Second Reading - Excise Tariff Amendment Cost of Living Support bill 2022

 

Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (19:28): I rise to speak to the Excise Tariff Amendment (Cost of Living Support) Bill 2022 and of course it forms part of the federal government's budget delivered yesterday by Mr Frydenberg. The budget does something very important for all Australians. It acknowledges the challenges that households are facing right now as our market adapts to many of the challenges that have put inflationary pressures on prices; the concerns emerging from Europe and the Ukraine; and the impact on fuel prices. The impact on the cost of transport and its impact on groceries and household bills is something that we acknowledge in this budget, something that we empathise with and something that we understand. So, there is action to reduce the cost of living now, whether one looks to the cost of fuel which, by halving the fuel excise for the next six months, means a household with two cars that fill up once a week will find themselves around $700 better off during that period. Whether it's about the cost-of-living tax offset—$420 that means more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners in this country will find themselves better able to cope with those increased costs of living. We'll have pensioners, carers, veterans, jobseekers and eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders better equipped to handle the price fluctuations we have seen due to that international change. We're also taking important steps to make sure that more Australians can afford the cost of a home. We know and we understand just how important that ambition of Australians to be able to save for and get into a home of their very own is, including ensuring that that's not something that's out of reach for people who are single parents. We're more than doubling the home guarantee scheme to 50,000 places per year, knowing that the enthusiasm for this program in its early years has been through the roof. Helping more Australians get into their own home, get out of the cycle of renting and own their own little piece of Australia is a big part of how we are showing that we understand the pressures that are on people to manage those cost-of-living pressures every day. But we're not just dealing with the here and now. We also have in this budget a long-term plan that is about building the kind of strength in this economy that delivers job and wage growth for the long term, and that is something every Australian benefits from. With $2.8 billion invested to increase the take-up and completion rates of apprentices, we will see more skilled people in the workforce. There will be 800,000 people supported into training places as a part of this budget. With support for small businesses to get supersized tax deductions for every dollar they're prepared to spend investing in the skill sets and training of their employees—investing in the software, the technical and electronic infrastructure needed to improve productivity, to improve cybersecurity and to improve efficiency of their business—they can get benefits of up to $100,000 a year per business if they are prepared to double down on their investment in the jobs of their team, in the growth and in the contribution that they make to our economy. We're investing hard in local manufacturing. Of course, we've made enormous progress in developing the kind of specialised and high-skill manufacturing in Australia that remains an area in which we can be very competitive despite the comparatively high labour costs that we have in Australia. It is going from strength to strength. With support for greater commercialisation of the research that is being done in enormous quantities, particularly in partnership between our universities, the CSIRO and industry, we are driving the commercialisation and the manufacture of new technologies, whether those are in energy, medical supplies, defence or other high-priority areas for this country. Importantly, agriculture and energy are core to this manufacturing strategy. It's all about making sure there is a steady stream of high-value intellectual property developed here in Australia so that income from new patents developed here can be taxed at almost half the rate that ordinarily applies. That means this country will become a really attractive destination for people to set up shop, do their research and development and forge a manufacturing enterprise. Our regions are a big part of the story of the coalition government's vision for the future growth of our economy. Investment in our regions is how we ensure that we give great opportunities to people who live outside our cities, who we know ordinarily have fewer opportunities from which to choose. It is how we harness the enormous gift that we have in the size and richness of the mineral and land wealth of this country. And it is how we ensure that people, no matter where they live in this great country, can have not only the same aspiration to have a great job and afford a home they can be proud of but also the expectation of high-quality services. By building the wealth of this nation, by harnessing both the human talents and the natural talents of our regions, we can make sure that there is opportunity for all in this country from the strength of our economy. All of this makes possible something that is really important, and that's our safety net. We're able to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on because of the strength of our vision for our nation's economy for the long term. Of course, we have guaranteed Medicare. We have funded our health system at increasing levels every year under our government so that now health spending is at a record high. In last year's budget there was a landmark $2.3 billion investment in the mental health of Australians and in suicide prevention, and in this budget we have built on that commitment further. We heard today in the debate on the Women's Budget Statement just how much the prosperity, the safety, the health and wellbeing, and the leadership of Australian women is vital to this economic story. That is something the women of this country, who now face almost the lowest gender pay gap ever and the highest workforce participation they have ever seen, are benefiting from now. And the families of this country will continue to benefit, with more support for child care and more flexibility in paid parental leave than we have seen in the past. I could keep going but I think the point is clear: we are able to guarantee the essential services that Australians depend on because we have a strong plan for our economy to deliver opportunity for all. What that means is fewer Australians who need our support in welfare. Those very same people not just are getting the dignity of a job, not just getting the pride, the skills and the camaraderie that comes from having work to go to every day; they also become contributors to this country in the sense of making contributions to the tax system. They are net givers rather than takers. That is what we need to make sure we can guarantee the essential services on which Australians rely for the very, very long term. Finally, this budget makes it possible for us to make a record investment in the security of this country. As we face a less certain world, as we observe geopolitical tensions in Europe and elsewhere, it is more important than ever that we invest in the good men and women of our defence forces, that we grow our capability to protect our shores, and that we prepare our cybersecurity, in both the governmental and defence senses but also to assist industries to cope with changing dynamics on that front. Our cybersecurity investment in this budget puts us on a robust footing in this new frontier for international conflict. So it's in that context that I look with great optimism to what is ahead for Australia. These bills play such an important part in realising that vision, delivered so well by Treasurer Frydenberg yesterday. We look forward to not just sharing it with the Australian people in the days and weeks ahead but delivering it—delivering it today, tomorrow, next week, next month and for the years and decades ahead.