Prime Minister - Press Conference, Parliament House, Canberra

 

E&OE…

PRIME MINISTER:

Our economy is successfully transitioning from the mining construction boom to a new and more diverse one – fuelled by innovation, the opening of new markets, and more investment in Australian enterprise.

My Government’s Economic Plan is supporting this transition, to drive economic growth, and create new higher paying jobs in the future:

From our innovation and science agenda – to bring more great Australian ideas to market, to provide tax incentives to invest in start-ups so they can survive and thrive; and to help prepare our children for the jobs of the future by boosting participation in science, engineering, computers and maths.

To our defence industry plan – to secure the nation in the 21st century, to support and create innovative Australian companies – small, medium and large – to back local advanced manufacturing and hi-tech jobs, particularly in regional Australia.

From free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea – to give our farmers a competitive edge through the removal of tariffs; and to open doors into expanding markets for our services, including tourism, education, architects, engineers, financial services and aged care providers.

To the landmark reform of Australia’s competition law – to help small to medium companies compete with larger established ones, and to ensure they’re not shut out of markets unfairly by the big players.

From taking media reform out of the too hard basket – by announcing long-needed changes to ownership laws, in ways that will help secure regional newsrooms and save local media jobs in country towns right across Australia.

To last Friday’s historic reform of electoral laws for the Senate – to ensure that voters get to decide who they want to send to Canberra, and stop backroom deals from undermining our democracy.

And of course the upcoming Budget will include more elements in our Economic Plan, ensuring Australia’s tax system is backing jobs, growth and investment in Australian enterprise.

My Government is directing every lever of policy to secure our nation’s prosperity and economic security for the 21st century.

The time has come for the Senate to recognise its responsibilities and help advance our economic plans – rather than standing in the way.

The construction industry is vital to the transition to the new economy.

The additional costs of construction in this country due to the frequency of industrial disputes and standover tactics by militant unions are a serious handbrake on economic growth.

When the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) was in force, productivity in the sector grew by 20 per cent. Since it was abolished productivity has flatlined. The days lost to industrial disputes have increased by 34 per cent.

Two thirds of all industrial disputes in Australia – at the highest since 2010 – are in the construction sector.

Unlawful conduct on building sites around Australia is holding back our economy – costing investment, productivity and new jobs in a sector that employs more than one million Australians and should employ more.

Australians will not be able to afford the infrastructure of the 21st century unless the rule of law returns to the construction industry.

Labor, the Greens and some crossbench have been under enormous pressure to oppose the re-establishment of the Commission not least because the construction unions are big supporters of their political machines

From 2007, the CFMEU alone has donated over $7 million to the ALP and are, as you know, a very substantial donor to the Greens as well.

The restoration of the ABCC is a critical economic reform. It will mean more investment, more infrastructure, more construction, more jobs in construction, more and more affordable housing.

It is time for Mr Shorten and Labor to behave responsibly in the economic interests of Australia.

His only contribution to the construction industry has been relentlessly to defend or ignore the lawlessness that is costing us jobs and growth, that is making housing and infrastructure more expensive.

And, of course, we must not forget that Labor will not allow Australians to negative gear any asset – that’s offsetting investment losses against their wage or salary – except a new dwelling.

The indisputable facts are these:

  • Residential housing represents the single biggest asset class in Australia.
  • Labor’s proposed ban of negative gearing on existing dwellings will cause up to one third of those investors to withdraw from the market in the future.
  • When one in every three buyers vacates the field, demand falls, and so will prices.

So who loses:

  • Home owners whose house values will drop
  • Tenants who will pay higher rents
  • Every day hardworking Australians who will now be actively discouraged from investing to get ahead.

And at the very time we need more investment to create jobs and growth, Mr Shorten wants to increase capital gains tax on investments by 50 per cent.

He is also blocking the road to good economic policy – his ties to the CFMEU led to him abolishing the ABCC when in office; and, now, he is using the Senate to block legislation to reinstate the ABCC and help improve the competitiveness of the construction sector.

The time for playing games is over.

The Senate has already once rejected the Bill to re-establish the construction industry watchdog. It has twice rejected the Registered Organisations Bill.

Today, I called upon His Excellency the Governor General to advise him to recall both Houses of Parliament on April 18 to consider and pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bills and the Registered Organisations Bill and he has made a proclamation to that effect.

I make no apology for interrupting Senators’ seven week break to bring them back to deal with this legislation.

This is an opportunity for the Senate to do its job of legislating rather than filibustering – the go-slows and obstruction by Labor and the Greens on this key legislation must end.

The Senate will have an additional three sitting weeks to deal with the ABCC and Registered Organisations legislation – plenty of time to pass these important laws.

If the Senate fails to pass these laws, I will advise the Governor General to dissolve both Houses of Parliament and issue writs for an election.

Because such a double dissolution must be done on or before the 11th of May, the Government will be bringing the Budget forward to Tuesday May 3 so that Mr Shorten will be able to deliver his reply on the Thursday in the usual way.

The ABCC Bills were reintroduced in the first week of Parliament this year – the reason they have not yet been voted on in the Senate this year was the decision of Labor, the Greens and the crossbench to send the bills to a committee for yet another review.

This was the fifth review the bills have undergone – the committee came to the same conclusion it had on the last time it considered the bills. Nothing new was raised or considered. It was just a delaying tactic.

In four weeks’ time Labor, the Greens and the crossbench senators will be given a further opportunity to make the right decision for Australia.

The re-establishment of the construction industry watchdog will ensure the construction sector can perform competitively and effectively as a key contributor to Australia’s future economic growth.

If the Senate passes this important legislation – the ABCC Bills and the Registered Organisation Bill – there will be no double dissolution.

We are getting on with the business of Government – now it is the time for the Senate to do its job and pass these important economic reforms.