Address to National Press Club - Wednesday 22 May 2024

Thursday, 23 May 2024




Well thank you Laura. It’s great to be back here, at the Press Club. As you said, I’ve been here many times since the election and before the election indeed and always happy to come along.  

Can I also acknowledge though, the many colleagues I have here today. Jane Hume, Michaelia Cash, Perin Davey, Dean Smith, Paul Fletcher, Sarah Henderson, James Paterson, Simon Kennedy, all of whom have been very closely involved in the development of the work that I’ll outline today and the positions the Coalition has taken, both on the Budget and in our Budget in Reply.  

Recently, I visited a netball competition in the western growth areas of Sydney—a yearly highlight in my electorate.  

This year, however, the sidelines were quieter, the crowds thinner.  

When I asked why, the answer was simple but heart-wrenching: many families can no longer afford organised sport for their children.  

This is not just anecdotal.  

It's a trend we've seen nationally, where absolute necessities now take precedence over what were once considered normal activities.  

Persistent inflation and high interest rates are just numbers on the page until you see the impact.  

As prices and interest rates soar, the hard-earned money in people's pay packets buys less and less.  

Families struggle over having to cut back on simple pleasures like eating out, buying meat, heating their homes or paying for participation in their kid’s sport.  

Parents swallow their pride and make sacrifices, haunted by the fear of failing to provide for their loved ones.  

They work extra hours and dig deeper into savings – savings which are the foundation of their future aspirations.  

At a time of uncertainty with a softening job market, families agonise over how to make ends meet if the worst should happen 

A whole generation of Australians haven’t experienced this, until now.  

Aspirations like home ownership, higher education, or a comfortable retirement slip away.   

The cycle is self-fulfilling.  

Each piece of economic news, and false promises from politicians erode hope, leaving people feeling trapped in a cycle of despair. 

But the strain doesn't stop with families.  

50% of small business loans are secured against the family home 

Small businesses, the backbone of our communities, are buckling under the weight of repeated interest rate hikes—12 in just two years under Labor. 

This is the reality of life under Labor as Australians have become poorer. 

Despite being promised cheaper mortgages, cheaper power bills, and a lower cost of living before the election, Australians have seen nothing of the sort.  

Instead, they face a reality where both hope and certainty are in short supply.  


Alongside raging inflation, Australia is in an entrenched GDP per person recession.  

Our standard of living has fallen by more than 7% since the last election, a collapse unprecedented in other advanced economies.   

Real wages for working households have collapsed almost 9%. 

Our consumer confidence remains entrenched at recessionary lows.  

McKinsey has labelled Australia as being in a productivity recession.   

The number of unemployed people, and the number of people on the Jobseeker caseload are increasing.    

Most alarmingly, youth unemployment has increased.   

And we have seen over 16,000 businesses enter insolvency since June 22.   

The Economist has declared that Australia has the most entrenched inflation in the advanced world.   

Inflation remains stubborn because our policy settings are not right.  

Domestic inflation is running at more than five times imported inflation and the RBA governor has said Australia’s inflation is homegrown. 


Given this context of persistent inflation and a household recession the Coalition called for a budget that :  

Restored our standard of living and tames inflation by taking pressure off the prices of essentials and delivering affordable energy for families and business.  

Restored a pathway prosperity and creates opportunity for all Australians so small businesses are rewarded for their effort, and young Australians have the chance to own a home.  

Restored budget discipline and honesty, including re-introducing the Coalition’s fiscal rules which had been in place since the 1990s 

On any assessment – this budget cannot be said to have met these tests.  

We have now seen three Labor budgets.  

Three chances to make the right decisions, to focus on the right priorities.  

Labor’s only answer has been for a big spending, big government and big Australia approach. 

And economists - from KPMG, to Deloitte, HSBC, Barrenjoey - to private and public sector economists like Richard Holden, Steven Hamilton, Warren Hogan, and Judith Sloan – are unanimous Labor’s approach is making this situation worse, not better.   

The result is homegrown inflation that has made Australians poorer.  


While Budget delivered just over a week ago failed to substantively address these issues, there are some budget measures that we can support. 

In addition to the measures announced by Peter Dutton on Thursday night, including initiatives focused on dealing with domestic violence, I can confirm that we will support initiatives that we judge will make our country more prosperous and more productive.  

These include:  

The establishment of a financial services regulatory grid. 

The proposed one-stop-shop for investors.  

Streamlined foreign investment board approvals. 

The development of a regulatory regime for digital assets. 

For some time we have been calling for these policies but implementation will be critical.  

But when it comes to the broader measures – economists are clear that this budget is unambiguously expansionary.  

Labor has committed to an extra $315 billion of spending since the last election – or $30,000 per household.  

On policy decisions Labor is spending $4 for every $1 raised.  

Government spending as a percentage of GDP is forecast to be at its highest level since 1986-87, outside the pandemic.   

Nominal spending is growing at 16% over the next two financial years, double the rate of economic growth. We see the same with real growth. 

Labor says this is “unavoidable”, but included in this spending is much unnecessary waste, including: 

$450m on the failed referendum 

Billions in corporate welfare. 

Millions in grants to the union movement 

Funding of anti-resource project activists 

More than $85 million for spin units in the Treasurer’s department 

36,000 additional commonwealth public servants.  

$45 billion in off budget spending that we have opposed  

This kind of spending is only “unavoidable” to Labor.   

And despite inflation fuelled bracket creep and some of the strongest commodity prices in Australia’s history – Labor has wasted the windfall.   

Personal income taxes are 23% higher than when Labor came to office.  

The structural deficit is growing, leaving Australia vulnerable to future financial shocks.  

This is leading to growing debt, and making commodity driven surpluses look ephemeral.  

None of this is helping bring down inflation and interest rates.  

None of this is helping boost productivity and capacity for sustainable growth.  

This government’s position is clear: Their high inflation low growth economy fuelled only by record population growth is someone else’s fault. 

But that starting position is a cop out. 

Not only did the government promise a cure, it now blames whoever it can.  

And that’s because it misdiagnoses the problems and won’t use the necessary tools in its toolkit to solve the problem. 


We need a better way. In order to get Australia back on track we need a back to basics economic agenda.  

An agenda that Peter and our team have been outlining over the last two years.  

My colleagues Jane Hume, Michaelia Cash, Ted O’Brien, and Sarah Henderson have outlined the principles that will guide our approach to deregulation, to industrial relations, to energy, and to education and other areas. And led by Peter, we have already announced policies that will:  

Make it easier to get a job, and run a business by supporting pensioners, veterans, and jobseekers to work more without losing their payments.  

Restore the dream of home ownership by letting first home buyers and older women access super to help with a deposit and by aligning migration and housing  

Make our community safe and secure with practical policies like banning sports betting advertisements during live sport, doubling the size of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and making it illegal to glorify criminal activity online.  

Ensure our lights stay on, our manufacturers stay open, and we bring down power bills by investing in the gas we need now and in the future 

Make it easier to see a doctor and access mental health and women’s health treatments by supporting training the next generation of GPs and committing funding for endometriosis and ovarian cancer.   

We will have more to say of course – but today I wanted to specifically focus on the Coalition’s approach to fiscal policy, productivity, and tax reform – along with Housing, Energy & Industry Policy.  


A Coalition government is putting productivity and per-person GDP growth at the centre of our economic strategy – because productivity is what allows higher wages without higher inflation. 

This allows both workers and businesses to flourish.  

We’ve already gone further than most oppositions – opposing more than $58.7 billion of Labor’s new spending.  

Labor has no fiscal guardrails. 

It has abandoned the rules that have supported every good budget since Peter Costello established the Charter of Budget Honesty, including; 

Putting a speed limit on taxing and spending through a tax to GDP cap, and containing spending growth to less than GDP growth 

Committing to reducing debt and delivering structural surpluses over the medium term. 

The Coalition will restore these rules.  

The word productivity is hard to find in this budget.   

Labor has all but given up on productivity reform, with its revised assumption of 1.2 per cent average growth looking heroic against the experience of the last two years.  

Productivity has been a challenge across the world for many years, but not like we have seen in Australia over the last two years.  

The 5.4% drop in Australian labour productivity since Labor came to power is unprecedented in our lifetimes and unmatched among major advanced economies. 

This collapse in productivity makes sustainable increases in real wages, which we all want to see, impossible. 

Labor’s workplace relations changes are making a bad situation worse at a time when workers want greater purchasing power in their pay packets and more flexible outcomes 

It has taken the definition of a casual employee from 5 paragraphs to 3 pages, with 15 to 25 steps just to employ someone as a casual.  

The Coalition will reverse this change. This is the start, not the end of what we need to do to get productivity moving.  

We know productivity reform is essential to address the fiscal challenges presented by an ageing population and falling service delivery.  

For instance, the Productivity Commission estimates use of digital technology can deliver savings of more than $5.7 billion a year to the health system, while providing better outcomes for consumers  


Getting productivity back on track is essential because the first step of tax reform is to restrain the growth in spending. 

The gap between receipts and payments of $43bn in just over a years time is not sustainable. 

Of course, Labor wants to support future spending growth with never ending backet creep.   

Australia already has high rates of income tax and one of the world’s highest company tax rates.   

A Coalition government is focused on tax reform that enhances incentives and boosts investment. 

Our guiding principles are that taxes should be lower, simpler, and fairer. 

Lower taxes – means we will strive to reduce the income tax burden on families and young Australians, which also requires that government lives within our means.    

Simpler taxes – goes not just to tax design, but the complexity of the overall system. How tax is collected, and how Australians interact with the ATO.  

Fairer taxes – means giving small business a fair go, and ensuring we make multinationals and large companies pay their fair share of tax.   

By contrast, to date Labor has shown a preference for redistribution rather than reform, and complexity over simplicity.  

Labor’s stage 3 changes not only broke a promise made over 100 times, they removed simplicity from our tax system. 

Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese are the first Treasurer and Prime Minister to add a tax bracket into the law since 1993 – and the first to lower the top income tax threshold since 1984. 

Labor’s super tax change implements an unprecedented example of taxing unrealised capital gains into our tax system 

But it adds complexity and inequity - unevenly, and unequally taxing people on the basis of their career, their fund, and their age.  

As a first priority, a Coalition tax policy prioritises delivering for families and small business, and driving sector neutral investment settings. 

Our commitment in this budget reply to make the Instant Asset Write Off permanent is a downpayment on this priority. 

This will simplify depreciation for 2.5 million small businesses, while giving them the certainty that they can plan investments on a longer term basis, than year to year. 

This builds on the Coalition’s calls for Labor to restore the measure to its pre-COVID levels.  

It is a major commitment, boosting cashflow in millions of small businesses rewarding them for making the investment they need to grow their businesses and grow the economy. 

In the coming months, we will also outline further tax reform priorities for government that we will pursue over the medium term.  


Australia is a proud migrant nation and we will remain so. 

But we also need to face the reality.  

Labor plans to bring in 1.67 million migrants over five years whilst falling 400,000 homes short of its housing targets. 

1.67 million is up from 1.6 at MYEFO, 1.5 at the last budget, 1.2 million from Labor’s first budget and 1.1 million when we left government.  

This a government that has lost control. 

In just the last two years, Labor has brought in 923,000 migrants. But on the available data, there are only 265,000 new homes.  

We simply do not have enough new homes.  

This is a mathematical reality. We cannot wish our way into more housing supply. 

The Coalition wants Australians to be able to afford to rent, and buy a home.  

We cannot consign people to sleeping in cars or couch surfing to get by.  

To support home ownership, we have recommitted to allowing Australians to access their super to secure a housing deposit, making it easier for young couples and families to get into a house, while ensuring the gains are preserved for retirement. 

But there is much to do to alleviate supply side pressures, and the government is failing to shift the dial.  

In response, the Coalition proposes to reduce demand by: 

Temporarily banning foreign investors and temporary residents from buying existing homes. 

Cutting permanent migration by 25% for two years followed by a gradual balancing with a greater emphasis on skilled visas to support construction. 

Reducing foreign student numbers in metropolitan universities to lessen rental market pressure and introduce a tiered student visa fee system. 

This will free up well over 100,000 additional dwellings over the next five years and would free up substantially more if Labor adopted these policies now. 

In parallel we will focus on enhancing productivity across the economy and in our construction industry.  

We have announced policies to support more people into the workforce.  

And we have announced that our changes to visa charges will support our regional universities and private colleges.   

The Coalition understands that housing supply is a whole of economy problem.  

Labor is not treating it as one.  

Labor’s billions of unnecessary spending includes initiatives like thousands of kilometres of unnecessary powerlines, putting pressure on demand for construction trades that will flow through to our housing market. 

At the same time, Labor is refusing to list construction trades on the skilled visa lists.  

Master Builders analysis shows that the first tranche of Labor’s IR laws will cost $15.9 billion in construction output and set Labor’s housing targets back by 15,400 homes.  

The total impact of the subsequent stages will be worse.  

Building Ministers have waived through some of the biggest changes to the National Construction Code in a decade, adding to red tape and compliance burden for projects.  

Labor’s only solution to housing is to throw around more money and more red tape. 

The Coalition will make the tough decisions to remove supply pressures, reduce costs, and improve productivity.  


The pressures on construction and other costs don’t just apply to the housing market. 

Our manufacturing and resources sectors are under cost pressure with recent losses included Qenos and the Kwinana alumina refinery.  

It is too expensive and too slow to build and operate things in Australia. 

The consequence is that Labor’s Made In Australia policy is throwing taxpayer’s money after Labor’s bad policies.  

The Coalition wants our resources and manufacturing industries to thrive. 

These are sectors I worked in throughout my career before politics, and I know that their future potential is even greater than past achievements.  

But getting back on track and back to basics means making Australia a great place to invest in resources and manufacturing again.  

Labor’s handouts mean little compared to the onslaught of red tape, taxes, and regulatory uncertainty Labor has imposed on these industries:  

Limiting access to capital through changes to the sophisticated investor test;  

Increasing costs through the Safeguard Mechanism; 

Forcing up compliance costs and uncertainty through bad workplace laws; 

Introducing ad-hoc and retrospective changes to tax rules and laws;  

Adding $2.3 billion a year in red tape for companies to update their emissions reports, including for customers 

Making gas market interventions that have made it impossible for manufacturers to renegotiate energy contracts;  

Funding environmental litigation and lawfare which is turning the flood of major project approvals to a trickle 

As the BCA, MCA and ACCI have pointed out – it is a death by a thousand cuts.  

Manufacturers I speak to need a better business environment today, not in the future.  

As Industry Minister, I was proud that when we left government there were more manufacturing businesses, more manufacturing exports, and manufacturing was a larger share of the economy than when we came to office in 2013.  

More investment means getting the economic fundamentals right across energy, regulation, approvals and tax 

The Coalition will make Australia a better place to invest by:  

Increasing domestic natural gas production to ensure cheaper, reliable, and cleaner energy. Streamlining regulatory approvals and restoring the National Gas Infrastructure Plan, which Labor dropped and has refused to reinstate. That plan will fill the gap in gas supply caused by collapsing Bass Strait production. 

Focusing on cutting unnecessary red and green tape particularly around approvals. That includes reducing overlap between state and  federal environmental laws. 

Unwinding the worst of Labor’s inflexible workplace laws as I outlined earlier 

It also means securing long term, cheap, clean power by opening the door to nuclear energy. 

Robert Menzies recognised the need for the Snowy Hydro scheme if  Australia was to be competitive in the post war industrial environment. 

Today we need more energy, not less, if we are to secure the future capability of our manufacturing industry. Data, AI and robotics all require reliable, baseload energy. 

Yet under Labor’s plan, 90% of our baseload energy will leave the grid by 2035 without equivalent capacity to replace it.  

With one third of the world’s uranium, Australia has comparative advantages in nuclear that should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. 

Similarly, we should take advantage of the surge in demand for critical minerals from our allies by getting the fundamentals right. 

The Quad, Five Eyes, and AUKUS offer opportunities for Australia’s resources industry to be a critical enabler of supply chain sovereignty for our allies. 

We will explore reforms that capitalise on trade agreements and to further streamline our foreign investment rules with our most trusted allies to support our resources industry. 


We have seen three Labor budgets that have tried to have it both ways. 

Increasing spending, while claiming to bring down inflation.  

Increasing taxes, while claiming families are better off. 

Increasing red and green tape, while claiming business will invest more.  

From now until the election you will see our relentless focus on getting Australia back on track.  

That means a back to basics economic plan, fighting high prices and interest rates first, winding back regulatory roadblocks, delivering lower, simpler and fairer taxes and restoring the dream of home ownership.  

In the last two years we’ve been prepared to take policy positions that are not easy but are right.  

We will provide a real choice and a real contrast.  

We did it on the Voice. We are doing it with our plans for next generation nuclear power. We are talking about productivity again because we need to. 

It's not merely about choosing a different government; it's about choosing a different future—a future where fairness, opportunity, enterprise and prosperity are within reach for all Australians, not just the select few who are aligned to the Labor Party.  

One that restores hope and confidence in our economy, our country, and its great potential. 

This is what these uncertain economic times demand.  

This is what Australians need. 

Australians can’t afford another three years of Labor.