At this significant juncture in the economic future of our state, I do not have the opportunity to stand in Parliament and speak on behalf of the Sandringham District Community. Such are the times, and such are the necessary precautions. Yet I make this contribution to the Parliamentary record precisely because the measures the Government proposes to take will significantly affect every member of the Sandringham District, be they alive today or yet to be born, for years to come.
This is not hyperbole. This is a stark fact. $24.5 billion dollars in additional spending, the figure which the Treasurer proposes to borrow, will leave Victorians with the kind of intergenerational debt that our state’s children and students – the leaders of today and not just of tomorrow – will be burdened with well into their adult lives.
I owe it to the many hundreds of residents, small businesses, parents, and pensioners who have made contact with my office in desperate need of help, to support this bill.
But I equally owe it to these and all Victorians to place on the record my preparedness and commitment to ensuring that every cent of the $24.5 billion is used to support Victorians through the recovery stage of this pandemic.
It should not be used to prop-up Labor’s massive cost over-runs on major projects. Labor must transparently report where, when, and how much has been spent to support all Victorians.
The best position from which to tackle a disaster such as this is from a position of strength. Sadly, Victoria has not been so fortunate.
The Government is lying both to itself and to Victorians if it continues to project blame for the parlous situation of the budget on the bushfires which ripped the heart out of so many regional Victorian communities earlier this year. It is an insult to those who perished, and to those who struggle to this very day, to suggest that the alleviation of their loss and suffering is the reason that the Victorian budget was in a weak position at the outset of our State’s response to this pandemic.
In December 2019, Victoria’s deficit stood at $1.1 billion dollars. A few short months ago, our total debt amounted to $22.4 billion dollars. By the middle of 2021, that debt will, as a result of actions taken today, be as great as $73.8 billion dollars.
It is said that we start as we mean to go on, and in this respect, the tone was set long ago. Borrowing 25 billion dollars on the eve of the State Election, this Labor Government showed Victorians exactly how it intended to go on – borrowing big money, to cover big blowouts, on big projects the net benefits of which may not be seen for some time, if ever.
I note that Victoria only announced its major economic response on the 21st of March – being beaten to the punch by NSW and QLD, whose Parliaments sat weeks ago.
If future generations of Victorians look back and wonder why the Victorian Government did too little, and did it too late, let them be in no doubt; Labor Governments never plan for a crisis.
What the Government ought to have been doing all along was creating the structural, supply-side change that is needed in order to allow small businesses – which make up 60% of all economic activity in this Country – to thrive.
In my maiden speech, I called out Payroll Tax for being exactly what it is: a tax on employment. That a Government would punish businesses for employing and empowering more people to forge their own way in life is self-defeating and counterintuitive in the extreme.
If there was ever a time to remove this senseless tax on jobs, it is now. New South Wales has set a fine example in this regard. The state initially allocated $450 million to waive payroll tax for the next three months, or until the end of the financial year.
Not stopping there, New South Wales went further. The Government has permitted the deferral of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls over $10 million for 6 months.
In short, that’s an extra $4 billion released back into the economy for the purpose of allowing businesses to retain and employ more workers.
An additional 3-month deferral for businesses with payrolls of $10 million or less has also been initiated by NSW. These businesses had already received a 3-month waiver on payroll tax in the first package.
In stark contrast, the Andrews Labor Government has extended payroll tax relief for payrolls only to the value of $3 million. It is permitting these businesses to defer their payroll tax liabilities for the first quarter of the 2020-21 financial year until January 2021.
Years of big spending have left the Andrews Labor Government unable to give businesses the break that they now need to get back on track.
This is the fallacy of Government (see Taxpayer) debt; borrowing money to stimulate economic activity creates debt that can only be serviced by taxing future economic activity at a significant rate. This vicious cycle frustrates growth, and quickly destroys any incentive for Victorian businesses to grow and employ more people – especially in times of great uncertainty.
The lettering in the Parliamentary vestibule’s mosaic instructs members of and visitors to this place that “Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” In times of crisis, when Governments restrict freedoms in the name of public health and wellbeing, scrutinising the proportionality and efficacy of its measures assumes an even greater importance.
In the other place, the Government emphatically thwarted an attempt to set up a cross-party committee that would transparently, objectively, and routinely meet to constructively scrutinise the Government’s ongoing actions; including the effect and administration of this supply bill.
The Andrews Labor Government’s great concession was to add an additional member of the cross-bench to PAEC; a committee where a Labor chair will continue to have the casting vote in any decision taken by that body.
The Government requests cross-party support for this bill in good faith, and it is given. Daniel Andrews and his gang of eight – the crisis Cabinet that has the authority to exert more control over Victorians than any Cabinet before it – then fails to show that same good faith by blocking an attempt to establish some kind of cross-party committee for accountability in the other place.
We have seen, on the international stage, the catastrophic consequences that come from Governments being dishonest with, and attempting to hide things from, their own citizens and the world at large. The Andrews Labor Government, then, would do well to heed the lessons that might be taken from the experiences of its international partners.
Victoria needs a jobs-led, business-led recovery out of this crisis. Afterall, it’s not governments that create jobs – rather, it is the private sector that will be at the forefront of our economic recovery.
The Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has rightly noted that such extraordinary spending is generally something that the Liberal party would see as anathema: Let me be clear, I have no issue with the government borrowing money in this extraordinary time – if that’s what the circumstance demands. But this should only be done with appropriate accountability.