Labor turns up heat on Morrison government over economy | Australia news


Labor has used the return of parliament to grill the Coalition over its economic management after Australia recorded its weakest annual growth in a decade.

Returning to Canberra after a five-week winter recess, Labor used question time on Monday to pressure the government over last week’s national accounts, which showed the economy grew just 1.4% in the 12 months to the end of June, the slowest rate since 2009.

Seizing on the figures, the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, accused the government of being more focused on playing politics than driving economic growth, pointing to remarks made by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, over the weekend about proposed parliamentary tactics aimed at wedging Labor.

“Given Australia is experiencing the slowest economic growth since the global financial crisis, why is the prime minister not concentrating on economic drivers to deliver growth, productivity and higher wages?” Albanese said.

“As any golfer knows, while wedges are handy, drivers are what you need to get going.”





Scott Morrison during question time on Monday.



Scott Morrison during question time on Monday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

In response, Morrison said the government was focused on growing the Australian economy, while pointing to the election result as vindication of the Coalition’s plan.

“What this side of the house is focused on is growing the Australian economy and the Australian economy has been growing year in, year out, under the policies of this government, which has seen record growth and employment,” he said.

“We put our plan to the Australian people and the Australian people chose our government and chose our plan, Mr Speaker, and we are delivering that plan.”

Labor’s line of attack was echoed throughout question time, with the shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, asking the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to confirm that Australia was experiencing the slowest annual economic since the global financial crisis.

In response, Frydenberg said the economy was still growing.

“The Australian economy has completed 28 consecutive years of economic growth and under our watch, more people are employed than ever before,” he said.

“A record number of Australians are now in work, workforce participation is at a record high, the gender pay gap has closed and the budget is coming back to surplus for the first time in more than a decade.”

However, he later conceded that the 1.9% growth in average terms was lower than the 2.5% forecast in the April budget.

Morrison also used the economic debate to take aim at Labor over its election post-mortem, highlighting calls from Wayne Swan for the opposition not to ditch the policy platform it took to the election.

“The Labor party, they wanted to put more taxes on the Australian economy, higher taxes and Chairman Swanny is telling them to stick to their high-taxing, high-spending approach,” Morrison said.

“I know those opposite, if they had the opportunity, would be spending, spending, spending, if they had won the election – only because they would have been taxing, taxing, taxing.”

The jibe at Labor comes as the party embarks on a review of its election policies, and as frontbencher Mark Butler called for a “ruthless” look at where it went wrong and how it lost to the Coalition “muppet show”.

The two parties also traded barbs about the Reserve Bank’s desire to see more government spending, with Labor frontbencher Catherine King asking why the prime minister had “ignored seven calls from the Reserve Bank governor since the election to increase infrastructure spending?”

In July, RBA governor Philip Lowe suggested the government make “further investments” in infrastructure, pointing to the limited ability of monetary policy to stimulate growth.

But Morrison rejected the criticism, quoting Lowe’s appearance at the House economics committee hearing on 9 August.

“He said … ‘can I just clarify something? I have not called on the government to do fiscal expansion,’ (I’m) quoting the governor of the reserve bank, giving evidence, not some chat to a journalist, but evidence, to the House of economics committee.”



Source link Business News Australia

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