Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. Five budgets, five record deficits and then another $20 billion blow-out. This year's budget figures make a mockery of the manipulated and over-optimistic document the Treasurer presented to the parliament 12 months ago. Shifting of expenditure from one year to another was always an insult to the intelligence of the general population and yet the Treasurer persists in blaming everyone but himself. In fact, his latest effort is to blame the Howard government for his mismanagement, and it is plainly pathetic. In case the Treasurer cannot count—and that is entirely possible—let me help him. He has been the Treasurer for almost six years now. He inherited a $20 billion surplus, and $70 billion in net savings. And lately he has taken to blaming Howard and Costello for the situation he finds himself in—the situation we all find ourselves in. Surely, if the Treasurer was so concerned about the state of the books, he could have attempted to do something about it before now. But, no, amazingly, he had not actually spotted the problem before. The member for Lilley has taken almost six years to discover that all of these problems were caused by Peter Costello. Give me a break. Are we expected to believe that rubbish, that tosh?
The body language of the government members on budget night said it all. Even they do not believe the Treasurer. In fact, no-one believes the Treasurer any more. He is either completely incompetent or he is deliberately misleading. And the public can take their pick. But there is no doubt that they do not—indeed they cannot—trust the Treasurer to get it right. He claims that the unprecedented deterioration of the last four budgets is due to unforeseeable drops in revenue, even though in the last year revenue has grown by seven per cent, just as it did the year before.
He blames Treasury for bungled estimates, and yet all he had to do was to step out into the street last year to know that the economy was struggling, and that estimating a 12 per cent growth in receipts was way out of touch with reality. After all, surely it is one of every politician's first jobs to be in touch with their electorates. Surely, the Treasurer could have got out of his ivory tower and talked to his constituents—and then I am sure he would have got the message that a 12 per cent growth in revenue was clearly overly optimistic. After all, every serious commentator in Australia also believed that the 12 per cent growth in receipts was unachievable. Like a farmer budgeting on a record price and a record crop he could find that it comes off, but it is highly likely that it will not—and certainly not every year.
Having lost another $19.4 billion, we are now told to expect more future deficits, more future debt and more broken promises and, unfortunately, the Treasurer seems not to have learned from his past errors and continues to predict a miraculous economic surge. He estimates that the mining tax in its fourth year, for instance, will return 10 times as much as it has in its first, that the carbon price in Europe will increase by 150 per cent over the next three years and that the government will stop the boats with its current policy over the next four years, even though the last five years have plainly been failure after failure on that front.
Even if miraculously these events came to pass, the Treasurer's budget predicts that government debt will rise by a further $100 billion to $370 billion gross debt by 2016-17. Quite simply, as the Leader of the Opposition said: this government does not have an income problem, it has a spending problem. The government has made big announcements on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and school funding but they are significantly under-funded, with most of their expenditure coming from beyond the four-year estimates. For instance, the government is selling the Australian Education Bill as a funding revolution for schools when, in fact, spending in the next three years will fall. Somehow we are supposed to trust this government to deliver a surge of funding to the sector in years 5 and 6 of the program. Half way through what would be the fourth term of a Labor government—we haven't even started on a third yet—we are supposed to believe that this Treasurer who has continually missed the mark is going to deliver that extra funding at that time.
This is from the mob that told us in October there would be a $1½ billion surplus. In December we were told that a surplus would be unlikely. In late April the Treasurer predicted a $7.5 billion deficit. Two weeks later the Prime Minister told us it would be $12 billion. By the first week in May the finance minister, Penny Wong, told us, 'No, the deficit would be $17 billion' and a week after that, on budget night, the Treasurer informed us the predicted deficit for this financial year is $19.4 billion. It is worth remembering that the financial year is not over yet. On that trend line there is more bad news in the pipeline.
On this record, how does the Treasurer expect the education sector or indeed the disability sector to trust him to deliver on the increased funding in five to seven years? How can we believe anything the Treasurer says? Having put the appalling record of this government behind us, it is disappointing to find that the budget presents no overarching plan for Australia. If Australia is to stop increasing its debt and start paying its overdraft it must have a plan to stimulate industry. Worthy as public spending may be on benefits—such as stimulating the education sector and supporting the disability sector, the caring sector—the economic benefits of doing so will be further down the pipeline. What is needed is a fresh push by government to re-invigorate the industry and investment cycle so that it can start to help pay for these projects that are important for Australia.
It is worthwhile reflecting that since this budget was delivered we have seen the announcement by Ford Australia that they are closing their manufacturing capability here in this country and that the SPC Ardmona plant at Shepparton has drastically cut production. They join a long list of failures and withdrawals from projects right throughout Australia: from James Price Point to the cancellation of the Port Hedland expansion to the difficulties experienced with the development of the Oakajee Port, and from your state, Mr Deputy Speaker, where Glencore Xstrata have announced the cancellation of the Balaclava Island loading facility to my state, South Australia, where it is best demonstrated by the loss of projects and opportunities like the Roxby Downs expansion and the cancellation of a proposal to build a rare-earth refinery, in Whyalla, by Arafura.
Simply put, we cannot as a nation stand to keep losing projects. They are the economic stimulus that will underwrite this nation in the future. It is not borrowed money. It is money that invigorates the economy. It is so important that we get it right. Unfortunately, in this budget there is no signal at all that the government has got the message. Along with the rest of Australia, South Australia has its own economic challenges. That means awakening that capacity in the regions. In most cases, I must gladly report, that is in my electorate of Grey, which covers more than 90 per cent of the land mass. It stands to reason that if you have 90 per cent of the land mass you will have 90 per cent of the resources.
In my electorate, aside from the mineral resources, we are, along with Tasmania, the equal biggest aquaculture region within Australian. That is centred around the Port Lincoln region and has been very successful. But in the way of this government, the aquaculture and fishing industries have been presented with some very real challenges through the development and declaration of marine parks. In particular, the abalone industry and the southern rock lobster industry have been badly hit by not only the Commonwealth marine parks but also the state marine park declarations. They have lost much of their most productive ground. At the same time, all of those industries are dealing with extra costs that have been forced upon them by Biosecurity Australia.
Deputy Speaker, you would remember that the government made a deal. They said that they would remove some funding from Biosecurity Australia but bring in efficiencies so that it will work better. They said, 'You blokes will be paying for it but it will work that much better that you won't know the difference.' Well, the money has been removed, but that as far as we have got on that project.
We in South Australia are major producers of livestock, cattle and sheep in particular. The ham-fisted handling of the live cattle problem out of the Northern Territory by the current government caused enormous difficulties for the industry not just in the Northern Territory, not just in north-western Australia, not just in Northern Queensland, but right throughout the industry within Australia. These good industries are facing extra penalties every day, penalties engineered by the government.
For grain producers, it is pretty much the same story. Last year, the government, in its infinite wisdom, removed the Wheat Export Authority. I have had come to my attention in recent days—and I think that I will be having more to say about it in this place soon—the fact that a major buyer has underperformed in the market to the tune of around $50 a tonne over the last three season and left growers completely out of pocket. I might point out that if you as a wheat grower are getting a price of $300 a tonne you are making pretty good money. If you are getting a price of $220, you are covering costs but 100 per cent of your profit has gone. That is what has happened to these growers.
If we look at the resources sector, we have in South Australia enormous resources in iron ore that are largely untapped. We have the birthplace of the Australian iron ore and steel industry at Iron Knob and Whyalla. Over recent years, the Middleback Range has been developed further. OneSteel export around about six million tonnes a year directly from there and another six million tonnes to eight million tonnes from their northern province, which is called Southern Iron and is near Woomera. But this is only scratching the surface.
Even with that export capacity, we still do not have a deep sea port in South Australia. That is completely holding up their projects. At this stage, I know of six current proposals to build ports within 200 kilometres of each other on the Spencer Gulf. Clearly, that is preposterous. This needs the government to take a firm hand and put these people in a room together to get them on the same page to develop one port that will provide super efficiency—the same kind of efficiency that we see in Western Australia. We need one port that can deliver the 40 million tonnes to 80 million tonnes a year that this industry is capable of producing.
We are also dealing with the copper industry, which has a number of new projects, particularly down on Yorke Peninsula. We have had the Prominent Hill copper mine developed in the last 10 years. But that will run out in the next 10. Carrapateena is the next project that is proposed by OZ Minerals. All of those miners, who are looking to expand their operation and build a bigger pool of income for all of the people of South Australia and Australia, are facing new impediments day after day from government.
The carbon tax is a very big concern for all of those industries. It impacts on them in a very real way. They are very nervous, always, about this government when it comes to the terms of the diesel fuel rebate. Certainly, the mining tax, while it only on impacts on one miner in South Australia at the moment, and that is RM OneSteel, an exporter of iron ore, it is causing all the other junior iron ore explorers and developers to build that into their future planning and financial models so that they can anticipate when they might have to start paying that tax, should it remain. This requires an investment in accounting so that they can understand at any given point in time just exactly what their operations are worth, what has been invested and what their write-off periods are. It is the kind of restriction that they would not have to face if the mining tax were not in place, because those accounting standards are quite different from standard accounting practices.
All of these things are happening. What we need is a change of government. What we need is a return to coalition government, to sensible and methodical government, where taxpayers' dollars are treated with respect and not wasted on harebrained thought-bubbles like GroceryWatch, pink batts and cash for clunkers. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is what the public expect. They are not looking for flashy government. They are not looking for the big broad ideas. They want someone sensible to get the books back in order and to give Australia the stability it needs.
I rise today to speak on appropriation bills Nos (1) and (2). These bills give effect to measures outlined in the 2013-14 federal budget handed down by the Treasurer on 14 May. I was disappointed on a lot of fronts, but there were two in particular for my electorate of Calare in New South Wales. After five years of neglect, the agriculture budget did not feature at all, despite the fact that we as a government, as a parliament and as a country owe nearly $300 billion, the government are still spending money as though it is something that they do not have to pay back. I think that is borne out by the fact that here we are, as I said, close to the $300 billion debt mark, borrowing $50 million a day. Why? To do things? No. It is to service that $300 billion. Somewhere between $33 billion and $35 billion of that $49 billion to $50 billion a day that the current government is borrowing is simply to pay interest on the $300 billion. As the previous speaker, the member for Grey, just said, people are not looking for us to come out and do wondrous things overnight. They want us to be sensible, prudent managers and to assure them that not only do they keep their job but there is a job that their children and grandchildren can have when their time comes.
There was nothing new in the budget at all for the electorate of Calare or for western New South Wales. The government rehashed things that were part of Infrastructure Australia and decided on last year. Suddenly, they were new things for the budget, but they have all been done before. There was no new funding for Calare at all. In their budget, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister tried to soften the blow by resurrecting these old policy announcements. But, no, people in Calare are not that stupid.
Furthermore, the Regional Infrastructure Fund has been gutted by $2 billion, which will impact on all rural and regional electorates, not just Calare. It was based on Labor's botched mining tax, which failed to raise any significant funds. Sadly, the fund has been exposed as a cruel hoax on the taxpayer and yet again highlights that regional Australia misses out under this Labor government.
Do families suffer? Of course they do. The government's waste and reckless spending is costing Calare residents heavily. Prior to even delivering their budget, the government broke their promise of increased family tax benefit A payments, which will see families in my part of the world and a lot of others miss out on up to $600 of promised funds; and they broke their promise to increase the tax-free threshold to compensate for the carbon tax. That is another $600 that Calare families were promised that will not be delivered.
In stark contrast—and I mean this in all sincerity as somebody who has been here for a while and represented the people in my part of the world for a while, in various guises—the coalition will help the families of Calare and Australia, households, retirees and pensioners to get ahead and plan their futures with confidence by scrapping the carbon tax as well as ensuring that tax cuts and fortnightly pension and benefit increases are kept. We will also ensure households get the full benefit of the abolition of the carbon tax by requiring the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to make sure companies do the right thing.
On the education front, the Gillard government confirmed that Charles Sturt University, which I am quite sure I am right in saying has the highest number of non-campus students of any university in Australia, is to cop a $20 million hit, which will hurt its campuses in regional areas, in Orange and Bathurst in my electorate and in Wagga in the electorate of Riverina, as well as small businesses and jobs in those communities. Let me tell you, in a town like Bathurst, in a region like central western New South Wales, a university of that size is a very serious contributor to the economy and jobs at a local level. Without a doubt, this decision will result in increased costs for regional university students and their families. We know that cost is one of the key factors that prevent regional students from attending university, and this funding cut presents a major risk to the ongoing participation of regional students at universities.
Funding is being pulled out of higher education to pay for Labor's Gonski school reforms. That is without doubt robbing Peter to pay Paul, but who wins at the end of the day? It seems unjust that current higher education students should have to suffer for the betterment of schools. I think we all agree that a better model for school funding can be achieved. However, the idea of cutting higher education to fund massive reforms in schooling, when the purpose of schooling is to prepare students for work and university, is somewhat ironic.
This government's track record on regional higher education is appalling. Over the past couple of years, they have tried to block inner-regional students from equitable access to the independent youth allowance. The most recent cuts to universities come on top of the $1 billion that had already been taken out of the system six months ago as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook—or, I should say, the midyear economic and fiscal outlook under this Labor government.
Pure politics is driving the policy coming from the government. For example, they are claiming that school funding is the centrepiece of their budget, yet over the next four years the federal government's total investment in school funding will actually decrease—it will actually decrease—by over $300 million. That is hardly something to gloat over. After six years of promises and declining student outcomes, the government are creating more uncertainty within the school sector. And, while the government are crying poor, they are using taxpayers' dollars to spruik their contentious policies, like the Gonski reforms and the NBN. The budget includes up to $100 million in new government advertising, which is a blatant waste of taxpayers' hard-earned money. The key to better schools, at least as far as more money is concerned, is better teachers, better teaching, higher academic standards, more community engagement and more principal autonomy. The coalition will not back a so-called national education system that some states do not support.
The NBN is another case in point. The budget reveals the government's planned investment in NBN Co. this year and that in the next two years it has been slashed by $3.5 billion. Less investment in NBN Co. will clearly lead to a reduction in the number of households and businesses which actually receive access to the NBN fibre network. And as if we did not know, this will impact on Calare as areas that were identified to receive some of the NBN Co. services—and I stress there were not many, almost none—will likely be pushed back further into the never-never.
We are well aware that our part of the world is hardly on the horizon of NBN. It will be into the 2020s before, it is assumed, there will be much fibre heading out there. The budget confirms what the coalition has warned for some time—that Labor's NBN is unaffordable within the currently claimed budget and undeliverable within the currently claimed schedule. The government and NBN Co. have not come close to meeting any of the targets they have set for themselves and there is no reason to believe they will start meeting them now.
The coalition will complete the NBN sooner, more affordably and at less cost to Australian taxpayers. We will aim to ensure that all households and businesses in Australia have access to broadband providing a download data rate of at least 25 megabytes per second by 2016. We will prioritise the areas with little or no or bad broadband rates—we have committed to do that.
I go to my own responsibility, the agriculture portfolio. It was certainly disappointing but, I must admit, not surprising that after nearly six years of neglect, anti-agricultural policies and no vision for the sector, Labor's only solutions are a band aid to problems largely created by themselves. Labor's big ticket items in this budget are farm finance loans, drought assistance and the Tasmanian forest agreement package, which are all to rescue struggling sectors with funds sourced from redirecting Caring for our Country money. There are no new initiatives to improve farm profitability. In fact, 'profitability' is something of a dirty word with this Labor government, but there is no mention of it for agriculture and none of the things we need can happen without a profitable sector.
On the weekend, the government belatedly released its food plan, after not having an election policy at all last election—sorry, I digress. There was one announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong, who said that they would look into the efficiencies of the way in which the APVMA was run, the organisation whose responsibility it is to register and ensure the safe use of chemicals and stock medicines. They announced that they were going to revitalise it and make it more efficient. In fact, they came up with legislation which will make it less efficient and more costly. It is going to cost $9 million a year more to run and they have decided, because of a deal they did with the Greens, that whether they needed it or not, all chemicals would have to be re-registered every 15 years. What a wonderful way to make things more efficient! They should be proud of themselves! So I did make an error—there was one piece of policy last election, which they have pretty much done, making it more costly to run the APVMA. The whole industry told them they are crazy but they have done a deal with the Greens and we all know how important that is.
Now, finally, we have that plan, but the glaring omission in that food plan is the key driver. There is a key driver if you want food security, and we do; if you want sustainability, and we do; and if you want a future for agriculture—and I surely hope we do. There is a word that comes into it here. It is called profit. If farmers do not make a profit and if processors do not make a profit, you will not have food security, you will not have sustainability, and you certainly will not have a future for agriculture.
Labor has finally come up with some initiatives that make an effort to capitalise on the Asian century, but that does not make up for six years of the Gillard government undermining our export opportunities in Asia. Other countries have priority access to Asia with bilateral trade deals. For example, the US has a tariff advantage in the Korean market for beef exports, currently over 5½ per cent and going to over eight per cent next January. It goes up by over 2½ per cent for every year that this government has sat on its backside and not done deals. Mind you, the government went out of its way to make it very hard to do a deal with Korea by reneging on a trade deal, a defence deal, that it had entered into, so I guess we should not be surprised that Korea is being a little hard to deal with here. New Zealand has tariff advantages into China of up to 20 per cent for some dairy products. Labor has not delivered one single major trade deal that is working for agriculture. In fact, it does not even consult with industry. It does deals for the sake of doing deals rather than working out whether its deals are of any help to anyone.
Australia under Labor is seen as unreliable and untrustworthy. They have made sovereign risk an issue. I did not realise it ever had been an issue for Australia, and I do not believe it had until the Gillard government got going. No. 1, they upset Indonesia by banning live exports. They annoyed Korea by reneging on a major defence deal, ditched the Dutch— (Time expired)
The most recent budget of the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has just been brought down, and now each of us in the opposition has the opportunity to comment on this budget and the government's performance of managing our economy. This is the very core of our government's most serious obligation to those whom they have undertaken the important commitment to govern. It is a time of sober examination. It is a time to deal with facts: facts of history, irrefutable facts. It is the solemn duty of government to caretake for our present needs whilst providing adequate planning and funds to be set aside for future development. The Treasurer has repeatedly promised surpluses and confirmed these in MYEFO updates. The facts are that none of these budget projections have, with the benefit of hindsight, been accurate. During this time the government have lost the trust of the people of Australia.
When times were good, the electorate took a risk on the charismatic member for Griffith, Kevin Rudd, who had so much promise but in fact just made promises. Shortly after the Rudd government was elected, the GFC confronted this brilliant young man, and, brilliantly, he had all the answers, some dreamt up on the Prime Minister's private jet at 30,000 feet and meticulously documented on the back of a drink coaster. These tablets of wisdom delivered down from on high were accepted by the devout followers—no time to question; no time to reason; who would dare question him? However, in hindsight it is irrefutable that these commandments should have stayed on the mountain. Waste on pink batts, waste on school halls, waste on failed border protection policies—wasting the hard-earned legacy of the Howard-Costello years, the Rudd government then racked up debt like this country has never seen.
There was a change of leader because Kevin had lost his way, but Wayne had not. He continued the borrowing and the waste: carbon tax advertising, NBN advertising, focus groups, the live exports fiasco, the Australia Network tender, the set-top box program—the list goes on and on. In business when you borrow money you have to repay the principal and interest. The enterprise must pay dividends and then some commensurate with its obligations. Government of our economy is big business by anyone's standard. The Treasurer's most recent budget is projecting record deficits of $19.4 billion, $18 billion, $10.9 billion and then, voila, a modest surplus. The fact is that every surplus promised by this Treasurer has not eventuated. It is an irrefutable fact.
For the average Australian there is a growing sense, as these irrefutable facts surface, that the government cannot be trusted with the enormous responsibility of taking care of our current needs and furthermore cannot be trusted to govern for our future. This government came to office inheriting a great legacy with abundant opportunities. They have been the beneficiary of the best terms of trade in our history and they have been the beneficiary of high levels of government revenue. Yet this golden opportunity has been squandered with ridiculous schemes wastefully implemented and their legacy is a record debt in excess of $300 billion. These are irrefutable facts.
Every dream that we share for the best possible care for those with disabilities, the best health care, the best education for our children, the best of our character, which is generously giving to our neighbours who are in need of assistance—all these things that can be given must be paid for. This takes planning; this takes forward thinking; this takes strength to be true to the promises that you make to the electorate. The same applies for major infrastructure commitments. In 2010 just 10 days before the federal election the Gillard government announced $2.1 billion in funding towards the construction of the Epping to Parramatta rail link. Rather than just make an infrastructure promise, they covered this announcement in caveats—with the corker being that the budget must be in surplus. Many people in this place mock the government's ability to bring our budget into surplus. They were accused of always being negative. However, the facts are irrefutable.
The surplus has never come nor will the promised rail link in my electorate. In the 2010-11 MYEFO, shortly after the last federal election, the government listed this project along with eight other infrastructure projects forming the Nation Building 2 program. The $2.1 billion committed to the Epping to Parramatta rail link was the single biggest funding item in this program. Six months later in the 2011-12 budget all eight of the other National Building 2 projects were re-committed to, but the Epping to Parramatta link was nowhere to be found. Over the following two years I have raised this issue in this place, asked questions in writing, forwarded queries to estimates, written to the minister and directly questioned him during the debate on these appropriation bills, asking if this was an attempt by the government to back away from their commitment to the people of Bennelong and Parramatta. The answers given by the minister were always attempts to deflect responsibility, to say that the money was still committed, to blame Barry O'Farrell and to accuse me of fear-mongering. On occasions this even descended into veiled abuse and mockery from the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure which was then leaked to the national media. Yet the truth is now plain and clear for everyone to see from the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald'Missing link: PM axes $2b Parramatta plan'.
Rail commuters and motorists will have to wait longer for vital infrastructure after the Gillard government quietly shifted $2 billion earmarked for the Parramatta to Epping line into a fund for projects not due to be built until after 2019. Whilst the minister continues his attempts to blame the O'Farrell government for his own broken promise, he fails to recognise the stark contrast in the approach to infrastructure commitments made by these two governments. In 2011 my state Liberal colleagues were elected on a promise to the community to build the Northwest Rail Link. Whilst Premier O'Farrell had expressed a strong desire for federal contributions to this project, they would not use this as an excuse of why not to proceed. Former premier Bob Carr first promised the Northwest Rail Link in 1998 at a cost of $350 million. Thirteen years of inaction and broken promises, combined with huge growth in this area, forced the cost of construction up to $8 billion. Despite this, Premier O'Farrell has kept his word and the infrastructure is being built. The Gillard government could learn many things from Premier O'Farrell's approach to governance and the fact that people need to have trust in their government. This broken model of New South Wales Labor, of announcing projects in election periods and cancelling them at budgets, has become a well-worn path, and the people of Bennelong are not impressed.
In his budget reply speech on 16 May, the Leader of the Opposition set out an alternative approach to government—one of being honest with people, establishing a long-term plan for the governance of our country and the administration of our economy, and offering the hope, reward and opportunity that Australians want. Let us not lose our vision of the Australia that we want. In maturity, we learn to live within our means and make provision for our future. The coalition front bench is made up of people who have gained experience in dealing with debt and taking measures to effect legislation to address this mounting problem, and with the experience to implement this program successfully. This is an irrefutable fact.
This government has failed us. They have squandered our wealth and opportunities. They have behaved in an immature and irresponsible way. Now the task ahead is to mend this dire situation. It is time for mature, prudent management. It is time for a government that will take care of these most important issues that affect us now and into the future. Our coalition wants to solemnly undertake the role of caretaker and provider for the future.
The bills before us today are the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. In doing so, I want to speak about my seat of Herbert and my city of Townsville. I want to speak about our place in our region, our state, our nation and our world. I have based my speech on the question: where to from here? I will be addressing this using five elements that are key to our future in that context, and my speech is pitched towards and beyond the next election. We all know this is a bad government. We all know that this budget is primarily a work of fiction. But, rather than waste too much time emphasising those facts, I will be talking about (1) building a stronger economy, (2) building a stronger community, (3) bringing about a cleaner environment, (4) ensuring our borders and our nation are strongly protected, and (5) building efficient, economy-building vital infrastructure.
Let us go to building a stronger economy to start off with. Running a country should really be no different to running a business or a household. Sure, the numbers are bigger, but the principles are the same. If we are to be the next government, if we are to be given that honour, we will have to make some hard decisions. But they are the same hard decisions being made in every business and household across the country every week, fortnight and months. Living within your means is not shutting up shop. All debt is not bad debt. We have to be more precise about what we spend money on, just as every person does.
Take the following example of two people who each take out a loan of $100,000. One person invests the money in a business which will provide a return and grow their wealth. The other person spends it on clothes, CDs, movies and shouting their mates out on the town. Both owe $100,000 and both have to make payments to pay it off. But one made a sound decision based on good judgement and did their research before splashing the cash around.
The same goes for governments. We have seen this government handing cash out to just about everybody—dead, alive, resident, nonresident—to be used however they want. The taxpayer is now paying the interest on overseas holidays and the like, to the tune of $38 million each and every day. Using the good debt principle, that money could have seen the Bruce Highway flood-proofed and four lanes to Brisbane. It could have seen four lanes on the Pacific Highway. We could have seen all those jobs and all that productivity. But we are now paying, as I said before, $38 million each and every day in interest on the debt racked up to this country. What we as a country have to do is play to our strengths. We have to play to where we are strongest and where we will get the best return.
So the first thing we would do if we were the next government is axe the carbon and mining taxes, because the carbon tax is a tax on electricity. As a country we made a decision that we would not be a country of low wages. We would be a country of cheap power. You can have one or the other. You cannot have high wages and high costs of production.
The mining tax is a tax on success. We have a tax on business and it is called company tax. They do pay their taxes. Everyone who works there pays their income tax. The problem with the mining tax is not so much the actual tax but that we spent the money that was locked in even though we knew it was a variable.
The thing with the carbon tax is that, no matter what happens, the cost of the carbon tax is cascading all the way down to the person who pays last and that is always the poorest and least able to pay. So whilst we have this big money churn going on at the moment and a massive swill of money going around the place, we know that at the end of the day it is going to be the people in the houses that are going to be paying for this.
I want to reduce red tape on business. I know a lot of people talk about reducing red tape but if we do not get serious about this we are never going to get ahead of it. In my maiden speech I said that what small business wants government to do is get out of their road and get our hands out of their pockets. We have lost over 200,000 jobs in small business since 2007 and small business in 2007 represented 54.7 per cent of the workforce. Now that is 46 per cent. That, my friends, is a crisis. Small businesses where the jobs are created are where the wealth is created. Small business should be working with their accountants and their solicitors not as compliance officers and tax collectors but as people who advise and build their business and create their wealth and allow them to get through other things.
I am 100 per cent behind Tony Abbott when he says that he will do a complete and utter review of tax. If you look at the state taxes that are involved here and the payroll tax and stamp duty and those sorts of things, they are negative taxes. They do not help anyone and they do not do anything for anybody. I think if we gave them a way of getting around that or to get something back, we can get better. We have to make the commitment that we will not leave small business behind to build a stronger community.
In my town, as I suppose in lot of towns and cities, youth crime and disengagement from education are a major factor. It is not my place nor my role nor my wish to comment on the policing of the matter or the judiciary that has to do that. It is not my province. What we here in this place deal with is the cause and effect. I get up in the morning and I shave, I go to work. My kids see me do that every day. I watched my father do it and he watched his father do it. We have all watched our parents do it and so it goes down the line.
We have generations of people out there who have never had a job. We say to these kids, 'You have to try hard',' but how do we give them aspirations when they go home and only see someone who is never going to get a job no matter how hard they try and no matter what they do. We had a crime forum with the member for Stirling, Michael Keenan, in Townsville. We had it in the Upper Ross where youth crime is very critical. The good thing about the people of Townsville is they knew there was not one cause. They knew that there was not one magical answer and that was the key.
This is a big problem that affects everyone. All these boot camps and that sort of stuff do play a role but, if we do not get these kids engaged, we lose them forever. We have to break the cycle. Why are kids out there at 3 o'clock in the morning? That is why I strongly believe that the work for the dole and the Green Army projects that we intend to bring in, should we be the next government, will play a major role in breaking that cycle and giving some kids some actual self-worth, some actual self-respect. If you go to work at 8 o'clock and you go home at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and you are tired, you will go to bed and you will sleep. It is not a panacea. It is not the fillip. It will not fix everything but it will play a role in breaking that cycle.
I do support the NDIS. I have since the very day it was announced. But I cannot help but believe that the cart has been placed well and truly before the horse when it comes to the arguments we have had over funding. When it came down to it, we organised funding in a matter of days and they did not even meet. The thing is not even going to start until 2018-19 and we are still arguing. We have it only going to fund 40 per cent but we still do not know what it is going to do.
The issue I have with the NDIS is when you speak to parents about what they hate most about the disability sector they say that to get the assistance they need they have to paint the child or loved one in as black a picture as possible. I cannot imagine doing that. We are not having that discussion. We have to have the discussion on where the line in the sand is. A friend of mine in Townsville suffers from agoraphobia and chronic pain. He wants to know whether he will be covered. I had somebody tell me they wear spectacles. Really, if you wear spectacles that is some kind of disability. They flippantly asked if they were covered.
We have got to have these questions because there will be a line in the sand. We have to have the discussion over what we say to the person who just falls on the other side of it. What do we say and how do we say it? That is where the discussion should be. Money can happen down the end. It takes three days to figure out the money and we can do that at the end. We have to find out what is going to happen with this thing otherwise it is going to be too late. I am disappointed that the disability sector has not played more of a role in asking these questions. I would like to see more people jump up and down about this and find out what the hell is going to happen here.
I am very proud to say that in 2010 we took to the parliament our policy of fair indexation for DFRDB recipients—that is, Defence Force retirement and death benefit recipients. It has always been indexed on the CPI only and has been unfair when other government pensions have also been indexed on the male average weekly earnings and the pensioners and beneficiaries cost of living index. We will, if we are the next government, as one of our first orders of business fix that—well and truly. It has been like that since 1972 and no government is without excuse. Fraser, Howard, Hawke and Keating have all had chances to do it. It is about time.
Education has to play a role in stronger communities. I am dreadfully worried about the way the Gonski debate has gone. Gonski has become this all-encompassing thing. Can we just get down to the tin tacks of what happens over the next four years? Gonski says we should have an extra $6 billion a year. We are actually getting a loss, a cut in education over the next four years of $325 million.
An honourable member: That is wrong.
It is not wrong, my man.
Opposition members interjecting—
Gonski is supposed to have $6 billion a year extra. David Gonski has not come out and said anything about this. So if you in the education sector believe that this government is going to come good with $6 billion a year extra in years 5 and 6 after three more elections then you go ahead and vote for them.
The cut to university funding is also shameful. When it comes to university funding, the key to education has got to be good teachers. To cut funding to universities is absolutely ridiculous, I say on behalf of James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
My side of politics is very serious about the development of the north of Australia. If we are going to be the food bowl of Asia then we have to get our science right. We cannot make the same mistakes with salinity and water that we made over 100 years ago in the Murray-Darling Basin. We have to get it right. The Murray-Darling Basin flows into the Great Australian Bight. That is the only place it flows. We have over 25 river systems in the north of my state and we know what goes into about five of them. We must get our baseline research done and places like James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority must be backed to get that. We must develop our PhD and research fields to make sure that we are getting the best results.
When it comes to schools, we must make sure that principals have the autonomy to run their schools like they would their business. We must let teachers teach. And we must get parents involved. If teachers can teach and parents can parent then we will get away with most things. If we could just get fathers to read to their children every night for 15 to 20 minutes most of the problems in this world will go away. We must work on outcomes as opposed to process. We must have our children become risk takers. At the moment we are so risk adverse with our children that we have kids in primary school who cannot climb over a see-saw. We are developing a bunch of children here that do not take risks because every time somebody falls over and scabs a knee there has to be reports done. A part of growing up is to fall over. We must tell the kids now that they must appreciate failure because if you fail it means you have had a go. 'Fail, and fail better', is a better lesson than, 'don't do anything'. So we must make sure we do those sorts of things.
I would also like to say that I am disappointed with the Queensland government's decision to raise stamp duty on insurance policies. We are copping it in the north of the state. But again, this does play into the fact that we must do more when it comes to tax reform. Raising stamp duty is probably something that was considered very seriously and would not have been done lightly, but that it has happened at this time hurts a lot of people. Insurance is too expensive in Northern Queensland. The coalition is working on practical expenses.
Townsville is perfectly placed for the development of north Australia. We have the north-west minerals province to our west. We are near Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and there is real growth in education and cultural exchange, and in services being two-way. We are perfectly placed to have used the north-west Queensland Cowboys in our soft diplomacy with Papua New Guinea, which is the only country in the world where rugby league is the national sport.
We must abolish the carbon tax, because the carbon tax does nothing for the environment. We are going to end up spending $3.5 billion per year every year to buy carbon credits from dodgy overseas operators. Direct action is a carrot versus the stick—I do not know how you guys work, but I tell you that when someone is hitting me over the back of the head, we will be fine.
We must work with the JCU algae project. We must open up the Coral Sea to recreational fishermen. We must get rid of the Pew foundation, and the GetUp people. We must secure our borders. We have people living in refugee camps in Cambodia and Chad and all those places, people are being pushed to the back of the line and not able to get here. I want to see a whole heap of things but I have run out of time, so I will thank the Deputy Speaker and I will take them up at another time.
I will try and pick up where the member for Herbert left off—and I am sure he and I share some clairvoyance on some of these issues!
When Australians are crying out for confident and prudent economic stewardship, this federal Labor government budget serves up more turmoil, more debt, more spin and more broken vows. There is nothing in this budget to give hope that tomorrow is better than today. It is as unsightly and ill-defined as a dog's breakfast. It is nothing but nebulous figures—while the local families of my community are left to their own devices to come to grips with costs of living pressures, economic uncertainty and poor services. It should not be this hard. Treasurer Wayne Swan says that this budget is about jobs and growth, but it actually forecasts an increase in unemployment—up to 5.7 per cent per cent— and lower growth—down to 2.75 per cent. By my reading, that is fewer jobs and slower growth. In my community, where there is already higher unemployment, this is intolerable.
Last year the Treasurer said in his budget speech, 'tonight I announce four years of surpluses'. This year he has delivered a $19.4 billion deficit and projected a deficit of $18 billion for 2013-14. Labor promised no carbon tax and yet we are living with a carbon tax and record deficits, and in this budget we witness the ditching of tax cuts and family payments. So much of the so-called modelling in this budget is fatally flawed. It is not creating a stronger Australia, and the assumptions and commitments are fundamentally dishonest. Labor is relying on the money tax to prop up its bottom line. This is merely a best guess based on a favourable terms of trade and royalties not being increased by state governments—altogether an entirely implausible and untested proposition. The government is announcing $44 billion of prescribed savings, but of those savings, $25 billion are tax increases. That is almost 60 per cent of the deemed savings as new or increased taxes. The interest bill on our national debt will grow to be $35 million a day and the debt will surge past $300 billion. This is a budget that should have been written in pencil. I reiterate that, if it is fully implemented, this budget will mean total gross debt breaching the $300 billion debt ceiling in coming years, no credible path back to surplus, new borrowings of $49 million every single day, Labor's fifth record deficit in five years and at least two more deficits to come, and more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years, with 99 per cent of these new tax increases starting after the next election.
Families and businesses have to live within their means, but this federal Labor government does not bring to bear that wisdom. At the last election the Prime Minister promised that Australia's net debt would peak at less than $90 billion. This budget has revealed that net debt will now peak at more than $191 billion, more than double what the Prime Minister promised the Australian people. Twelve deficits from the last 21 budgets—that is Labor's perfect record. For the last Labor surplus we must hark back to 1989, the year before I was born. It is all due to the fact that Labor has a spending disease, not to a revenue riddle.
In fact, revenue in 2013-14 is projected to be $80 billion more than it was at the end of the Howard government, yet the Treasurer has delivered his sixth deficit in a row. Spending in 2013-14 will be $120 billion greater than it was at the close of the Howard government. Australia's climbing terms of trade, the price paid for our exports compared with the cost of imports, have bolstered this nation's wealth. Indeed, the government's own much-trumped Australia in the Asian century white paper, released last October, highlighted how Asia's rapid growth, fuelled by demand for our coal, gas, iron ore and other minerals, has realised Australia's highest terms of trade in 140 years.
One would imagine that with these terms of trade still buoyant, 15 per cent higher than at any time during the Howard government, the budget would already be back in surplus. Yet, over the past five years, the government has spent $192 billion more than it has raised. Every year spending as a share of GDP has been bigger than it was in the final years of the Howard government. Labor's latest pledge of a return to surplus is no more dependable than its past forecasts. With it, once more, comes the potential for a crater in future budgets. Flying in the face of current market indications, the claims of surpluses in the two out years relies on the terms of trade sustaining at close to historic highs.
This myopic government introduced the mining tax and its splurge of spending initiatives to allegedly spread the benefits of the boom. But it did so just as the boom showed signs of peaking. It was too slow to act and we are paying the price now, and we will feel more pain in the future from its ragged economic projections in the terms of trade as they fall back to a more normalised position. Already, we know that the forecast revenues from Labor's sneakily negotiated mining tax have shrunk, from $22.5 billion to $3.3 billion over its first four years. Mining tax revenue in 2012-13 is an astonishing 95 per cent less than originally forecast by the Treasurer. He missed it by that much. Yet, despite such a comprehensive failure, the Treasurer's 2016 surplus insists on mining tax revenue increasing by 1000 per cent on this year's MRRT intake. Perhaps the only not-so-strange chapter of this sorry story is that references to spreading the benefits of the boom, a package of measures at the centre of Treasurer Wayne Swan's last three budgets, now seem to have evaporated from the budget documents.
This Labor government's carbon tax revenue predictions simply defy belief. Confronting a disintegrating EU carbon price, the government continues to forecast receipts of $38 a tonne in 2019-20. While the forecast carbon price for 2015-16 has dropped to $12 a tonne, stripping $5 billion from revenue, it is still grossly inflated, at double the European market forward price for 2015 of just $6 a tonne.
In the meantime, as I move around my local community I see the damage a carbon tax is inflicting. I speak to hardworking business owners and managers demanding an end to the impost and relief from this federal Labor government's overregulation and inflexibility in the workplace. One shop owner in Burpengary told me he was coughing up an extra $1,300 a month in carbon tax bills alone. Nearby, a popular coffee shop owner wanted to expand and hire more staff but rising overheads and reams of paperwork were a serious barrier. Another key local business, a manufacturer of heavy machinery components, estimates it will be billed $30,000 extra in electricity charges this year alone as a direct result of the carbon tax. The manager explained an additional shadow of concern over slowing housing and mining and a softening of Australia's economy. With commodity prices dipping, he said, the capital expenditure on infrastructure projects from mining companies was melting. They are just not spending the money. Confidence in the economy needed a boost. He went on to tell how similar businesses to his were 'falling by the wayside'. He also complained of dealing with numerous regulations and compliance documents. 'It is getting more difficult all the time,' he said.
Since coming to power this federal Labor government has introduced or increased 26 new taxes including the biggest of them all, the carbon tax. Labor has created more than 20,000 new regulations for the repeal of just over 100. Two years ago, Treasurer Wayne Swan promised there would be half a million jobs created by 30 June this year. So far, with one month left to run out this financial year, he has delivered around half that number—another shattered budget promise.
Labor has also lost control of our borders with well over 200 boat arrivals since the last federal election poll on August 21, 2010. The budget papers reveal a blow-out in the management of Australia's borders of at least $4.7 billion in the past 12 months. This week, immigration department secretary, Martin Bowles, admitted to a budget estimates hearing that the department vastly underestimated the number of asylum seekers expected to arrive in Australia this financial year. After last year's projections of just 5,400 asylum seekers landing in Australia in 2012-13, Mr Bowles discovered the staggering truth of more than 22,500 arrivals in the financial year. That is about 2,200 a month or more than four times the initial forecast.
What does this government do when caught in the headlights of such a glaring policy failure? It tosses up more dubious accounting in the columns of its latest budget, where it has the audacity to suggest that boat arrivals will: 'phase down over the next four years'. I do not think anyone in the Australian public seriously believes that proposition.
By way of contrast with this litany of, at worst, malicious deceit and, at best, false prophecy, I would like to turn to the coalition's road map to prosperity, beginning with the abolition of the carbon tax which, if elected, we will carry out because it will immediately lower the cost of living and the cost of business. Since the election of the Rudd/Gillard government, electricity prices have soared by 94 per cent and gas prices by 62 per cent, but the carbon tax elimination will immediately remove upward pressure on power costs. At the same time, a coalition government will keep income tax and fortnightly pension and benefit increases—that is a tax cut without the carbon tax. In total these steps will allow families, households, retirees and pensioners to make their way again.
The end of the carbon tax will also advance the position of Australian businesses relative to their international competitors, instead of flailing businesses with the world's biggest carbon tax. We will reduce emissions with targeted incentives. If elected, a coalition government will abolish the mining tax—the fastest way to support investment and jobs. We will cut red-tape costs by at least $1 billion a year to give small businesses the chance to breathe, grow and innovate; and parliamentary days will be slated for the repeal of laws, not their creation. By cutting taxes and regulation, we will boost productivity which will even up the playing field for Australian manufacturers—essential if they are to remain at the core of a five-pillar economy alongside services, education, agriculture and resources. We will have a once-in-a-generation commission of audit so that government is only as big as it needs to be. As I have stated several times before in this place, the Liberal philosophy is of a hand up, not a hand-out.
We will establish a root-and-branch review of competition policy to ensure fairness for small business. Small business will be a cabinet portfolio within the Treasury Department. Under a coalition government, there will be an affordable and responsible paid parental leave scheme; a work for the dole scheme will also be revisited, and we believe people who are capable of working should work—if not for the preferable outcome of a wage, then at least for the dole.
Let me conclude by invoking a wonderful facet of my local community: the many veterans who have chosen to call Longman home. I must mention them here because this federal Labor government's budget does not deliver them a fair go. This was the last opportunity before the election for the government to implement equitable indexation of military superannuation pensions. With the handing down of this budget, Labor has categorically failed to do so. As far back as 2007, Labor led people to believe it would provide a fairer deal for ex-servicemen and –women and their families. However, since the 2010 election, the coalition has twice tried to pass legislation through the parliament to achieve rightful indexation for military superannuants. Each time, Labor, the Greens and the Independents have combined to defeat the move. If the Labor government is re-elected in September, veterans will be worse off—denied the indexation they deserve—while the coalition will keep faith with those who have served and protected Australia. A coalition government would ensure that 57,000 DFRB and DFRDB superannuants aged 55 and over have their superannuation pensions indexed in the same way as aged pensions. Our plan is fully costed and we will fund it in our first budget.
The upcoming election represents a blunt choice—three more years of broken promises and scrambling excuses from Labor or the sure-footed coalition team with a plan to restore hope, reward and opportunity.
Sitting suspended from 13:46 to 15:30
I rise today to speak about the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) for 2013-14.
It is clear that his nation is in the middle of a budget emergency. This emergency has been brought about by this government's inability to manage the finances of this nation. This bill shows once again that the government is seeking taxpayer funds to prop up their own fiscal mismanagement and is seeking to further burden the individual Australians and families of this nation.
Two weeks ago we witnessed this government's the sixth budget. Let me remind this chamber about what that budget delivered for the people of Australia: a fifth record deficit in five years and at least two more deficits to come; total gross debt which will breach the $300 billion-debt ceiling within forward estimates; record net debt of around $192 billion; no apparent credible path back to surplus; more broken promises, such as the scratched tax cuts and family payments; more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years; an extra $100 million spending on government advertising; and borrowings per day of almost $50 million.
The budget was devoid of any good news for families at a time when so many are desperately seeking financial relief and support. It was empty of any good news for small business owners struggling to keep their heads above water. It did nothing to support our ageing population. This budget betrayed the trust of the Australian people because we know, despite promise after promise, that it did not deliver a surplus.
The Prime Minister told us that achieving a surplus was, 'the best thing we can do to help families with the cost-of-living pressures'—that was the Prime Minister's own quote. The Treasurer himself has said:
Again, a quote by the Treasurer himself. This prediction was correct, and yet the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have once again delivered a budget that makes a mockery of their comments and places additional burdens on Australian families.
What families and Australians are asking for every day is stability, consistency and a sense of certainty. They want to know that they can rely on what the government of the day is saying. But what the government says and does are two separate things; and what the government says today is often, and is, very different to what it may say tomorrow, or next week or next month.
Again, this budget has delivered chaos, more debt and many words which amount to spin. First there was the broken promise that the indexation of the childcare rebate would recommence in 2014. At a time when childcare costs are increasing for families, this decision will hurt many financially. We also know that families will also be worse off after the government announced an extension to the indexation pauses on income thresholds to family payments and FBT supplement payment until 2017. The decision will impact a staggering 1.5 million families who receive the family tax benefit part A and 1.3 million families who receive the family tax benefit part B.
Then, as I mentioned, there is the $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years. This budget will collect more tax than any other government in history. What is astonishing to me about this budget is the amount of wasteful spending—spending at the expense of everyday Australians. There is $100 million in new government advertising. What a waste. And $5 million of this advertising budget will be used to spruik the NBN. This is while suburbs in the electorate of Macquarie, including Blackheath, Mount Victoria, Hazelbrook, Wentworth Falls, Leura and Katoomba in the Blue Mountains as well as Freemans Reach, Glossodia, Kurrajong Heights, Cattai and Grose Vale in Hawkesbury are yet to receive the commencement date when the NBN will be rolled out in their area. While my constituents are desperate for broadband and reliable telecommunications, this government is more interested in spin and dazzle rather than in any real substance. What this government has failed to recognise is what only the coalition seems to understand: government does not create wealth, people do. Government spending is not a free gift but something that everyone is paying for, now and in the future.
This budget also makes me question the government's commitment to infrastructure, especially within the Greater Western Sydney region. The coalition has already committed $1.5 billion to WestConnex in Sydney. This funding will enable an upgrade and an extension of the M4 that will better link Western Sydney with the inner west, the city and the airport, something that is very much needed for people commuting, particularly from the lower Blue Mountains but also from the greater Blue Mountains area and the Hawkesbury, to the city. However, Labor has strings attached to the phantom $1.8 billion it has promised. Of the $1.8 billion Labor has pledged to WestConnex, only $200 million is in the forward estimates over the next four years, which falls far short of $1.8 billion. The bulk of funding, some $1.4 billion, does not kick in under Labor until 2019-20 to 2022-23. With the majority of funding put off for another two elections, this funding is just another Labor mirage.
This government's track record is an absolute disgrace, and the blow-outs are continuing. Labor has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Revenue in 2013-14 is projected to be $80 billion higher than at the end of the Howard government, yet the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, plans to deliver this sixth deficit in a row because spending in 2013-14 will be $120 billion higher than at the end of the Howard government. In his budget speech the Treasurer blames the high Australian dollar for having 'savaged' revenues, yet this is the one assumption in last year's budget that was actually right. With Australia's terms of trade still extraordinarily high—15 per cent higher than at any time during the Howard government—the budget should already be back in surplus. But over the last five years the government has spent $192 billion more than it has raised. Expenditure as a percentage of GDP has been higher every year under Labor compared to in the last years of the Howard government. The expenditure is absolutely out of control.
The two words that the Treasurer has used to frame Labor's approach are jobs and growth, yet his own budget forecasts show the opposite. Real GDP growth is forecast in his budget to slow down to 2.75 per cent in 2014 from three per cent this year. The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 5.75 per cent in the first two years from 5.5 per cent at present. This government has shown time and time again that it lacks the discipline and the courage to make the hard decisions to bring the budget back under control and to do what needs to be done to help, enable and facilitate Australian families make the choices to get ahead.
The coalition will not shirk the tough calls. We have the record to prove we are serious. The coalition left Labor with a $20 billion surplus, no net debt and an unemployment rate of around four per cent. The coalition has a positive plan to create a diverse, powerhouse economy that can create 1 million new jobs over the next five years and 2 million new jobs over the next decade. We will offer consistency and stability in government. We will restore sound public finances. We will get rid of waste and get Australia back on a fiscally responsible path. I can reassure families and pensioners that we will also fully retain the income tax cuts and fortnightly pension and benefit increases associated with the carbon tax. This will enable households to plan their futures without anxiety and with a level of confidence. This commitment is fully funded and will be offset by equivalent reductions in government spending. We will restore sound public finances.
We will have respect for taxpayers by lowering taxes, starting with the removal of the carbon tax and mining tax. We will boost productivity with our six-point productivity plan in industrial relations and we will restore the 'cop on the beat', the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The growth of government must be displaced by fostering robust growth of our millions of small and large businesses and by restoring consumer confidence to spend.
This is what a coalition government will do: we will end the chaos, the debt, and the devastation and take this nation to a brighter future. We will provide a platform for individuals, families and businesses to develop and invest in their visions and plans for the future—to create greater opportunities, not only for themselves and their communities, but for the people they employ, their children and their neighbours. This is an opportunity leading up to the next election for Australians to decide their future. What we are committed to is ensuring that every Australian has the chance to take hold of the opportunities that this nation can provide for them. Australians have the potential to achieve and reach the dreams set before them, but they need a platform of encouragement—a platform where they understand there is a sense of security; a platform that they can leap from, knowing that their investments will reap a reward.
I rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. I would like to not focus primarily on the recent Labor budget and their massive deficit but to express my disappointment about numerous failings of this government, in particular their inability to properly support the backbone and the financial engine room of this country—that being regional Australia and, in my case, regional Western Australia. I have consistently raised these issues in this place and plan on doing so until the end of my tenure which is not far away now.
First of all I would like to raise concerns I think are currently being felt by the Australian business sector, particularly the mining industry. My electorate of O'Connor, as I am sure many of you are aware, is one of the largest and probably one of the most diverse electorates across Australia and one I have been immensely proud to serve these past three years. As many commentators mentioned during the budget a fortnight ago, this was not the usual pre-election budget. This government has made cuts and changes all over the place, all in an effort to get Australia back on track and back in the black. However, the government has made cuts and changes that do not support ordinary Australians and that will not return benefits that this Labor government needs. My advice to the government and future governments is to invest in the regions, to invest in mining, agriculture and small businesses in regional Australia. Australia will prosper on the back of it. Businesses will produce a return and continue to do so, as will clearly happen in regional Australia and particularly regional Western Australia.
Secondly, I would like to raise the Regional Development Australia fund. I was disappointed but not surprised to see that this Labor budget did not include any extra money towards the Regional Development Australia Fund. I hate to repeat myself but as I have said time and time again in this place the comparison between Western Australia's Royalties for Regions program and the Regional Development Australia fund is laughable to say the least. My electorate however finally has seen some RDA funding under round 3 of the program. I certainly do welcome this $1.5 million investment in O'Connor.
One project which has just received some of this funding is the Shire of Esperance and the Esperance foreshore redevelopment project, a very worthy project that will greatly benefit the tourist town of Esperance and south-east coast of my electorate. The Shire of Esperance received $400,000 in round three and yet previously had received approximately $17 million from the Royalties for Regions fund. The difference is astonishing. I acknowledge this government is out of money. That has been clear for a long time now and this budget deficit has once again proved that. However, investing in the regions should still be a priority.
This leads me to another point which I have also raised on numerous occasions and that is the minimal return Western Australia receives from the GST. This is an issue very important to me and to my home state of Western Australia. Even though my federal WA colleagues from both sides of this House do not seem to believe that this is an important issue, their state colleagues do. To think that Western Australia's GST return could fall to 42 per cent is just unheard of and totally untenable. When the GST was structured I do not think anybody had any idea that the relativities would get to where they are currently falling to. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It needs to be addressed as a matter of equity and if you want a state like Western Australia to continue to produce for the rest of the nation, which we are more than happy to do, the GST relativity must be addressed. I have acknowledged before in this place that it has not always been like this but there must be a cut-off relativity point so that Western Australia can guarantee their financial return so that they can continue to grow their state and our nation.
Last week, the West Australian reported that the WA treasury figures showed that almost $15 billion more in taxes leave WA each year. That $15 billion goes to the Commonwealth. The GST review panel has also previously acknowledged that it is possible that WA could be ruled out of receiving GST returns altogether. In my opinion, these figures and the suggestion that WA might not receive GST returns at all is simply untenable; it is almost unbelievable; and it is something that this parliament simply cannot allow to happen.
As some of you may be aware, come September I will not be returning to this place. Therefore, I cannot stress enough that my successor must take this issue on as a matter of priority.
Honourable member interjecting—
No, my predecessor did not. WA's economy, while strong and lucky to have the mining industry, has problems of its own, unique to WA, just like any other state across Australia. Excluding WA from GST returns will worsen the situation, and I again call on the WA members in this place to work on this issue as a matter of priority.
Another issue, just as important as the GST, that is facing regional Western Australia is the current GP shortage and the provision of health services, including caring for our aged. According to Rural Health West, there are currently 82 vacancies for GPs across WA. Local governments across my electorate and elsewhere in WA are still picking up the slack of what is a federal government responsibility. Providing financial incentives to keep a GP in town is not something that many metropolitan councils do, although there are some. Councils should simply not have to consider this. It is simply not equitable. I am, however, pleased that this government did not cut funding in this budget to rural health care. They did not increase funding to help those local governments, but I will accept the very small win and acknowledge that at least it was not a funding cut.
Along with this, I was also extremely disappointed to see the Living Longer Living Better legislation pass through the House earlier this week. This legislation does nothing to practically assist regional aged care service providers in my electorate. These complicated bills have been passed without sufficient time for us to consider the changes, and many of them will impact strongly on regional residential care facilities in my electorate. Rural and regional residential care facilities are being stretched to breaking point, and this new legislation only serves to increase the pressure.
The Gillard Labor government has ripped $1.2 billion from caring for the aged and has cunningly redirected it to wages and unionism in the form of the so-called Workforce Supplement payments. The conditions attached to the Workforce Supplement payments are so onerous that nobody in the country will be able to afford to take up these subsidies. As a result, these subsidies will go back into general revenue, leaving regional Australia out in the cold. As an example, a small aged care operation would have to spend an additional $4 on wages and associated costs for every $1 of subsidy money. This equates to a deep erosion in the quality of aged care throughout Australia, which will be felt most deeply in the country.
Given the unavailability of operating aged care facilities in regional Western Australia, it is no longer attractive for investors to enter this industry and the state will soon be falling behind on meeting demand for beds. This situation will only worsen as the population ages, and this legislation has just made a bad situation much worse. By offering small operators a Workforce Supplement payment with unviable conditions attached, the government has assured that small operators will not take up these funds. This will lead to a larger pot of funds for the bigger city providers, who will now be forced to negotiate enterprise bargaining agreements with the unions in order to be eligible for assistance. This government has put unionism and politics ahead of the care of our most vulnerable citizens—the aged. This Labor Gillard government has sacrificed and abandoned remote and rural aged care operators and their aged residents in favour of large city providers in order to serve the union agenda.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to mention another section of O'Connor electorate struggling through the economic uncertainty—the farmers. Farmers across O'Connor electorate and WA more widely are really doing it tough at the moment. Subsequent bad years have put a lot of pressure on these farmers and unfortunately many will not be putting a crop in this season. I travelled my electorate during the last break visiting farming communities across the Wheatbelt and the south-east including the Ravensthorpe and Esperance regions. I also took trips deep into the eastern Wheatbelt, an area that is really struggling under the present economic climate. They are still waiting for rain as we speak.
At this time the government had just announced its farm finance proposal. The feedback I received was quite positive. I am pleased that this funding has been included in this budget. However, time is of the essence and this cannot be stressed enough. The window of opportunity to put a crop in has all but passed with many not having the finances to put a crop in at all.
I urge the minister responsible to work as closely as possible with the state government to ensure that this funding becomes available immediately. The WA government should not be left to burden the cost of administering this program, and I understand this is the fear of the state government. I hope Minister Ludwig alleviates these concerns as soon as possible so that these funds can be made available to those farmers that will take up the opportunity to at least put a crop in.
I thank the member for Riverina for his support in this because, clearly, it is going to be a major issue in the eastern Wheatbelt of Western Australia. I have heard some very heart-rending stories about where some of these farmers are going. I really am genuinely concerned about their mental wellbeing, about the wellbeing of their families and about the wellbeing and the life of some of these remote agricultural communities. Many of these outstanding regional communities are there on the back of what has been clearly an outstanding industry. I feel that we need to promote our agricultural industries to the fore. I would like to acknowledge the minister for making this money available because it has been well received. The urgency now is paramount. If it is not taken up by farmers within the next fortnight to three weeks, many will be in dire straits.
I also urge the government to release more information in relation to the Farm Finance including who will be eligible. There is still a doubt over who is going to receive these funds and whether there will be exit packages for people who do want to get off their land and allow other farmers to come in. What will the interest rates be for these concessional loans? I think all of these things need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and I urge the minister to liaise closely with all state governments to ensure that these procedures are put in place, so there clearly is a knowledge of where they are heading.
In closing I would like to again emphasise my extreme disappointment with this government and its inability to support regional Australia as I outlined in my speech previously. This parliament was one that was supposedly to focus on regional Australia by virtue of those that gave it power. In the early days it promised so much for regional Australia and it has failed us. I have a very simple comparison because I can compare it with the hung parliament in West Australia where the WA Nationals delivered the outstanding Royalties for Regions program, a program that is the envy of all other states. There is no doubt about that. They are the words of the federal Nationals leader, Warren Truss, not mine. He has seen first-hand the very distinctive regional policy that is the envy of all other states.
More importantly, the Western Australian government delivered stable government and that was done on the back of an outstanding policy, the Royalties for Regions policy. This parliament promised so much and has delivered so little for regional Australia. We have a minister saying that regional development funding can be spent in metropolitan areas because they are regions as well. I do not think there is one person in my electorate of O'Connor that considers the outer suburbs of Sydney a region or regional Australia. I strongly urge future governments that they have a strong focus on regional Australia. (Time expired)
May I commend the member for O'Connor for his speech and for his contribution to this place. Last Saturday at the Nationals preselection, another very worthy candidate for the seat of O'Connor was preselected for the Nationals. His name is Chub Witham, and I look forward to him making a very worthwhile contribution to this place, as Tony Crook has done for the constituents of O'Connor, who have benefited greatly from having a Western Australian Nationals member representing their interests.
Just recently—in fact, it was on 29 April—the Prime Minister made a speech to the Per Capita Reform Agenda prior to the budget. She used a rather bizarre example, I thought, when she was trying to explain what the budget cuts which were approaching would mean to the average Australian person. She drew on the example of John: Imagine a wage earner, John, employed in the same job throughout the last 20 years.
We all know the speech. We all heard it. We all raised our eyebrows at it. Certainly John had to tighten his belt in the example that the Prime Minister used.
I would like to imagine an irrigator by the name of John. I might use the example of John Bisetto, who was the one who told the water minister when he went to Griffith that he was a disgrace, about the so-called water reform he was planning to implement. The irrigator John in my example might be John Bisetto; it might be any other one of those great family farmers at Griffith and in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area whose name might just happen to be John, but certainly their uncertainty has not been lifted by the water reform, by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan enacted by this government. Certainly I look forward to an Abbott-Truss led government, which will keep its word and cap buyback at 1,500 gigalitres, which means that only 249 gigalitres of water will then remain to be recovered. That will be a good outcome for the irrigators of my area and certainly a good outcome for all those irrigators by the name of John.
Also imagine a stay-at-home mum. Let us call her Jane. Jane is concerned that there is nothing for her. She is a stay-at home mum and she is choosing to look after her kids, but what is there on the table for poor Jane?
Indeed, we have a regional student. Let us just, for example, call her Jennie. Jennie is also affected because, as Senator Fiona Nash, the Nationals regional education spokeswoman, told Senate estimates yesterday, just 17 per cent of regional 25- to 34-year-olds had bachelor or postgraduate qualifications in 2011, compared with 36 per cent of those from the city. Residents of regional Australia, Senator Nash said, are only half as likely to have degrees as their metropolitan counterparts. That is really tough on them. It is really tough on the Jennies of the world, the Jennies who are trying to make a great contribution to this country, but because of Julia and her government they have not been able to do that.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Oh, come on!
Sure, I take his interjection. The Prime Minister of this country and her government have overseen a situation where regional students were not provided with independent youth allowance, and that was just a shameful indictment on this government—a shameful indictment on the government and certainly on a Prime Minister who, when she was the Minister for Education, said that she was all about equity. The member for Moreton knows that that certainly was not the case for those regional students, whose name might have been Jennie, might have been Julia or might have been John, Jane or anything else. It certainly was not fair.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
I will take your interjections, but you know it was not fair. And it is certain that they have a tough enough time, member for Moreton, to actually get a tertiary education without being held back by your government.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
I do not have to give you the detail because it was already the fact that you would not provide. Your government would not provide equity in independent youth allowance. You know it and the members on your side though it. I certainly saw the minister for education, Peter Garrett—there you are, I have called him by his full name—come in and make this speech about, 'We are going to provide independent youth allowance equity just because the regional Independents and the regional members of my government—you were probably one of them!—have told me that this is so'. That came after months and months and months of the Nationals standing up for our people, who were not given tertiary independent youth allowance, and it was so unfair.
Mr Perrett interjecting —
You know it! Your members on your side knew it. You can complain and whinge all you like but that is the truth.—
Mr Perrett interjecting —
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
This year's budget has confirmed what we have all known for a long, long time: Labor's financial and budget management is in complete chaos. The budget has done nothing to help Australian families deal with rising cost-of-living pressures, economic uncertainty and poor services. Instead, it has delivered more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and certainly more uncertainty from an incompetent government which cannot and has not been able to be trusted since it was elected in 2007. It has been six long years of chaos, debt and, unfortunately, spin. Everything is about spin and rhetoric that just does not add up. Just like the budget figures: they never add up.
Australians are sick to the back teeth of it. They are desperate for stable, competent economic fiscal managers. Australians deserve that; it is the least that this parliament can provide. After all, it is the taxpayers' money that this government is wasting—the taxpayers' money!
Mr Perrett interjecting—
He can complain all he likes but he knows what I am saying is true. Yet again, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have failed to set out—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
You will get your turn. You have probably already had it and you probably do not want to take it because you are so ashamed of the government you represent and you are so ashamed of the fact that there has been, yet again, another budget deficit.
Yet again the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have failed to set out a credible economic strategy for the coming 12 months, let alone for the next decade. And that is what we want: we want long-term plans, not just plans brought in in indecent haste, not just plans brought in at the dead of night and made out on a beer coaster. We want good, stable credible government.
This year the government has delivered a total gross debt to breach the $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates. Another record deficit with at least two more to come. That is shameful. We are maxing out our nation's credit card and we are maxing out our nation's potential savings. We are preventing nation-building infrastructure from being able to be rolled out: roads, hospitals—those important things that the people, certainly in regional areas and certainly in the Riverina, need and expect. But they are not getting them from this mob.
How can the government justify $100 million spending on government advertising and yet deliver $25 billion more in higher taxes over the next four years? It is a good question. We must remember: these are taxes which will not hit Australians' pockets until after the next election. Let me tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that election cannot come soon enough.
Families have been let down yet again. They can justify spending to promote their own schemes—this is Labor—coincidentally in an election year, but scrap tax cuts, family payments and all the rest. Families are struggling to make ends meet. They are struggling in Moreton, they are struggling in the Riverina and they are struggling right throughout Australia. But what is this government doing about it? Very, very little. They are just taking out of their back pockets like a thief in the night.
Reading the reaction to the budget in The Daily Advertiser, my local newspaper in Wagga Wagga, on 15 May, the only positive reaction I could find was from—surprise, surprise!—the Country Labor president. The only positive reaction!
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Indeed! You might be interested to know—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Well, stay tuned on Adrian Piccoli and his comments about Gonski—stay tuned!
For the sake of the House, I withdraw—but he is wasting my time. As far as Mr Piccoli is concerned, yes, the state education minister did come yesterday and he did speak to the Nationals about the Gonski plan.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
All I say is: hold fire on that criticism of me, because there are some aspects of the Gonski plan I actually agree with, Member for Moreton. There you go; that might surprise you. John Harding, the president of the Wagga Wagga branch of the Association of Independent Retirees, feels that they have been left in a state of uncertainty, and he is right. He said:
Dom and Larissa Byrne of Wagga Wagga are about to welcome baby No. 6 in July—and congratulations and good luck to them on that. They are certainly doing their part for the nation. But they believe the government is 'making it more difficult for young couples to start a family'. Mr Byrne expressed his concern, saying:
He is a good man, Dominic Byrne, and I agree with him wholeheartedly on that point. Despite claims from the government that it offers hope and assistance for families, the coalition know—and, more importantly, the taxpayers of Australia know—that this is far from the reality.
At the 2010 election, the Prime Minister promised Australia's net debt would peak at less than $90 billion. This year's budget revealed net debt will now peak at over $191 billion, which is more than double the Prime Minister's original promise. But the Australian public are used to this Prime Minister not exactly keeping all her promises. She promised that there would be no carbon tax, but there is. She guaranteed that there would be a surplus—in fact, she guaranteed there would be a surplus 165 times—but there is not and there never will be under the current Labor government. When was the last time a Labor government produced a surplus? It was in 1989. This budget is the 12th deficit from Labor's—wait for it—last 12 budgets. Last year, the Treasurer promised a surplus of $1½ billion a dozen times or more—instead he has developed a $19.4 billion deficit, a deficit as big as the surplus he originally promised.
Australian households are under pressure. University students of the Riverina are under pressure. The irrigators of the Riverina are under pressure. And they are under pressure because of this government. They are under pressure because this government delivers no hope, no certainty. I hope that, come election day, the government are sent packing, because that is what they deserve.
I am very, very concerned about this government's treatment of veterans and of the Defence Force more broadly. As members are well aware, Wagga Wagga in my electorate is a tri-service city. It has the Army, the Air Force and the Navy—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Stop interjecting! Please stop interjecting and just hear me out, because you actually might learn something. Part of our defence strategy needs to be that we do not pare back defence, that we do not cut it to the bone like your mob has. Last year, $5½ billion was stripped out of the defence budget, and there was no confidence this year either—not only that but the DFRDB and DFRB entitlements of veterans are not being indexed as they should. Your government, despite the rhetoric we have heard from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, has not come good on any of its promises to properly and fairly index these payments—payments to people who put their lives on the line for our nation. And what is your side of politics doing for them? Nothing. Nothing at all. You just make it hard for them to make ends meet. The amount of correspondence I get from Bert Hovey and others—they are good people, they put their lives on the line for this nation, and what do they get in return? Absolutely nothing. It is shameful and you know it. The defence budget has been absolutely cut to the bone. It is an absolute disgrace.
As I said before, the spending on tertiary education is also shameful, with $20 million taken away from Charles Sturt University, an absolute leader in tertiary education. Don't raise your eyebrows at me; it is true. Its funding has been cut by $20 million. Charles Sturt University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Vann, said that the cuts were 'short-sighted and unwise', 'illogical' and 'undercutting our future prosperity'. We should be doing everything that we can in this place to better prepare our nation for the future, to better prepare for our future generation so that they have some prosperity. Your side is doing nothing about it, but we have a plan. We have a very good plan to put this nation back on track—
This will be my last comment in the annual ritual of commenting on the budget. As that dawned on me, it brought to mind the circumstances of my first response back in 1996. I do not intend this to be my valedictory speech but, as I contemplate leaving parliament for a new life, I have come to realise that truly nothing is new under the sun.
In 1996 the coalition came to government with the economic legacy left to us by our predecessors, a $96 billion budget hole with an annual service payment of something like $11 billion that could otherwise have been spent on supporting the Australian community. It took us 10 years to pay off the debt and we did not have a mining boom to fund us. Instead we took a more disciplined approach in delivering the goods, and left the legacy of a $20 billion surplus.
I am a strong advocate of the teaching of history in our classrooms. Not only are there some great stories to be found—inspirational ones and great models of how to do and not do things in society—but there are lessons for the future. I do not know who it was that said, 'If you want to know about the future, look to the past,' but how true that is. If history was more widely followed in the community it would reveal the predisposition of Labor to the spending of other people's money. I am not suggesting everything they spent their money on was either excessive, frivolous or just plain nuts. They have done some good things, but the Australian community has paid a premium price. The example that springs to mind is the excessive costs of Labor's so-called education revolution, where expensive school halls were built, sometimes when the schools did not even need them. The associated debacle of the school computers program—where is it now? There are still schools in our electorate waiting. But not to worry—if they need maintenance, it is actually cheaper to throw them away.
Today it is almost superfluous to continue commenting on the waste and extravagances foisted on the Australian people by this government. It has been done to death. The commentary is starting to dry up and people just want this government to go. When they do go—hopefully on 14 September—history will have repeated itself. If the coalition takes over government they will do so collared with another Labor generated debt hanging around the necks that will hobble the nation of years. In fact, the debt will be about double that inherited in 1996, with its associated liabilities.
I have had this conversation before and could as easily have cut and pasted my comments from the Hansard of the nineties. Truly, nothing is new under the sun. To quote Paul Kelly's opening remark in The Australian today: '…the need for Australia to revise post-election its assistance to the car industry is merely a small example of the huge public policy transformation that will be demanded as the resources boom fades.' He goes on to ask: 'How will Australia manage the decline of the boom that has so effortlessly boosted national income?'
A good question—but this present government, whose latest budget reflects a continued addiction to spending and chasing shadows at our expense, is devoid of an answer. I just wish more Australians read history. Labor has just delivered a massive budget deficit for the fifth year in a row. Labor promised over 500 times to bring the budget into surplus. This last six months alone, each time they reiterated their promise to bring the budget into surplus, it was reported within days that the deficit was growing—one billion, seven billion, 17 billion and now finally 19 billion in the red, a figure almost directly the opposite of the surplus we left them in 2007. While they finally conceded that could not make it after all, after hundreds of promises saying otherwise, their very dubious forecast of their ability to bring us back into the black has to be taken with a grain of salt. They just cannot seem to get anything right.
This is a government Australia cannot afford. Labor's budget delivers more debt, continuing deficits, higher taxes, broken promises waiting to happen, continuing uncertainty and rising unemployment. To the Australian public—the Australian taxpayer—this is a classic case of deja vu. While I have relieved myself of the experience of having to relive history by not standing at the federal election due on 14 September, I will be throwing my energies behind supporting the Liberal candidate in Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis.
Ann Sudmalis will make an informed, honest representative for Gilmore. In just this year alone she has attended more than 200 community events, held almost 100 village visits and personally knocked on hundreds of doors. Previously, for four years she served in the municipality of Kiama as a councillor. She knows and understands the damage the policies of this government will bring to Gilmore. We have all had a taste of them. Take their disastrous border protection policy, which saw a rise in the average of three asylum seeker boats arriving in Australian waters during the Howard government years to three per day under this government.
Unemployment is rising and Gilmore under this government. Our candidate can see that this government is making it harder for single parents, is making it harder for small businesses and is making it harder for a self-funded retirees. A coalition government will scrap the carbon tax, while simultaneously delivering tax cuts and increases to welfare. There is no money for the Princes Highway, yet Julia Gillard's candidate running for Gilmore thinks the Princes Highway is great. He is out of touch as much as the government he supports. Regional Development Australia is not delivering, not by its panel members but through the lack of recognition for regional Australia by this government and the absence of realistic support for any of our necessary projects. As a result, there has been little funding for infrastructure in Gilmore. The only time a government minister has visited Gilmore is during an election campaign and then it has been their B team. That shows just how interested they are in Gilmore: they are not.
Under the former coalition government Gilmore did very well on just about every level. It was not perfect but it was a lot better than what this Labor government have done. Ann Sudmalis is committed to turning this neglect around and I want to help her do it. Our candidate will have a difficult task ahead of her but I am confident she will be committed and a persistent advocate for the people of Gilmore. More than once she has been knocked down and has come back up again. I cannot think of a more worthy candidate to take over from me. While I might have chosen to leave this parliament, there is still a lot to be done and now even more so after six years of 'hard Labor'. Our candidate will pursue the vital job creation projects with the same energy and tenacity that I hope I have shown in my 17 years.
This is a budget without credibility. It is a budget which was discarded by the Australian public almost immediately after its introduction and no-one takes it seriously. No-one believes Labor's promises anymore. No-one believes anything they say, given their extensive track record of broken promises, mismanagement, incompetence, inefficiencies and looking after the trade union heavies. There can be no doubt that Labor has been in it for itself and not for the people they were elected to represent. The resources boom is just about over and Labor has no policies to deal with the money suddenly drying up. It leaves Gilmore with no job creation projects but with a general unemployment rate of 12 per cent and a youth unemployment rate of 28 per cent. So what has been achieved in six years of Labor government? They have been very good at spending other people's money but most projects have been ill thought out and have failed.
Any candidate for the seat of Gilmore needs to first have the necessary life experiences, education and abilities, as well as understanding the needs and aspirations of its residents, to earn the honour of representing them in this high office. They also need integrity and the ability to share common values and, most of all, they need to be in touch. I will be doing all I can to make sure that that happens. Once again I would like to paraphrase Paul Kelly from the same article:
The public will be shocked because it lives under the delusion that things are already tough when in fact much tougher times are coming.
When the tougher times arrive, the people of Gilmore will need a tough advocate fighting their fights. Gilmore does not need a seat warmer who will toe the line; Gilmore will need someone who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. The next member must fight for the small things like small equipment grants and small community grants. It is not all about big ticket items—black spots, contrary to Labor's candidate asserting that the Princes Highway is of world standard. There are many potentially deadly places along the highway. We still need upgrades to medical services. We need more support than the homeless, better services and a coordinated response rather than the current ad hoc process. We need a dental scheme. Why Labor cut the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, a Howard government initiative, is beyond the understanding of just about everyone.
Any candidate who is really serious about being Gilmore's representative needs to have comprehensive plans for local tourism. They need to be thoroughly across the subject and totally committed to it. It is our premium industry, with the best prospects for business development and real jobs growth. Sporting facilities desperately need further upgrades. Our farmers, small businesses and manufacturers all need the assistance long neglected by this government.
The long-term future of the Shoalhaven hinges on a third river crossing. Even the Greens are talking about it, yet I wonder when the time comes will they allow it to happen? How many green frogs and orchids will be rolled out as an excuse to oppose change? The New South Wales coalition government has committed funds to study the project, but such is the rapid growth of the area's needs that this project needs to be accelerated, and that can only be done with federal government support. Main Road 92 was a long-term dream and has opened further avenues for economic growth for Gilmore. We now need the funding to complete the final stages.
We have soaring youth unemployment, as I said, and we need to encourage the continued development of the University of Wollongong facilities in the Shoalhaven. I well remember those early days of trying to get Wollongong university to establish our own campus here. We got that, and then a medical school to train our local doctors, and then a nursing school. Kiama, Shoalhaven and Shellharbour enjoy a long and significant heritage. Much of our region was the first to be colonised outside of Sydney after the landing of the First Fleet. Funding is needed to preserve this heritage and our visible history for future generations.
CCTV cameras is also a major issue. I am sure most members would be familiar with Shoalhaven City Council's troubles and how this has cemented the community's demand for CCTV. It is an issue with national implications. Any candidate for Gilmore must see the value of CCTV and the need to improve other crime prevention initiatives, such as providing better street lighting. The Greens oppose this. They would like to see the crims being given an even break, or so it seems, yet they want CCTV cameras in national parks and other reserves to see how animals are treated. Never mind us humans!
We need to complete the Dunn Lewis Centre in Ulladulla. To be fair, I recognise the funding to complete stage 1 was actually given by this government. It is a modern facility with lots of unrealised potential that will add value for the community in general and for the youth of the Milton-Ulladulla area in particular. Gilmore is essentially a coastal community, with the majority of its population living 20 kilometres from the coast. Our best natural asset is Jervis Bay, a perfect, protected harbour, yet there are next to no realistic boating facilities between Sydney and Eden. The Shoalhaven has significant mental health issues, yet has not been provided with the range of services that are needed. We must have a permanent Headspace presence in Ulladulla.
Gilmore is not a wealthy community. It has many small towns and villages which all require individual attention. It is an ageing community, yet a community with a growing youth demographic that has to be recognised as having its own particular needs and wants. A cursory study of the census will reveal that. The paucity of employment opportunities means that some young people have to move out of the area, away from their families, for a realistic chance at life. Is that fair? No, it is not. So to those who would seek to limit opportunity by opposing realistic growth opportunities I say: stop being so selfish. Stop being so self-absorbed and intolerant of the needs of others, to the point where you pathologically refuse to see the forest for the trees. And, yes, I direct that comment to the Greens and their supporters. The world is growing, yet they prefer to live in perpetual denial. It is a fairyland stuff.
This budget rightly deserves to be dismissed. It is no more than an exercise in Labor saving the furniture. This is a budget about Labor saving Labor seats. It is not a budget for Australia's future, nor for the wellbeing of the people of Gilmore.
Now I understand what living in parallel universes is like. It occurs here every day—totally different worlds. Speaking on the appropriation bills before the House, I point out that our nation's economy under the leadership of the federal Labor government is 13 per cent larger than when the global financial crisis hit—the same GFC that those opposite have refused ever to acknowledge; the same GFC that Labor steered our economy through, avoiding recession when other nations floundered. Revenues are now dramatically reduced by the impact of the high Aussie dollar—which, of course, is because so many nations in the world are investing in our dollar because it is safe, sound and reliable—and the lower resource prices because of the fall in commodity prices.
Federal Labor's economic management has kept debt low. It has created over 960,000 new jobs in Australia. It has kept interest rates lower, helping families with their mortgages. We have experienced moderate wage growth and moderate inflation rates. Under Labor, Australia has retained its triple A global credit rating with the three big global rating agencies—Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's—one of only eight nations to do so and something those opposite have never achieved.
Australia's economy under federal Labor's sound fiscal management has remained incredibly strong, incredibly resilient, while many nations around the world remain in recession and continue to experience high levels of unemployment and poverty. Our economy is indeed the envy of the world. CommSec chief economist, Craig James, was quoted in the Australian Financial Review earlier this year, saying of our GDP figure:
This remains the case. Australia is doing remarkably well in the face of global adversity, though you would never know it, listening to the doom and gloom of the economic vandals opposite who would slash and burn if ever in government—just as their Liberal state counterparts have illustrated around the nation, particularly in my state of New South Wales where we see TAFE cuts, where we see health cuts and where we see Public Service jobs disappearing.
Australia is also the happiest country on earth, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, on 28 May:
In contrast to that happy nation and these facts, the opposition remains on a relentless trail of negativity designed to scare the Australian public. No amount of fear mongering by those opposite will ever change the fact that Australia is a leading nation on a global stage and one that is increasingly being recognised for its economic strength.
The opposition claim they have costed policies, but they are yet to be seen. All we have heard repeatedly is a mantra: hope, reward and opportunity. Well, you had better hope—hope that they are not in government, because who will they reward?—the ones who need it least. And opportunity?—only for their friends. It is a hollow mantra, concocted by Liberal spin merchants who have created low-grade immature attack websites about chooks and offensive misleading billboards about asylum seekers. When it actually comes to developing and costing policy the Liberals feel they are more capable of performing stunts than presenting a credible alternative government and credible alternative policies.
Similarly, they hide their leader from interviews—particularly long ones—with the media and they prevent him from fronting audiences such as the ABC's Q&A. In fact, it has been over 1,000 days since the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, last appeared on the program. Why is he hiding?
Mr Tudge interjecting—
Instead, they will commission an audit report. Just remember, it is code for: 'We will do an audit. We'll get someone else to do it. We'll be the nice guys, so someone else will say "The sky is falling; the country's going broke" and we will have to do more cuts than we ever thought we would need to do.' That is exactly what has happened all around the country as conservative governments come to power. Just as the Queensland Liberal government has done, they will cut to the bone. Take the 2010 election. Treasury analysis shows us that Tony Abbott and the Liberals had an $11 billion black hole in their costings. In 2013, following the Liberal leader's budget reply, they have already revealed a further black hole. It is getting bigger and it is getting blacker. There goes the happiness. They promised $5 billion worth of savings but they will not exactly say where they will come from. How will this be filled? The only way is that it will be cut to the bone.
We already know that the Leader of the Opposition plans to cut the Schoolkids Bonus, a program that has helped thousands of families in my electorate at a time when we are also investing into the retail sector. They are supposedly the friends of small business over there. Small businesses have benefited from the Schoolkids Bonus. Round January and February, a time when there is a lull, the benefits have just poured in because families have spent the bonus and it has been great for everyone.
The opposition have also said they will slash 12,000 public servant jobs in Canberra and 20,000 around the nation. They also intend to lower the tax-free threshold, increased by Labor to $18,200. They will lower it again down to $6,000. There is no incentive for work there. This will hurt the lowest paid workers in Australia including many families in Newcastle and, of course, it particularly hurts young people and women. As Professor Phillip O'Neill wrote in the Newcastle Herald on Monday 27 May:
How many of these workers and their families would be affected by cuts under any Abbott government? How many community members would be hurt by a loss in services? It is a scary thought.
Only Labor governments do stand up for families and only Labor governments stand up for jobs. Only Labor budgets set the path for a stronger economy, a smarter nation and a much fairer society. Our Labor budget delivers $14.3 billion for DisabilityCare Australia. We truly can be a civilised society, ensuring that all Australians with a significant disability receive the individualised support and care required regardless of how they acquired their disability. No Australian deserves to be left behind.
Our National Disability Insurance Scheme has bipartisan support but it took a federal Labor government to put it on the agenda and make it a reality because that is the Labor way. It follows in the footsteps of Medicare and the age pension as a great Labor reform and one I am incredibly proud of. Until that commission of audit gets its hands on it, it apparently has bipartisan support. If that commission of audit ever comes into fruition, I think social agenda issues will be the first things cut. But with an additional $300 million in Commonwealth funding for the launch site in the Hunter, the biggest in our nation, I know how much the people of my region and electorate care about the NDIS.
Paralympic gold medallist and proud Novocastrian Kurt Fearnley tweeted on budget night::
It is long overdue reform and I am proud that Labor is delivering that reform. Prior to entering parliament in 2001, I was a principal at a school for students with many complex special needs. I witnessed first-hand the difficulties faced by those students and their triumphs. I know how much extra resources mean when you are scratching to put together a 12-month plan. We want the NDIS. For me to know it is going to benefit everyone is a very heartening experience. But this is not just a social reform, it is an economic reform as well.
Deloitte Access Economics tells us that closing the gap between labour market participation rate and unemployed rates for people with and without disabilities by one third would result in a cumulative $43 billion increase in Australia's GDP over the next decade in real dollar terms. Today, however, just half of working age Australian with disabilities are employed in the workforce. This is a real case for the change that Labor is bringing.
Our budget also delivers $9.8 billion for better schools under our National Plan for School Improvement. It has been informed by the independent Gonski review of school funding, the most thorough funding review of Australian schools funding in 40 years. We know education is the key to future opportunity for our youth. We know that this additional funding will boost the performance of students, preparing them for high-skilled and high-wage jobs, those jobs of the future that are going to become more common but also require a higher attainment. After 30 years in education under the existing funding formula, I know how disparate it was, how disadvantaged our students were—
Mr Tudge interjecting—
whenever they had a disability, were Indigenous, were low SES, were from non-English-speaking backgrounds, were attending small schools or were in rural and remote schools. I have had experience in all of those schools to tell you and everybody here in this chamber and in this parliament that a needs based formula has been the missing formula for great success.
Mr Tudge interjecting—
Yes, we are the nation that has the highest attainment by women in education, and I am proud of that. But too many people are missing out. The gap between those that are achieving and those that are not is about three years. We can do better than that and we will.
Labor's plan to lift the education performance of Australia's youth by investing in schools and teachers is contrasted by those opposite, who would reduce school funding from $16.2 billion over the next six years. Investment into our schools is the real hope, the real reward and the real opportunity, not the reductions and the cuts that will be offered by those opposite. How offensive for the opposition education spokesperson, the member for Sturt, and the member for Paterson to visit schools in the Hunter region, in particular Irrawang High School in Raymond Terrace. It is an area I worked in so I know it very well. They claimed that there is no need for additional school funding, with the member for Paterson suggesting that the reforms are a 'con-ski'—rubbish.
In a letter to the editor in the Newcastle Herald a former pupil at the school criticised the pair for visiting stating:
Such schools in Hunter region electorates are in dire need of this funding as students past and present, teachers, parents and the community have all attested to and have all advocated for. Having an education background, I know the significance and dire need for this additional funding.
When discussing education policy with the Prime Minister over the years, my support for areas I was not happy with was always conditional on needs based funding. To see the partnership program, to know that schools I had been principal of will finally get that extra support they needed meant I was absolutely willing to have those discussions and walk out with full support.
Our Labor budget also sets in place $1 billion for our plan for Australian jobs, driving innovation within our manufacturing sector and delivering an industry participation plan for investment projects worth over $500 million. We also made this an industry partnership with innovation precincts, joining together industry and researchers to drive innovation for further success domestically and internationally.
Industry and researchers in Newcastle are in the process of preparing a bid to become an energy innovation precinct. With our well established local business and industry and our world-class research capacity in clean energy with the CSIRO Energy Centre, Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources and the University of Newcastle, there is great potential for Newcastle and the nation to benefit from Newcastle becoming an industry-led energy industry innovation precinct. It has been interesting to hear Geelong people talking about the Newcastle example. Yes, we were a one-industry town many years ago but we no longer face that dilemma.
I am very proud to be supporting this budget. Labor budgets do build for our future and ensure a stable economy while supporting jobs. It is a combination of DisabilityCare Australia, our investment package for better schools, our plan for Australian jobs and our National Broadband Network—the largest infrastructure project in our nation's history—that prepare our nation for the opportunities and challenges of the future. Only a Labor government can achieve this. I am proud of the final budget being handed down in my term in parliament.
I rise this afternoon to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014. These bills will obviously appropriate significant sums of money over the rest of this budget cycle. I was disappointed on the night of the budget to hear very little reference to rural and regional Australia or to that great productive sector, the sector that feeds this nation and still has 60 per cent of its capacity exported to markets around the world. I refer to our farmers and their families and of course the small businesses in those country towns that are so dependent on the wealth that is generated by our agriculture sector.
But first of all I want to say that the $2 billion that was cut from the regional development fund was a great disappointment to me, because we were looking forward in my constituency, in rural and regional Australia, to seeing some of that money invested in the road infrastructure in Australia. If there is anything that we can do to reduce the costs of doing business and increase productivity for our agricultural sector and, for that matter, the mining sector, which is of course located largely in rural and remote parts of Australia, it is to upgrade some of our roads. But that $2 billion is gone because of the gross mismanagement by this government of the economy. The government went looking for savings and of course the $2 billion was an easy hit—it was going to hit rural and regional Australia—because the government, quite frankly, does not understand rural and regional Australia or the communities, the families, the businesses or the farming community that live out in rural and regional Australia.
There is no greater example of the lack of understanding of rural and regional Australia than the situation that is confronting the beef industry in northern Australia and, for that matter, across Australia right now. The ban that this government put on the export of live cattle to Indonesia from Australia still has ramifications not only today for the northern cattle industry but across the beef industry across Australia.
I am joined right now by the member for Kennedy. He and I along with other colleagues—the minister in Queensland; Senator Joyce; and my good friend and colleague Vaughan Johnson, the member for Gregory—attended a crisis meeting in Richmond several weeks ago. I know that some of those people who were at that meeting, proud producers who have been producing for decades and decades as families, who understand Northern Australia, are down here to bring their case to Canberra. I hope to be able to meet with them tomorrow.
By banning those live cattle exports, the government insulted the very market, the very government, the very country, which had been taking up to 700,000 head of live cattle each year, much-needed food protein for their communities, for their people, across Indonesia. The cattle that they breed up there are bred in the tropics of Australia. They are largely influenced by the Brahman breed. They are bred to be exported live. Why that type? Because they are going into a tropical area, into Indonesia, into feedlots and from feedlots into processing works which will provide that much-needed protein source for the people of Indonesia. The ramifications now are not just for northern Australia's beef industry but across the beef industry across the eastern states and many parts of Western Australia as well.
My home town is Roma, in Queensland. It has weekly store cattle sales and weekly fat cattle sales. In fact, it is the largest store-cattle-selling centre in Australia. We have seen many producers wanting to ship these cattle from northern Australia into a market. Many of them know that cattle with Brahman influences—and I know the member for Kennedy would concur with this—are not necessarily suitable for our domestic market because they have been bred for a specific market which is in Indonesia. It is like a factory producing an article for a particular consumer market, and suddenly the market has gone.
I have seen, in the saleyards in Longreach and in Roma, prices back by up to 50 per cent. The net result is that the producers who have bred these cattle—whether they are northern cattle producers or producers across the eastern states or in many parts of my electorate—have seen their projected incomes reduced by up to 50 per cent. The banks are very aware of the roll-on effect of that, and I call on the banks to have patience with the many producers who find themselves in this situation. The net effect of that is to reduce the value of the land, because it is based on what you can earn from the land. That will be reflected in the capital value of that asset.
Some of the largest publicly listed pastoral companies in Australia have been really hit by this decision and the lack of understanding by this government of the importance of the live cattle market to the beef industry in northern Australia. The Australian Agricultural Company, established in 1824, is our oldest registered company. The Bank of New South Wales would say that they were there a year earlier, but that is a debate for another day. They are now called Westpac. The Australian Agricultural Company is the oldest continuous company in Australia. It has just reported a $46.5 million quarterly loss because of the write-down of the value of its cattle and its capital assets, the land, because of the way that the government dealt with the live cattle exports issue by banning the export of live cattle to Indonesia and the way that the government have handled the situation since then.
We have not regained the numbers in quota entitlement to Indonesia. We have not gained any more market share. Something like an extra half a million head of cattle that would otherwise have been exported into Indonesia through live cattle exports have had to find themselves a market in Australia. I am sure the member for Kennedy has seen people putting their cattle on the road in a desperate attempt to save them, because they missed out on the wet season this year. They know, as I know—but obviously this government would not understand—that the northern parts of Australia, the tropics, will not see a wet season or rain until January, February or March of next year. And of course they could miss it then as well. So we have got half a million head of cattle that otherwise would have been exported to Indonesia on these properties.
So many of the producers have told me that, if they send them away to market, albeit in a much lighter state because they have not grown as well as they would have in a better wet season, they could find themselves with a bill rather than a cheque. Cattle that recently went to Longreach—and I am sure the member for Kennedy would be aware of this—made something like $20 a head because of the situation. There was no market for them. The market they were bred for—live export to Indonesia—has been largely taken away by this government. The ramifications are still out there for the Australian Agricultural Company and for other large companies that have been around for more than 100 years. The other one that has reported lately is NAPCO, the North Australian Pastoral Company, a wonderful company of the Northern Territory and the Channel Country of my electorate. It is privately owned, not publicly listed, but it has to report because of the shareholdings in the company. It has just reported a $5.68 million loss for the year. This is all a direct result of the government's handling of the live export market into Indonesia.
I want to touch on one other thing in the time I have left, and that is the real threats to my country towns in Western Queensland. Recent regional population growth statistics reveal that the average growth rates in many towns in the central western part of my electorate are falling. The way the federal government has dealt with the live cattle market has not helped those communities. From 2001 to 2011, in the local government area of Longreach the population dropped by some 318 people. Balonne, based on St George, lost 685 people in 10 years. Barcaldine's population decreased by 265 people, and the Paroo lost some 247 people. Those numbers might sound rather small, but in those populations they are significant because the numbers continue to decline. One of the major contributing factors, in my view—and it is shared by many people I met on the weekend at the Isisford Sheep and Wool Show—is the impact that wild dogs are having on the wool industry. So many people who would have otherwise remained in the sheep and wool industry have sold their sheep and gone into cattle because the wild dogs are just decimating sheep flocks in the central western Queensland region of my electorate.
So why would wild dogs have an impact on the population of those towns? When you go out of the sheep and wool industry is I am sure that the member for Kennedy would understand, you lose the shearers from your towns. You lose their families whose children would have gone to the schools, so you need fewer teachers. They do not shop in town because they are no longer in town, and all of our shearing teams who would have otherwise resided in those country towns have moved away elsewhere. This is a direct result of the economics of the sheep and wool industry. It has had the massive impact of dingoes and wild dogs—call them what you like—on people's decisions to get out of sheep and wool because the dogs, in large numbers, have been eating the lambs that have been produced each year in lambing season, and have also destroyed many adult sheep as well.
There is plenty of evidence out there from experts who can tell you that a single wild dog or dingo can eat or destroy up to 60 lambs per night. I have reports coming in from producers with a what we call scanned pregnancy tested ewes. They put them out in paddocks to lamb; there is a good source of protein in the grass, so you would expect 80 to 90 per cent of those who have been scanned as pregnant, and separated away from those ones that are not pregnant, to lamb. At lamb-marking time there are only 10 to 20 per cent; in other words 70 to 80 per cent of the lambs have been taken by wild dogs. That is part of the reproductive cycle that enables producers to have excess stock for sale. Without that, the economics of that property fall into negative territory and, of course, so many of them have decided to get out of sheep now.
I met with people in Isasfoot on the weekend, and what they are proposing out there is to establish a very long wild dog or dingo barrier fence, something like 800 kilometres, so that they can fence in the areas of Blackall-Tambo Regional Council, Barcaldine Regional Council, Longreach Regional Council and the Barcoo Shire Council. In those areas they believe that once that barrier is there, they will see people make a decision about staying in sheep and expanding their sheep enterprises.
Right now it would not be an option should anyone want to go and purchase land in that part of Queensland, or even consider going into sheep, because they know the threat from wild dogs and dingoes is too great and would destroy the economic viability of those properties. Obviously, they would just go into cattle.
So we do not have the shearers, we do not have their families, we do not have a rouseabouts and we do not have the trucks taking the wool to market—the transport and railway workers. All of those people were people who lived in those towns and that helped sustain those communities. But they were, to use that old phrase of many old towns, 'much of Australia is riding on the sheep's back'. But right now the dingoes are eating us out of this region.
At the meeting I had with the people, I said that we are going to do a feasibility study. I welcome the fact that Premier Campbell Newman of the LNP government in Queensland has given them some $30,000 to look into the feasibility of correcting this fence. As part of that process they will identify the economic way that that could assist in helping to sustain these communities. I would hope to see a turnaround in those populations should we be able to get the money to build this dingo barrier fence.
Back in the 1800s, what is now called the 'dingo fence' was built in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. It was originally built to keep rabbits out, but I believe that in something like 1914 it turned into a dog-proof fence. We need something like about $8 million—that is the sort of money that I would have hoped could have come from Regional Development Australia, rather than what has been taken away—the $2 billion lost could have been valuable, and I will be fighting for that $8 million to ensure that we can get a dingo barrier fence to protect the wool industry— (Time expired)
I always think that the budgets I have witnessed in this place over a period now of 20 years are not hallmarked by what is in them but in fact by what is not in them. Senator John Madigan let forth with great rage, and I am very much in sympathy with his rage. Many of you will have seen my rage at various times. I thought that when I got older I would get a little bit callused, but when in a nine-day period 200 mining jobs are announced to be gone from North Queensland—that next year 200 jobs will be gone at Mt Isa's CopperString as it closes down and as we cease to mine in Australia and downgrade to a quarry country only—500 jobs gone in Adelaide from the General Motors plant, 1,200 jobs gone in Melbourne at the Ford plant, 500 jobs gone at SPC Ardmona—at the plant itself and amongst the farmers—and another thousand-odd jobs are in jeopardy.
That is just in a nine-day period! Doesn't anyone sort of have a sensitivity towards what we are watching, which is the complete unravelling of the Australian economic fabric as the free-market policies of the ALP and the LNP—
An incident having occurred in the chamber—
Can I interrupt for a moment Madam Deputy Speaker? I would prefer people not to be having a telephone conversation while I am trying to address the Parliament of Australia! Possibly, gentlemen, you could go outside?
The budget, and let me be positive first, was not entirely bereft of infrastructure—arguably, for the first time in 20 years. The current government—and we have to pay them credit for the NBN, which I have not the slightest doubt that the Liberal Party is intelligent enough, I hope, to continue with as they said they would—has the CopperString project in north-west Queensland. That is the greatest concentration of mineral wealth in the country. There are hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore and phosphate, as yet untouched. It has never been touched, in actual fact.
Quite apart from our strength, which is copper, silver, lead and zinc, the CopperString project was to open up the great mineral wealth of the north-west mineral province—the 'Carpentaria mineral province', if you like, because it goes over into the Northern Territory. But in a very enlightened act of the government's vision—and I must pay tribute to the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Kevin Rudd; to his vision and his government's vision—they would provide an energy highway throughout Australia, extending the current energy highway into north-west Queensland—it is 1,000 kilometres away from north-west Queensland at the present moment—into the Pilbara, the iron ore region in Western Australia, and into Olympic Dam. This would be a wonderful thing for Australia.
In a most extraordinary piece of mind-numbing stupidity, or of an almost a corrupt influence from the oil and gas companies, the Queensland ALP government refused to go ahead with the CopperString proposal. Even more extraordinary was the incoming government, which describes itself as a 'can-do' government. They most certainly 'can-do' jobs in; they removed 15,000 and have not created one! I thought that if they were in any way positive then the CopperString proposal will get the green light from the incoming LNP government, but it has not.
The $2.5 million for the giant Pentland project will take that power one-third of the way up to north-west Queensland. We do not require money from the government for the project but what we do require from the government is tangible evidence that they are in favour of the project. In my electorate, seven per cent of its water and two per cent of its land mass can feed 60 million people. I am quite staggered by remarks by people like Mr Carr, a minister in this government, that the population of Australia is too large. If there is ever a truism of history, Mr Carr, you should stop reading your Civil War books and read some intelligent books and you would see a consistent pattern of behaviour in world history—
If Minister Carr gave up reading his Civil War histories and read some books which give a greater purview of the vision of history then he would know that there is a consistent constant in human history: that a people without land will look for a land without people. Even the most casual reading of Mein Kampf,by a certain person in Germany in the 1920s, you will see the German word 'lebensraum' on almost every page—it is very similar to the English words 'living room': 'We want living room. Russia has the land without people and we have the people without land.' There was another country called Japan. Japan wrote a little black book that they gave to all of their southern army—64,000 soldiers—which said,; 'The treasure trove of South-East Asia is held by the Europeans. We shall secure that treasure trove for the betterment of the people of Asia.' It would seem to me that there is a timely resonance for Australia in those remarks. Where you think you can sit on assets that can feed 60 million people and your nearest neighbour has 80 million of their population going to bed hungry every night—and you, with a white faced European descended arrogance can say to them, 'We don't like the way that you process beef, so we are going to cut off your supply of protein.' For an exercise in staggering confrontational arrogance this decision would take a lot of beating. The response from our neighbours was a very Christian response. They are not a Christian country but their response was very Christian. They returned good for evil. We were the source of the evil.
Unfortunately our water comes in a rush in the first three months of the year and then it is gone. So we cannot farm because we cannot access the water. You cannot go farming while your ground is water sodden and by the time that ground dries out there is no water in the river. The people of the world invented a thing called the dam, but we have not built one of those in Australia in nearly 30 years. So we continue on thinking that nothing will change, nothing will happen. Our nearest neighbour has 80 million people going to bed hungry every night and one small electorate in Australia can produce enough food to feed 60 million people just using two per cent of its land mass and seven per cent of its water supply. Those are not figures plucked out of the air; they are the actual figures from the Murray-Darling experience in southern Australia.
There again, we have decided that the world is coming to an end—what is the latest Chicken Little line we get from the ratbag element of society?—and we are all going to die because of global warming. This particular Chicken Little observation has led us to close down 20 per cent of the Murray-Darling. This is actually money expended. We have taken money out of the taxpayer's pocket, spent it on buying water and taken it out of the economies of all those towns. As we talk, there are nearly 200 shops empty in Shepparton, over 83 in Mildura and around 100 in Griffith—all empty. Land prices in Deniliquin have dropped clean in half. The entire economy of the Riverland area of Australia, where nearly 1½ to two million people live, is collapsing. This is not from anything other than the decisions of the Liberal government of Australia and now those of the Labor Party. Not wanting to be left out, they have gone in and taken another 10 per cent. The Liberal Party took 20 per cent and the Labor Party, not wanting to be left out of the destruction, have taken another 10 per cent. Then we have had all of these jobs go in last nine days. If you draw a graph of this, it will show that no motor vehicles will be produced in Australia in nine years time. Since this industry sources steel from Australia, there will eventually be no steel industry in Australia.
Before I sit down, let me say: we thank the government—the energies of the people in my electorate tell me what to do—because we have secured close to $100,000 million for two overpasses for the much-needed approaches to Cairns from Innisfail, Gordonvale and Edmonton. The work on the Cardwell Range will eliminate a very dangerous situation on the Bruce Highway and also cut travelling time by five or 10 minutes—and every five or 10 minutes counts. The completion of the Townville ring-road will ease congestion in Townsville and, of course, will greatly speed things up for people travelling on the Bruce Highway—particularly for people coming in from my area, such as me, and going north. Work will also be done on the Gordonvale Bridge. This is nearly $1 billion worth of work. I must emphasise to people in the western part of my electorate that the federal government gives money for national highways; it does not give money for main roads. So, unfortunately, we dip out on this money. We have got $200 million for part of the National Highway, which goes through Cloncurry, Mount Isa and Camooweal. We deeply appreciate that money, which has come through.
Finally, it is not a good thing that we belong to a vanishing race, but in Australia we are well below zero population growth. So, in 15 years time, there will be more deaths than births in Australia and, as a race of people, we will start to eliminate ourselves from the gene pool. The ALP government and Liberal government both did a lot of good work in coming to grips with this problem, but now they are both retreating from that position. It was divulged this week that it costs $800,000 to raise two children in Australia. If you want to be $1 million worse off then go and have a couple of kids! A lot of our young people say, 'Oh, jeez, we can't afford to start a family this year,' and they put it off and put it off. Marie Claire did a wonderful story on this. Many Australian women put off having children and then it is too late. Only 15 per cent of women do not want to have children, but now nearly 30 per cent are not having children.
Ethanol and the Galilee Basin development are not in this budget, and they should be. (Time expired)
This debate on the appropriation bills provides each member with an opportunity to give their views not just on the budget but on any aspect of government policy. Of course, it is right and proper that each member of parliament who speaks on these bills focuses, to a large extent, on the government's budget. With a budget the government tells the nation its priorities and the public in turn can judge it on its capacity, on its competence and on its priorities. In this very Federation Chamber last year we had this debate and if we could go back to that moment in time we had those opposite pledging, and in some cases announcing, that they had achieved a budget surplus. As I reflect on each of our current Treasurer's budgets, they all have one underlying theme: with each budget there are grand promises that are always followed by broken promises, nasty surprises and, frankly, incompetent government. The Australian people have been paying the price for that over the last five or six years.
In my contribution I want to look at this government's track record, because it is the best and the only indication of their future capability. Last year we had those in government telling the opposition they had returned the budget to surplus. The Australian public were meant to believe that a Treasurer who had missed each of his previous budget targets would miraculously take a budget deficit of some $40 billion and return it to surplus in one year. In fact, together with the Prime Minister, the Treasurer pledged on 500 occasions to return the budget to surplus this year. As it got closer to the budget and even as it became more obvious that the Treasurer was going to miss his target by a long way they kept making that pledge. As a corollary, for those opposite who spoke last year on the budget surplus that has not occurred this year, that will not occur next year or the year after. If you believe the Treasurer it will be near balance the year after that and then a small surplus.
The Australian people have seen this Treasurer's track record. They have seen his capacity for meeting targets. What they see is a government that makes a promise on budget night and then spends the rest of the year working out how to break that promise. Those opposite who also spoke on the budget last year also spoke about a number of commitments that were in the budget. They spoke of the importance of an increase to Family Tax Benefit A, worth $2.5 billion. That was in all of their newsletters and in all of their speeches. That promise pledged with hand on heart in last year's budget was broken in this year's budget. Promised tax cuts were also abolished. The mining tax which was supposed to share the benefits of the boom, of course, only delivered a fraction of what Labor claimed. I will come back to that in a short while. The Australian public—who has seen this track record—knows that any promise made by this Treasurer and this government is a promise that will surely be broken by this Labor government in the days, weeks and months ahead. We have looked at the deterioration in the state of the budget; that has deteriorated year after year with this Treasurer. We have seen the gross debt limit increase from $75 billion up to $300 billion. Each time the Treasurer has increased this debt limit, he has said that he would not have to increase it further and that he would never reach the cap. Now it is obvious that he will breach that $300 billion cap and that it will be necessary for him to again seek to increase it. For those opposite who listen to their Treasurer—I think, a year or two ago, there were some that believed their Treasurer, but I cannot believe that there are any of those in the government and on the government back benches who honestly believe in the competence of this Treasurer or the honesty of this Treasurer—each year, they have seen the results of his budget promises.
I could run through how much he has missed on each budget projection. I have done that before in similar debates. But I want to talk about the cost of these broken promises and the cost of this incompetence. Our net government debt—let me be generous; I have referred to the gross level of debt—which has escalated to projections up towards $170 or $180 billion. From a Treasurer who inherited $45 billion in cash in the bank, this is a monumental turnaround. And with that debt comes an interest-servicing cost—a significant interest-servicing cost. It is basically $7 to $8 billion a year—$21 million a day. And that is on the net debt figure. That is just to keep the debt. It is not to pay a dollar of the debt off; it is just to keep it. The price Australians pay is the price of the services that could have been delivered with that amount of money every single year, and the cost of paying that down. There is only one way to pay that debt down and that is with a budget surplus, which would be a repayment. Of course, the Treasurer has never delivered a budget surplus and never will.
The Treasurer would have us believe that this is all because he has had a collapse in revenue. Nothing could be further from the point. Revenue is up this year. It is up by about six per cent. It is way up, of course, when you look at the figures going back over the last few years. The Treasurer's problem is not that he has had a decline in revenue; the Treasurer's problem is that he has so overestimated what he saw to be the increase in revenue—and then spent the money—that when the increase did not turn out to be so much, he claims he has had a fall in revenue. It is a bit like a family sitting down to do an annual budget and making the assumption that at the end of the year they will get a $30,000 bonus, and on the basis of that assumption spending every single cent of it.
Then the problem arises not that they get no bonus but that the bonus is not $30,000; it is something a bit smaller. The best example of this, if you want to go to the detail in the budget papers, is the mining tax, which was going to collect billions and billions of dollars. On the basis of the projection by the Treasurer, that money was spent yet it has not been realised. In fact, as we famously discovered, the mining tax has collected only a little over $100 million in its first six months. You would have thought that the Treasurer would learn from this, but no. If you look at the budget figures where he has the outcome and a low projection for next year, miraculously there is the projection that revenue from this tax will increase massively in the out years, coincidentally at the time he says the budget begins to return to balance and to surplus.
This government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Families and small businesses in the Yarra Valley and in the outer east know that they pay the price of this government's incompetence and irresponsibility because an incompetent and irresponsible government in Canberra spreads a lack of confidence throughout all of Australia. Whether it be in my electorate or in the electorates of my colleagues, Australians have seen this Treasurer and this government's approach to economic and fiscal policy. After five and a bit years they know that not a word that is pledged can be trusted and they know there are nasty surprises around the corner.
This set of appropriation bills following on from the budget really does provide a capacity for those opposite to reflect on the promises they made to their constituents out of each budget. As they start to talk to their electorates again, they should think about what they have done in the past. They should think about what they know will happen in the future. The Australian people are not going to be lectured by this government and certainly members of this opposition are not going to be lectured by this government in the days and weeks leading up to the election about what they will deliver and what they say we will not. For every promise made to families—like the schoolkids bonus, which is linked to the mining tax, which they are promising hand on heart—I say to the families that their promises are the same as the promise they made on family tax A in the last budget. The future under Labor of the schoolkids bonus is the same as what has occurred to the family tax payment, which was promised with such fanfare last year.
On these appropriation bills the government has demonstrated that it is getting worse, not better. What Australia desperately needs is a change of government. Australia desperately needs a new Treasurer delivering the budget next year and the present shadow Treasurer will deliver a responsible budget, a budget of integrity, a budget that starts to solve Australia's economic problems. That is what we want to be debating next year. (Time expired)
I rise to speak on the latest artwork the Treasurer has created for us: his sixth and, hopefully, final budget. When the Treasurer stood up in parliament and gave his budget speech I thought he should have had a top hat, complete with rabbit, perhaps a deck of cards in his pocket, white gloves, a pigeon cage and the box and saw for the assistant, because it is probably the greatest work the Treasurer has done and an extraordinary example of his craft—that is, the art of illusion. Just like we had last year, we have a vast collection of smoke and mirrors when it comes to this budget. And this budget will suffer exactly the same fate as last year's budget, because the illusion can only last so long before the smoke clears and people see what is going on. I think the smoke has already cleared on this, because people have run a million miles away from this budget. It has been a very, very unpopular.
Last year's wafer-thin surplus promise, which the Treasurer promised and announced and re-promised and re-announced, with the Prime Minister doing the same thing—well, that was gone before the Treasurer even finished his budget speech last year. That promise was for a $1.5 billion surplus, we were told, with surpluses out over the forward estimates, the four-year life of the budget. Instead, what we have is a projected $18 billion deficit. Last year there was a $19.4 billion deficit, this year it is $18 billion, and on and on it is going to go. There is now no budget surplus until 2015-16—but if you believe that you would believe what the Treasurer said last year, that there was going to be a surplus. What does this do? This all adds to the nation's debt, and that debt continues to grow and grow and grow.
The gross debt is likely to exceed $300 billion. That is a figure we would were told we would never ever get to, but it is likely to blow that limit, to burst out. I recall the figure of $370-odd billion being announced as where we would hit peak debt. It is atrocious that this country is going to get that far into debt. At $300 billion, this nation is probably paying around $12 billion to $13 billion a year just in interest on that debt. That is a big number for most people to get their heads around. It equates to about $1½ million every hour. That is what the taxpayers will be facing: $1½ million every hour every day for the rest of the year, for the life of this government, and that figure will increase and increase as it keeps on racking the debt up and up and up.
The Gillard Labor government and the Rudd Labor government before it started their time in government with money in the bank and no net debt, yet we have managed to get to the situation we are in right now where the debt is growing and there is no sign that it is going to slow down. If we had actually used the money that was in the bank to spend on growth, on hard infrastructure, on stuff that was really needed to get the economy kicking along, it probably would not have been wasted, but the fact is that it has been. The fact is we have not seen substantial funding for major projects.
I can point to the Bruce Highway as one of the key infrastructure items that has gone begging with this government. Sure, there has been some work, but I have to tell you it is business as usual: the flood maintenance stuff, the run-of-the-mill stuff, stuff that was budgeted for and left over from the Howard years. All of that is being done, but there has not been anything substantial. We have places like the Yeppen flood plain in Rockhampton, where my good friend the LNP candidate for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, is trying to bring some representation to that area. That Yeppen flood plain is closed for 10 days a year on average and no supplies can get through for 10 days when it floods. That is the time frame. Trucks, freight and cars cannot get through. The Bruce Highway is basically shut down.
We have the Goorganga Plain in my electorate of Dawson, just at the Whitsunday coast area. It cuts off the Whitsunday coast airport from the tourism area of the Whitsundays. We have had situations where the area has been flooded and planes from Brisbane have sat on the tarmac. People have not been able to go anywhere because the bus could not get to the airport to pick them up and take them to the Whitsundays. So they have all got back on the plane and it has flown them back home to Brisbane. That area does not even have any planning funding allocated for it under this government.
We have Sandy Gully a bit further north near Bowen where there are significant flooding issues as well. We have perhaps the biggest construction project in northern Australia, the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion about to happen. People will need to get through the section of road to work there for the construction and also for the operations. But this area floods regularly. You are not going to get the workforce through there. So it is vital we get this area upgraded but there has been no funding for that under the life of this government.
The Horton River bridge a bit further along my electorate, also on the Bruce Highway, is very dangerous. It looks and feels very narrow. It is flood prone and, from the surveys I have conducted in my electorate, it is one of the top priority projects that people want to see sorted out by the government, but there has been no funding allocated to it under this government and no work done.
Then there is the Mackay Ring Road. It is vitally needed to get heavy vehicles off local roads in urban Mackay. It will basically become the Bruce Highway bypass of Mackay. It will link the port with the industrial centre of Paget so there are economic benefits as well with greater efficiencies and freight movements. For the residents of Mackay it eases the traffic congestion during the peak hours. The majority of the population of Mackay live north of the Pioneer River. We have this situation where the employment hub is in an area called Paget south of the river and also in the mines which are south and west of Mackay, so there are a lot of traffic log jams but only a minimal amount has been funded here.
We got $10 million which seems like a lot but it was $10 million for a study which started in November 2011 for completion midway through this year. They have identified a preferred route and there is public consultation underway but, once that is done, the funds run out. There is no more money to do anything else. The next stage has to be the detailed design and land resumptions. It is estimated to cost about $25 million for the detailed design and the hardship resumptions. That is probably up to $50 million if you are going to acquire the entire corridor. We actually had the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport come to Mackay. He talked about spending potentially $50 million as part of this supposed $4.1 billion commitment that the government is now on the even of an election saying they are going to spend over the next 10 years on the Bruce Highway. Well, hallelujah, they are late converts. But there is no money in the budget papers over the next financial year for it. There is no money from 1 July for any of these projects.
The Prime Minister came to Mackay at the end of April. The Daily Mercury, the local newspaper, reported that under the glare of the harsh North Queensland sun and the paper reporter under her nose, the Prime Minister said the money for the ring road would be in the next budget. Less than three weeks later we had the Treasurer bring down a budget with no funding for the ring road in it and certainly not for the next financial year, another broken promise for this government.
Curiously, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport flew in for a damage-control trip to Mackay about this. A journalists asked, 'Is this in the budget for 2013-14?' He said, 'It is in the budget.' He would not say the words 'for 2013-14'. He would not have dared say that. He dived and he dodged and he danced around that particular answer. I have to tell you why. It was found out today when the Department of Infrastructure and Transport's Mike Mrdak was before the Senate estimates committee. They asked him for about 15 minutes various different questions about this Bruce Highway funding package and what was going to be funded when. Again, just like the minister, there was a lot of diving and dancing. But the truth came out that it is split into two different parts—$1.844 billion is going to be funded from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and $1.09 billion will be funded from 2019-20 to 2022-23. The remainder of the funds are being spent this year on projects that have already been announced. The ring road and none of those projects I mentioned before are one of them. So it is about $1.2 billion less than what they said. More to the point, there is no funding for 2013-14. Surprise surprise!
The Labor candidate in my electorate and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport have been trying to pull the wool over people's eyes and tell them that the funding is there. But the fact is that funding does not happen until 2014-15. I am a Dr Who fan so unless the minister has a tardis that he can transport funding back in time, it is an impossibility. It is not happening. So they have been caught out and caught out badly with this lie that was told to the people of Mackay that there is going to be funding for the ring road in this budget, next financial year. We were told that by the Prime Minister when she visited Mackay in April. Senate estimates has brought out the truth. The funding is not there. It has been such a massive con job that they are now exposed, well and truly exposed for this fabrication.
There is more than the ring road and more than the Bruce Highway that needs to be done in the electorate of Dawson that we do not see any funding for in this budget. They are not big-ticket items and they are not pork-barrelling. They are just things that definitely need to be done. The Don River is one of those things that needs to be fixed. It is a river which does not flow much but when it flows, boy doesn't it flow. If you get a downpour you are going to get some serious flooding that is going to wipe out the community of Queens Beach and a lot of the agricultural crops around that community. It is a problem waiting to happen. There is a plan. The council is undertaking a study that will come out with some recommendations on how to actually fix it. We need to have some funding on the table for natural disaster mitigation and to do projects on problem areas such as this so we do not have that disaster. We need to get that funding and get it going before it is too late.
North Queensland produces an enormous amount of wealth for the entire nation. We just cannot seem to get the infrastructure out of government that we require to get on with the job of producing more of that wealth. We do not get our fair share. This government, I would have hoped, could have put up another regional development funding round before the election. It does not look like that is going to happen. Unfortunately, Mackay gymnastics is going to miss out. They have applied in the past for a measly $750,000 for a facility. Meanwhile, Geelong Cats in the national AFL comp gets $10 million for a stadium for that real small rural centre of Geelong. Meanwhile a poor little gymnastics club gets nothing. That situation I want to see reversed and I have a petition that I am going to be presenting to the House in the next coming week.
We have to be focused on what counts. This government is too busy being focused on leadership, on appeasing the Greens, buying votes and they have dropped the ball and lost control. We need the strong economy restored. The only way that can happen is through the coalition. (Time expired)
I rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. The Treasurer's budget speech was a massive disappointment for Australia—and by the look on the members' faces opposite, as the Treasurer was delivering his budget it was a disappointment for them as well. I have always believed that our history—personal and collective—can guide us into the future with smarter and better decisions, hopefully with the aim of improving our future.
I looked back at one of my earlier budget replies, and this is what I said: 'For me, it was a gentle reminder to look back to the 2007 election and the period prior to that, when the Labor campaign machine promised a great deal to the people of Australia. This was a party that promised to the Australian people that they were economic conservatives. This was the party that said, "We will deliver a strong economy and take Australia forward with a new vision." The expectations of Australians have not been met.' I should have added at the end: 'Nor have the promises been realised', but I will have more to say about the promises later.
That part of a previous speech of mine, even before this 43rd parliament started, is still relevant about the latest budget. On 14 May, the Treasurer had to stand and deliver a speech telling the Australian public and all Australian businesses that he and his budgets are failures. They are complete failures. To be fair to the Treasurer I need to state where he failed. It is as simple as this. In the Treasurer's 2012 budget speech he stated:
There we see that the Treasurer and his delivered surplus budgets have failed. At the end of the quote from the Treasurer he mentioned that our economy is in transition. On Monday this week, the Treasurer again stated, during question time, that the economy is in transition.
How long does this government need to keep rolling out the same old spin? Every time, they realise they have made another stuff-up. Maybe the Treasurer needs to use the correct word—this isn't an economy in transition, it is an economy that has been trashed. During the 2012 speech, the Treasurer also stated:
He then went on to say:
There is a word in there that the Australian people and the people of my electorate just do not believe from this government any more—it is the word 'promised'.
Many times we have heard the word promised from this government in relation to policy, budget or actions. No one believes or can believe the promises of this government any more. This budget has confirmed that this government has no financial or management skills and is in complete chaos. This budget delivers nothing to help Australian families deal with cost-of-living pressures, economic uncertainty, poor services and poor service delivery. The 2013 budget's only effects are: to increase gross debt and to breach the $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates; to be the fifth Labor deficit in five years with the promise of at least two more to come; no pathway back to a budget that is believable; more broken promises such as the scrapped tax cuts and family payments; and more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years and an extra $100 billion spending on government advertising.
The Treasurer of Australia has delivered deficit after deficit for six years. This carries on the proud Labor tradition of delivering deficits, with the last budget surplus delivered by Labor in 1989. What is it that prevents Labor from delivering the surplus, even after bragging and boasting that they will? And now in this budget, Labor is saying the deficit is a good thing. I wonder if the former Labor treasurers get together to boast over old times and biggest deficits, and whether it is like a badge of honour to achieve the biggest deficit and the most debt! If they do, I am sure our current Treasurer, Mr Swan, certainly wins by a country mile. I wonder if there is a perpetual trophy that is big enough to carry all the high-achieving deficit years—or maybe there is an honour board that carries the years and names of the treasurers for each of those years.
The plain fact is that debt continues to rise and borrowings per day will rise to almost $50 million per day. The budget was not that well received by industry and business. Many people have made comments about their view of the budget. My own personal background is 25 years in small business. I know in my electorate there are over 17,000 businesses. We have businesses like Crown Perth, we have racetracks, we have greyhounds, and we have the Kewdale transport hub which has the biggest transport road and rail hub in Western Australia. When I was in business in 1992-1993 under Keating, we went through enormous stress—and it is this that my electorate is also feeling at the moment. Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia, Lee White, said:
These comments are hardly an endorsement of this 2013 budget, that only offers more debt. I will offer one more assessment, from the Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO, Gary Dawson. He said there was little in the budget to stimulate growth and confidence, and nothing to relieve the ever increasing regulatory burden on business:
Earlier this week, the shadow Treasurer gave his speech on the budget. I must admit he gave the House some great insights into his views of the Treasurer and of his budget. Actually, some of his comments were so good I cannot avoid quoting them. The member for North Sydney said:
The shadow Treasurer also said:
The shadow Treasurer went on to describe the budget as atrocious and to talk about structural surpluses that we all know the coalition just could not avoid and that our current Labor government just cannot give Australia.
Recently we have heard that this government does not have a revenue problem, as repeatedly claimed by the Treasurer. The real problem is that this Labor government has a spending problem that it is addicted to. To give evidence of this, the Treasurer in his first five budgets has spent $191 billion more than has been raised in revenue. The Treasurer is taking Australia to more than $300 billion worth of gross debt, having inherited a very strong budget position from the coalition in 2007. The real tragedy is that the Treasurer has learned nothing from his previous five budget failures, and it is very clear now that in this budget he is still up to his old tricks. The Treasurer is still overestimating revenue by including completely unbelievable revenue assumptions in the budget. The Treasurer wants us to believe that mining tax revenue, for example, is going to increase by 1,000 per cent from this year to the last year of the forward estimates. That is just not going to happen. Madam Deputy Speaker, as you would know, many people call the mining tax the WA tax, as we are the state that is potentially most affected by it. But, as I stated before, it is a tax that has delivered nothing but a lack of confidence by investors in the mining industry. The mining tax is just another example of a Treasurer who just cannot deliver.
In Western Australia many constituents are deeply concerned about border security and illegal immigration. This concern is justified by the budget blow-out and the fact that we had a boat turning up in Geraldton harbour. Under Labor, the number of illegal arrivals by boat has increased from two people per month in 2007-08 to more than 2,000 per month this year, 2012-13. If you looked at a graph which showed the growth of illegal arrivals, the steep incline starts in 2008, just after this government changed the rules that the coalition had implemented, known as the Pacific Solution. During the same time, the number of people in immigration detention who arrived by boat has increased from just four people when the coalition left office to more than 23,000, who were in the detention network or on bridging visas in the community as of 10 May.
Labor have lost control of our borders and lost control of the budget. The arrival of two more illegal boats with a total of more than 160 people on board means that May is the second consecutive month in which more than 3,000 people have arrived illegally by boat. This can only end with more cost, chaos and tragedy. The latest arrivals have come as immigration department officials this week confirmed during Senate estimates that the Labor government had based their budget on 13,200 people arriving on illegal boats next financial year. I cannot imagine that anyone would believe that figure and how you could forecast that figure when the fact is that more than 22,000 illegal arrivals have come so far this financial year—a figure which the department said could hit 25,000 by the end of June. This is typical of Labor underestimating things like expenditure. Labor always underestimates the cost of their failure on our borders, an underestimation currently running at more than $10 billion of taxpayer's money.
I would like to say to all the people in my electorate what the coalition will do if we are elected to government on 14 September. To the electors of Swan: the choice of our next government will be a choice between more broken promises and more debt and more taxes, or a change of government to the coalition, who have an experienced front bench and many people from many walks of life in our party to give the necessary experience to a coalition government that can rebuild our economy but also give you the government you can trust. We will abolish the carbon tax. We will reduce emissions with targeted incentives, not a tax that clobbers business and people. We will abolish the mining tax that drives confidence and investment away from Australia. We will cut red tape and regulation to small business enabling them to grow and prosper and this will boost productivity. We will introduce a paid parental leave scheme, we will revitalise the work for the dole scheme. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the coalition has a plan to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. We pledge ourselves to your service. (Time expired)
I am pleased to speak for the Appropriations Bill in the parliament today and to reflect on the budgetary position and also my role in this parliament as the member for Farrer and with portfolio responsibilities in the opposition for child care, employment participation and training, and registered training organisations. I also want to mention that I am the chair of this parliament's friends of aviation group, a group that I along with others in this place were instrumental in setting up recently. This group is co-chaired by the member for Chifley and our aim is to recognise and highlight issues critical to the aviation sector in Australia. I believe this sector has been overlooked to a very large degree and that there is a large group of pilots, air operators, maintenance organisations and people who interact with the aviation sector that is feeling quite lost and alone under this government's policies. I would like to think that a recent Senate report highlights to this government a clear failing. I draw your attention, Deputy Speaker, to the Senate report by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee, Aviation accident investigations, chaired by my colleague, Bill Heffernan, Senator for New South Wales with an impressive line-up of senators.
Many people will be familiar with the circumstances of a particular accident over Norfolk Island involving Pel-Air and the subsequent ditching of that aircraft, the extraordinary survival of the pilot and all the passengers. One would almost say by skill and luck rather than perhaps judgement and an understanding of systemic procedures. What the committee did in—not re-investigating the accident, because the investigation of air accidents should most appropriately be done by the appropriate bodies, the ATSB and CASA—investigating the processes that were gone through in order to come up with the recommendations which, it is fair to say, largely blamed pilot error for the accident. If I can capture their thoughts, the Senate committee did not wish to let the pilot off the hook, so to speak, because to fly in the dark over a great expanse of ocean without an awful lot of fuel on board is probably something that does deserve a degree of condemnation. What surprised me, the committee and many in the sector is that in coming up with its conclusions ATSB simply did not look into systemic failures of the air operator and the reasons that led to the accident that, if you like, are separate from the actions of the pilot.
I want to draw a little bit from the executive summary of the Senate report because it makes the point very well:
The committee believes that ATSB processes have become deficient for reasons that they continued to detail. They then asked whether CASA exerted undue influence on those processes because CASA failed to provide the ATSB with critical documents which were absolutely relevant to the circumstances of this operator and, therefore, the circumstances of the crash. Why was that? The committee was surprised by the agencies near-exclusive focus on the actions of the pilot and its lack of analysis of the detail of factors that would assist the wider aviation industry.
It has been a long time since anyone in aviation has considered that the final few moments of, in the worst case, a fatal or near-fatal crash should be confined to an analysis of the flight itself. People know I had a career in aviation before entering this place. Every air-crash investigation that you read—and many of us take an interest in these things and watch the relevant programs—will always take great note of the system that resulted in the final few minutes. In tertiary study across the world, you can study human factors in aviation accidents. There is a whole body of organisational and management theory that looks at systems and why they fail. It is extraordinary that our ATSB did not look at those systems.
The committee was understandably very troubled by allegations that agencies, whose role it is to protect and enhance aviation safety, are acting in ways which could compromise that safety. It resolved to take appropriate action to investigate the allegations. I do commend the full report to the public because it is an excellent piece of work. I thank the Senators for doing it, but it should not stop here. The responsibility now rests with this minister to undertake to assure members of the public that our premier investigator is properly resourced, able to do its job, and capable and competent.
After a consultation conversation I had with a previous air accident and incident investigator in my electorate, I have become more and more concerned about ATSB—not just in the context of this particular incident. I should remind members that we are, in terms of our accident investigative capabilities, subject to audits by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization. In 2004, ICAO audited the ATSB and essentially gave it a very good report. It was doing its job well. But its capabilities from 2004 to now appear to have been comprehensively trashed. So what is going on?
The Senate report said that the committee heard that ATSB's report represents a low point in the agency's standard of reporting. Something has happened between 2004 and now and, ATSB being answerable to the minister for transport, the Minister needs to address this is a matter of urgency.
It is always about quality. Whatever we examine in this place is about quality. The quality of reports published by the ATSB is of great concern. My constituent who, as I said, is an air incident and accident investigator, drew my attention to a report which was issued in 2013, some six months after the relevant event. It was about a transport plane which experienced a significant wind change during take-off. It was a Boeing 737 at Perth on 4 December 2012.
The report simply said it took a long time to say the incident serves as a reminder to pilots that significant wind changes can occur during take-off, can be difficult to predict and can occur in the absence of thunderstorm activity. The wind conditions at each end of a runway may differ significantly so that headwind conditions can exist at one end and tailwind conditions at the other. Although it did not exist in this case, it is important for the available windsocks before take-off as the final opportunity to detect wind changes before the take-off begins. Even for people who do not have a commercial flying licence as I do, that must sound quite simplistic and indeed it is. We are talking about an experienced airline flight crew here and the ATSB is reminding them to look at the windsocks before take-off.
The wind change occurred after the take-off commenced and onboard wind shear predictive reactive warning provided no warnings. We know it does not provide warnings if the speed of the aircraft is above 100 knots. We therefore know the speed of the aircraft was above 100 knots. We are told that wind shear can occur in the absence of thunderstorm activity by the ATSB, when the actual circumstances of the accident was there was not a thunderstorm. Well, there was one about 20 nautical miles away. It is very much teaching your grandmother to suck eggs to take six months to produce a report about something that is fairly self-evident.
I do not want to have a go at the ATSB about this report but, if they are struggling with resources, what on earth are they doing taking six months to write this piece of nonsense that adds absolutely nothing to the body of air safety understanding or intelligence in this country? Everybody involved in aviation is struggling at the moment with the operations of the regulator and questions have been raised informally and formally in this parliament for the last 11 years that I have been a member here. This government does not seem to be getting to anything close to a resolution.
We need to have an approach with the regulator that is about quality assurance. It is not about massive restructures or hiring or firing. It is about something as simple as assuring quality because the relationships with the regulator should be characterised by openness and a willingness to listen, especially where recent and relevant industry experience is lacking in the regulator. The regulator cannot know everything about everything that is going on every day but they simply do not consult.
Many of us were invited to a recent industry crisis meeting in south-east Queensland which highlighted deep concerns of the industry about its own future under the current system and the inability of CASA to respond to genuine concerns and questions in any meaningful way that does not involve attempted intimidation of the victims. The attendees at the meeting were really just expressing their concerns. Many of the symptoms of unaccountability and the lack of focus on the real safety issues were brought to the floor and were treated with contempt. That in itself is of huge concern.
I commend the organisations that have struggled through this period and hope that there are brighter times ahead for them, in particular, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia. I met recently with the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia. They have sensible, responsible common-sense ideas about a new approach to quality assurance in CASA. They really do deserve examination by this minister and this government. We do not have to make statements about changing the culture but, if you establish a quality control system within the regulator, you charge that regulator with consulting, discussing and really listening and with some serious deadlines. The time that it takes to manage business is extraordinary and also the level of intimidation of control that it exercises over what are essentially small businesses trying to make a buck and do the right thing, often in regional Australia where it is very difficult to do that in aviation.
I wanted to spend most of this time talking about an issue that I do not have much time to talk about in this place but which nevertheless is extremely important to me. I endorse the remarks of others about the shocking state of this budget under this government, the shocking state of government debt, the fact that Mr Swan has had to max out the credit card to $300 billion, not indicating that he needs that the debt will reach that amount but if he has maxed out the credit card to that, then clearly it might. That in itself is of huge concern.
We know that if we are fortunate enough, work hard enough on our election in the middle of September, there is an enormous amount of work to do in order to: to pay off debt, to restore the hope, reward and opportunity that we know my constituents in my electorate in rural New South Wales are absolutely hanging out for. Across a wider national sector, the portfolios that I represent this parliament are also desperate for change and looking forward to a new focus and brighter times ahead.
I rise to speak to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 concurrently. Associate to write this speech, I reflected upon the last three times to address the House in relation to the annual budget. On 3 June 2010 I said:
On 31 May 2011 I said:
On 29 May 2012 I said:
And today on 29 May 2013 I say my view has not changed. My beliefs have not changed. Rather, my anger has grown at the same rate of knots that this Labor government's spending has grown. My anger is directed at the manner in which the taxpayers' money is being wasted and at the apathy this directionless government displays to all things financial. And today I add to the list of descriptive words I use when speaking of this government the word 'cunning'.
This government has seen the writing on the wall. They know they have a snowball's chance in hell to hold the cheque book in months to come. They have, with this budget; booby trapped the sinking ship so to speak. They have thrown out the bath water and left us, the Liberal Party, holding the baby. They came into power, not in a blaze of glory; it was more of an entrance through the back door, a result of insidious deals behind doors. They have divided, conquered and destroyed a nation's respect for government. They destroyed our reputation as a nation that was internationally renowned for its low sovereign risk, a nation that previously held its Prime Minister in high regard, a nation that was not tarnished by rumour and innuendo and a nation that believed the government was a government of the people.
I truly hope, for the sake of the nation, this is the last address to the appropriation bills I ever make from this side of the house. This year's budget confirms that Labor's budget management is in complete chaos. It confirms what we on this side of the house knew even before the Treasurer announced it; this budget is the fifth record deficit in five years, in fact it is Labor's 12th deficit from its last 12 budgets, predicting at least two more years of deficits to follow.
After six years of chaos, debt and spin, Australians are desperately seeking stable and competent economic management and yet again this government has failed to deliver. This government has failed to deliver on their promises. Last year the Treasurer promised a surplus of $1.5 billion, but instead he has delivered a deficit more than 12 times that—$19.4 billion.
In last year's budget speech, the Treasurer promised:
He also promised:
I find it particularly disturbing that this Treasurer continually breaks his promises to us, the people of Australia. A promise can perhaps be best described as a declaration or an assurance that one will do a particular thing or guarantee that a particular thing will happen. As a man of my word, I like to believe in promises. We all have the right to expect that, when the Treasurer says something, he is saying it hand-on-heart and that he means it. Broken promises or a cunning plan to booby trap the sinking boat show that, either way, he has not been honest in his dealings with the people of Australia. Smoke-and-mirrors instead of transparency has become the hallmark of this Treasurer and, for that matter, this government.
At the last election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised that Australia's net debt would peak at less than $90 billion. This budget reveals that net debt will now peak at over $191 billion—more than double what was promised by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 18:21 to 18:34
I believe I should recommence with: Labor spruiks they have a revenue problem when in fact they have a spending problem. Revenue in 2013-14 is projected to be $80 billion more than at the end of the Howard government years. Yet the Treasurer plans to deliver his sixth deficit in a row. Spending in 2013-14 will be $120 billion more than spending at the end of the Howard years. With Australia's terms of trade still extraordinarily high—15 per cent higher than at any time during the Howard government—the budget should already be back in surplus. But over the last five years the government has spent $192 billion more than it has raised. Expenditure as a percentage of GDP has been higher every year under Labor than in the last years of the Howard government.
The budget papers reveal that Australia's gross debt will breach Labor's $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates. The budget papers foreshadow a further increase in the debt ceiling, stating:
If only I had a credit card where, at a whim, I could increase its limit and then leave the payments to someone else! That is exactly what this government is doing. They are spending willy-nilly and leaving Australian taxpayers and their grandchildren—and maybe great grandchildren, for that matter—to pay the debt.
Over the first four years of the great mining tax, the minerals resource rent tax that the Labor government secretly thought would pay for their re-election in September, the forecast revenues collapsed from $22.5 billion to $3.3 billion. In fact, mining tax revenue in 2012-13 is a staggering 95 per cent below Treasurer Wayne Swan's original MRRT revenue forecast. The spreading the benefits of the boom package, which was the centrepiece of Treasurer Swan's last three budgets, seems to have been deleted from the budget papers altogether. I did, however, go to the government website Budget 2012-13 and re-read some of the hollow promises made. Of particular interest was a page bearing, in big, bold gold script 'Spreading the benefits of the boom'. Quite clearly, for all and sundry to see, right under the heading it said:
hollow words indeed. The page goes on to say:
A little further down the page, we find more hollow words:
Labor trumpeted their claim that they were spreading the benefits of the boom, and now we find it is another broken promise.
Despite the comprehensive failure of the mining tax to raise any meaningful revenue so far, the Treasurer's 2016-17 surplus promise relies on mining tax revenue increasing by more than 10 times from its level this year. You cannot kill the golden goose and still expect a big, fat golden egg every morning. The carbon tax introduced after the infamous 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead' statement by Prime Minister Gillard in 2010 is by no stretch of the imagination going to receive the dollar-per-tonne amount forecast by the government. Despite the crumbling EU carbon price, the government continues to forecast receiving $38 a tonne in 2019-20, while the forecast carbon price for 2015-16 has dropped to $12 per tonne—a cost of over $5 billion to revenue. It remains more than double the European market forward price for 2015 of $6 per tonne.
The budget delivers more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years—99 per cent of which will hit Australians after the next election. In fact, 60 per cent of the government's deemed savings are new or increased taxes. Two years ago, Treasurer Swan promised there would be, '500,000 jobs created by 30 June this year'. So far, he has delivered barely half that number—another broken budget promise.
The budget papers reveal yet another blow-out in the management of Australia's borders by at least $4.7 billion since last year's budget. The budget also assumes that boat arrivals will phase down over the next four years, despite arrivals now being at a record level. I can speak firsthand of the arrivals; not only of a record level but also of a record arrival in the city of Greater Geraldton, a booming city in the heart of my electorate of Durack. On 9 April just this year, 66 Sri Lankans on a leaky boat sailed casually into the Geraldton bay, between a coffee shop and a children's water park. Believed to have been at sea for 44 days, the boat was apparently destined for New Zealand. Of course, this came as no great surprise to me. The government and their processes are in such disarray that we should be expecting the worst. What does surprise me is that this is the first vessel that has made it down this far, considering the hundreds that have set out—and we have had $25 billion dollars ripped out from the defence budget in the last four years.
In short, the 2013-14 budget delivers the following: total gross debt to reach the $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates; Labor's fifth record deficit in five years, with at least two more deficits to come; record net debt of $192 billion dollars; no credible path back to surplus; more promises broken, such as the scrapping of tax cuts and family payments; and more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years. If only this government had displayed the same rigour to Australia's bank account as to the outrageous acts of cunning we witnessed in this coming financial year's budget, Australia would not be staring down the barrel of fiscal ruin and we the Liberals would not have to bail the country out of financial hardship yet again.
I rise today to speak on these appropriation bills because I believe the people of Macarthur are worse off as a result of this Labor budget. This year's budget delivers more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and more uncertainty. It was a cruel blow to families, pensioners and small-business owners in my electorate. Sadly, our country is in more debt than ever before, with the total gross debt set to have reached $300 billion within the forward estimates. It is Labor's fifth record deficit in five years and there are at least two more deficits to come. Over the past five years the government has spent $191 billion more than it has raised.
Australia cannot afford to keep running up record debt and deficits. This government needs to start living within its means, just like every family and every business across the country. I hold great concern for the people of Macarthur, who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of this government's reckless spending and waste since it was elected in 2007. It is a big concern but no surprise that Labor's budget has failed to address the cost of living pressures for all Australians. Since elected, this Labor government has done nothing to ease the cost of living pressures for families in Macarthur. Since 2007, the cost of electricity has increased by 93.8 per cent, water and sewage costs have increased by 63.1 per cent, the cost of gas has increased by 61.8 per cent, the cost of medical and health services is up by 40.9 per cent, and rents have increased by 30.2 per cent. The rising cost of living has had a huge impact on quality of life for many families in Macarthur. People in my electorate are working hard to pay off their mortgage and balance the family budget. They are trying to decrease their own debt and reduce their credit limits. So you can imagine how frustrating it would be to see their own government's wasteful spending result in almost $300 billion of debt, reaching record national debt interest payments of $7.8 billion per year. That is almost $50 million per day in borrowings. This government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problems. Labor's interest payments are now at almost $35 million a day. This budget delivers more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years. And to make matters worse, this budget includes an extra $100 million spending on government advertising. How can this government justify $100 million on advertising when there are people in Macarthur who are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families? I have spoken in this House recently about families in Macarthur who cannot afford to sign their children up for sports teams and after-school activities. The cost of living is so high that there is no money left after one income covers the mortgage and the other income barely covers the electricity bills, water bills, grocery bills and the council rates—all of which have gone up thanks to this Labor government's record debt and their toxic carbon tax. There are pensioners in my electorate who shower once every two days and have cut down on the number of meals they eat each day because of the rising cost of electricity.
The budget revealed that Labor's carbon tax projections are again wildly off the mark. The collapse of the European carbon price means that Labor is now covering up a further black hole of $6 billion. But relief is in sight for Macarthur families under a coalition government. We will abolish the carbon tax and provide immediate and substantial relief on electricity and gas prices. On day one of the new government, we will instruct the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to draft legislation to repeal the carbon tax. We will instruct the department to start implementing the coalition's Direct Action plan on climate change and carbon emissions. We will ensure that households get the full benefit of the abolition of the carbon tax by requiring the ACCC to make sure companies do the right thing.
Under the government's budget, families in Macarthur will be worse off. They are being forced to bear the brunt of the government's failed mining tax and carbon tax—and that is not fair. The government has extended the pause on income thresholds for family payments, the family tax benefit supplement payments, until 2017. This decision will impact the 1.5 million families who receive Family Tax Benefit A and 1.3 million families who receive Family Tax Benefit B, as these supplement payments fail to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The Labor government's decision to scrap these planned family tax benefits will impact 12,261 families in Macarthur. This benefit would have provided up to $300 to eligible families with one child and up to $600 to families with two or more children.
In May 2012, the Prime Minister promised a $1.8 billion boost to family payments, new tax relief for business and lump sum allowances for struggling Australians as part of a new 'benefits of the boom' package to spread the benefits of the resources boom to all corners of our country. This is just another broken promise for the people of Macarthur. At the last election, Labor also promised company tax cuts for businesses and then took them away last year, saying that the money would go towards family payments instead. Now those family payments have been taken away before they were even meant to start. Families across the country are literally paying the price for this government's reckless spending and waste. I can tell you now that more than 12,000 Macarthur families have taken a clear message away from this decision, and that is that Labor cannot be trusted to keep its promises or honour its word. Labor promised 'no carbon tax', a budget surplus, 500,000 new jobs and increased family payments—and every one of these promises has been broken.
Macarthur families will also suffer as a result of this budget's broken promise on child care. At a time when childcare costs are increasing, Labor has broken its promise that the indexation of the childcare rebate would recommence in 2014. The coalition will ensure that child care is more accessible, affordable and flexible by getting the Productivity Commission to urgently undertake a major inquiry into the childcare system. There are thousands of families across Macarthur relying on child care to allow both parents to work, to stay on top of the mortgage and to pay all the bills. It is imperative that these families can access affordable and flexible child care to fit in with their employment.
The coalition is also committed to its strong and effective paid parental leave scheme, which has been our policy now for three years. We want to ensure that Australian families are able to afford to take time off work for the birth of their children. This policy will ensure that they are able to spend these formative months with their newborn, before returning to the workforce. The beneficiaries of this policy in Macarthur will be teachers, police officers, nurses and retail workers who earn more than the minimum wage but are in no way rich. Paid parental leave should be viewed as a workplace entitlement, not a welfare entitlement. To this end, it makes sense for the amount paid to be based on an actual wage. Labor's scheme, on the other hand, puts families who earn above the minimum wage at a real financial disadvantage when starting a family. Our parental leave scheme is a genuine economic reform because, if we want a stronger economy, it is vital that we encourage skilled people to stay connected to the workforce.
Increases to the Medicare levy under this budget will also hit Macarthur families, with an average Australian family who earns $70,000 a year, $350 per year worse off. Under this government, it is going to cost Macarthur residents more to visit the GP and other health professionals as a result of this budget. The government has cut more than $1.8 billion from Medicare rebates, the Extended Medicare Safety Net and the net medical expenses tax offset. These cuts will hit the sickest and most vulnerable members of my community the hardest. There will be no increase to Medicare rebates between November 2012 and July 2014, despite continued growth in the cost of delivering health care. This means the costs are likely to be passed on to patients directly, particularly in general practice, where there is a high volume of pensioners and concession card holders. These cuts follow Labor's previous attacks that have forced up the cost of private health insurance and cut Medicare funding for dental services.
The government has failed to deliver on key promises in health. It has forced up the cost of health care for millions of Australians and has diverted much-needed resources to building bureaucracy. The coalition will restore good economic management so that sensible investments can be made in frontline health services that actually benefit patients.
Families caring for a loved one with a disability can be sure that a coalition government will keep the announced spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We will also ensure that the scheme reflects the Productivity Commission's recommendations, rather than just becoming another government bureaucracy. I believe that the NDIS is the most important piece of legislation ever to go through this parliament. There are many families in my electorate which will benefit, but the scheme must reflect the Productivity Commission's recommendations to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.
It is my strong belief that the financial support and assistance for these people living with a disability should not be the responsibility of parents and carers who have already provided hands-on support to their loved ones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The coalition believes that the NDIS can be delivered in the time frame recommended by the Productivity Commission by a sensible government that manages it well. We are ready to work with the government to see an NDIS delivered as soon as possible and believe that we must get this right the first time around, with a very high level of consultation and attention to detail from now until its full implementation.
The federal budget has revealed that Labor is actually reducing school education funding by $325 million over the forward estimates. This is despite the claims of extra spending. Labor claims that they are putting $2.8 billion into schools over the next four years. But they are discontinuing national partnership funding for lower socio-economic schools, reward payments to teachers, cash bonus payments to schools and literacy and numeracy funding to the value of $2.1 billion. On top of these discontinued programs, there is a third of a billion dollars reduction in ongoing funding set aside for non-government schools when comparing last year's budget figures to this year's figures. This means that schools in New South Wales will not see any of the promised federal funding until 2017—two federal elections away. Labor has also cut funding to universities, student income support, apprenticeships and training and tax deductions for self-education expenses.
The coalition certainly supports additional funding for schools. We have always suggested that at least the same amount of funds indexed each year to meet rising costs must be a basic starting point arising as a result of any new school-funding model. Unlike this government, if elected, we will focus on areas which are linked to improved student outcomes. We will introduce reforms and improve teacher quality, implementing a robust national curriculum and principal and school autonomy, and encouraging more parental engagement.
We believe that improving teacher quality is the most effective way to improve student outcomes. We also recognise that quality professional development for teachers has to be at the top of the education agenda. In Macarthur we have many fantastic teachers dedicated to the education of their students. These teachers know and understand how important it is that they receive professional development training to ensure that their students succeed in the classroom.
The coalition will also oppose Labor's plan to introduce a means test on parents of children in non-government schools. The Labor Party calls it an 'individual parental capacity to pay'—this is just another term for 'means test'. Under Labor's school funding changes, parents will have to reveal their individual income when enrolling their child at a non-government school from 2017.
The lack of infrastructure promised for the people of Macarthur in this budget was no surprise. Even the government's NBN was slashed. Budget figures reveal that plant investment in the NBN Co. this year and the next two years has been slashed by $3.5 billion. Less investment in the NBN Co. will clearly lead to a reduction in the number of households and businesses in Macarthur which actually receive access to the NBN fibre network. This number will be substantially lower in the period between now and June 2016 than forecast in the revised NBN 2012-2015 Corporate Plan.
The budget confirms what the coalition has warned of for some time: Labor's NBN is unaffordable within the currently claimed budget, and undeliverable on the currently claimed schedule. The gutting of NBN funding is a clear admission that the rollout is extremely behind the schedule unveiled by the government only nine months ago. After almost six years of Labor, fewer than 20,000 households and businesses are connected to the fibre network, while 2 million are still unable to obtain fixed broadband that supports viewing a YouTube video. If elected, the coalition will complete the NBN sooner, more affordably and at less cost to Australian taxpayers.
We will aim to ensure all households and businesses in Australia have access to broadband, providing a download data rate of at least 25 megabits per second by 2016. Within three years, the coalition's NBN will deliver broadband speeds at least five times faster than the current average for $60 billion less than Labor's version.
The coalition will help Macarthur families, households, retirees and pensioners get ahead and plan their futures with confidence. We will do this by scrapping the carbon tax and ensuring that tax cuts and fortnightly pension and benefit increases are kept. This is good news for Macarthur families. We will redirect savings from wasteful government spending to provide cost-of-living relief to families and benefit recipients in Macarthur, including pensioners, while also improving the budget bottom line.
By making savings across a range of programs the coalition will generate sufficient savings to retain in full the personal tax cuts which commenced last year, including the increase in the tax-free threshold to $18,200. We will also retain all of the fortnightly pension and benefit increases provided as part of Labor's carbon tax compensation package. This means people will continue to receive these tax cuts and fortnightly benefit increases—but without the carbon tax—giving Australians genuine cost of living relief.
Everything we do will be to build a stronger economy. We believe that this is the key to almost everything we wish for as a nation. It means more jobs, higher wages, greater government revenue, better services and, ultimately, stronger and more cohesive communities. The coalition has the experience and discipline to return the budget to sustainable surpluses. We will reduce debt and provide real support to Macarthur families to help them get ahead again.
A coalition government would give businesses in Macarthur the certainty they need to prosper. We will create stronger jobs growth by building a diverse, world-class, five-pillar economy and we will generate one million new jobs over the next five years. This budget has little to offer the people of Macarthur aside from pain and empty promises.
I am proud to be a member of the coalition. Our Real Solutions Plan will take pressure off families in Macarthur and strengthen our economy. This will ensure that over time there will be more wealth to go around for everybody. The people of Macarthur deserve much better than this government and its reckless spending and broken promises. Through responsible savings and strong economic management the coalition will provide hope, reward and opportunity for all Australians, and that is something the people of Macarthur can get excited about.
Here we are: another year, another Labor budget. From my perspective it has been another example of more of the same. Unfortunately we know that when it comes to Labor Party budgets, it is a case of looking what Labor does not look at what Labor is going to do. Who would forget that it was not that long ago that Kevin Rudd was elected at the end of the coalition's period of office in 2007 promising to be a fiscal conservative. The Labor Party held themselves out to the electorate and said, 'We learned the lessons of the past. The Labor Party is not going to be a tax-and-spend government anymore. You can trust us to steer the Australian economy. You can trust the Labor Party to deliver surpluses and to make the big calls correctly to ensure ongoing prosperity for the Australian people.'
Here we are six years later and what do we know? We know the track record of the Australian Labor Party, true to form, has been a continuation of the exact same profligacy we saw when Labor was last in office. We have seen the Labor Party engage in a process of taxing and spending. We saw the hard work of the coalition that for 12 years committed itself to making the tough calls, committed itself to saying no to people when we had to say no because we knew it was not in Australia's long-term financial interests and also to providing tax relief where we could afford to do so. After a period of abolishing wholesale sales tax and introducing the GST to make sure that Australia was on a sustainable fiscal platform, the coalition saw the economic opportunity squandered.
If the Labor Party were elected in 2007 and in a matter of about six months later they delivered—I would use the word 'delivered' in quotation marks—a budget surplus of around $20 billion to $22 billion, from memory, built off the back of the hard work and the decisions that had been taken by the coalition in, at the very least, the 12 months prior but perhaps more accurately over the 12 years prior.
We note the Labor Party got a firm grip on the levers controlling the Australian economy and made decisions about what they believed to be the priorities for our nation. Lo and behold, what we saw was the massive erosion of Australia's competitive standing and of Australia's fiscal position. Over the past six years of Labor Party government and incumbency we have seen Australia's financial position move from having $70 billion worth of assets—the Future Fund, the Higher Education Fund, Medicare Fund—and $20 billion plus surpluses to deficits of $44 billion, $58 billion and, who could forget, this year a guaranteed, you-can-bet-your-life-on-it surplus of a billion dollars that has turned out to be $19.4 billion deficit. What is more, after the Treasurer stood up and said in the budget speech last year, 'This is the first surplus with years of surplus to follow', we now find—oops, typical Labor—a $19.4 billion deficit and a deficit of $18 billion over the next financial year to be followed by a $17 billion deficit the year after that.
The Labor Party, again true to form, says: 'But this isn't our fault. It's all a consequence of international circumstances. If only we hadn't been in the wrong place at the wrong time, we could have governed effectively and we could have made sure the Australian people weren't up to their eyeballs in debt.' If only it was not for the GFC the Labor Party would have continued getting the big calls right and we would have seen the Australian people continue to enjoy strong economic growth. If only the Labor Party had not been the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then it would not have allowed a situation to arise where Australia moved from $70 billion of net assets to now gross debt approaching $400 billion in six years.
The problem with that approach is that is just not supported by the facts. There are inescapable facts about Australia's economic performance. Granted, the GFC was particularly pronounced in Europe and we have seen fiscal problems of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression throughout Europe. But that is not the story in our part of the world. That is not the story with respect to our major trading partners. That is not the story with respect to the United States. The simple reality is that in our region the countries with which Australia does the bulk of its trade and to which we export there was significant economic tumult about three or five years ago, but since then there has been a sustained pathway of strong economic growth. China has seen growth remain above seven per cent for years. The United States is currently seeing a strong economic recovery take hold. And we see throughout the bulk of our Asian neighbours continuing economic resilience.
When you look at the economic profile of other countries—for example, Canada or other mid-range economies similar to Australia—the story could not be more different to the Australian experience. Those countries are once again back into positions of surplus; once again paying down debt; once again provisioning for the future. That is in remarkable and strong contrast to the Labor Party, which continues to say, 'It's not us; it's everybody else that is the problem.' My constituents on the Gold Coast know what the problem is. They know that the problem is that this is a Labor government that, true to form, is big taxing and big spending. There has never been a spending initiative that the Labor Party does not like and there has never been a tax that the Labor party does not like. What constituents talk to me about on a regular basis is their sense of betrayal by this Labor Prime Minister, who, we all know, stabbed the former Prime Minister in the back and said, 'I was forced to do it because we were making some major policy errors.' To name two that immediately spring to mind: the mining tax and border protection. These were issues that needed to be addressed. That was the excuse used by the current Labor Prime Minister to stab in the back Kevin Rudd, the member for Griffith and Australia's elected Prime Minister prior to that.
What do we discover? The Prime Minister, only six days out from the last federal election, had looked down the barrel of TV cameras and said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' The current Treasurer had said claims that the coalition was making at that stage that Labor had plans to introduce a carbon tax were 'hysterical'. And what has come to pass? We now know that those claims were not hysterical, they were exceptionally accurate. We know that the Prime Minister who said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' introduced a carbon tax. And the Prime Minister who said, 'I had to stab the member for Griffith in the back because we got it wrong on border protection,' has now seen effectively an armada of boats coming not only to the islands around Australia but to Australia's very mainland, with about 40,000 asylum seekers coming to Australia since Labor changed the laws.
The falseness with which Labor goes about its budget process that concerns me as well. We know that the Labor Party needs to fudge the figures, frankly, when they are trying to make out that they have got everything under control when it comes to the nation's finances. That is the reason we have seen the Labor Party claim, for example, that the costs of border protection were going to reduce. At the very time we are getting record numbers of asylum seekers coming to Australia, because our borders are effectively nonexistent, we have a situation where the Labor Party says: 'No, sure, there's been a $6½ billion blow-out when it comes to the cost of dealing with the problem we created when we changed the laws, but you know what? Trust us, in the next 12 months the costs are going to go down. It's all right, we've got it under control.' No change to policy and, lo and behold, what we saw was that the costs went up, just as the coalition predicted they would.
Likewise, when the coalition effectively openly laughed at Labor's projected $1 billion surplus, and then this year the Treasurer says: 'Well, these events were unpredictable. How were we to know we would have revenue write-downs of the magnitude that we have had?' Once again, we saw Labor playing the victim card. The problem was that, after the budget last year, the shadow Treasurer and member for North Sydney stated in his address to the National Press Club that we simply could not rely on Labor's forecasts because they were built off an expected increase in revenue of $39 billion. The shadow Treasurer mocked the fact that Labor said there would be a miraculous $39 billion recovery in revenue and that is what would deliver a $1 billion surplus this year. Lo and behold, he was right. There was no miraculous $39 billion recovery. It was all just spin put in place by the Labor Party to attempt to hoodwink the Australian people.
I know that in my electorate on the Gold Coast people are sick and tired of this Labor government. They do not believe a word that comes from the lips of the Prime Minister. They certainly do not believe the fiscal strategy of this Labor Party, because it is bereft of any relevance and it is absolutely bereft of any credibility. Australians are ready to say to this government: 'We reject you and we reject the approach of the Labor Party.' They reject 40 new or increased taxes since Labor were elected. They reject the world's biggest carbon tax. They reject a mining tax that raises $125 million when Labor projected that it was actually going to raise over $2 billion. Australians are not mugs. They recognise a foul stench when they smell one and they know that this government has a foul stench about it.
For that reason I am certainly pleased to be part of a coalition that has a proud track record of delivering not only for the people of Australia but for my city of the Gold Coast. Local media and constituents were concerned that in this year's budget papers there was one solitary mention of the Gold Coast, Australia's sixth largest city. In some 4,800 pages there was one solitary mention. I am not surprised because the Labor Party has not been seen anywhere near the Gold Coast for years.
The Prime Minister physically set foot in the city twice over the last term, both times to address the AWU conference and cloistered within the confines of an AWU conference, but the reality is that the Labor Party has no form when it comes to understanding the Gold Coast. The Labor Party does not understand the Gold Coast because fundamentally, if there is one trait that is consistent with all my constituents across the city, it is a belief in small business and entrepreneurship. The reality is that that is foreign to Labor. It is foreign to Labor because it is not about unionised workforces, it is not about their approach to industrial relations and it is not about Labor's tax and spend approach to running government. That is the reason the Labor Party has been missing in action on the Gold Coast for years.
I recommit myself and say to all Gold Coasters that tomorrow can be better than today. The coalition has positive plans that we will put in place to get Australia back on track. The coalition has in place a strong track record that demonstrates not only that we are committed to getting our economy back on track but also that we are committed to tourism and construction industries, the two single biggest employers across the city. We get small business; we get tourism; we get the construction and property industries. That is the reason we delivered historically; that is the reason the coalition got unemployment down to a record low, the lowest in 33 years; that is the reason we will resolve to recommit ourselves to paying off the nearly $400 billion of debt that Labor has racked up in getting Australia's economy back on track—because the next generation of Gold Coasters deserve it.
I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014. This Labor budget is more debt, more chaos and more spin from a desperate government reeling out of control. On 14 May the Treasurer announced that his much-promised surplus of $1.5 billion had not materialised. Surprise, surprise! On more than 500 occasions the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and others in this Labor government promised a budget surplus in this financial year. Indeed, many ALP members sent out newsletters to their electorate claiming that Labor had already delivered a surplus. But as a result of this government's incompetence, as a result of their addiction to spending, there is now a $19.4 billion deficit for 2012-13. For 2013-14, the budget deficit will be $18 billion. In total, all six of the Treasurer's budgets have been deficits. The last 12 Labor budgets have been deficits. In fact, this is the longest period of successive deficits by one government in more than a generation. Yet the Treasurer expects Australians to believe him when he says that, with Labor's fifth record deficit in five years, with two more deficits still to come, Australia will magically see a return to surplus in 2015-16 of $0.8 billion.
Five years of Labor deficits means $192 billion of debt, with gross debt expected to exceed the $300 billion limit in the forward estimates. This Labor government has already increased that debt ceiling on four occasions from $75 to $200 billion, then $250 billion and now it stands at $300 billion. After this year's budget, that debt ceiling will have to be increased for a fifth time when our gross debt exceeds $300 billion. That means Australian taxpayers are paying $35 million a day in interest—that is, $13 billion a year, which is more than enough to cover the full-year costs of the NDIS without a levy. The $192 billion of debt comes from this Labor government's addiction to spending taxpayers' money which it does not have. As Judith Sloan recently commented about the Parliamentary Budget Offices' publication on Australian government structural deficits, this has been a government prepared to run down the negative net debt position it inherited, to raid any trust funds hanging around and to borrow to spend even more money. Even if this government had received the extra receipts it had falsely predicted, I have no doubt that this Labor government would have spent those anyway because that is their nature—to spend, spend, spend. This government has forecast wildly increasing revenue and then subsequently downgraded the forecast, but in the meantime it has spent money it simply does not have.
We need to only look at the mining tax. Last year the government said that they would receive $3 billion. This year they have announced that net receipts from the mining tax are less than 10 per cent of that—only $200 million. In 2013-14, federal government revenue is more than $80 billion higher than in the last year of the coalition government, a government that was running a real, sizeable surplus at the time. The spending today by this Labor government is $120 billion higher than in the last year of the coalition government. As a result, in true Labor style the Treasurer announced more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years while also abandoning previous promises to cut taxes for both individuals and companies. This is on top of the carbon tax, the mining tax and more than $8 billion in new Labor supertaxes.
Labor's failure to control our finances means that important programs and initiatives which do not have the support of the vast majority of Australians have had their funding cut or remain underfunded, as is the case for the NDIS. While government is passing increases to the Medicare levy, it has failed to outline how the remaining 60 per cent funding shortfall will be provided. There are countless examples of where the government continue to break their promises and cut funding including for university research and foreign aid.
What Australians want and what Australians need is a government that lives within its means. If the coalition earns the privilege of government on 14 September, we will build a stronger, more productive and diverse economy with lower taxes, more efficient government and more productive businesses that will deliver more jobs, higher real income and better services. We will get the budget back under control, cut waste and start reducing debt. We will live within our means. Following the budget reply of the Leader of the Opposition, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has already revealed that at least 87 per cent of households will be better off under a coalition budget. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, Australian families will be better off because we will rescind the carbon tax while personal tax will not increase nor will benefits decrease.
One important area of policy that continues to be ignored by this Labor government is small business. From the most recent National Australia Bank small business survey we know that confidence, conditions, profitability, cash flows and employment are all in negative territory. This year's budget does nothing to address the concerns of small business. As the Australian Retailers Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the budget does not offer support for small business with the lack of tax relief, high personal income tax, Medicare levy, no capital gains tax relief, no cost offset to fund the hike in the superannuation levy and no reduction in tax compliance and red tape.
Andrew Conway, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Accounts, went further, declaring that this year's budget is yet another budget that will do nothing to promote the small business sector. Small businesses across my electorate are doing it tough. They are facing increasing electricity and refrigeration costs as a result of the carbon tax, increasingly complicated workplace relations laws and increasing red tape and bureaucracy across-the-board. Under this Labor government, small business has seen employment in the sector fall by 243,000 and, as a share of the private workforce employment, it has fallen from 51.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent.
Last week the shadow Treasurer announced that small businesses who deal with Commonwealth departments will either be paid on time or will automatically receive interest payments under a coalition government. If an account is not paid within 30 days, interest will be paid at the same rate as the Australian Taxation Office expects people to pay for their late tax payments. This policy announcement is not just good news for small business but also for consumers.
I have received a lot of feedback from businesses who have told me that they simply do not have the cash flow to cover the cost of providing a service and then waiting six months for a government bureaucrat to handle the payment. For example, I have heard from small business health providers in my electorate such as dentists and optometrists who are willing to assist Australian veterans for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Some have had to refuse patients because they simply cannot afford to take them on, given the huge lag time between providing a service and actually receiving payment. I will continue to listen to small businesses in my electorate on how best the coalition can provide real solutions to double the rate of small business growth, including conducting a root and branch review of competition laws and implementing our commitment to reducing regulatory costs by $1 billion per annum.
I note that in this year's budget Ryan continues to be ignored in the rollout of the National Broadband Network. Earlier this year, the NBN Co. announced that it would not meet its June 2013 rollout targets, down from an original target of 1.3 million premises seven months ago, then revised down again to 341,000. The figure now stands at anywhere between 190,000 and 220,000 premises. This is not good news for the people of Ryan, who have suffered under this government's poorly handled approach to broadband policy and have been regularly ignored by NBN Co. Indeed, if NBN Co. had not blocked the planned fibre-to-the-premises rollout by Brisbane City Council, residents would already be connected.
The Treasurer confirmed on 14 May that the government's planned investment in NBN Co. this year and over the next two years has been slashed by $3.5 billion. Less investment in NBN Co. means fewer households and businesses will actually receive access to the NBN. After almost six years of Labor, fewer than 20,000 households and businesses are actually connected to the fibre network, while two million are still unable to obtain fixed broadband to support viewing even a YouTube video. Quite simply, Labor's NBN is unaffordable within the currently claimed budget and undeliverable on the currently claimed schedule.
If elected, the coalition will complete an NBN sooner, more affordably and at less cost to Australian taxpayers. We will aim to ensure all households and businesses in Australia have access to broadband providing a download data rate of at least 25 megabits per second by 2016.
I receive a lot of feedback from my constituents who are concerned about this government's failure to control our borders. To date, over 42,000 people have made the perilous journey to come to Australia on boats—694 boats. No matter your perspective on this complicated issue, these arrivals have translated into a cost blow-out of at least $4.7 billion since last year's budget. The 2013-14 budget this year has confirmed that the Labor government is not seriously addressing the problem, as it continues to use out-of-date predictions and figures.
In Senate estimates this week, on Monday, the department of immigration confirmed that it was standing by its prediction of 13,200 irregular maritime arrivals next year, despite the fact that it is also predicting 25,000 arrivals for this year alone. As a result of these increases, the Labor government dealt a double blow to both asylum seekers and the assistance that Australia provides through our foreign aid budget. The Labor government has raided the foreign aid budget of some $375 million.
Constituents in my electorate consistently tell me that Australia must do more to support the countries in our region. Ultimately it is not merely a percentage figure or aggregate number of dollars that Australia should use to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of our overseas development assistance. At the end of the day, what matters is the outcomes on the ground. I have seen firsthand the great results our aid has produced in neighbouring countries, including Papua New Guinea. Just this week, Bill Gates has been in Australia and highlighted the fundamental importance of assisting developing countries. He said:
I strongly support these sentiments and have constantly advocated for supporting our nearest neighbours. However, Australia has a Labor government so incompetent, which has so disastrously managed our budget and continues to accrue deficits and debt, that it has once again deferred its promised increase to our foreign aid budget. It continues to break its promises to Australians and it continues to break its commitments to our region.
Further, one of the ways that the Australian government can support not just Australians but also our neighbours is to provide appropriate support for the technological innovations and medical advances that come through research undertaken at Australian universities. For years, this Labor government has attacked research funding, and it continues to do so in this year's budget, which is very disappointing for universities such as the University of Queensland, in my electorate.
Only the coalition has the plan, the experience and the discipline to return the budget to sustainable surpluses, reduce debt and provide real opportunities to Australian families to help them get ahead again—to provide a hand up, not a hand out; to get out of the way and provide an environment for businesses to prosper and grow. Only the coalition can build a strong, vibrant economy and a safe, secure Australia to restore the hope, reward and opportunity all Australians deserve.