Thursday, 15 May 2008
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Wentworth moving immediately:That:
- this House condemn the Rudd Government for the misleading claims that its first budget would fight inflation, when instead, the Treasurer has delivered a budget that increases inflationary pressures and does nothing to relieve cost of living pressures on Australian families, seniors, pensioners and small businesses; and
- for delivering a budget under the cover of a mountain of spin that, in reality, increases taxes on cars, tourism, alcohol, health insurance, computer software to name a few, along with other measures that will generate a revenue windfall of $19.5 billion for this same old-style tax and spend Rudd Labor Government.”
This is an urgent matter for the House to consider now and we must suspend standing orders because this budget is built on a mountain of falsehood. For months, the Treasurer has wandered around the country saying that he was going to fight inflation with massive cuts in spending and what has he done? He has brought in a budget that increases spending. When you look at his own budget papers—at statement 3 of Budget Paper No. 1—you see there that the result of his own policy measures, his own decisions, is to increase spending in every year of the forward estimates.
We need to debate this now, urgently, because, far from delivering a budget that was in accordance with what he told the Australian people, the Treasurer has delivered the exact reverse. And now he stands up and says, ‘It’s only a mild tightening.’ Well a few weeks ago he was saying it was going to be a massive cut in spending. What sort of Treasurer do we have in this country? He is so incompetent that he will mislead the Australian public about what will be in his own budget, claiming it will put downward pressure on inflation. He is so dishonourable in this House that he will misrepresent public research from market economists.
This is a Treasurer who quoted just a moment ago the approval, so he said, of the Commonwealth Bank and yet here we have the Commonwealth Bank’s own research. What does it say about the budget?
The government has fallen short of its own rhetoric of putting downward pressure on inflation in the short term.
That is precisely what we have been saying. Market economists do not normally make scathing remarks about budgets, but there you have it from the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer did not want to table the research from Goldman Sachs JBWere. He did not want me to do it either because what that research says, in a passage that he chose not to quote, is this:
While the ALP has gone to great lengths to claim that this Budget will ease inflationary pressures, most of the supply enhancing initiatives involve large implementation lags.
In reality, the ALP’s biggest contribution to inflation is that it is not making the inflation process worse.
That is not a citation for an inflation-fighting medal; that is the faintest of faint praise. We need to suspend standing orders urgently because of the dishonesty and the confusion associated with this budget. We have heard from the Prime Minister and the health minister that the new tax on alcopops will decrease consumption. Yet, every single year of the forward estimates, the massive revenue from this new tax goes up from $600 million to more than $800 million in just four years. The Prime Minister wants us to believe that that is nonetheless a reduction in consumption. The Prime Minister no doubt has advice from great mathematicians and economists behind him, but how can you have a tax based on volume of alcohol which increases year after year if there has not also been an increase in the volume of alcohol sold? So, after days of obfuscation, they finally produce a Treasury paper which suggests that this tax, this $3 billion of additional revenue, may reduce consumption from what it otherwise would have been by—wait for it—four per cent. That is what they are arguing for. That is going to save the young from drinking RTDs; a tiny reduction in consumption from what it otherwise would have been, and a massive revenue windfall for the government. That is the best they can produce. This is nothing more than a tax grab, a blatant tax grab.
Then we come to the dishonesty of their ‘soak the rich’ programs. Let us talk about the means test on the baby bonus. A household with two parents, each earning 40 per cent above the average weekly earnings, would be caught by this means test. A household that earned $75,000 in the six months after the birth of their child would receive the pre-tax equivalent, in terms of income including the baby bonus, of $83,300. If they earned $76,000, they would be nearly $7,000 worse off. That is the result of the extraordinary effective marginal tax rate the Treasurer has created. What a disincentive to work. It has no taper rate. There is no consideration for what it does to incentives. What this tax will do is provide a real and massive disincentive to work for households who have just had a baby. If they are going to earn a dollar more than the $75,000 figure, they lose the lot. They do not lose a few dollars; they lose the lot. The effective marginal tax rate is disgracefully, unprecedentedly high. Remember that the Treasurer is the man who said famously, ‘nobody knew about EMTRs until I came along’. Well, nobody has seen an EMTR as big as the one he is creating here. This will save $70 million, and that is without any taper rate, with a totally unjust arrangement and a huge effective marginal tax rate. It will save $70 million out of a $1.5 billion program. This is a $70 million fee to buy a headline ‘Soak the rich’.
What about the other ‘soak the rich’ tax—the tax on so-called luxury cars? We have heard about the large families who have a lot of kids and need to buy people movers and vans. They have no choice. They are not buying a car worth $57,000 or more because they want to roll around in leather in a Ferrari or anything like that. They are doing it because they have a big family and they need to move them around. But they will pay the tax. It is not a tax on the rich; it is a tax designed to get a headline about ‘soaking the rich’. It is a tax that hits large families. A hundred thousand cars a year are sold that fall into this bracket and the vast majority would not be regarded as being cars of the rich. There are hardly any Bentleys, Rolls Royces or Ferraris. These are cars bought by large families who need to move around with their family. They are going to be paying a higher price for that.
Next we come to the greatest con of all: the funds. This is not an investment in infrastructure; it is the creation of a bank account with ‘infrastructure’ written on the title page. There is no guidance and no indication of how that money will be invested or what economic return will be sought. How do we know whether it will be given away to inefficient state utilities? This is a Treasurer who has said, year after year, that the member for Higgins ran big surpluses and hoarded them so that he could dole them out at election time. He said yesterday at the National Press Club of Australia that ‘this fund can fund election promises’. In other words, he is creating a special Labor Party slush fund which will be drawn from at election time to subsidise the inefficient and incompetent utilities of his Labor mates in the states. (Time expired)
I second this motion. It is high time that there was a suspension of standing orders to bring this government to account for the biggest taxing, biggest spending budget in Australian history. The Treasurer ran away from yesterday’s MPI; may he stay here and answer the questions today. This Labor budget will do nothing whatever to lower fuel and grocery prices, nothing to help keep people in their homes, nothing to shorten hospital queues and nothing to boost plummeting business and consumer confidence. The government’s spin doctors would have us believe that this is a budget that is designed by Robin Hood: to take from the rich to give to the poor. But is a large family that needs a people mover rich? Is a family with a disabled child rich?
Madam Deputy Speaker, I made that point right at the beginning. We need to have a suspension of standing orders so that these matters can be brought to account before the parliament goes home for a week’s recess. Labor is telling us that a family that needs a modified vehicle for their disabled child is rich, that a family that lives in a remote community with a dirt road and needs a four-wheel drive is rich, and that a family that earns $75,001 dollar in a six-month period is too rich to have some help with their baby. This is in fact a budget that will hurt the poor. It is Robin Hood in reverse. It will be the poor who will suffer when one million extra people are put on the public hospital queues because of Labor’s tampering with the private health insurance. It will be the poor who will suffer, because this budget does nothing about food prices and petrol prices and will certainly do nothing when people have to pay higher mortgages as a result of the increased interest rates that it will deliver.
And what if you are one of the 140,000 that this government is calculating will lose their jobs—the 140,000 this callous government thinks are dispensable and whose jobs are not important? This budget delivers nothing for pensioners and self-funded retirees. There are no tax cuts for them, just higher grocery prices, higher petrol prices and longer hospital queues.
This motion for the suspension of standing orders is not about binge drinking; it is about binge taxing. That is what the Labor Party are delivering to this parliament. The Prime Minister has confirmed today that Labor are going to continue with their attempts to introduce higher taxes on the transport industry, guaranteeing, as the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government said, that food prices will go up $17. We need to know what the response of the government is to those issues before we go home. Isn’t a $17 increase in grocery prices sufficiently important for this House to take time to consider the impacts of this budget? You do not just have to take my word for the fact that this is a budget that is going to hurt pensioners. If the Government Whip does not think this is important, maybe he might like to talk to Mrs Hogan, the secretary of the Acacia Ridge Pensioners League, hardly a hotbed of coalition support. She said that her generation felt humiliated and the budget had just made the wound worse. She said:
A great number of people have been really let down because they thought a Labor government was going to be more caring.
She went on to say:
There was ... nothing in there for pensioners and it really is a struggle.
That is the kind of Labor Party we have. This is also a budget of broken promises. They said the family tax benefit would have a threshold of $250,000; now it is $150,000. They said they would not touch the Medicare levy surcharge. They said they would provide rebates for solar water installations and now they are means tested. They said they would build 260 childcare centres but they are funding only 38. They said there would be Medicare centres in military bases and they are not there. This is a budget of broken promises, letting the poor down, letting the Australian people down and letting 140,000 people who are going to lose their jobs down. And if you happen to live over the hill, outside of the gaze of the minister’s office in central Sydney, you will be let down especially, because there is a billion dollars worth of cuts in this budget for people living in regional Australia. (Time expired)
This is, I think, the fifth attempted suspension motion this year. Do you know how many there were in the whole of last year? There were three. What we have is another desperate manoeuvre from the member for Wentworth, who is absolutely desperate to get on TV tonight, to get on TV before 7.30 tonight, to get on TV before the Leader of the Opposition tonight. This is a speech on a motion which was moved by someone who is a pretend leader and perhaps a temporary leader, the pretender from Point Piper. We have heard a lot about his record. He likes to parade himself around as if he is some expert in business, a guru in economics. We have heard a litany of figures from him today, all of which are absolutely incorrect, and we have had to go through the embarrassment of his inaccuracy being shown up by Goldman Sachs, his former employer.
This was a speech by a member of parliament who was beaten by a few votes in a ballot a few months ago and who wanted to beat his leader to the television news tonight. That is what it was all about. What he has proved today is that he will say anything.
is just economic irresponsibility from the member for Wentworth. He claims that tax is going up. Well tax, as a share of GDP, falls substantially in this budget—from 24.7 per cent of GDP in 2007-08 to 23.8 per cent of GDP in 2008-09. That is what the budget papers say, but more fool you if you believe the member for Wentworth. That is the tax-to-GDP ratio that is in the budget papers.
The member for Wentworth has been going around Australia saying: ‘There’s no problem with inflation. It’s a fairy story.’ That is how out of touch the member for Wentworth is. He would not have a clue what life around the kitchen table in this country is like for families that are struggling to pay their bills. If he did have a clue, he would support our savings measures in this budget that build the surplus to protect the working families—
We have found $7 billion worth of savings in this budget, something that the previous government could not find. But the member for Wentworth is in the giveaway department. When he was last in government, as the minister for infrastructure demonstrated before, there were a lot of giveaways, particularly in Wentworth, but not for the people of Australia. And now he is in opposition he is in the giveaway department again. He wants to pay welfare to millionaires; he is in the giveaway department again. He wants to go out there and irresponsibly attack the strong surplus this government has responsibly put in place to tackle inflation, provide the buffer we need from international uncertainty and give us the capacity to invest in the future. All of those opposite—listen to them today through question time—have simply lost the plot. They are consistently inconsistent and there is not a semblance of economic responsibility about any position they take. When they left government, spending was growing at over four per cent. We had the highest-spending growth of any four-year period in a long time.
Spending as a share of GDP in 2008-09 is lower than in any budget delivered by the last government. It is lower, contrary to all of the outrageous and mad figures used by the member for Wentworth and contrary to the claims from the member for Wentworth in the House today.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer continues to defy your ruling. He has not once referred to the question that is before the House—not once.
This government is honouring its commitment to responsible economic management. It lies at the core of this budget. It lies at the core of our surplus; it lies at the core of our savings measures; it lies at the core of our funds to put in place investment for the infrastructure, the health and the education needs of the Australian people well into the future. That is why we have budgeted for a strong surplus of 1.8 per cent of GDP. We are banking all of the revenue windfalls. What the previous government did was to take this endless stream of money, it was raining gold bars, and then they went out and spent it. When they went out and spent it, they put upward pressure on inflation. And we now know, courtesy of the FOI from the Treasury, that the previous Treasurer, the member for Higgins, was advised by the Treasury not to go on a spending spree in the lead-up to the last election. But he did.
He spent like a drunken sailor and the working families of Australia are now paying the price. Eight interest rate rises in the last three years is the legacy of the member for Higgins, and apparently it is this behaviour that the member for Wentworth completely condones and supports. If he does condone and support that behaviour, it shows he is absolutely unqualified to lead a political party in this country. We have a very big inflation challenge on our hands, and inflation is the enemy of prosperity. It is the enemy of working families and it is why, in this budget, we have worked so hard to put in place our savings to build the surplus and to put the investment in place for the future. But none of these things are understood by the member for Wentworth. He is utterly irresponsible!