Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Matters of Public Importance
Senator O’Brien earlier adverted to the fact that he believed that our whole approach over on this side is related to politicking and that we are all about winning the next election. But I can tell you that our approach to this is the responsible approach. If any one party is approaching the issue of addressing the global financial crisis with a view to the next election it is the government. It is the Labor Party, and that is absolutely clear. By borrowing from the future to try and prop up the figures that we see now—to try to keep things looking as good as they possibly can till the next election—they are the only party that is actually making decisions with a view to trying to win the next election. And at what cost to future Australians?
Let us have a bit of a look at that. Treasurer Wayne Swan has told us that he will have balanced the budget in just seven years. This is unlikely to happen. It is about as likely as him bringing about the enormous surpluses that will be required to pay the $315 billion of gross debt that we will have accumulated and paying that off by the early 2020s. The unprecedented spending cuts that would be required to achieve this fantastical and utterly impossible result would be a standout first for any Labor government in Australia’s history. When Labor is in government, government spends up big, and that is a proven fact. Under Whitlam, spending increased to such an extent that the Commonwealth’s share of GDP went from 19 per cent to 24 per cent. The Commonwealth’s share of the gross domestic product of the whole nation went up by 5 per cent. Thirteen years of Hawke and Keating saw that figure increased to 26 per cent, a figure that was much reduced in subsequent years under the Howard coalition government.
The Howard years saw the rolling back of the Commonwealth’s share of GDP as Costello fought to balance the budget, after Labor left a massive $96 billion worth of debt, and then brought us back into surplus and paid that debt off over the ensuing eight or nine years. We paid it off a couple of years before we lost government. When I arrived in this place in August 2007, in my first speech I said how proud I was to be part of a government that had achieved that. I made mention of the fact that, in 1996, left-wing commentators were saying that it was not so bad to be considered a Third World country—and I think an ex-parliamentary secretary in the Hawke-Keating years compared our economy favourably to the economies of Malawi and Burundi. This was before we were re-elected in 1996; it was before the Howard Liberal years. Over the next 11 years we took Australia from a position where commentators were saying our economy compared well with Third World countries like Malawi and Burundi to a position where we are world leaders.