House debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Matters of Public Importance


3:11 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government’s failure to listen to the Australian people on its unfair Budget.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Before the last federal election, when he was opposition leader, the Prime Minister campaigned on trust, on honesty, on keeping promises. He famously said: 'The government has no mandate. There should be no tax collection without an election.' Now we have the pot calling the kettle black. Now that he is in government, he believes in taxation without elections. Five weeks ago, I and Labor challenged the Prime Minister and his merry band of gaffsters to go out and listen to the voices of the mighty Australian people. The last five weeks have shown time and time again that there is no mandate for this government's budget because it is built on lies, lies and more lies. This government has the exact opposite of a mandate for its budget: its budget is illegitimate. This is a government trapped in its budget, and this is a nation's budget trapped by this government.

We asked the Leader of the Government and his team to go and talk to families about the $6,000 they are losing and to talk to pensioners about the $4,000 they are losing. We asked them to talk to the motorists, who are paying more—even some of those poor motorists! We asked them to talk to the students and teachers, who are losing $30 billion. We asked them to talk to the GPs collecting the GP tax from aged care and palliative care facilities. We asked them to talk to university students about the doubling and tripling of university fees. We asked them to talk to veterans about how they feel about having their pensions cut. We asked them whether they could find some carers to talk about cutting payments. And what about unemployed people under the age of 30? They will have no income for six months. For Indigenous Australians, half a billion will be cut from programs.

The government have had five week to change their mind but, in the last five weeks, all they have done is change their tactics. They have had five weeks to listen to people and dump their dishonest, rotten and unfair budget. This is an incompetent government led by an incompetent Prime Minister and an incompetent Treasurer. I am sure, in quiet moments of reflection, that government members wonder, 'Is it possible; can we to get a new Treasurer?' Every day there is new disaster for this government.

Let me remind the Australian people about the accomplishments of this government in the last five weeks. We have Mr Right for being a bigot, the Attorney-General himself. He went out to defend watering down the anti-hate laws less than 24 hours before he dumped on himself. Then he followed up with that interview on metadata—surely one of the most bizarre and awkward pieces of television since the John Hewson cake interview. And of course, Senator Abetz, Leader of the Government in the Senate, did not like the attention his deputy was getting, so he decided, in an act of political bravery, to go onto The Project, a show I am not sure he had never watched, to re-investigate the latest in 1950s medical science. And of course we have the Monday, Wednesday, Friday budget emergency, interspersed by the Tuesday and Thursday not such an emergency. There is no doubt the star of this government's sitcom over the last five weeks is no other than 'No average Joe'. He is an albatross around the neck of this government but the Prime Minister must keep the Treasurer because it is very careless for our Prime Minister to lose a Treasurer. Once you lose your Treasurer, you have no-one else to blame but yourself.

I did certainly enjoy the book reviews. In his most famous book, in his must-buy book—according to him—the Treasurer stated, 'I was a little too soft in my budget'. What planet does this Treasurer live on? What I really admire is the marvellous Hamletesque Shakespearean quality of our Treasurer, who says, 'Woe unto me. Why is it that everyone is against me—my backbench, the commentators, the people, Peter Costello? What an ungrateful ex-Treasurer he is.'

The real problem with this unfair budget is that this government does not know where it is going or what it is doing. It has relied on lies. This is a bits and pieces budget, devoid of very much other than a ruthless, right-wing ideology. But today, just when I thought this government could do nothing else to surprise me, it declared war on the War Memorial. It is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I

Mr Whiteley interjecting

Do not shake your head over there! It is your problem because he is your Treasurer. What the government have done is an utter disgrace. On the anniversary of the start of World War I, they have decided to cut the travelling exhibition because, of course, 'We will fight to the death for rolled gold paid parental leave, but we need to net the $800,000 being spent on a travelling program.' This is a great program; 3.8 million Aussies have seen this program.

Mr Whiteley interjecting

I do not mind you muscling up to me; I just wish you would do it in your caucus room! Community galleries all over Australia, in towns some of the city based Liberal MPs have never heard of, are going to be disappointed by this heartless decision. What a clever government. Why would you take away from display in Perth the story about soldiers? Why did we never think of that? Why would you take away from display in Brisbane and Adelaide the story of the forgotten diggers of World War I? Of course, the brain surgeons writing the script for this sitcom government said to each other, 'Let's take away the story of the nurses going from Zululand to the modern time.'

Our veterans deserve better than this government. We deserve better than a government that will cut the funding to its own War Memorial. Where this travelling exhibition goes is a map of Australia and the government is seeking to erase it. These cuts must be reversed. I call upon those members in the government to find a little bit of spine on this question. We do not mind if you get the credit for this; reverse this decision.

The real issue, though, in the last five weeks is that the government has had the chance to demonstrate it can be trusted. The truth of the matter is that in the last 105 days Australia has learnt that you cannot trust Tony Abbott, that you cannot trust Joe Hockey and that you cannot trust this government. This government, in what can only be regarded as a feat of some remarkable foolhardiness, has said to people, ' If you don't vote for our unfair budget, we will tax you more, we will cut research more, we will punish you more.'

This government will stoop to pressuring the Australian people, saying that unless the Senate takes on our unfair budget proposition, it will go harder and worse. This Prime Minister loves to quote to us about mandate—'mandate this, mandate that.' Where was the mandate for this budget? He made himself very by famous criticising the former government and saying that there was no mandate, that there should be no new taxation without an election. Well Tony Abbott, what was good for you then is good for you now. I state here clearly, loudly and unequivocally that you have no mandate for your budget, that you have no mandate for your cuts, that you have no mandate to punish pensioners, that you have no mandate to punish the schools and hospitals, that you have no mandate to hurt ordinary Australians. If you really believe in what you say, test it in an election. In the meantime, do not punish ordinary Australians because you told lies before the last election. (Time expired)

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, I ask you to ask the opposition leader to withdraw the term 'lies'. It is unparliamentary.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

It is when it is a descriptor of a person that it is unparliamentary.

3:22 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Mr Bowen interjecting

If there were lies spoken, they were certainly spoken in the last six years of the Labor government. There were certainly a lot of lies spoken then. We just heard 10 minutes of book reviews. Mind you, on the day when the Prime Minister actually launched Paul Kelly's Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labor Generation we discovered in that book how dysfunctional, how disorderly the Labor government was under the Rudd years. We heard some sitcom from the opposition leader, who, quite frankly, is not fit to lead the Labor Party. However, we heard some mirth and merriment from him. We need to be serious about this, though. We also heard some spiteful allegations about what we are doing. We are getting on with the job of fixing—

Mr Bowen interjecting

I will come to you later! Labor are the ones who have not listened to the Australian people. They did not listen when they were voted out of office and they are not listening now.

Mr Bowen interjecting

Yes, it was a good visit to Wagga; I hear the member for McMahon interjecting. I will go straight to your Wagga Wagga visit. In his regular Friday column, in Wagga Wagga's TheDaily Advertiser, respected newspaperman Graham Gorrel talked of his attendance at Labor's annual Eddie Graham dinner the previous Saturday, where the guest speaker was none other than the member for McMahon.

The Hon. Edgar Hugh Graham was the Labor state member for Wagga Wagga from 1941 until his death at aged 60—far too young—in 1957. If you were not aware, he was known affectionately as the 'Minister for Wagga Wagga' for all his good work for the city. He served as agriculture minister in the New South Wales parliament for nearly 12½ years. He was a good man and a good MP. He was a Labor MP; I acknowledge that. The guest speaker, as I said, was the federal shadow Treasurer, the world's worst immigration minister, under whose watch more unauthorised arrivals came to Australia than ever before. And he is now equally as bad in his current opposition portfolio.

Mr Gorrel referred in his piece to a recent letter to TheSydney Morning Herald from Michael Barnacoat, who wrote: 'Labor should stop wasting its breath bagging the government and start building its own credibility by telling me how it will solve the problems of this country and give me something to vote for.' That is fair enough. He will be waiting awhile—a good, long while. Mr Gorrel added: 'One reason I went to the Graham dinner last Saturday was because Bowen was going to give us his version of what was in store for regional Australia under a Labor government.' Graham Gorrel did not think it was a good speech, Member for McMahon. He wrote: 'But we didn't get that. As for news about more dams, irrigation areas, transport systems, port developments (air and sea) and a real vision for regional Australia, both inland and coastal, nothing.' Gorrel wrote: 'Bowen missed his opportunity.' Let me tell you: Graham Gorrel is fairly impartial when it comes to this.

I will now talk about Sharon Gordon. She is an assistant teachers aide at Ariah Park Preschool. Her husband, Ian, is a farmhand. They have five kids, five grandkids and one on the way. They are what we call Middle Australia. Sharon wrote to me in an email:

You probably see them anyway but I just thought I would send you a copy of one of the Labor emails we receive and I'm sorry I responded but I really am getting so wild when I open them, I couldn't help myself yesterday. We would get a new one I suppose once a week, same tone and I don't do negativity, doesn't matter which party.

She is fed up with Labor and fed up with getting no vision from them. She is just fed up. She is like so many people in Middle Australia. I will read her email, which was to the member for Watson, which, in part, reads:

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

He's not here!

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

But he is listening, which is what Australia has stopped doing with you people. Now just listen and give me some respect.

I reply to you not from my position at the Ariah Park Preschool but as a voter who lives in rural NSW and has to sort through our countless emails.

We have received many of your labor emails and I am completely sick of them. If you cannot simply tell me what you are doing and accomplishing in a positive manner, without all the rubbish about the Liberal party, please cease and desist and remove our preschool from you email listing. Letters like the one below do you as a party no favors. It makes you look small, petty and childish.

She could be talking about the member for McMahon, but she is talking about the entire Labor Party.

Do you not understand that this isn't what Australians want? We want leaders, not bickering children ... which

is what you look like with this sort of crap!

That is Sharon Gordon speaking.

Let me just remind you while you deride the GOVERNMENT (you lost the election remember???)—

that is a good point—

I walk out of my office every day and look over to our Central School at the $800,000 monstrosity of a library that is no bigger than a one bedroom flat and should have cost no more than $300,000 at worst and was built by NO LOCAL BUILDERS at all (except one who got to be the foreman) and I think to myself, you have no right to talk about another party doing a bad job because sunshine, we're in this mess because of all the money you wasted.

Anyway, I would appreciate it if you would either send us productive and informative emails or remove us from your list.

A very annoyed voter!

Sharon Gordon is like many annoyed voters right throughout Middle Australia and indeed right throughout Australia.

Today the Prime Minister said that this is a building and a saving budget. He is right of course. We heard the Treasurer in question time say that it is a budget about living within our means. Labor left us with a huge mess. Labor inherited the best set of figures when it took office in 2007 and it left us with the worst economic mess when it was voted out, kicked out, punted on 7 September 2013. We heard the Treasurer today talk—not just going to Wagga Wagga and talking about nothing—and spruik about jobs growth three times that which Labor achieved in its last 12 months. 15,000 new jobs, each and every month this year. That is getting on with the job of fixing the debt and deficit and economic malaise that Labor left not us as a government but us as a nation with.

We have a plan for getting the nation's finances back on track. We did not create the problem, but we were elected to fix it. We heard the opposition leader suggest that we have no mandate. Let me remind him that we do, because we were elected on 7 September last year to govern this country. We were elected to fix the mess—the six years of economic discrepancies, the economic mess and the economic malaise that Labor left us and our nation with.

We could squib out of it, but we are not going to. The budget does contain some tough measures. It has had to. You do not get in the sort of debt problem that we are in without then having to make some tough calls to fix it. We understand that Australians are doing it tough in many places, but there is nothing fair about forcing future generations to pay for the debt and deficit legacy that Labor left us with. That is why we are talking in detail with senators, to get Labor's mess cleaned up. When they came to office, as I say, Labor inherited a surplus of $20 billion, with no net debt and $45 billion in the bank. And they wasted it. There were so many portfolio areas, not least of which was immigration under the worst immigration minister in history, the member for McMahon, who is sitting opposite.

But we have a plan to get Australia working because the best form of welfare is a job. We want Australians to be working if they can, preferably for a wage and not for the dole, and that is why we are reinvigorating work for the dole. I want to commend the good work being done in this area by the Assistant Minister for Employment, the member for Cowper, in this particular area. It is important work that we have underway through 18 pilot areas which are providing valuable lessons to get the national roll out of the program from 1 July 2015. It is happening; it is underway thanks to the good work by the member for Cowper. The 18 selected locations have high unemployment, a soft labour market and clear opportunities to address local needs.

We all know that politics is all about local and we all need to understand that when we go into our local areas and listen to people. We on this side are listening to people. We listen to them each and every day. We are out in shopping centres, at sporting venues and those sorts of places listening. People are telling us that they appreciate that it is tough but they realise, they acknowledge, they know that we have got the mandate to get the job done and they have every confidence in us.

We heard from the Treasurer in question time today talk about the biggest infrastructure program in Australia's history that is getting underway thanks to the Deputy Prime Minister and the minister at the table, the member for Mayo. They are getting on with the job of building the biggest infrastructure program in Australia's history. There is $300 million in the Bridges Renewal Program. I had a meeting at Carrathool in my electorate last week. Carrathool is hopeful of getting some funding for that particular program. I see Paul Fletcher, who is helping the $100-million roll out for the Mobile Black Spot Program, which is so crucial to regional Australia and something that was ignored by Labor for six long years.

We have a plan to secure the future of higher education in Australia. We heard from the Minister for Education in parliament today about the good initiatives that we are doing there. Labor are the ones who are not listening. They did not listen in government. They just ignored the will of the people. They were totally oblivious to the fact that they lost the election last September. They are not listening in opposition and history is going to judge them very harshly, as it should, because of that.

3:32 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The cabinet met for six hours yesterday in an emergency session for budget reboot No. 17. They got a briefing. Did they get a briefing from the pensioners of Australia? Did they invite pensioners in to talk about their budget changes? Did they talk to university students about the changes and the cuts to university funding and the changes to HECS? Did they talk to people about their $7 GP tax—by any other name—and its impact on families? No, they got a briefing from the spin doctor, from the faceless man of the Liberal Party, the federal director of the Liberal Party, Brian Loughnane. And what did he say? He said, do not say budget emergency. There is no budget emergency. People do not believe it . People do not believe our rhetoric anymore. People do not believe our lies. That is what Brian Loughnane told the cabinet yesterday.

The coalition had a tactic session about how they could sell the budget. I have got a tip for the government: do not have a tactic session about how to sell the budget; have a substance session about starting again because that is what the Australian people demand. Did we have a little photo opportunity at the cabinet meeting yesterday like we used to, like in the good old days of Tony Abbott talking to a united team, with Joe on one side and the deputy leader on the other, about how wonderful everything was going to be if the Liberal and National parties were elected? No, there was no photo opportunity yesterday; the Prime Minister did not want to be seen with the Treasurer yesterday at the cabinet. But there is a key problem here and the government just does not get it. The Australian people get it. In fairness to the Treasurer, it is not about the sales job; it is about the substance because this budget fails every test.

We know that Brian Loughnane said do not talk about a budget emergency because nobody believes it. But not even Brian Loughnane would have suggested that they say that the budget is fair. He would not have recommended that because I give Mr Loughnane credit. He is a smart man who knows that is not credible. He knows that that is not an argument that the Australian people would accept—and deep down the Treasurer knows it too because the Treasurer was told before the budget was brought down that his budget would be unfair. The Treasurer was told it by the Treasury of Australia. Do you know what his great plan to deal with this was? He had a very cunning plan to deal with the advice from the Treasury.

The Treasurer had tables in front of him showing that his budget would have an unfair impact on lower middle-income earners in Australia and the Treasurer came up with a great idea to fix this. He said whatever you do, do not put those tables in the budget. That was his plan for the first time. It was good enough for Treasurer Costello, it was good enough for Treasurer Swan to put those tables in the budget but the Treasurer had a cunning plan not to tell anybody about it. 'Nothing to see here' he said. But there was a problem for the Treasurer because there is a thing called freedom of information. Every so often, even under this government, things get out to a newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald. But of course the Treasurer had the direct and right answer. He said you cannot believe everything you read in The Sydney Morning Herald. He said that it is somebody else's fault again; it is those pesky newspapers. Well it was not The Sydney Morning Herald's analysis; it was the Treasury's analysis. The Treasurer distanced himself from the Treasury's analysis, which spoke for itself.

But, in fairness to the Treasurer, the people of Australia do not need those tables to tell them the budget is unfair because they had worked that out themselves. They had worked out that this is a government not only hopelessly incompetent but completely out of touch with reality. You have got a Treasurer who says that poor people do not drive and if they do, by some happenstance, they do not drive very far. He then defended himself for 48 hours and selectively released figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I had a look at those figures and I had to release the rest of them that night to show that what he said was absolutely wrong. He selectively released figures which showed that he was deadset wrong. For 48 hours he defended himself and then he finally issued an apology. The next week he was in Geelong and he said he was misunderstood; his words were twisted. It is terrible when everybody is against you. I say this, Treasurer: your words were not twisted; your policies are. Your budget shows wrong priorities. It is unfair to the Australian people and everybody gets it except for him. (Time expired)

3:37 pm

Photo of Steven CioboSteven Ciobo (Moncrieff, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

It is quite extraordinary. They are a special breed, the Australian Labor Party. They truly are a special breed. To start with, we had the Leader of the Opposition come into the chamber and make comments about how only the Australian Labor Party could be trusted.

Mr Perrett interjecting

I hear the member for Moreton making an inane interjection about the fact that I am losing my voice. Is it really beyond your intellectual capability? Come on, Member for Moreton, make a better contribution—although, unfortunately, it fits the standard that we usually see from the Australian Labor Party.

Let us talk about what we heard from the Leader of the Opposition. What we heard from the Leader of the Opposition was how only Labor can be trusted. The Leader of the Opposition said he is the man who needs to be trusted. Ordinarily, at face value, that would seem like a reasonable proposition. You would expect the Leader of the Opposition to back himself. But today, of all days, is not a day for the Leader of the Opposition to stand up and talk about trust—not after Paul Kelly has published his new book, Triumph and Demise.

What does the very distinguished author Paul Kelly say about the Leader of the Opposition? I quote from page 465 of his book. He says: 'The distrust between Rudd and Shorten was intense and injuring. The Gillard camp was contemptuous of Shorten, considering him weak and duplicitous. Neither side trusted him and neither side revised its view.' We also know that the former member for Rankin had views about the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Emerson is quoted in the book as saying: 'He was telling both camps what they wanted to hear. It did not come as a surprise to anyone when he declared for Rudd at the end.' Well, there's a revelation: the Leader of the Opposition talks out of both sides of his mouth! But he sets the bar for the entirety of the Australian Labor Party.

Here we have the shadow Treasurer, and he stands up and says, 'We in the Australian Labor Party are deeply concerned about equity. We in the Australian Labor Party really care about the future. Just look at our stunning track record on the environment. We do not want Australian children to inherit an environment that is worse than what we received.' Perversely, this is the Australian Labor Party.

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

What about the budget?

Photo of Steven CioboSteven Ciobo (Moncrieff, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Let us talk about the budget, Member for Jagajaga. Perversely, the Australian Labor Party entirely miss the point. Their lectures and their moral superiority about caring for the environment and making sure that we hand over to our children a better environment in the future entirely miss the point that the legacy of the Australian Labor Party is to hand to the next generation of Australians decades of debt. That is the legacy of this shadow Treasurer; that is the legacy of the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party's track record is to write $25,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in Australia. That is Labor's legacy.

So it is no surprise that we members of the coalition do not take them very seriously. Their lectures about equity, their lectures about fairness, their longwinded soliloquies about how only the Australian Labor Party can be trusted to safeguard the future. The fact is that Labor's track record is one great big 'F', and that is an 'F' for 'fail', because we know that the Australian Labor Party is a complete, abysmal failure. When it comes to economic management, we know Labor's track record: $667 billion of debt. When it comes to deficits, we know Labor's track record: $123 billion worth of budget deficits. When it comes to providing a budget surplus—incidentally, that word 'surplus' is missing from the member for Lilley's index in his book!—on over 500 occasions they promised a surplus, only to fail to deliver it.

I have to conclude on one positive note. There was a Labor frontbencher who tried really hard to set a new record. That is the shadow Treasurer. We all know the shadow Treasurer's record when it came to border protection: over 750 boats and over 50,000 people blowing out the budget by more than $11 billion. That is the reason why the Australian people will never trust the Australian Labor Party. (Time expired)

3:42 pm

Photo of Warren SnowdonWarren Snowdon (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for External Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

Good golly! That is all I can say. The member for Moncrieff was supposed to be defending the budget, defending the Prime Minister and defending the Treasurer. But all we got was a filibuster about God knows what—because it made no sense to anyone on this side of the chamber. Let us be very clear. The Leader of the Opposition described this budget as 'dishonest', 'unfair', 'rotten' and 'based upon lies'. Was it based on lies? Of course it was based on lies. Yet those opposite will not defend, or own up to, the lies. All they do is hide behind the stupidity of their budget proposals which impact upon the poorest Australians.

It is okay for the Treasurer, who sits smoking cigars with the Minister for Finance, to look down at poor people and say, 'Poor people do not drive cars.' Well, they do in my electorate. The poor people in my electorate are those who are most impacted by this budget because they drive cars and pay fuel prices 22c to 25c in excess of what the Treasurer pays in North Sydney. It is okay for the Treasurer, sitting in the sublime suburb of North Sydney, to talk about the poor people of Australia. He does not know a poor person. He has never met a poor person. If he had met a poor person, he would acknowledge how difficult it is for people who live in rural and remote Australia to meet the requirements of this budget.

Let's talk about GP co-payments. The people who are most likely to die early in this country are those who live in regional, rural and remote Australia. They have shorter life spans, a higher level of chronic disease and higher levels of smoking. What does this budget do for them? It says to them: 'By the way, if you've got a chronic disease, if you smoke, if you need to address it, go to the doctor. But it's going to cost you more.' And if you are an Aboriginal person and you go to an Aboriginal community controlled health organisation, they will have to pick up the tab. Frankly, they will not be able to. As a direct result, the health of many Australians will suffer. That does not seem to matter to the government, because the Treasurer says, 'Look, it's all about this.' Try the paid parental leave scheme. Get rid of it and you could pay for most of what we are debating here today. Let us be very clear about that.

Let's talk about universities and let's talk about regional universities like Charles Darwin University. Seventy-five per cent of students at Charles Darwin University are aged 25 or older. Think about it. These are people who may well be married, have a mortgage, have kids going to school and be raising their families—and now they are going to be expected to take out a second mortgage for their education. This budget will directly cost Charles Darwin University $50 billion and the potential for student numbers to fall, because students will not be able to afford or will choose not to pay these excessive fees. Somehow or another this is a joke. People in the government who represent regional Australia think that they can parade around their communities saying, 'This is a bloody good idea.' Well, it ain't a bloody good idea. It's a dreadful idea, and it is impacting upon those people who most need assistance in this community.

Let's talk about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, where half a billion dollars has been cut out of programs, with $160 million cut out of health. The government says that they are all for supporting closing the gap, but they cut $160 million out of health programs designed to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Let us be very clear: the truth is being told, it is in the budget papers. Have a look at the budget papers. You on that side deny the budget papers; you deny their existence. Alice Springs is one of the communities impacted by the attack on veterans in remote Australia, the RSL and these travelling projects. The RSL in Alice Springs is miserably affected by the stupidity of this government, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister.

3:47 pm

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I first read the subject of the MPI before the House today, I have to confess that I caught my breath. I caught my breath because the matter before the House is quite extraordinary. The opposition is lecturing the government on listening and fairness.

I want to cite two examples straight up of where the opposition, when they were in government, failed to listen. The first is the carbon tax, where they had a complete tin ear. They refused to abolish the carbon tax, which was costing the average household more than $550 a year and was costing business because it imposed increased costs on them, which they then passed on to consumers—which meant lower unemployment.

The second example is border protection. They refused to listen to the Australian people on border protection, both in government and in opposition. They opposed our measures that provided for a fairer system of border protection, where people who are sitting in camps now have a chance to get to Australia rather than paying people smugglers. Also, some people, sadly, lost their lives through their measures.

Now there is a third example, and that is fixing the mess that Labor left us with—fixing the budget mess that we inherited from Labor. Of course, Labor is opposing this as well. We can all remember that the previous coalition government delivered surpluses and had money in the bank. I do not need to remind people here that the Labor government delivered $191 billion worth of cumulative deficits and $123 billion worth of deficits over the forward estimates through their projections. They delivered structural spending of ever-increasing proportions. In fact, over their six years in government they increased spending by more than 50 per cent. Each Australian is currently sharing $13,500 of the debt that they created. Without this government taking action in this place, within 10 years the amount of debt that each Australian will be sharing will be just under $25,000.

We know that the Labor Party are in denial because they created this mess. But not all of the people who have been associated with Labor are in denial. I quote Dr John Edwards, an RBA board member appointed by the former Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and former Paul Keating principal economic adviser. He said: 'I’ve no doubt there is a budget crisis. We’re accumulating debt as a higher share of GDP and of course in absolute terms it's absolutely astronomical compared to far more serious episodes in Australian history, including recoveries from serious recessions.' Those are not our words but his words, uttered on 17 June 2014.

How are we actually addressing this problem? We are doing it in two ways in this budget. We are reducing the growth in spending and we are reducing debt. Why are we doing it? We are doing it because it is the right thing to do and the fair thing to do. There are many dimensions to fairness. The truth is that Labor's previous budget settings were both irresponsible and unfair. With the problems of the ageing population on the horizon, and despite high terms of trade and uninterrupted economic growth, the Labor government still managed to deliver substantial deficits and add to ever-increasing significant debt. In short, Labor shifted the burden of financing the spending programs for the Australians of 2007 to 2013 to future generations of Australians. I ask: Is that fair? Worse, they locked in unsustainable and unfunded future spending programs. Is this fair? The answer is: absolutely not. It is not fair for future generations of Australians to pay for the spending of yesterday and also to pay for potential future economic shocks and not be protected against that. The RBA Governor, in a recent hearing, actually said it was prudent and sensible for us to put Australia on a sustainable path because of the potential for future economic shocks. Those that really pay for the future economic shocks are those people who are least able to afford it. Those are the people who do not have savings. Is it fair to ask them to pay for this, as well? The answer is: it is not. That is why we are taking the measures that are necessary to put Australia on a strong and sustainable footing for the future.

3:52 pm

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always good to follow my friend and colleague, the member for Higgins. It was a great audition for Assistant Treasurer, don't you think, fellas? Oh, not much of a response from the backbench! It was about as brave a defence of this budget as you could get, because, of course, this is a budget of broken promises. It is a budget that the people of Australia did not expect; it is a budget of unfair cuts; it is a budget of regressive policies. It is a budget of austerity; it is a budget of increased taxes. Who would have thought that when Tony Abbott, on 2 December 2009, said:

…there will not be any new taxes as part of the Coalition's policies.

That is what those opposite—the member for Barker, the member for Deakin, I think it is—all went to the last election promising 'No new taxes.' And, yet, what do we find in this budget? Well, of course, we find increased taxes.

We know that this is a budget that smashed consumer confidence. We know that this is a budget that saw unemployment rise. We know that this is a budget brought down by an arrogant and out-of-touch Treasurer—a Treasurer who is trying to be tough. He was really tough and brutal with the car industry, and he had to be really tough and brutal with the Australian people in the budget—just to prove some political point. Of course, we know it is as an economic plan—a forward economic plan—with a flawed political strategy.

We know all this because we have seen the Treasurer going around the country and telling everybody little bon mots of wisdom, such as when he compared the GP tax to beer and cigarettes. He said:

One packet of cigarettes costs $22. That gives you three visits to the doctor. You can spend just over $3 on a middy of beer, so that's two middies of beer to go to the doctor.

And is a parent really going to deny their sick child a visit to the doctor which would be the equivalent payment of a couple of beers or one-third of a packet of cigarettes?

That is why the he told the Australian people in the SMH. That is the way he justified these regressive taxes—this attack on families' incomes.

And then, of course, we know what he said about fuel excise. He said:

The poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases .

But, I can tell you, that that is not the case for my constituents. That is not the case for the member for Barker's constituents. He has constituents on a very low income, and they rely on their cars because they live in the country and because there is no public transport. We all know that that is the case; it is just the Treasurer who does not know.

When people had the temerity to be anxious about this budget, we know what Joe said:

It's important that everyone has a bit of a chill-pill here and understands that the budget is a long-term structural plan…

No-one understands! They are all of Joe's quotes. So what started as a budget emergency has warped into an attempt to make that which is regressive progressive. And we saw him dodging the question today about whether his policies are progressive or regressive. We know that there is $2.2 billion in this budget of increased petrol taxes—some 17 billion over the last decade. And we did not hear anything from those opposite at the last election about any of that.

We know that this budget strategy is very, very awkward. So you have the Prime Minister out there talking about fires. He said:

You see, we had a fire, and the Budget is the fire brigade.

And then we have the trade minister saying that there is a sovereign risk to Australia because the Senate has the temerity to oppose the budget. And then we have Barnaby talking about melanomas. This government should learn that loose lips sink ships. This budget is affecting economic confidence; it is affecting jobs; it is affecting the security of everyday Australians.

We know that this is a budget of broken commitments. It is budget of broken promises; it is a budget of regressive taxation and brutal regressive cuts; it is a budget, fundamentally, built on lies. Everybody opposite knows that. That is why they are so quiet. That is why there are no interjections. That is why there is no response. It is just simply that they cannot defend the indefensible. That is why Joe's explanations are so tortured. That is why the budget strategy changes from week to week and from day to day—because this is a budget built on lies. It is built on lies, and you will pay for it. You will pay for it at the next election.

3:58 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk on this MPI. We know that this budget is about a number of things—one of which is about tackling Labor's debt and deficit problem which they left Australians. It is about ensuring the welfare, in this country, is sustainable for the long term, well into the future. And, of course, it is about building the infrastructure of the 21st century—infrastructure that will create jobs and infrastructure that will get businesses moving throughout this country. I must say that in my electorate of Petrie there has been a lot of investment in infrastructure—$108 million in this year's budget alone for the Moreton Bay Rail Link, which has hundreds of people employed on it right now. And I must say that we have the Bruce Highway being upgraded—every intersection between Pine Rivers and the member for Fisher's electorate is being upgraded. We have the Gateway Motorway being upgraded, as well—and that is more fantastic news.

The Labor Party says that we are not listening. Well, I must say that every coalition member here is out listening on a regular basis. Wouldn't you agree? We are out listening at the coffee shops; we are out in the pubs listening to local people there; we are down at the schools. We have been at the local community groups over the last five weeks throughout our electorates; we have been at the sporting clubs. We have been out doing mobile offices, and doing listening posts throughout our electorates. One of the great things that we, on both sides of the chamber, get to do is to go to local citizenship ceremonies and see the many people who want to become citizens of this country and to welcome them into this country. Another great thing that we get to do as members is to read what the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection says, and he says that the Australian story is one of courage, mateship, endurance and sacrifice. This is the legacy that our predecessors have left us.

I say today: what has the Labor Party left us? They have left us record debt and deficit. I say to every person who works in Australia who is paying income tax, to the members of the gallery up here, to the clerks here, to the attendants, to the lady doing the Hansard, to the MPs here—and all of us pay income tax every single year—and I say to the Australian companies who are paying company tax: ladies and gentlemen, and Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, what happens is that the first billion dollars that we receive every month through income tax and company tax goes out the back door to pay for Labor's debt and deficit disaster, to pay foreign banks in Europe the interest that Labor left this nation.

And who have we heard from in this discussion? We have heard from the opposition leader, and from the members for McMahon and Lingiari and Wakefield—all members of the previous two Labor governments that blew the $50 billion surplus left by the Howard government into billions of dollars of interest every month.

I say to the children up in the gallery today, who will one day be paying income tax: Labor left you $1 billion a month in interest repayments so that one day, when you were working, you would have had to repay that as well. But, no; this government is tackling that on your behalf.

The members opposite, those three in the front row, were all members of the Rudd government and then the Gillard government. What did the previous Rudd government say? Rudd said, 'I'm an economic conservative.' He said, 'I'm another John Howard.' Well, he did not even last three years; they did not even trust him enough to leave him in for one single term. I do not know who in the front row was responsible for that, but it was an absolute disgrace. He was no John Howard. He left six record deficits that we are now paying for. And not one Labor member has got up to talk about budget savings, because we know that, one day, when the Labor Party get back into government and are responsible for the $400 billion a year that we spend, they will continue to run deficits. You will continue to leave the children of this nation with huge interest bills. You know what? We would be happy if you could just spend less than you earn. Is that too much to ask? One day, when you are back in office, spend less than you earn.

4:03 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For the sake of those people listening at home and the kids up in the gallery, I would just explain what the topic for today's MPI is, because the member for Petrie drifted right off the topic. The topic is:

The Government’s failure to listen to the Australian people on its unfair Budget—

Mr Ewen Jones interjecting

Maybe the member for Hinkler can go back to having a blue with his mates, all right? Just settle down for a minute; we are talking about the budget.

Government members interjecting

The member for Herbert—I beg your pardon!

I just want to remind those opposite of a few words that I heard hundreds of times before the last election. They were from the Prime Minister, and he said a million times—I know you know it—that there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to pensions and no new taxes. I heard it time after time after time. These were lines that we just heard time and again. Obviously, in this job, as a politician, the only currency we have is our ability to be true to our word. Yet when we saw the budget delivered in May by Treasurer Hockey we had a complete backflip—a complete volte-face, I should say, in terms of those promises. Do we see cuts to education and health? Well, the budget papers clearly detail $80 billion in savings—$80 billion, in their own budget papers. There are changes to pensions, as confirmed by Treasurer Hockey today in question time. As to taxes, there is $8.8 billion in new and increased taxes, including $2.2 billion in increased petrol taxes which will affect the people from Petrie, particularly, who make that long commute into Brisbane. As to the $3.4 billion in the new GP tax, let us be honest about what that is: $2 in red tape; $5 on the never-never; a tax to be paid by sick people. As confirmed by Treasurer Hockey, it is a tax.

This MPI is all about whether or not those opposite are listening to the Australian people. Well, this is my first time standing at the dispatch box, and you get a new perspective up here. You can actually look down the corridor, and you look down the corridor from the representation of people power, that being the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker. You go down the corridor, under the Australian flag, through to the Senate, which is the expression, obviously, of the states' intentions at the ballot box. Here we have the House of Representatives representing the people's view, and then there is the states' view. We know that the architecture was designed so that there is an intersection of power. There is a line of power from here to the Senate. The other line of power is obviously from the Prime Minister's desk, through the cabinet, under the flag, straight out to the people. In between those two, you can go and find a black fountain, and that fountain is designed so that people can talk and have discussions and their conversations can be private. Well, I would suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you speak to the Speaker and the President about turning that fountain off, because that fountain currently is disconnecting the Australian people from the cabinet and the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, because they are not listening. They are not getting the message.

What did we have, when there was a little bit of people being concerned about the budget? What did the Prime Minister say? He said, down in South Australia: 'If the budget stays weak, that means higher taxes; that comes out of your pockets; that means more borrowings and that means higher interest rates.'

And what did Matthias Cormann say on Insiders on Sunday?

… the only alternative to balance the books is to increase taxes.

This is the same group—the same mob of clowns—that before the election said that there would be no new taxes. The same group that said there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health and no changes to pensions. And it has terrified people.

I do drive around a bit in the 111 square kilometres of my electorate—massive that it is. I get to hear the radio quite a bit, and on Triple M the other day, they were mocking Joe Hockey about his petrol comments. And I thought that when Triple M is sticking it up the Treasurer you know that the Treasurer has lost the Australian people. Triple M were doing a much better job at listening to the Australian people than Treasurer Hockey, than Prime Minister Abbott and anyone on the opposite side. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What breathtaking hypocrisy! What hide, for this opposition to start talking about the budget!

When I came to this place I thought the members opposite would have some pride and that they would hang their heads in shame due to the fact that they took a $20 billion surplus—$50 billion in the bank—to a debt projected to rise to $667 billion and cumulative deficits of $191 billion over their term of office. I would have thought they would have had avoided trying to make the kinds of accusations that we have heard today because of their abject failure in respect of any budgetary matters.

We saw the former treasurer stand up at the dispatch box and talk about the four surpluses that he was going to deliver and that never eventuated—the 500 promises of a surplus.

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Didn't they deliver one?

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No. They were not delivered. I have looked around for them. I looked everywhere for it and I could not find a surplus from those opposite.

We were elected with a commitment to get the budget back under control and I am very proud that we are doing it in a prudent way. We are reducing expenditures over the medium to long term. We are making earnest attempts to ensure that any adverse impacts of reductions in expenditure are not felt by those who are the most needy. That is because we are doing it over the medium to long term.

That is what this country needed: a government which actually looks at the medium to long term rather than at the next electoral cycle. I give members opposite some advice: if they think that just splashing cash around is going to work for them, well, it did not work for them in the last six years. The Australian public are smarter than they think. They think they can come out with these base political lines that are going to fool the Australian public about the abject failure that we would see again were they ever to be in government—certainly, on these benches, with control of our budget.

I say to members opposite: for an MPI such as this, do not show the kind of hide that you have shown today. We are undertaking the serious task of investing in our future; investing in productive income-producing assets for this country. Rather than splashing $95 billion on stimulus payments, even after the economy started to recover after the GFC, we are investing in income-producing assets for this country. That is what is needed. That is why this year we are running a significant deficit. But that is because we are investing for long-term growth. Again, I highlight that as an outstanding example of this government looking at the medium to long term rather than just looking at the short-term electoral cycle.

I would also say to members opposite and those who spoke on the MPI earlier: in each of the cases that they highlighted as far as reductions in expenditure go, the undisputed evidence from the budget is that there are no cuts that are being claimed. Rather they are reductions in expenditure growth over the forward estimates—whether those be in health or education. A reduction in growth in expenditure is not a 'cut'. It is quite basic. That is not a cut. So promising something that was not there is the most callous thing that you can do. There is nothing more callous than promising the Australian people expenditure that did not exist. Seventeen billion dollars promised against the mining tax, that we heard raised $600,000 in the last quarter! Nothing is more callous than making those promises to the Australian people, knowing that you could not deliver them.

I would say that all of the people on the opposition benches there are responsible, because they were all part of a government which saw this absolute economic mismanagement. We will fix it, and this budget will fix their mess. (Time expired)

Photo of Bruce ScottBruce Scott (Maranoa, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time allocated to this debate has concluded and therefore the discussion has concluded.