the government are resolutely not panicking. They’re doing nothing. They’ve doubled the debt. Before they were elected they campaigned on what they called a ‘debt emergency’, but they’re not panicking. And they’ve done nothing because they don’t have an economic plan.
They do have some riding instructions. They’ve got some marching orders. I’m not quite sure where they come from. It could be the IPA, the BCA or any number of state Young Liberals conferences. But they’ve got some riding instructions. If all we ever did was tag this lot for doing nothing, they would be getting off lightly, because they’ve done a few things. They’ve taken away penalty rates for low-paid Australians and they are monomaniacal about attacking Australian unions. So far, since they were elected—the election they’ve already forgotten as they look towards the election they already assume they’re going to win—they have taken away penalty rates for low-paid Australians and they have continued their attack on Australian unions. If you turned those two things around, you’d have the beginning of an economic plan. If you wanted to do something for this economy you could start by giving penalty rates back to low-paid Australians and you could allow Australian unions to do their work, which is to prosecute the case for the broad social and economic wellbeing of Australian households.
The reality is that the circumstances and the human impacts of our economic situation are harder to take, precisely because this government is not seizing on the basic elements of an economic plan. We could offer that up to them in a gesture at this time of year as we look towards Christmas. Do something about productivity, for God’s sake. Stop the war on education and training. Fix the NBN. Lift Newstart. Put some money into the pockets of the poorest Australians, which would flow into the economy and deal with the crisis of confidence and the depressed consumption in our economy. Develop a national energy policy. Follow the RBA’s advice. If you boil the RBA’s advice down to a simple statement, it is, as John Kennedy once said, ‘do something’. For God’s sake, do something.
You’re not panicking; you’re lying facedown in the leaves as the Australian economy grows weaker by the day and Australian households and Australian businesses suffer the consequences. This economy is in trouble. The government does not have an economic plan, and they’re resolutely not panicking. They’re standing there, arms crossed and fingers in their ears, while things get tougher and more bleak for Australian households. It is a crying shame. It is an indictment on all of those who are sitting opposite. You’ve been given a great trust by the Australian people. You should respond to that. You should get on with doing something for this economy.