Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Economy

22 July 2019

What an absolute farce this motion is! Who, other than this government, thinks our economy is going well? Which economist can they point to who would actually agree with this motion? This government has cherrypicked these statistics as though they have something to brag about. The RBA said in its minutes released last week that GDP growth had been well below trend over the year to the March quarter. They also said growth in both household disposable income and wages had remained low.

Australians know that the economy is weakening, because they feel it. They live it every day. They are worried. They are worried about their job security and worried about making ends meet and putting food on the table. They actually experience the reality that a steady, decent income sufficient to pay a mortgage and raise a family is increasingly hard to achieve. They know what every well-paid economist knows: we have a floundering economy that cannot withstand another six years of inaction by this Liberal government. Where is this economic management and strong economy that the member for Berowra speaks of?

I don't see it in the economic growth figures, which show that our economy is growing at its slowest rate since the GFC. I don't see it in the cost of living, which continues to rise above what families in this country can afford. I certainly don't see it in the wage stagnation that working families are experiencing around Australia across all industries. This government cannot manage the economy and can't be trusted to deliver the services that Australians rely on.

The youth unemployment rate in this country is 12 per cent—double the national average. Ask a 22-year-old who hasn't been able to find a job since leaving high school how the economy's going for him or her. Ask his or her parents who are in insecure work, who can't plan financially because they don't know what shifts they'll get next week, let alone whether they'll have work the next day, and who can't afford to pay their bills because wages haven't risen in years. Is this a strong economy? Is this the best that working Australians can ask for? Is this truly the economy that the Prime Minister and the coalition promised they would deliver during the election? These are not the indicators of a strong economy. This is blatant economic mismanagement by a government that is failing the Australian people.

The government flaunt their record on job creation. The unemployment rate in this country is 5.2 per cent. The RBA says that it should be around 4.5 per cent, and some studies show it should be even lower. What does this government say to that? Job done; well done; move on. Well, I disagree. Our economy can and should be employing more people. Our growth figures show quite plainly that consumption is a real issue in this country; that people cannot and are not spending their money outside of buying the bare essentials. To boost consumption and our economy, we should be employing more Australians. The RBA have said that if we continue to reduce unemployment and underemployment we will likely see an increase in wages and an increase in household incomes. Reducing unemployment should be a key target for this government.

When this government boasts about the unemployment rate, what it is saying to young people in rural and regional Australia, where youth unemployment rate sit around the 15-20 per cent mark, is that the government has no role in job creation for them. Again, I couldn't disagree more. We are experiencing skills shortages in Australia and are forecast to continue to experience skill shortages into the future. This is in part due to Australia's high youth unemployment rate, leaving them unable to gain experience or receive training as part of work. As our population continues to age and skilled workers retire, the inability to receive training early in one's working life continues to impact on the individual. This results in constrained incomes for the remainder of their working life as well as impacting on the economy in the form of skills shortages. We must recognise that we need to invest in employing more Australians, particularly young people. I believe they deserve to be able to find employment, to be able to work in a decent, fairly-paid job and to gain the experience and dignity that work brings.

We need change. We can't continue to accept unemployment figures as they are. The RBA has been clear about that. We need a government that takes decisive action and that makes decent policy to address unemployment to get Australians into decent jobs. I urge the government to take a good, hard look at themselves and to act with decency. You may be fooling yourselves into believing the economy is strong but you certainly aren't fooling the Australian public.