Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:15): I must say, as I have listened to the other side in this debate, they are some of the least optimistic people you are likely to run across. Talk about the glass being half empty—they are down to the last few drops! They seem to believe that equality in Australia will be when everybody is on a raised Newstart levy. It is not so long ago that their side of politics was attacking retirees and wanting to take away their retirement savings. They were intent on taking away their franked dividends and bringing them down to a level where they did have to go on the pension. That was their aim. That was their determination.
What we on this side of the chamber are about is making Australia is a stronger, wealthier place, and I am proud to be part of a government that not only has Australia back on track; it has Australia back in the black. That’s because you can’t pay for extended welfare unless you can make some money, unless you are operating in the black. When Australia does well, everyone does better.
Engineering equality is a little bit like investing in the environment. If you look around the world, the only countries that can afford to seriously invest in protecting their environment are those that are wealthy. It is the same with caring for people. When it comes to a welfare system, when it comes to an aged-care system and when it comes to an education system, you can only invest in it if you are paying your bills and have the economy ticking along.
The strong economy in Australia is delivering a record expenditure on health. The strong economy in Australia is delivering a record expenditure on education. The strong economy in Australia is delivering a fully funded NDIS. Do those opposite know what ‘fully funded’ means? We had a half-funded NDIS under them. Now, with a strong economy, we have a fully funded NDIS. We have a mental health system that we are increasing assistance to on an almost weekly basis. I am very pleased to say that in my own electorate we have had three new headspace units either delivered or under construction in the last three years. We now have four headspace units across the length and breadth of Grey, and I am committed to making sure we get one at Port Pirie in the near future.
We have drought assistance. Drought is undoubtedly a handbrake on our economy, but we are handling it. We’ve managed to put over $3 billion in direct assistance, thus far, into supporting those people affected by drought, including communities, not just farmers—the tradesmen and the other people that work within these communities—through the community drought scheme, with a total commitment thus far of $7 billion, because we on this side of politics know that a job is the best form of welfare.
Youth unemployment across Australia is down a full point since we came into government. That is a good move. It needs to go further. In the last three years there has been an increase in the jobs in Australia every month—1.4 million extra people have a job in Australia since this government came to power.
The Prime Minister said it today in question time: a strong economy is absolutely essential to everything. The social security and welfare payments in Australia this year are $180 billion. We as a country cannot afford to do that on borrowings. We need to do it on our good management. Good management entails making sure we support small businesses and business across the board. That’s why we gave them a tax cut—so they can employ more people. It’s a double benefit, too. A job is a great outcome. Not only does it reduce the taxpayers’ outlay and improve the outlook of the person involved but in the end that person will be a taxpayer. This is a very virtuous cycle that the government has embarked on.
The Productivity Commission report said that income tax and government transfers have reduced overall income inequality in Australia by 30 per cent. That is actually a pretty good outcome. What I say to those people who have the glass-half-empty attitude on that side of the chamber is have a look around the world. See where you would prefer to have your children living and see where you would prefer to have your parents living. (Time expired)