Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Matters of Public Importance
Health and Education Funding
Could I start by speaking about what a green paper is. A green paper is a list of options. When it came to the north of Australia, one of the options was to dam every river. The other option, at the other end of the scheme, was to not dam anything. The answer is going to lie somewhere in the middle. So when we are looking at the federation white paper and it comes to education and health, one option is: we move out of it completely; we cede the area completely. The other end of the scale is that we take it over.
As I move around this country, the thing that gets me is that a lot of people come up to me and say, 'I don't understand why we have eight education ministers, eight transport ministers, eight health ministers, eight ministers for this, eight ministers for that. Why don't we centralise these things?' First and foremost, the federal government does not run programs. The federal government does not run these things really well. I think we have shown that with things like pink batts and school halls. Federal governments are good at handing the money to the states. The states are good on the ground with these things; this is what they are there for: implementation.
One option is that we pull out of funding the health and education systems entirely. The other option is what Kevin Rudd actually took to the 2007 election. He said, 'We owe it to the Australian people to have a compact with the Australian people that, if the health system does not work, we will take it over.' So that is at one end of the system, and what did he do? He squibbed it, and we still ended up with a mishmash of systems here. We still end up with 50-50/60-40 and enough room to blame absolutely everyone and not blame anyone, and we all walk away from it. This is what happens when you do these things. So a green paper is about a list of options.
Secondly, I will talk about the cuts. To cut something, there must be something there to cut. I will make a prediction and clear it all up now. I will commit this government in the financial year 2035-36 to deliver $27 trillion in today's money that financial year. There we go; it is all sorted. Is that believable? I do not think so. When these guys came out and did Gonski—because I tell you these guys wear Gonski like a badge of honour but what they delivered was nothing like Gonski—they loaded up the expenditure way out past the forward estimates in years five and six. What they did in the front was the same as the NDIS and health. They pushed it all out the back there where they did not have the control. All that money was pushed out there.
When we came to the 2013 election—I was there—we said we were in lock-step with these people up until the end of the forward estimates. Of course, we broke our word straight away because the Labor Party had pulled $1.2 billion out of the PEFO. Christopher Pyne had to break his word, and we were no longer in lock-step with the Labor Party. We had to find $1.2 billion to put back into the education system. There was $795 million extra for the state of Queensland that the previous, Labor government had pulled from the education system.
You can only commit to the forward estimates. You can have aspirational things out there, but Labor had no plan to fund this stuff way out beyond the forward estimates. They had no plan and they had no money. You cannot cut what is not there. You can get your scissors out, but you cannot cut air, and that is what these guys are trying to do. It just does not make sense. You have to have the funding.
When it comes to the shrill attack that we are seeing here, it really does say a lot to me about where we are as a parliament. It really does say a lot to me about where awe are as a nation that, when someone comes up with a list of options, that is suddenly seized upon. I know Labor is looking for a distraction for tonight and to try to deflect from what is going to be on television tonight and I know they are not going real well, but to the member for Gellibrand and Hotham: it is okay. I have been over that side of the parliament. It is so easy in opposition just to sit there and say, 'Just vote us in, and we'll fix it all.' Once you have been in government—ask the member for Swan—it is not easy to come up with options. Sometimes you cannot deliver what you say you can—or most of the time, as the member for Swan did not deliver what he said he could—