Address to the SA Division Liberal Party Budget Lunch
Well thank you very much Christopher, you are very, very generous. I want to thank you and we had a great outing this morning down at Osborne with Marise Payne, the Defence Minister and I’ll say a bit more about this commitment to Naval shipbuilding and the release of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan but this is truly a national enterprise. This is securing our future, our future security in a physical sense, giving the Navy the capabilities it needs, but also building that sovereign industrial capacity that Australia needs and South Australia needs. So it was great to be there this morning with you Christopher and you’ve done phenomenal work in bringing this defence industry plan to fruition.
I want to acknowledge Simon Birmingham, the Education minister who has been doing an outstanding job and I’ll say a little more about that Birmo in a moment. Anne Ruston, Senator Ruston’s been looking after agriculture in South Australia and around the country as Assistant Minister. Tony Pasin, doing a great job as Member for Barker and we were in Mount Gambier last night. We had a full dance card, starting off with school captains and ending up as is traditional, with politics in the pub, and that was very well received. It was wonderful to be there Tony; it was great to be there with someone who is such a part of the community. I felt that, at one point I said put hands up whose not related to Tony Pasin and there were at least a dozen people who were prepared to put their hands up but I think everyone felt they were part of the Pasin family last night. And of course Nicolle Flint, the Member for Boothby, we were there at the RSL there at Colonel Light Gardens today, meeting with veterans, with Dan Tehan, the Minister for Veterans Affairs. We’ve got a very big veterans program in our budget. And again I’ll say a little bit more about that, but again it was wonderful there and Nicolle the way you spoke about your connections, your family’s connections to the community, to the little school just around the corner, where your grandmother taught and your great grandfather, he came back from the war and settled there in a war service home. Again I really felt I was with family there in Colonel Light Gardens with you today. And of course we also have many of our state colleagues, but above all the only temporarily Leader of the Opposition and soon to be Premier, Steven Marshall, wonderful to be here with you Steven.
I want to acknowledge Steve Murray, the President of the South Australian division of the Liberal Party and Sascha Meldrum the State Director.
Now dear friends with this Budget we are making the right choices for the better times ahead - we are doing so fairly and responsibly, providing more opportunities for Australians to get ahead and realise their dreams.
That is the beating heart of this budget - fairness, opportunity and security for the nation.
The budget is the latest step in our plan to create more jobs, secure the vital services that Australians rely on and ease the cost of living - all the while, while living within our means.
Now this budget builds on the very significant investments we are already making in South Australia - all designed to grow the local economy and generate new jobs, sustainable jobs.
And there is no clearer example than our commitment to South Australia’s defence industry. And as I said a moment ago this morning, with Marise Payne and Christopher Pyne, South Australia has no more passionate advocate than Christopher Pyne, let’s face it he is an ardent advocate for this state, and an ardent advocate for Australia’s future as an advanced manufacturing nation and there we were with Marise and we launched our Naval Shipbuilding plan.
Now this $89 billion shipbuilding programme is the largest single investment by the Commonwealth in our history.
It’s at the centre of our plan to build a more capable, agile and potent Australian Defence Force. It plays the key role in developing our advanced manufacturing and innovation sectors.
Next year we will begin building the first of our Offshore Patrol Vessels right here in Adelaide, before constructing the nine Future Frigates and the 12 Future Submarines.
Today we announced a $1 billion investment to build the substantial infrastructure and upgrade the facilities at the Osborne Shipyard, down there are Techport - creating 500 jobs starting this year - and this work will mean we are ready for this ambitious project that will create and sustain thousands of jobs for generations.
Now this investment means that workers who have been employed in the auto industry here who have been doing it tough will have new opportunities to reskill and retrain. It means that South Australian science or engineering students will have the opportunity to find a great job here in Adelaide when they graduate.
The future is not somewhere else. It is right here in South Australia, and this is the key to securing our nation’s future, indeed South Australia’s future: innovative, technologically advanced, proudly Australian. And where better to do that, than here in South Australia.
It underlines our commitment to keeping Australia safe in challenging times. And we’re going to do it while making sure, wherever possible, that every dollar is spent in Australia, every bit of technology, and knowledge and expertise is created here, for the benefit of Australia. Our defence industry plan is about security, national security and economic security. It is avowedly patriotic and nationalistic, it is focused on our national interest and we are determined to ensure that as we secure our safety in the years to come with the right capabilities for the ADF we also make sure that as much of that industry, as much of that work, as much of that expertise is to be found here in Australia because we know that beyond the expenditure and investment in defence capabilities there are enormous spin offs into the rest of the economy, into the rest of the industry and of course while the Shipbuilding Program is focused here in South Australia, this is a national supply chain exercise. This is a proudly Australia national enterprise that we are embarking on.
Now my government is also taking a very different approach to infrastructure.
Historically the Commonwealth has been a relatively passive provider of grants to state governments - an ATM in fact.
We need to make our infrastructure spending go a lot further, we need to leverage private sector contributions and operate as you’d expect the government I lead will operate, more as an active and an intelligent investor, taking direct equity stakes in projects wherever we can, rather than simply as a dispenser of cash.
So along with our transformational defence industry plan and our Naval Shipbuilding Plan here, the budget provides more than $3 billion on infrastructure projects for this state, with almost $1 billion on works over this coming year.
It includes key projects along the North-South Corridor, easing congestion, improving road safety at Oakland Crossing and investing in the Flinders rail link.
And we have provided $40 million in supplementary road funding to local councils.
Now there is one topic that has come up invariably when I talk to South Australians in recent times and that is energy. South Australians understand perhaps better than anyone else in Australia how important it is to invest in critical infrastructure in the energy sector. The state Labor Government has utterly failed the people of this state. Because of their ideological pursuit of large renewable targets they have ignored the storage, backup and integration of technologies the system’s security requires. It has been almost an absence of mind, a mindless pursuit of a large renewable resource in wind, great, great opportunities there I’m not criticising any particular mode of generating electricity, but imagine getting to the point where the state has virtually no baseload power, and where you have a wind resource, a renewable variable source of energy which can from any moment provide a 100 per cent of your electricity or none. Your security being nothing more than a long extension cord to the Latrobe Valley.
Now you all know in this room what the result has been: blackouts, chaos in the energy sector and the highest and least reliable, highest cost and least reliable electricity in Australia.
Now that is not our approach. Our decisions on energy are guided by engineering and by economics, not ideology and politics.
Now our offer to take on more or all of the ownership of Snowy Hydro will ensure Snowy Hydro expands its vital role in the National Electricity Market, by boosting its capacity by 50 per cent and by providing the most substantial increase in energy storage in our history and hence more security for South Australians. It’s the only way to make renewables reliable, is to provide that storage.
We’re investing in pumped hydro locally as well. Energy Australia have signed with our Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, to examine a pumped hydro project at Cultana in the Upper Spencer Gulf.
Again designed to deliver the backup, the reliability that renewables need.
And our $110 million equity funding to build concentrated solar thermal plant with storage in Port Augusta will also support reliable and affordable supply of energy.
Now since the election we have delivered more than $25 billion of gross savings. However, it is clear as you know, that many of the other savings we have pursued, reductions in spending simply cannot pass the Senate. They couldn’t pass the Senate in the last Parliament and we can’t get them through the Senate in this Parliament.
We have to work with the parliament the Australian people elected.
The new big bank levy will raise $1.5 billion a year, it represents a fair and affordable additional contribution from the major banks – which are among the most profitable in the world - towards budget repair.
It reflects the benefit the large banks receive from a well regulated and stable financial system and it has many counterparts in comparable developed economies, including the UK, Germany and France.
Now it gives us no joy to raise additional revenue. We prefer to reduce taxes. But we cannot afford to throw a burden of debt and deficit onto the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.
The fundamental responsibility my Government has - and any responsible national government has - is to bring the budget back into balance over the cycle, so that we can stop this mountain of debt, this mountain of deficit and debt, that will in due course result in future generations either paying much higher taxes or having much less services. Or in all likelihood both.
The banks will make all sorts of claims, but let me be very clear: given the scale of their profitability and the scale of the bank levy, there is absolutely no reason for them to pass on that levy to their customers.
At the same time our comprehensive banking package will deliver reform that enshrines fairness in the financial sector.
We’re creating a one-stop shop where consumers and small businesses can resolve their disputes with their banks and other financial institutions.
And we’re introducing a new Banking Executive Accountability regime to make sure that senior bank executives’ remuneration reinforces their obligation to act in the interests of customers.
So our opponents talk about banks and making sure that banks do the right thing by their customers – we’re not inquiring, we’re acting. We’re delivering on those vital reforms to ensure that Australians are well served by the big financial institutions in whom they place so much trust.
Now, there should also be no doubt that this is the budget that secures the future of Medicare. It should quarantine it from politics once and for all. Medicare has been the subject of political games for too long - all of us remember Labor’s notorious scare campaign from last year.
After the election I told Australians that they could trust the Coalition to secure our world class health system and that's exactly what we are doing. So the budget includes record funding for Medicare – the backbone of our health system. And we will establish the Medicare Guarantee Fund, ensuring complete transparency and security of funding into the future. The Medicare Guarantee Fund will safeguard Medicare for the benefit of all Australians, now and forever.
And we are lifting, progressively, the Medicare rebate freeze, first imposed, I should remind you, by the Labor Party
This will increase the rebate for patients and it will safeguard bulk-billing. I should note, the figures out just this week, show that bulk billing has risen further and is now at 85 per cent. Bulk billing in South Australia also remains at record levels.
At the same time, we’re spending $1.2 billion making life-changing medicines cheaper, putting them on the PBS including drugs that target conditions like heart disease, severe asthma and cystic fibrosis. We have listed 1400 new drugs on the PBS. Labor in their time listed 331. They had to ration listing of these life-saving drugs because they lost control of the budget. When drugs are recommended for listing, we list them.
And we’re managing the budget to be able to pay for them.
We are also funding the latest in advanced medical research technology with $68 million towards Australia’s first Proton Beam therapy facility at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute here in Adelaide.
I’d like to acknowledge the advocacy of the South Australian Members and Senators in that regard for making the case.
I’m particularly proud too that this budget includes substantial measures to support our veterans.
As I often say, as Dan Tehan and I and Nicolle Flint were saying today at the Colonel Light Gardens, we best honour the veterans, the diggers of 100 years ago, in these centenary years of the Great War, by supporting the men and women of the ADF, the veterans and their families today.
Our budget contains an extra $173 million to treat mental illness, with $58 million earmarked for veterans.
It ensures that anyone who has served full time in the ADF can access free mental health treatment.
Importantly also, our budget delivers certainty on two vital national responsibilities where Labor completely failed Australians.
The first is the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It was established under the Labor Government but with strong bipartisan support from the Coalition. However, it was never fully funded. The Disability Insurance Scheme faces a $55 billion shortfall in future years. If nothing is done, the system will fail the people who need it the most.
We must not forget the 32,000 South Australians who will be supported by the disability insurance scheme when it's fully rolled out.
So rather than saying to parents with a disabled child in a few years time: “I’m sorry, the cupboard is bare. We don’t have the funds to support the NDIS anymore,” what we’re saying is we’re looking all Australians in the eye and saying: “We all benefit from this National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are all covered, so we should all pay for it.” I’m pleased to see that our commitment to do that in 2019, has been so well received.
Another area where the Labor Party let down Australians dramatically and shamefully was with school education. Labor failed to deliver on David Gonski’s vision for school education. They talked about Gonski but they completely failed to deliver what David Gonski had recommended. They left us with a set of 27 secret deals, conflicting, with anomalous outcomes, lacking in transparency, lacking in equity, totally betraying the commitment that David Gonski, the recommendation that David Gonski made. Indeed, his partner in that report all those years ago, Ken Boston, described what Shorten and Gillard had done, as being a corruption of the Gonski report. So strongly felt, was their rejection of what Labor had done with it.
So, to sort this out, came Simon Birmingham, one of your greatest exports to Canberra, who is ending the funding wars and putting Australian children back at the top of the class.
At the heart of our policy is fairness and equity, needs-based funding. Transparent, consistent national needs-based funding. The extra $18.6 billion we’re committing over the next decade will enable our schools to deliver a world class education. For the first time, we will deliver the true needs-based funding that Gonski recommended six years ago. You can’t argue with that. School funding should be distributed according to need. This is a fair system for all Australian children, one that increases funding for more than 99 per cent of schools.
In South Australia, more than 262,000 students in 718 schools have been waiting for a better deal. And we will deliver it. Over the next decade Commonwealth funding in South Australia will increase substantially, including at the school Mr Shorten was visiting today, by $3 million over the next decade.
As a father, grandfather, and the father of a school teacher, education is very close to my heart.
My life was changed by great teachers and I want all Australians to have great teachers.
So our Quality Schools program is about that consistent needs-based, transparent funding.
And with Gonski 2.0, a new review headed by David Gonski, we will establish how best to spend this additional funding to ensure better results.
These reforms will give our children the very best shot at life.
The ingenuity, the enterprise of South Australians is demonstrated clearly in the small and medium businesses that are the heartbeat of your economy.
We’re backing them, and the 6.7 million Australians they employ nationally.
We are extending the instant asset write-off for another year for businesses with turnover of less than $10 million. In South Australia alone, more than 180,000 businesses will be able to invest in the capital they need to grow.
Our new Skills Training Fund will make sure Australian workers have the right trades and skills for the future. Skilled migrants will continue to make an important contribution to our economy by filling the gaps that Australians cannot.
We have already, as you know, reduced taxes for more than three million small and medium businesses with turnovers up to $50 million, enabling them to invest more, employ more and pay higher wages.
And we will go back to the Senate to seek support for the rest of our tax plan. I recently met President Donald Trump, in New York. He’s planning to bring down company tax in the United States to 15 per cent. Britain’s is heading to 17. The new President of France plans to cut his country’s corporate taxes to 25 per cent.
We cannot be competitive if our company tax rate remains at 30 per cent.
Are we seriously going to say, as Labor would have it, that people will want to invest in Australian businesses if they have to pay twice as much tax as they would in the United States or in Europe? The reality is we need a competitive tax rate because that encourages more investment and more employment. So it is Australian workers who are the greatest beneficiaries of our tax plan and that’s why we are determined to implement it in full.
But while we believe in lower taxes, paying them is not optional. Because of our tough new anti-avoidance laws – which I should note Labor voted against - multinationals are now paying their fair share of tax in Australia.
Our Government is applying the careful planning and responsible economic management Australia needs to this year’s budget.
It is a fair budget. It is a responsible budget. It is a budget for every Australian.
When presented with the choice between a budget that defends our AAA rating and one that puts budget repair in the too hard basket, we made the responsible choice.
Liberals above all, are committed to responsible economic management.
Continued senate opposition has meant that revenue is doing more of the heavy lifting than we would have liked.
But we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be, or as we fondly imagine it should be.
Even then, in these challenging circumstances, spending as a share of GDP continues to fall, reaching 25 per cent of GDP by 2019-20, only slightly above its historical average. We will keep real growth in spending at an average of 1.9 per cent over the next four years, a far cry from the 3.5 per cent we inherited from Labor.
And we are bringing the budget back into surplus, $7.4 billion projected in 2020-21.
This is a building budget: it is building a better Australia, with record investments in road and rail, improved schools funding, guaranteed Medicare and a fully funded disability insurance scheme.
The economy will grow as businesses invest and Australians see the infrastructure that they need, is being built.
There’ll be more jobs, and they’ll be better paid.
These are the right choices, these are the fair choices, to secure better times with greater security and more opportunity, for all Australians.
Thank you very much.