Morrison government’s agenda for the 46th Parliament of Australia: the Governor-General’s Speech


Governor General David Hurley AC DSC and his wife Linda Hurley with the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison. EPA/TRACEY NEARMY

General David Hurley (Retd), the 27th Governor-General having been sworn in this week, delivered the Morrison government’s first Governor-General’s Speech on Tuesday. The Governor-General’s Speech, called the “thrones speech” in other Commonwealth countries, officially outlines the elected government’s agenda for the parliament term. The speech is prepared by the ministers in government, in theory supervised by the Queen’s representative.

The speech explores the Morrison government’s agenda on reform of tax, regulation and industrial relations; job creation; home ownership; infrastructure planning and development; management of the health system, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and mental health; education; government services and payments; Defence, veterans, security and foreign policy; energy, climate change and the environment; rural and regional Australians; Indigenous Australians; older Australians; and crime and safety, including online and violence against women.

Over the coming days, the House of Representatives debates the Address in Reply, which is the first test of the government’s control of the lower chamber of parliament, and also the first opportunity for opposition and cross-bench members to challenge the agenda of the government and propose their own alternative agenda for the parliament.


The Governor-General’s Speech

Dhawra nguna dhawra Ngunawal.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Honourable senators and members of the Parliament of Australia. Once again, we can be very proud of our democracy. We are a free people.

We are a nation that has achieved great things and earned a special place in the modern world and the region in which we live.

We are home to one of the world’s oldest living cultures.

We are blessed with an environment boasting oceans, forests, soils, water, coasts, rivers, deserts and other ancient landscapes beyond compare that we must steward responsibly.

We are now in our 28th year of uninterrupted economic expansion. More Australians are working than ever before, and fewer Australians of working age are dependent on welfare than in generations.

Our economic strength has been won by the enterprise, innovation and determination of a hardworking people, especially those running small and family businesses.

Our prosperity enables us to deliver one of the world’s most reliable social safety nets, providing income support, universal health care, disabilities support, aged care and comprehensive education to a growing population, regardless of where they live.

We are deeply connected into our region, economically, strategically and through our deep historical ties.

We have liberalised trade agreements with economies that account for more than 70 per cent of our trade.

We are the largest provider of development assistance to the island nations of our Pacific family.

Our Defence Force is respected, not just for its capability but for its compassion, as it has responded to the many threats and events that have impacted our region.

Our security, law enforcement, border protection and emergency relief agencies keep Australians safe in an often unpredictable world and in the face of fierce natural disasters.

We are one of the world’s oldest democracies; our freedom has produced a cohesive society that makes us the most successful immigrant and multicultural nation on earth.

On 18 May 2019, more than 15 million Australians had their say about the future of our country and what they expect from the government and parliament they have elected to serve them for the next three years.

Australians quietly going about their own lives, making decisions and taking responsibility for themselves and their families and working to make their communities stronger. These hardworking Australians made a simple and humble demand that their honest and decent aspirations for their future be respected and supported by those they elected.

They voted for a government that understands Australians are focused on raising their families, running their businesses, working hard, volunteering, and caring for their family and friends.

My government was elected on a platform to keep the economy strong, and to pursue policies that ensure Australians keep more of the money they work so hard to earn, and to give them more freedom and opportunity to make their own choices about their priorities in life.

My government understands that it is the individual—and the collective—efforts of Australians that make our country stronger.

That is why the aspirations, efforts and priorities of these Australians will now drive my government’s agenda. To keep our economy strong, to keep Australians safe and to keep Australians together.

The economy and tax reform

My government believes a strong economy is the foundation of the compact between Australians and their government.

Because a strong economy underpins a stronger society.

A strong economy enables more spending on schools and hospitals. It allows my government to subsidise more medicines, to fund better roads and provide more support to Australia’s rural and regional communities.

And just as importantly, a strong economy makes us more resilient when economic shocks and global headwinds confront our country.

My government understands that you can’t take economic growth for granted and it requires continual work—in improving confidence, competitiveness and productivity.

The government has clear goals that are based on its economic plan.

To create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years, including jobs for 250,000 young Australians. These new jobs will build on the additional 1.4 million jobs created over the past 5½ years.

To pay down debt—consistently and responsibly—and to eliminate net debt by 2030.

To see another 250,000 small and family businesses open their doors during the next five years.

And to see 10,000 more Australian companies exporting to the world by 2022, with these exporters benefiting from existing and new trade deals which by the end of this term will cover around 90 per cent of our trade.

My government’s plan for a strong economy begins with sound fiscal policy.

This financial year, my government is returning the budget to surplus. This will be the first surplus in 12 years.

The budget, brought down in April, sets out the government’s plan to deliver surpluses over the forward estimates—with $45 billion in surpluses over the next four years.

Recognising the progress that has been made in repairing the budget, my government will put more power into the hands of Australians by letting people keep more of what they earn.

That is why my government’s first legislative priority will be to provide tax relief to hardworking Australians earning up to $126,000 a year.

My government trusts Australians with their own money, and it wants them to have more of it.

That is why my government will lift the threshold for the minimum rate of tax from $37,000 as it is today to $45,000 from 2022-23 onwards and abolish the second top rate of 37 per cent entirely from 2024-25.

The middle tax rate of 32.5 per cent will also be reduced to 30 per cent.

This means that in five years time, 94 per cent of Australian taxpayers will pay no more than 30c in the dollar in tax—and only on their earnings above $45,000 a year.

From 2024-25, Australians will be able to increase their earnings from $45,000 to $200,000 a year without facing an increase in their marginal tax rate.

And around 60 per cent of all personal income tax will be paid by the highest earning 20 per cent of taxpayers.

My government’s plan for tax relief also includes small, medium and family businesses. By 2021-22, the small business tax rate will be just 25 per cent.

The extension and expansion of the instant asset write-off will provide the incentive for small businesses to invest in the equipment they need to grow.

My government is creating a tax system that is fairer—and one that provides more incentives for Australians to work hard and get ahead, one that enables Australians to exercise more control over how their own money is spent.

Regulatory reform and industrial relations

While Australia is on track to achieve 28 years of economic growth—a modern economic wonder—there are economic headwinds. Protectionist sentiment and trade conflicts abroad; drought and flood and a necessary moderation of the housing market at home.

An essential driver of growth is cooperative, productive and confident businesses—of which investment is an essential outcome.

To strengthen investment, my government will undertake renewed regulatory reform.

It will partner with businesses in identifying the barriers, blockages and bottlenecks to investment.

Confidence to invest relies on productive and harmonious workplaces.

This means tackling lawlessness in workplaces whenever and wherever it may occur. My government will introduce legislation to deal with registered organisations and individuals who break the law.

It will prohibit officials who are not fit and proper persons from holding office, and stop the misuse of worker entitlement funds.

As well, the Minister for Industrial Relations is reviewing the impediments to shared workplace gains for employers and employees.

This work will be evidence based. It will protect the rights and entitlements of workers and identify a way forward that will benefit our economy and, most importantly, the workers who rely on it.

Jobs

With a stronger economy, my government will deliver on its plan to get Australians into more and better paid jobs.

An essential part of this plan is ensuring our workplaces have the skills they need. This means strengthening our vocational education and training system.

My government will address and build on the findings of the Joyce review by setting up a National Skills Commission and a new National Careers Institute which will give people the information they need to make the best decisions about their future careers.

My government will support its job creation efforts with a $585 million commitment to improving skills and training—including creating 80,000 new apprenticeships and establishing 10 new Industry Training Hubs in key locations of high youth unemployment in regional Australia.

My government will double the apprentice wage subsidy trial to assist 3,200 young Australians in regional and rural areas secure the job and the qualifications they need to pursue a rewarding career.

Australians who wish to return to the workforce will also be supported by a new government program—the Mid-Career Checkpoint.

This initiative will support up to 40,000 Australians, particularly women, to return to the workforce—usually after taking time out to care for children and older members of their family.

Home Ownership

More jobs, more money in the pockets of working Australians, together with new support from my government, will enable more Australians to realise the dream of owning their own home.

Australians work hard to get a foot on the housing market ladder.

A home allows individuals, couples and families to create their own economic security.

My government believes in home ownership and seeing more Australians in their own homes.

My government will use the dividends of a strong economy to make it easier for more Australians to buy their first home.

It will introduce the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme to help people who want to buy their home to access finance without having to save a 20 per cent deposit, so they can get into the market more quickly.

From 1 January 2020, first home buyers who have already saved at least five per cent of their deposit, and who earn up to $125,000 for a single person or $200,000 for couples, will be able to get better and earlier access to mortgage finance.

My government is also addressing housing affordability by investing one billion dollars in local infrastructure to unlock new housing supply; releasing more suitable Commonwealth land for housing development; reducing barriers for older Australians to downsize from their family homes and enforcing rules on foreign investment in established residential real estate.

Infrastructure

Building new strong communities requires a commitment to new infrastructure—to building the roads, rail links and airports we need to bust congestion and make everyday life easier for all Australians.

The new Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport along with the transport links to support its operation are being built. The airport will be a job producing hub for Western Sydney.

My government is supporting major infrastructure projects around the country:

the Melbourne Airport rail link and East West Link to get that great city moving

fast rail between Geelong and Melbourne to open up new opportunities for businesses and families throughout that busy corridor

upgrading the Tonkin Highway in Perth

fixing the Bruce Highway in Queensland

improving the Buntine Highway in the Northern Territory

building a new Bridgewater Bridge in Tasmania

and completing the North-South Corridor in South Australia

as well as targeting funding to ease the worst pressure points for traffic congestion in cities and regional centres right across the nation.

My government has committed $100 billion to these projects to make life easier for mums and dads in the suburbs, and businesses with freight that requires transport.

Our efforts also include digital infrastructure, and by 2020 the rollout of the National Broadband Network will be complete.

My government will further address the issue of congestion in our cities by enacting policies to better match migration with Australia’s needs.

This will ease the pressure on big cities while supporting the growth of smaller cities and regions. It will reduce the migration cap by 15 per cent and provide incentive for more new migrants to settle outside the big cities where there are jobs services.

The Commonwealth will also work more closely with state and territory governments to match infrastructure with local population needs.

And these efforts will be supported by our nationwide infrastructure program.

Health

My government’s commitment to a strong economy will enable it to invest in the services that all Australians rely on for happier, healthier and more-prosperous lives.

Services like public hospitals that provide the critical care that we all rely on.

My government will invest an extra $31 billion in public hospitals over the next five years, providing funding for more emergency department visits, outpatient services, needed scans and surgeries, and treatments of life-threatening illnesses and diseases.

My government will also invest $308 million to reduce the cost of life-changing medicines for Australians, especially those who have chronic health conditions that require multiple medications.

From 1 January 2020, the threshold to receive free or discounted medicines will be lowered by 12 prescriptions for pensioners and concession card holders and by two prescriptions for non-concession-card-holders.

These investments in the health of all Australians are the dividend of good economic management.

My government’s ability to return the budget to surplus is also enabling greater investment in mental health care, particularly for our young people.

Mental health

Each year one in five Australians aged over 16 experiences mental illness.

For young people, that rate is even higher, affecting just over a quarter of those aged between 16 and 24.

Tragically, suicide is a leading cause of death for our young people, devastating families, schools and communities in every corner of this nation.

That should not be so in our country.

We must do more, and my government will.

I know this is an issue to which the Prime Minister is strongly and personally committed.

My government will invest almost $740 million in youth mental health and suicide prevention services.

Thirty new headspace centres will be opened to reduce wait times and make more counselling services available for young people, and eight dedicated mental health centres for adults will be trialled.

Importantly, more services will be made available in regional and rural areas, where the insecurity that comes with every season takes a heavy toll on the mental health of young people and older members of the community alike.

My government will increase support for mental health services for First Australians, because too many precious live are being lost far too early.

And my government will support more postnatal support services to ensure that new mothers get the mental health care they need while they most need it and that their children get the best possible start in life.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

Too often in the past, Australians with disabilities have been on the periphery of our national conversation about health services.

Now, having fully funded the National Disability Insurance Scheme and made services available to almost 300,000 people, my government’s commitment is to extend these services to more than half a million Australians over the next five years.

My government has, for the first time, appointed a minister especially for the NDIS who will sit at the cabinet table.

The minister will be dedicated to ensuring that Australians with disabilities have the services they need, where and when they need them and in a way that works for them.

Education

This country owes a responsibility to all young Australians to enable them to meet their full potential.

From early childhood to university, no Australian child or teenager should be denied opportunity for want of a quality education.

Over the next decade my government will increase funding for all primary and secondary schools across all sectors by an average of 62 per cent per student.

This $310 billion investment is a commitment to deliver the world-class education system that will equip Australia for the decades ahead.

Government services and payments

Every day, the Commonwealth has millions of interactions with citizens through the provision of government services and payments.

My government intends to lift the performance of government service delivery—and will establish Services Australia.

Bringing government services together and ensuring those services support people at key stages of their lives—such as having a baby or retiring from work—will underpin the transformation of government service delivery.

As more and more Australians choose to engage with government using convenient digital services, my government will continue to invest in the use of data as a national resource to make better-informed decisions, develop innovative solutions to the issues facing citizens and provide improved services.

Defence and veterans

In a period of unprecedented change in our global security environment, nothing is more important to my government than keeping Australians safe.

That’s what the men and women of the Australian Defence Force dedicate their lives to every day.

My government will continue to give our Navy, Army and Air Force the capabilities they need to combat new threats and challenges in the 21st century.

In addition to the continuing commitment to restore defence spending to two per cent of GDP, my government will continue to deliver our ambitious Naval Shipbuilding Plan, our combat vehicle program, and our fifth generation Air Force.

My government will ensure the Australian Army is better protected with a new self-propelled howitzer artillery system.

And my government will never forget our veterans, who have served in our nation’s uniform with courage and dedication.

We will keep our promise to our returned service men and women, including those who have been involved in the more recent chapters of our military history.

If we ask men and women to risk all for our country, then it behoves our nation to do everything we can for them.

Our efforts supporting veterans and their families will focus on: improving veterans’ care and support; helping veterans find jobs after their service in uniform is complete; and recognising and respecting the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families.

My government will continue to ensure that veterans and their families are cared for and supported through record investments in mental health care and counselling, which will remain uncapped and demand driven.

But there is always more that we can do to ensure that we are consistently meeting the expectations of our veterans and the wider community, particularly as we fight the scourge of veteran suicide.

My government will continue to work with veterans and the ex-service community to ensure that no veteran ever believes that taking their own life is the only way forward.

We will invest in six new veterans’ wellbeing hubs around the country to ensure those who’ve served have the health and employment services they need when they return home or return to civilian life.

Security

The fight to keep us safe doesn’t only occur on the battlefield.

My government will provide the nation’s security and intelligence agencies with the resources and the legal framework they need to protect us all from terrorism and foreign interference.

These agencies have already thwarted 15 major terrorist attacks and we thank them for their ongoing commitment to the safety of all Australians both at home and abroad.

And my government will maintain its absolute commitment to Operation Sovereign Borders to ensure our migration program remains orderly and accountable to all Australians.

Foreign policy

My government will continue to work with international partners to further Australia’s national interest at home and internationally.

It is committed to further strengthening our alliance relationship with the United States in support of our shared interests and values, including through increased US engagement and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

It will seek to create opportunities to expand and deepen Australia’s valued relationship with China—a comprehensive strategic partnership founded on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

The government is fully committed to maintaining the momentum of Australia’s Pacific step-up—our strategy to boost engagement with Australia’s Pacific neighbours by strengthening community, economic and security bonds and working in partnership to tackle common challenges.

We will intensify efforts to ensure the Indo-Pacific region remains free, open and inclusive, including through deepening engagement and closer cooperation with ASEAN and Australia’s partners in South-East and South Asia.

Beyond the Indo-Pacific region, my government will continue to work with like-minded partners to uphold and reinforce the rules based global order, which has served Australia’s interests and fundamental values for nearly 75 years.

This will include building interest based coalitions in international forums to press for further action to tackle challenges posed by terrorist exploitation of the internet and reform of the multilateral rules based trading system.

Energy

My government’s policies will address energy affordability, improve energy reliability and ensure Australia meets its emissions reduction goal.

Policies to introduce a default market offer for electricity and ban unconscionable late payment fees commenced yesterday.

The default market offer will benefit up to 800,000 Australian families and businesses, providing them with more affordable electricity prices.

As well, five million eligible social security recipients will benefit from energy assistance payments of $75 for singles and $125 for couples—assisting them with their next power bill and cost-of-living expenses.

My government is focused on building the Snowy 2.0 scheme and we are supporting the Battery of the Nation project and Marinus Link, delivering record investments in new renewable energy for Australians.

Climate change

My government understands that Australia must and will continue to take urgent and effective action to address climate change.

We will undertake this action as part of a coordinated global effort.

We will continue to set and meet responsible and achievable carbon emissions reduction targets and encourage other nations to do likewise.

Australia is on track to meet our emissions targets under the Kyoto protocol, and we will exceed our target by 367 million tonnes.

Australia will meet our 2030 targets under the government’s climate solutions plan.

Environment

Caring for our environment and conserving it for the future is an integral part of meeting our intergenerational obligation to future Australians.

My government will improve soil health, protect threatened species and restore wetlands by investing $1 billion for phase 2 of the National Landcare Program.

It is also investing $1.2 billion in the future health of the Great Barrier Reef. These efforts include improving water quality, combating crown-of-thorns starfish and undertaking vital research.

My government is determined to reduce waste and increase recycling. We will work closely with industry on achieving needed change.

This includes supporting a phase-out of microbeads from personal-care and cosmetic products, and working with the packaging industry to ensure 100 per cent of Australian packaging is recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

My government will also move to take up a global advocacy position with other nations in our region, like Indonesia, on the health of our oceans.

Our continent touches both the Pacific and Indian oceans. Our geography, values, responsibilities and interests demand that we lift our advocacy efforts in this important area.

We will use our existing and expanded domestic actions as the basis for our advocacy, to lead by example on this important global environmental agenda.

Rural and regional Australians

For many Australians, living in a rural or regional area is not only a way of life; it informs the very core of their identity.

Regional and rural Australians provide much of the food we eat and the fibres we wear; they work in the industries that produce export income to help our economy thrive.

Like all Australians, those in the bush are resilient, self-reliant and aspirational—but they’re also harder hit than most by unexpected events.

Earlier this year, nature flung its worst at North Queenslanders, and they are demonstrating their resilience and strong character as they rebuild and recover.

The government’s focus is on assisting local communities to continue that recovery.

Though we would all like it to be otherwise, drought conditions are not expected to ease in the short term. One of the first orders of business of this 46th Parliament will be to legislate the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund.

That funding must be a priority to help better manage drought, protect our valuable rural industries and the people who make them possible.

My government will also introduce a new suite of measures to support farmers, their families and rural communities to continue to battle drought, flood and natural disasters.

Concessional loans will be available for re-stocking and replanting to help farmers bounce back when the rain returns.

And the farm asset threshold will be permanently raised to $5 million to allow more people to access the farm household allowance.

My government wants to encourage new farmers. That’s why it is establishing a new concessional loan product to help farmers to buy their first farm.

My government will also prioritise legislation to criminalise the invasion of rural properties and the incitement of violence that too often leads to such behaviour.

It is also committed to eliminating mobile phone blackspots across one million square kilometres of this country.

It will also do more to support university and vocational education students to stay in their local communities by providing five additional regional study hubs.

And to improve the health of people living outside our cities, 13 new regional cancer centres will be opened, and 3,000 more doctors and the same number of nurses will be supported into regional general practice in the decade ahead.

New medical treatments and medicines will also be delivered through clinical trials in regional, rural and remote areas.

My government’s promise is to govern for all Australians and that promise includes those of us living in our most rural and remote communities.

Indigenous Australians

My government will continue to prioritise the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For the first time in Australian history, an Aboriginal member of this parliament will have responsibility for policy affecting Indigenous peoples.

Congratulations to the member for Hasluck and on behalf of all Australians I wish you every good fortune in your endeavours. I also congratulate the member for Barton on her appointment as the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians and wish her the best as well.

My government has also bolstered its commitment to First Australians by creating a new agency—the National Indigenous Australians Agency—to oversee all policy and programs related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This new agency is part of the Prime Minister’s portfolio, ensuring that its important work is overseen at the most senior levels of government.

The agency is tasked to deliver on the revised Closing the Gap targets that drive improved outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Priority will be placed on practical efforts to ensure Indigenous children are healthy and in school; that they can live safely in their communities; that we confront the terrible curse of youth suicide in remote communities; that we improve employment outcomes; and ensure that Indigenous Australians can expect the same from life in Australia as any other citizen.

My government will also continue to work to find consensus on a way forward for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and develop ground-up governance models for enhanced, inclusive and local decision-making on issues impacting the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Older Australians

My government will continue to prioritise better support for the people who made this country what it is today—older Australians.

It will establish a new Aged Care Workforce Research Centre to find new ways to deliver care for older Australians and appropriate training for aged-care providers, as well as ensuring the aged-care workforce grows to meet increasing demand.

My government also recognises that not all older Australians need care, but many find themselves spending long days alone and simply need a friend.

With that in mind, it will invest $10 million in a program to keep senior Australians connected to their communities and to one another.

Loneliness is a terrible thing, never more so than toward the end of a full and well-lived life.

My government is committed to doing more to ensure that the people to whom this nation owes the greatest debt have the chance to live fulfilled and more connected lives.

Through the royal commission into aged care as well as the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, Australians will have a clearer idea about the quality of services and care that needs to be provided to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Ending violence against women

Combating violence against women and children remains an important priority, as part of my government’s plan to keep Australians safe.

The Commonwealth will make a $328 million investment into prevention and frontline services as part of the Fourth Action Plan to reduce violence against women and their children.

Tackling the scourge of domestic violence is a community responsibility and my government will continue to work with the states, territories and non-government sector to deliver lasting change to prevent and reduce family, domestic and sexual violence.

Online crime and safety

The way we live our lives is constantly changing. Social media and online platforms are a bigger part of our lives than ever.

They also bring with them new challenges and new dangers.

My government will crack down on social media providers, online predators and trolls, to better protect children and the broader community.

These measures will build on the world-leading protections Australia already has in place.

The rules that apply in the real world must also apply to our life online.

A new Online Safety Act will be developed to ensure our regulation keeps pace with technological change.

Penalties for online harassment will be increased and new aggravated offences introduced for the worst categories of online crimes.

New offences will be introduced for providing electronic services to facilitate dealing with child abuse material and for grooming activity; and my government will reintroduce legislation to impose mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offences.

My government will also invest $156 million in protecting all Australians from cyberattacks that harm individuals, businesses and our national security.

The Cyber Resilience and Workforce Package will ensure we create the cyberworkforce we need for the future; counter the capability of foreign cybercriminals; and expand assistance to the community to fight against malicious online criminals.

Conclusion

The opening of a new parliament marks a new chapter in our country’s history.

It marks an opportunity for our nation’s elected members and senators to come together to tackle important new issues, and to view existing challenges with fresh eyes.

Democracy is a robust undertaking, and disagreement is a fundamental part of that contest of ideas.

As the Prime Minister has often noted, the challenge of modern democracies is not to disagree less, but to disagree better.

That is best achieved when members and senators focus on the lives, welfare and opportunities of the people of Australia.

It is their welfare and their security which is the unifying force of this great institution.

I wish you well as you proceed in your service of our good and decent country.

And with those words it is my duty and my very great pleasure to declare the 46th Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia open.

 

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