Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
With this budget, we're going to have the largest budget deficit and the largest debt—over $1 trillion worth of debt—in the history of our nation. During times of crisis and coming out of a pandemic, we understand the need to boost government spending to recharge the economy and to get people back into work. But it's what you spend that additional funding on, and this government's priorities in this budget are all wrong. When you look at the budget papers, particularly over the forward estimates, the government doesn't get much bang for buck through the additional expenditure. Under this government, real wages aren't going to grow over the course of the forward estimates. Economic growth isn't going to charge forward. We're not going to deliver any of the promised improvements to labour productivity. Business investment isn't going to grow. Yet what we're going to see is a continuation of this government's waste and sorry record when it comes to the efficiency of government spending.
We have seen what this government is like with taxpayers' funds. First we had sports rorts, where the government completely abused a system that was set up to ensure that public funds went to sporting organisations that needed them the most. The government used it to pork-barrel. The Prime Minister's office was involved with the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate's office in ensuring that the recommendations from Sport Australia were completely ignored, and the government just pork-barrelled funds into marginal seats and coalition held seats. Then that was followed up by the Building Better Regions Fund, $250 million on this occasion, with 89 per cent of the projects and funding between the 2019 election and the end of 2020 going to—guess where?—coalition seats, with 112 out of 330 projects in round 3 and 49 out of 163 projects in round 4 approved by the Deputy Prime Minister's hand-picked ministerial panel, against departmental recommendations. If you're going to start getting the economy on the right trajectory and paying back some of this deficit, how are you going to achieve that when you're blatantly wasting taxpayers' money for your own political purposes? It doesn't end there.
The NBN, as we all know, has been a complete shambles under this government. Remember that they promised before they were elected in 2013 that the cost of the NBN would be $29.5 billion. Have a guess what the cost is to date. It is $51 billion. They promised that they would be able to roll it out quicker and that the technology would be better, because they weren't going to use fibre to the premises, as Labor was promising to deliver; no, they were going to use fibre to the node and fibre to the curb. Guess what? It wasn't cheaper, they didn't roll it out more quickly, and it takes a lot longer for people to get access to the technology. Now they're talking about actually going back to Labor's original plan of fibre to the premises, but people would have to pay for that, to the tune of about $400 a room. This government is now promising to spend an extra $3.5 billion on rewiring the NBN to deliver Labor's original promise, which they could have done much more cheaply and on time, instead of the wastage of public dollars that we have seen. It doesn't end there.
Let's get onto robodebt. The government spent $1.2 billion on a failed scheme that basically embarrassed them and showed just how incompetent they are. They're not my words; they're the words of a Federal Court judge that independently assessed this scheme. He said it was 'a shameful chapter in Australia's history' and 'a massive failure of public administration'. They are the words of an independent judge about this government: 'a massive failure'. That is what this government is—a massive failure. There were $721 million in refunds, $112 million in compo and $398 million in cancelled debts. This government says that it is better at administering public funds. What a joke.
My question to the minister is: what is the government going to put in place to ensure there is integrity in these schemes in the future and that you don't take the opportunity to pork-barrel with Australian taxpayers' funds on all of these schemes that you have announced in the budget?