Leader Of Opposition’s Budget Address In Reply

Liberal Party of Australia

Tonight, I want to outline part of my vision for Australia.

To get our country Back on Track.

To keep our nation safe and secure.

To make life easier and better for all Australians.

Because this Labor Government has made life so much tougher for Australians.

Because this Labor Government has set our country on a dangerous course.

Almost two years ago, Prime Minister Albanese was elected promising a reduction of $275 each year in your power prices, cheaper mortgages, and that you would be better off under a Labor Government.

All those promises have been broken.

And this Government has been focused on the wrong priorities.

It started with the Prime Minister’s Voice referendum.

Not only did it waste $450 million which could have helped with the cost-of-living pressures you’re now facing – the referendum also divided the nation.

And let’s not forget that the Prime Minister called ‘No’ voters ‘Chicken Littles’ and ‘doomsayers’.

Today, millions of Australians are struggling to pay their bills.

Even going to the supermarket and petrol station has become stressful for so many.

Prime Minister – Australians are genuinely hurting under your Government – they’re not ‘Chicken Littles’.

Electricity bills haven’t gone down by $275 as was pledged on 97 occasions – they’ve skyrocketed.

The Treasurer will give you a $300 rebate, but he knows full well that your annual electricity bills have increased by up to $1,000 since Labor formed government.

Interest rates have gone up 12 times under Labor.

A typical Australian household with a mortgage is $35,000 worse off.

And that’s if you’re lucky enough to own a home.

Under this Prime Minister, the great Australian dream of home ownership has turned into a nightmare.

Even finding somewhere to rent is near impossible.

The Government has brought in an additional 923,000 migrants in just two years.

But on the available data, it has only built 265,000 homes.

Then there’s Labor’s tax on the family car and ute.

You’re having to fork out thousands-of-dollars more simply for choosing some of Australia’s most popular vehicles – like a Toyota Rav4 or Ford Ranger – all because the Government is trying to force you to buy an electric vehicle.

All of this has happened in just two years.

Paul Keating famously said, ‘When Governments change, the country changes.’

Prime Minister Albanese and his Government have changed our country.

But as so many Australians can attest to, not for the better.

You, your family, your children, and our country can’t afford another three years of this Government.

I know how to make the decisions to get our country Back on Track.

Tonight, I will remind Australians of the Coalition’s economic plan to lower your cost-of-living and restore confidence to our economy.

I will also outline several policies which Australians can expect from a Coalition Government under my leadership.

Policies to get power bills down and to shore-up our nation’s future energy security.

Policies to help alleviate our housing crisis and revive the dream of home ownership.

Policies to improve workforce participation and health services.

And policies to make our communities, our society, and our country better and safer.

But first, I will respond to the Treasurer’s Budget.

RESPONSE TO THE BUDGET

As I’ve said previously, we’re an Opposition which supports good policy and stands against bad policy.

Since Labor formed government, we’ve backed more than 180 Bills which have passed parliament.

But we’ve opposed some Bills where Labor and the Greens have collaborated to pass legislation which is not in our country’s best interest.

Just as we endorsed some sensible measures in Labor’s first two Budgets, we do the same for its third Budget.

In particular, the $3.4 billion for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

And the extension of emergency payments to support women and children fleeing domestic violence which the Coalition established in 2021.

In my 22 years in parliament, I’ve seen good and bad Budgets.

But the Budget handed down on Tuesday is one of the most irresponsible I’ve seen.

Inflation is a huge problem for Australia.

On comparative inflation, Australia is worse than the US, Singapore, Germany, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, South Korea, Canada, France, and the entire Euro area.

The reason interest rates have gone up 12 times is because the Government can’t control its spending – and because of its reckless energy policy.

In three Labor Budgets, the Government has lifted spending by a staggering $315 billion – or $30,000 per Australian household.

The Reserve Bank Governor has sounded the alarm on inflation being home-grown.

In the last 48 hours, every credible economist has issued scathing assessments of this Budget because Labor has us in an inflationary hole and is still digging.

Make no mistake, any further increase to interest rates and inflation also now rests squarely on the shoulders of this Prime Minister and Treasurer.

Magic pudding spending and $13.7 billion on corporate welfare for billionaires doesn’t help the economy, or make your life easier.

Let’s also be clear about Labor’s $300 energy rebate which will cost the economy $3.5 billion.

We will support this relief because we know Australians are hurting.

But the Government is treating the symptom, not the disease.

Labor’s ‘renewables only’ energy policy is the reason your power bills continue to skyrocket.

Here’s some facts which show the troubling state of our economy:

More than 16,000 businesses around the country have gone insolvent since the 1st of July 2022.

Productivity has plunged by 5.4 per cent on this Government’s watch.

Household buying power has gone down by 7.5 per cent.

Last year, Australians suffered the biggest increase in average tax rates of any citizens in the developed world.

There’s been double-digit increases for your essentials like electricity, gas, milk, bread and rent.

Tragically, so many more Australians are living in cars and tents.

And because of spending in this Budget, the economic outlook is one of deficits as far as the eye can see.

THE COALITION’S ECONOMIC PLAN

To alleviate cost-of-living pressures, we need to get inflation down.

To get our economy Back on Track, we need a back-to-basics economic plan.

That’s what a Coalition Government will deliver.

First, we will rein-in inflationary spending to take the pressure off inflation.

As a start, we will not spend $13.7 billion on corporate welfare for green hydrogen and critical minerals.

These projects should stand up on their own without the need for taxpayer’s money.

Second, we will wind-back Labor’s intervention and remove regulatory roadblocks which are suffocating the economy and stopping businesses from getting ahead.

For example, we will not force large firms to spend more than a billion dollars a year policing the emissions of every small business they deal with – as Labor is trying to do.

We will condense approval processes and cut back on Labor’s red tape which is killing mining, jobs, and entrepreneurialism.

Only yesterday, Santos indicated it will have to let go 200 employees because of slow project approvals.

I want mining to boom in Western Australia and around the nation.

More mining means more revenue.

More revenue means more roads, schools and hospitals.

A turbocharged Western Australian economy means more national prosperity.

We don’t need to give out billions-of-dollars of taxpayer’s money to get mining projects started.

Third, we will remove the complexity and hostility of Labor’s industrial relations agenda which is putting unreasonable burdens on businesses.

For example, we will revert to the former Coalition Government’s simple definition of a casual worker and create certainty for our 2.5 million small businesses.

Fourth, we will provide lower, simpler and fairer taxes for all – because Australians should keep more of what they earn.

You will hear our tax plan detail ahead of the election.

Fifth, we will deliver competition policy which gives consumers and smaller businesses a fair go – not lobbyists and big corporations.

And sixth, we will ensure Australians have more affordable and reliable energy.

Our economic plan – with its tried and tested principles – will restore competitiveness and rebuild economic confidence.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities.

I’ve run a small business, as have many of my colleagues – unlike most Labor parliamentarians.

The Coalition understands small business.

Tonight, I announce that we will extend the value of assets eligible for the instant asset write-off to $30,000 and make this ongoing for small businesses.

This will simplify depreciation for millions of small businesses by cutting red tape, boosting investment in productive assets, lowering business costs and prices.

ENERGY

A respected senior journalist recently wrote, ‘Energy is not part of the economy. It is the economy.’

The Government’s ‘renewables only’ policy continues to drive-up power prices.

Electricity and gas prices have gone up by 18 and 25 per cent respectively.

You can see this rise in your household power bills.

But the energy bills of farmers, businesses and manufacturers have also skyrocketed.

And that means the cost to make anything – from food to furniture – has also gone up.

That’s why you’re paying more at the supermarket and shops.

If energy is not affordable or reliable, more manufacturers will shut-up-shop or move offshore.

That’s why there’s been a three-fold increase in the number of manufacturers who have closed their doors over the last two years.

For all the Government’s talk about a ‘Future Made in Australia’, their current approach has no chance if energy isn’t cheap and consistent compared to other countries.

Renewables have a role to play in our energy system.

But we can’t rely on weather-dependent energy alone.

We need power 24/7 – especially for our hospitals, factories and freezers that need to operate around the clock.

Concerningly, the Government’s ‘renewables only’ policy will see 90 per cent of that 24/7 power switched off over the next ten years.

How are things progressing for the Government’s plan for 5 gigawatts of renewables per year?

Well, just last year, only 1.3 gigawatts were committed – almost 75 per cent off target.

Re-wiring our country will cost at least $1.3 trillion.

Who will bear that cost?

You will. Farmers will. Manufacturers will. Businesses will.

If you think you’re paying high prices for power today, they will only get much higher under a ‘renewables only’ roll-out.

Our nation has three energy goals:

Cheaper power. Consistent power. Cleaner power.

We won’t achieve these goals under Labor’s ‘renewables only’ policy.

But we can achieve all three.

By following the other top 20 economies in the world which use zero-emission nuclear power, or are taking steps to put it in their mix.

And by ramping-up domestic gas production for affordable and reliable energy in the more immediate term.

After two years of interventions into the gas market, skyrocketing prices, and repeated warnings of shortfalls, Labor’s new gas strategy is just words on paper.

There’s little chance of Labor bringing new gas supply into the system because it’s ideologically opposed to gas.

And because it wants to win Green votes over in inner city seats.

Unlike Labor, a Coalition Government will:

speed up approvals;

unlock gas in key basins, like the Beetaloo basin;

defund the Environmental Defenders Office which is halting vital projects through lawfare;

ensure gas is delivered to where it’s needed by reinstating the National Gas Infrastructure Plan; and

commit to an annual release of offshore acreage for exploration and development in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

On nuclear power, some 50 countries are exploring or investing in zero emission, next-generation technologies for the very first time.

We hold the largest deposits of uranium on the planet.

Do the Prime Minister and Minister Bowen have it right, and the rest of the developed world have it wrong?

The Government have ordered nuclear-powered submarines.

I simply pose this question:

Why is the technology which is safe for our submariners unsafe for our citizens?

Because of nuclear power, residents in Ontario, Canada pay up to a quarter of the cost of what some Australians pay for electricity.

With nuclear power, we can maximise the highest yield of energy per square metre and minimise environmental damage.

We do that by putting new nuclear technologies on- or near- the brownfield sites of decommissioned or retiring coal-fired power plants using the existing grid.

There’s no need for all of the proposed 58 million solar panels, almost 3,500 wind farms, and 28,000 kilometres of new transmission poles and wires.

Bob Hawke was a strong leader who strongly supported nuclear power.

As does John Howard, along with the Australian Workers Union, and many others who have a vision for our country – including some 65 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 34-years-old.

Making Australia a nuclear-powered nation is right for our country and will secure a future of cheaper, consistent and cleaner electricity.

We need the right policy – for you and for our nation.

HOUSING

Beyond Labor’s energy crisis, we’re also facing a housing crisis.

The great Australian aspiration of home ownership has become out of reach for so many.

It’s wonderful that parents who have the financial means can help their kids into a home.

But I will never accept a situation where the only people who can afford to buy a home are people with rich parents.

The Coalition has already recommitted to allowing Australians to access up to $50,000 of their super to buy their first home.

And extended this policy to separated women to help restart their lives.

The money initially withdrawn from super will need to be returned when the house is sold to support retirement.

But we need to do more.

For almost 20 years, I’ve chaired my local Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal.

Two weeks ago at our annual fundraising breakfast, I heard a heartbreaking account of a man in his 70s having to live in his car.

Such a soul-destroying experience is sadly not an uncommon story.

Australians are struggling to find homes to rent and buy – and not always due to a lack of money.

Amidst this housing crisis, Labor is bringing in 1.67 million migrants over five years – more than the population of Adelaide.

We celebrate the contributions of migrants over many decades who have helped build the achievement of modern Australia.

But by getting the migration policy settings right, the Coalition can free up more houses for Australians.

The Prime Minister has promised to build 1.2 million homes by 2029.

But on the Government’s current trajectory, they will fall short by 400,000 or 33 per cent.

The Prime Minister is making the housing crisis worse.

Australians need homes now.

We’re at an 11-year low of building approvals and to help Australians now we need to prioritise Australians for existing homes.

The other impact Australians are feeling from the Albanese Government’s poor management of the migration program is from congestion on our roads and pressure on existing services which are stretched, like seeing a GP.

Tonight, I announce several measures a Coalition Government will implement to meet our housing crisis head-on by alleviating pressure on the housing market.

We believe that by rebalancing the migration program and taking decisive action on the housing crisis, the Coalition would free up almost 40,000 additional homes in the first year.

And well over 100,000 homes in the next five years.

First, we will implement a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents purchasing existing homes in Australia.

Second, we will reduce the permanent migration program by 25 per cent – from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years in recognition of the urgency of this crisis.

The program will then increase to 150,000 in year three and 160,000 in year four.

We will ensure there are enough skilled and temporary skilled visas for those with building and construction skills to support our local tradies to build the homes we need.

Similarly, we will return the refugee and humanitarian program planning level to 13,750 – closer to the long-term average.

The humanitarian program will remain one of the most generous in the world on a per capita basis.

Third, we will reduce excessive numbers of foreign students studying at metropolitan universities to relieve stress on rental markets in our major cities.

We will work with universities to set a cap on foreign students.

And we will enhance the integrity of the student visa program by introducing a tiered approach to increasing the student visa application fee and applying it to foreign students who change providers.

The usual CEOs and big businesses may not like this approach.

But my priority is restoring the dream of home ownership.

WORKFORCE

While reducing migration numbers to ease pressure on housing, a Coalition Government will encourage thousands of people to engage more in the labour market.

We recommit to increasing the amount older Australians and veterans can work without reducing pension payments.

We will double the existing work bonus from $300 per fortnight to $600.

It’s estimated this will benefit over 80,000 pensioners and veterans who choose to work.

We will look to further expand the work bonus arrangements beyond this commitment in consultation with older Australians and veterans and in consideration of labour market conditions.

Pensioners will continue to accrue unused pension work bonus amounts up to a maximum of $11,800 which can exempt future earnings from the pension income test.

We will also lift the number of hours those on student visas can work by 12 hours a fortnight.

HEALTH

Amidst our cost-of-living crisis, people’s health and well-being are suffering.

That’s why we committed to restoring the number of Medicare-subsidised psychological sessions from 10 to 20 – and on a permanent basis.

As a Health Minister, I increased hospital funding year-on-year.

I also established the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund which, to this day, provides billions-of-dollars to medical research projects.

Indeed, when I became Health Minister in 2013, we inherited a bulk billing rate of 73 per cent and increased it to 84 per cent.

When we left government, bulk billing was 88.5 per cent.

What Labor tried to hide in its Budget is that bulk billing has decreased to 77 per cent – an 11 per cent drop.

The health of all Australians – particularly given our ageing society – is always a priority for the Coalition.

Last year, I committed to an investment in best-practice for women’s health issues, including endometriosis.

Tonight, I welcome the Government’s commitment of $50 million in this budget for longer consultations for endometriosis and pelvic pain.

The Coalition will continue to support measures for women’s health, particularly in primary care.

More needs to be done to support women’s health, including for menopause and peri-menopause.

We will continue to develop and support good policy to this end.

Concerningly, Australia is facing a looming shortage of GPs – some 11,000 by 2031.

We need more GPs – especially in our suburbs and regional areas.

Junior doctors who enter general practice earn about three-quarters of the salary of their counterparts in hospitals.

Working with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Australian Medical Association, a Coalition Government will invest $400 million to provide junior doctors who train in general practice with incentive payments, assistance with leave entitlements, and support for pre-vocational training.

We also want better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Led by Senators Liddle and Nampijinpa Price, we will provide practical solutions to improve education, health and safety outcomes for indigenous women and children – especially in our most disadvantaged remote communities.

LAW AND ORDER

In recent times, our nation has been rocked by many shocking and tragic events.

The stabbings at Bondi where six people were murdered.

Knife attacks on a bishop in Western Sydney and a man in Perth by radicalised youth – incidents reinforcing the enduring threat of extreme Islamism.

Twenty-eight women killed in violent circumstances this year alone.

More than 150 hardcore criminals – including murderers and sex offenders – released from immigration detention into the community by this Government, with some having re-offended.

And since Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attack on Israel, a 700 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents on our soil.

Australians are unsettled by crime on our streets, ruptures to our social cohesion, and threats to our national security.

A Coalition Government will provide much needed leadership in tackling knife crime.

We will work with states and territories to develop uniform knife laws across all jurisdictions.

Laws which give police the powers to stop and search using detector wands – like Queensland’s ‘Jack’s Law’.

And laws which limit and restrict the sale and possession of knives to minors and dangerous individuals.

As a former police officer, the horrific scenes of beaten women and distraught children I encountered stay with me to this day.

As do the memories of taking women who were shaking with fear to shelters and safe homes – and helping them relocate with their children to safety.

It’s why I’ve dedicated much of my career to protecting women and children.

It’s why, as Home Affairs Minister, I established the $70 million Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and recommit to doubling its size.

Recently Molly Ticehurst, a 28-year-old mother from New South Wales was murdered because her violent ex-partner was on bail.

Our bail laws need to be tightened.

And under a Coalition Government I lead, they will be tightened.

Offences relating to partner and family violence generally fall under state and territory legislation.

But there is also a role for the Commonwealth.

A Coalition Government will make it an offence to use mobile phone and computer networks to cause an intimate partner or family member to fear for their personal safety, to track them using spyware, or engage in coercive behaviours.

We will toughen the bail laws that apply to these new Commonwealth offences.

I’ve been a Minister for Immigration and Home Affairs.

They’re demanding but rewarding jobs.

I granted thousands of visas to sick children, parents with medical conditions, victims of sexual assault, and refugees who have become wonderful Australians.

The public rarely hears about that side of the job.

But in these roles, you must also make tough decisions.

I cancelled more than 6,300 visas of dangerous non-citizen criminals – with a priority on those committing sexual offences against women and children – driven by my desire to stop these people harming Australians.

If a minister doesn’t have the backbone to do that, they’re letting our country and citizens down.

I made our country and citizens safer.

As Prime Minister, I will do it again.

It will take a Coalition Government – once again – to stop the people smugglers and to deport criminals.

It will also take a Coalition Government to turn the tide of anti-Semitism afflicting our country.

Anti-Semitism is not just a threat to one segment of our community.

It’s a threat to our social cohesion and democratic values.

Some of the most strident anti-Semitic standard-bearers have come from our university campuses.

We will also provide the moral and political leadership which makes it abundantly clear that we expect the law to be enforced readily – not reluctantly – against those inciting hatred and violence.

TACKLING ONLINE CRIME

Tackling crime in our communities also means doing the same online.

There’s been an uptick in young Australians committing, filming and uploading their crimes to social media.

A Coalition Government will make it an offence to post criminal acts online.

Those convicted will be banned from using digital platforms and liable for up to two years’ imprisonment.

As a father of three children who all grew up in the digital age, I’m troubled by the material our children are exposed to.

That’s why I announced in my Budget Reply last year that a Coalition Government will ban gambling advertising during the broadcast of sporting games.

However, I’m more worried by the criminal dark underbelly of the internet.

At the fingertips of our children is a concerning volume of sexually explicit and violent material, as well as content designed to indoctrinate.

We welcome the Government’s belated decision to back our policy for an age verification trial.

But unlike Labor, a Coalition Government will include social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok in such a trial.

DEFENCE

Authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are emboldened, expanding their militaries, conducting cyber-attacks, and engaging in foreign interference.

The Prime Minister and his Deputy rightly say we’re living in the most precarious period since the Second World War – a view echoed by our intelligence agencies and allies.

Strenuous efforts are needed to maintain peace and deter acts of aggression – like those recently aimed at our navy and air force.

The 1930s taught us that appeasement and weakness of leadership do not end well.

In this critical period of risk, I will offer strong leadership backed by significant investment in defence.

Labor’s priorities are wrong.

The Government has announced an additional 36,000 public servants in this Budget costing Australian taxpayers $24 billion over four years.

The Coalition sees areas like Defence as much more of a priority than office staff in Canberra given the precarious times in which we live and threats in our region.

We will reprioritise Canberra-centric funding and make an additional investment in Defence to rapidly enhance the capability of our men and women in uniform.

We’re working with leaders in defence industry to identify projects and investments that can be made in Australia to keep us safe in an uncertain world.

CONCLUSION

I say to every Australian tonight, my vision is to get our country Back on Track.

To make your life easier.

To make us safe and secure again.

The job of the Prime Minister is to be strong, not weak.

To be fair and firm.

To be compassionate and definite.

To unite, not divide – especially through referendums.

As each day passes, this Government increasingly shows how disconnected it is from the views, values and vision of everyday Australians.

Labor has forgotten the main principle of governing:

It isn’t the people who serve the will of the government – it’s the government who serves the will of the people.

I came to this parliament having served my community as a police officer and as a successful small business owner employing 40 people.

I’ve had the honour of serving Australians on the front bench since 2004, in many portfolios, and under four prime ministers.

My team and I have the experience to get our country Back on Track and to support everyday Australians.

We live in the greatest country in the world.

But at the moment, Australia is being held back.

Australians are being left behind by this weak Labor Government with the wrong priorities.

Our country deserves so much more.

Ask yourself:

Are you better off today than you were two years ago?

Do you feel safer or more secure than you did two years ago?

‘When Governments change, the country changes.’

Australians can’t afford another three years of Labor.

At the next election, it will be time for a change.

A better change for you, your family and our country.

[ENDS]

/Public Release. View in full here.