I think it's really interesting that this matter of public importance starts with, 'Putting local workers first'. It's interesting because it's obvious. It is core to who we are as a coalition government that we put Australians, their jobs, their work, their freedom and their prosperity first every day of the week. It's a principal role of a government to endeavour always to do what is in the best interests of Australians. That means doing all we can to support Australians to have jobs.
On our side of politics, we believe deeply that the best solution—the very best for any individual—is work. Not welfare—work. There are some in this place who think the solution is to have a big government, promise the earth, give plenty, require little and, in the process, stifle the economic growth that's needed to be able to provide jobs. A constant welfare drip doesn't grow the economy. It doesn't give support to those people in our community who are looking for a job, who are desperately wanting a chance to get ahead, who are proud people wanting to get along without the need for government handouts.
Tax reform and reducing the burden of tax on businesses is key to providing businesses with the capacity to create jobs. When we do that, we are putting local workers first. But, of course, those opposite have been happy to get in the way of efforts to reduce the tax burden on business. They've been happy to hamper the government in its effort to make it as easy as possible for business to grow and to include more and more Australians in that wealth. We've made individual income tax cuts because we know they make a difference to individuals and give them more reward in their pockets for the effort they put into work.
Another initiative that is fundamental to growing jobs in this country is the negotiation of free trade agreements. Australian manufacturers and producers are well respected around the world for their competitive pricing and the product quality they produce. Removing barriers to trade improves our trading position and leads to more jobs for local workers. In the past year, exports have increased by four per cent, while, importantly, rural exports have increased by 19 per cent. Our landmark agreements with China, Japan, South Korea and, recently, Peru will generate more export opportunities for Australian agriculture, mining, manufacturing and service industries.
This MPI talks about 457 visas, but the 457 visa program has been cancelled. It ended on 18 March 2018, and it's worth noting that under Labor there were 40,000 457 visas. That's how many were in place at the time that the coalition came to government, and it has taken a coalition government to act to put Australians first in this field. The new temporary skills shortage visa scheme was implemented in March 2018, and it is yet again a case of the coalition cleaning up Labor's mess. In doing so, we have torn up the expansive list of 651 occupations that had opened up Australia's labour market and permanent residence programs to a broad range of options. Instead, we are now focused on what matters, and that is putting Australians and their job opportunities first, putting Australian businesses and their needs first, and always testing the entitlement to go for a visa against this important question: could we get an Australian to do this job? That's what we do every day of the week, because you can always count on the coalition to put the needs of Australian workers first.