Matters of Public Importance - 2 February 2016


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (17:34): I am really pleased to be able to contribute to this matter of public importance debate on the Turnbull government. This is a debate about priorities. It is a debate about our government's priorities. Senator Lines spent a lot of time talking about a republic. Fair enough, I am a republican.



Senator Smith: Oh!


Senator SESELJA: I heard that phrase from my colleague Senator Smith, but I do not see a republic being the top issue for Australians. I do not see it as being the issue about which they are beating down our door. The priorities are somewhat different. Senator Lines just launched into an attack, and there was an attempt in question time: 'Prime Minister Turnbull said this three years ago. He said this five years ago.' I just don't think it is working.


Opposition senators interjecting


Senator SESELJA: I don't believe it is. It is a little bit flat. It is little bit like they are going through the motions. They are saying, 'What about this you said about the republic? What about that you said about climate change and direct action?' I don't think the Australian people are interested, frankly. It is gotcha politics. If you go down to the pub and quiz people: 'Did you know that Prime Minister Turnbull said X on the republic five years ago and he said Y today?', you would find that most people would not care. What they would care about are the priorities of this government and, primarily, about the economy.


I will talk about some of those priorities and some of the things that we have delivered. It is a long list. I am not going to be able to get through it in the five minutes I have to speak, but I will do my best to get through some of the significant achievements and priorities of this government versus the Labor Party's priorities. Let us be clear, what are those? We know from its year of ideas what they are—more taxes. Those were the ideas it came up with. Bill Shorten said, 'I'm going to come up with all these ideas, this year.' What he came up with was that we will do more taxes. That is not a plan. It is not a genuine priority to say that you will tax more. You should be looking to tax less. That is my view and it is the coalition's view. You should be looking to keep taxes as low as possible. Deliver the services that are necessary and deliver them well, but try to keep taxes lower.


We have seen jobs growth in the past year. That is our priority. We have created something like 335,000 jobs since the last election—I think it is beyond that now. We have reduced Labor's budget deficit by tens of billions of dollars through savings we have made. We have seen female workforce participation at record levels. Is that not a great thing? We are seeing women coming into the workforce in record numbers, bankruptcy at the lowest level in 20 years and environmental approvals to projects valued at more than $1 trillion. Think about the great job opportunities that are there when we have an environment minister who will put on conditions but will not just mindlessly block projects at the behest of the Greens.


There is $50 billion in infrastructure—that is growing our nation and growing jobs. There are tax cuts for small business, which is just sensational. We have seen small businesses around this country getting some of the best conditions we can offer them and the lowest tax rates they have seen since the 1960s—that is a great achievement. And, of course, even as we have sought to get the budget under control, funding for hospitals is up over 25 per cent over four years and funding for schools is up 28 per cent over four years.


We are delivering on the key service areas, we are delivering on tax cuts for small business, we are delivering by signing free trade agreements with our major partners—Korea, Japan and China. Think of the possibilities, the endless possibilities, when we open up more and more trade with our major Asian trading partners. This is a government that is focused on the priorities of Australians. Australians want to see us focused on jobs and through our innovation package on growing jobs in new ways. We accept that, whilst mining will continue to be important for us and resources will continue to be important for us, we always need to be looking to grow new industries.


The service opportunities of even just our free trade agreement with China are phenomenal—that is where so many of our strengths are, of course. I know, here in Canberra, our export industries—our service industries, primarily—are the smarts of individuals and businesses coming up with great ideas that they can now have greater opportunities to deliver to the likes of the Chinese market.


We got rid of the carbon tax and that has saved hundreds of dollars a year on people's electricity and gas bills. They said we would not be able to do it, and we did, at the same time delivering Direct Action—that is, delivering on our targets but without a carbon tax, which the Labor Party would love to bring back.


National security and border security are the kinds of priorities we have that we know the Labor Party did not take seriously. They did not take it seriously because we saw the tens of thousands of boat arrivals, the thousands of illegal arrivals. Yet, when we said we would stop those unlawful arrivals, the Labor Party, the Greens and parts of the media said we could not do it. Well, we did. We said we would do it and we delivered on it and, as a result, not only did we save lives but also we restored order to our immigration process. Unfortunately, we have seen that other countries that do not maintain control of their borders suffer the consequences over time. Australians support an orderly immigration program. They support a strong immigration program, provided it is done according to the rule of law and according to our priorities.


So these are some of the achievements of this government; these are some of the priorities of this government. On the other side there are higher taxes, more wasteful spending and an inability to actually deliver on the promises they want to have the Australian people believe they will deliver on.