- Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver a major speech today that will attempt to frame this year’s election as a choice on the economy.
- He will pledge to create 1.25 million new jobs over five years and eliminate net debt by 2030.
- Morrison will also point out that only half of Australia’s voting population has seen a recession during their working lives.
Scott Morrison will pledge the creation of 1.25 million new jobs over the next five years and the eradication of net debt within a decade, a move that would require paying down more than $350 billion over the 10 years.
In his first major economic speech for the year, the Prime Minister will issue a veiled warning of the risk of recession under Labor as he seeks to distil the May election into a single choice – that between a strong economy and a weak economy.
“At the next election, you’ll be deciding more than the government,” he will say in the speech to be delivered in Brisbane at the start of a week-long sweep through Queensland.
“You will be deciding the economy you and your families – your children and grandchildren – will live in for the next decade. And the consequences will be real.”
Senior minister Christopher Pyne was more blunt on Monday.
“It means a recession in Australia,” he said of the prospect of a Shorten government.
Mr Morrison’s speech also aims to put behind the government the rough start it has already had to the year, marked by an unprovoked attack on Malcolm Turnbull by failed leadership aspirant Peter Dutton, and the late decisions by three ministers – Kelly O’Dwyer, Michael Keenan and NiMgel Scullion – to quit at the next election. These events have caused frustration among Liberals who believe the party needs to stop the internal focus if it is to have any chance of winning the election, due in May.
When Tony Abbott led the Coalition to power in 2013 he promised to create 1 million jobs over five years, a target that was reached in the final months of Mr Turnbull’s leadership. Mr Morrison will renew that pledge on Tuesday, saying the ultimate proof of a strong economy is jobs and that his government was delivering the same high-employment economy as that under the Howard government.
“Labor said we would fail, but we nailed it – 1.1 million jobs within five years and we are now past 1.2 million jobs,” he will say.
“Today, I am making a new jobs pledge for our government, to see 1.25 million jobs created over the next five years.”
Mr Morrison will also set a “goal” of eradicating debt, saying that with “continued good management, our debt can be eliminated within the decade”.
The mid-year budget update released in December forecast net debt to fall from the current level of 18.2 per cent of gross domestic product, or $351.9 billion, to 1.5 per cent of GDP, or about $35 billion, in 2028-29. To eradicate it altogether by then would require paying down the full $351.9 billion, which is an extra $35 billion on top of the trajectory forecast in the budget update.
Labor’s fiscal strategy involves offering income tax cuts to low-and-middle income earners only and raising $280 billion in revenue through tax increases such as curbing negative gearing and abolishing cash payments for excess franking credits. It argues that the extra revenue, which will be in addition to the budget position it inherits, would enable a Labor government to fund its promises as well as pay down debt and deficit faster than the Coalition, providing a bigger buffer in the event of a global downturn.
Mr Morrison will argue in his speech that the government has managed to fix the budget without hiking taxes and it would be dangerous to hand the economy to Labor. He will seek to remind people of the last recession under the Hawke/Keating government in the early 1990s.
“At this next election, only half of those of voting age will have experienced a recession during their working lives,” he will say.
“So it is important to remind all of us that our economy cannot be taken for granted.
“That the economy is real, it’s impacts are real and most importantly it’s all about people.”
Mr Morrison, who was treasurer under Mr Turnbull’s leadership, will reiterate the promise to return the budget to surplus next financial year and will take a swing at those who badgered him to return the budget to surplus sooner.
“Over five years, we have repaired Australia’s fiscal position. We did this without slowing the economy or harming jobs growth,” he will say.
“The purists wanted us to go faster and Labor wanted more debt – we got the balance right.
“We tackled waste and made sure that taxpayers got better value for money.”
Mr Morrison’s decision to make the speech in Queensland and then spend another week in the state confirms the election will be won or lost north of the Tweed where there are a clutch of marginal seats, most of which are held by the Liberal-National Party.
Already this year, Mr Shorten has made a 10-day bus trip through the state and Mr Morrison has spent a few days there.
This week, his focus will be in the state’s south-east and he will unveil a range of “congestion-busting” infrastructure promises.
Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said the government was desperate given it was going to ape a number of Labor promises, including funding for improved Park and Ride facilities at train stations.
“While Mr Morrison’s politics of imitation are welcome, if he was truly serious about reducing traffic congestion and improving public transport services across south-east Queensland, he should also match federal Labor’s commitment to partner with the Queensland government to deliver Cross River Rail,” he said.
“This important project, which will provide a second rail crossing of the Brisbane River in the City’s CBD, will be a game-changer, increasing the capacity of the rail network right across south-east Queensland.
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