I’m not quite sure that it’s a pleasure to rise to speak on this debate, but I will speak nonetheless, and I thank the proposer of this matter of public importance, Senator Gallagher, for bringing it on. We have another day of debate around demonising those who wish to try and do well and creating a little bit of the politics of envy around what’s happening in this country, while at the same time just blaming the government for all of it. That sounds great in a short speech in a debate that seven people across Australia are listening to, but we really have to get out into reality and check the facts on these things.
The disappointing thing, though, after listening to Senator Ketter’s contribution and the contributions to the similar debates we’ve had this week and last week, is that nowhere in there is there anything about nurturing aspiration, encouraging growth and trying to get people to try to do things for themselves. It’s all about trying to flatten out society and to create a base—almost a socialist approach to policy—which, I have to say, is very disappointing. These token ideas that are put forward are not going to do what the opposition claim they will. There is this idea of addressing what they’re calling inequality in this nation. What about dealing with things like cost-of-living pressures? What about the equal opportunity to get a job? Instead, if you take the policies of the opposition, they prefer to stifle businesses from investing and stifle them when it comes to growth and employing more Australians to actually contribute to the economy—preventing Australians from trying to put away for their future, invest, save and create a better environment for their own kids as they get older.
I point to policies in terms of job creation and helping young people get jobs, which is important in regional communities particularly—I think Senator Polley would agree—like the Youth Jobs PaTH Program, which is targeted at helping young people get jobs. It is this novel idea of trying to get people who want to work to work. I think we should be providing that opportunity for everyone. That’s what programs like this are targeted at. They are real programs which will deliver real results and hopefully create employment opportunities for young people.
No-one in this chamber or anywhere across the country denies that there aren’t people who are doing it tough. That’s not what this is about. Everyone has to acknowledge that there are people who are doing it tough, but to conflate the issue of people doing it tough with the notion that people shouldn’t be doing any better is not the right way to go about it. To suggest that people will only improve their standard of living if we bring down the top end and tax them more heavily is absolutely the wrong approach, in my view.
The Turnbull government has done a lot when it comes to assisting those in need and providing essential services through things like the NDIS and increased education funding, providing those essential services which will help people—students and those with a disability—to contribute to society. The budget that we brought down earlier this year does that. You have to look at the Tasmanian government as well. After the last three years, under the leadership of Premier Will Hodgman, the state’s now heading in the right direction, with job growth of 10,000 new jobs since the 2014 state election. That’s good news for our state—and I think again that Senator Polley would agree.
Senator Polley: No, I disagree, because they’re not in regional Tasmania.
Senator Duniam: I’ll take that interjection. Senator Polley thinks that 10,000 jobs, in terms of growth, is not good news, which is disappointing to hear.
But we should be here as a government to assist those who wish to work hard, who wish to contribute to the economy and who wish to see Australia become a better place. Sometimes that requires incentivising growth—people taking risks and people wanting to do better for themselves. I don’t think we should demonise wealth. I don’t think we should demonise people who wish to do a little better for themselves. This is something that I’ve referred to before. There’s no talk from the opposition or indeed from the crossbench—or at least some of the crossbench—when it comes to nurturing aspiration. I’ve not heard one opposition senator talk about the need to encourage young people to want to do better for themselves, to start a business, to invest, to build a home, to employ others and to make sure that when their kids come into the world they’re going to have a better life and should be encouraged to do the same.
I recently had the good fortune to travel with my wife to visit some relatives in the United States. One thing I noticed was the difference in culture and attitude towards enterprise. The people there want to take a risk and invest their money. The people there desire a better standard of living—a better home and a better car. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You don’t see there the envy that gets thrown around the place in Australia, where people say it is bad that a person drives an expensive car or lives in a big house, that they shouldn’t have it because that person over there doesn’t have it. I don’t think that’s the right attitude. Instead, I believe we should be encouraging people to aspire to that themselves. In this country we have every opportunity to do that, and we should be encouraging people to do that. I don’t believe wealth creation should be something people are ashamed of, and it’s not something we should be preventing people from doing—in particular, young people.
I would reiterate that things are going well in terms of opportunities for people to secure employment and save for the future. There were 240,000 jobs created in the last financial year, the largest increase in employment since before the GFC a decade ago. That is great news. So people are going to have the opportunity to get a job, pay their bills and put money away for the future. If you listen to Senator Ketter, and to some of the contributions in similar debates in previous days, it’s all about taxing the top end and clamping down on negative gearing. I’m not sure how many senators and members in this place have multiple investment properties. I don’t think that’s a bad thing if they do. If over the course of their working lives they have managed to acquire property, to invest, to put something away for their retirement, well done to them. But it sends the wrong message when they come in here and say it’s bad that properties are negatively geared and we have to clamp down on those people who do that.
The Productivity Commission found in 2015 that 40 per cent of families paid no net tax—once transfer payments such as family tax benefit are taken into account. Contrast that with the top 10 per cent of income earners, who pay almost 50 per cent of the personal income tax received by the Australian government. The top one per cent of individuals pay a staggering 17 per cent of all tax received and the top 0.3 per cent of individuals pay 58 per cent of the capital gains tax. They’re paying a decent amount of government revenue. To me, it looks like they’re doing a fair share of the heavy lifting when it comes to paying tax.
But Australians know that increasing taxes does not increase wages; as we have said many times over, it stifles growth. So I would call on my colleagues on the other side to alter their thinking on this. Don’t adopt the socialist and, to a degree, communist way and try to prevent people from growing their personal wealth. Look to foster growth and ‘nurture aspiration’. I look forward to Senator Polley’s contribution on this, to see how many times she talks about ‘nurturing aspiration’ in the state of Tasmania, where young people want to make a go of things and have a better future.