Speech - Matter of Public Importance (Economic Inequality)









I congratulate the member for Fenner on a brilliant speech. There are stark differences between this side of the House and that side of the House. We live in a community. They think we live in a corporation. We on this side of the House honour the hard work that creates wealth. They just honour the wealth itself. Those on that side of the House are so out of touch with average Australians. They do not walk in the same shopping aisles as average Australians—and this applies particularly to the Prime Minister. If they did, they would not attack all the building blocks of strong economic growth and a fairer society like they have since 2014. 

What they have done since 2014 is to attempt to smash the industrial relations system of our country. It is our industrial relations system that has given us a prosperous middle class and working class in this country, and their mission is to destroy it. Those people on that side of the House want to destroy the great enablers of universal health and education, which not only drive a better society but drive fundamental growth in an economy. They want to smash them. Worst of all, they are seeking to make our taxation system more regressive and trying to poke gigantic holes in our social safety net. All of those building blocks are what, around the world, drive economic growth.

If you have a prosperous middle class, that will drive your economy. It is a driver of prosperity, not a consequence of it. Those on that side of the House do not understand the economics of that proposition at all. It is now well understood by the IMF, which was absolutely condemned in all of its analysis—the economic approach taken by those on the other side of the House since 2014. In addition to saying that we should be enabling the prosperity of middle- and low-income earners in our community, we should also be investing in infrastructure. They are doing none of those things. As a consequence, we have got weaker growth, growing inequality and lower wages.

This government pretends that it is concerned about income inequality. In fact, the Prime Minister gave a speech at the Business Council last week and he said that we must 'seem to be fair'. Well, I have got a message for him: we must be fair, not seem to be fair. That is the approach of all those on that side of the House—all the cosmetic attempts to claim that they are being fair. Day in, day out they rubbish and demean the basic drivers of a stronger economy: strong economic growth and a healthy society.

This Prime Minister was so concerned about income inequality that, from the time he became Leader of the Opposition in this House in 2008 right through until six months ago, he never once uttered the words 'income inequality'. But in the last six months he has mentioned it five times; it is a problem out there, but he has a policy agenda to make it worse, not better. Protecting and putting in place policies which protect the hard work of low- and middle-income earning Australians is the key to growth and the key for a prosperous society. But this group over there want to discredit those great enablers of growth. Really, their strategy is this: discredit the facts about what is going on in the economy. They do this day in, day out. They try to discredit our trade unions and run down our social security system—all of those things. And then they say that what we need to solve all of our problems is a massive tax cut for the top end of town. And then, based on all of those facts, they argue that the tax cuts will generate enough money to pay for themselves. And when that does not happen what do they argue? They argue that we have to get rid of all the entitlements.

That is the strategy that plays out through question time every day, as it has done through both terms of this government. They do not understand that inequality is important. They actually think inequality is good for the country. That is what they really think. They have a 'survival of the fittest' mentality. We on this side of the House believe that what we need to do is run a progressive taxation system so that we have the revenue to drive investment in health and education. We need those things in order to be a prosperous economy and society. And all the time that we are having these arguments we have a Prime Minister standing at the dispatch box who is a fully paid-up member of the Cayman Islands club, watching his capital grow under the palm trees. We all know that rampant tax evasion is one of those policies that is ripping apart the social contract in this country.