Senate debates

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011, Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading

8:58 pm

Photo of Brett MasonBrett Mason (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research) Share this | Hansard source

) ( ): I rise this evening to speak about the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill and associated bills. One cannot address the mining tax and the effect it will have on mining and our economy without also speaking about the carbon tax, at least in passing. The mining tax and the carbon tax can be seen as part of the same project. They are part of a package that one would expect from the Australian Labor Party, the same old social democrat project. The party is one that is addicted to spending and to borrowing, addicted to debt and to taxing. If you need any reference, just look across at western Europe. The last thing Australia needs now or ever is Social Democrat economics or social engineering. The last thing we need is another re-run of European social democracy. With the carbon tax and the mining tax, Labor is trying to lead Australia down the path which, as the European experience shows, ultimately leads to decline and crisis. We know that.

In times of depression or when I need to be amused—I like to amuse myself—I open my drawer and I pull out an article from The Monthly, 'The Global Financial Crisis' by Kevin Rudd, published in February 2009. It is one of my favourite curios from the past. You might note its comforting sepia tones. It is hard to believe now, but just over three years ago, when Mr Rudd was Prime Minister, he argued that social democracy had to save capitalism from itself. Remember that? He was going to be the new President Roosevelt, the new FDR, because only social democracy could rescue capitalism.

Haven't things changed in the last three years? We now know that the only thing that can save social democracy, whether here or in western Europe, is a big dose of what they call economic rationalism and what many of us might call capitalism or liberal democracy or free trade. Social democracy cannot save itself. Mr Rudd's article in The Monthly in February 2009 was wrong in its fundamental assumptions that social democracy had to save capitalism, that nothing else could. Now it is the precise reverse. The only thing that will save western Europe and the social democracy project is liberal democracy and capitalism. Isn't that one hell of a change in a thousand days? The Labor Party and the Greens are still stuck in this Western European social democratic project and it is crumbling.

The fundamental problem with the Labor Party, the Greens and social democracy worldwide is very simple: it is structural debt, and that is unsustainable. It is far worse in Western Europe than the United States. Even before the economic crisis hit in 2008, Greece's public debt stood at 110 per cent of GDP; Italy's at 98 per cent. Now the Greek debt is almost 150 per cent of GDP and 18 OECD countries have public debt above 40 per cent of their GDP. Can you imagine that? That is the social democratic project. The experience of the past few years shows clearly that you cannot continue to borrow indefinitely in order to finance social welfare and recurrent expenditure. It is impossible. When the crunch comes, you are gone.

It is true, and the government is quite right to say this, that here in Australia we do not have the same mountain of debt as European social democracies. Why? We are very, very lucky that the Labor Party have only won one in every three elections post World War II. Can you imagine if they had won two out of every three elections since World War II? No matter what they say, always go on their performance in government. You have heard me say this before, Mr Acting Deputy President: what is the Labor Party's record on debt since Federation? Let me remind the chamber, though the Labor Party do not like being reminded about this. Since Federation, since 1901, for more than 110 years, every time the Labor Party are forced out of office they leave Australia further in debt.

If Australia had not been fortunate enough to elect conservative governments, Liberal governments, two out of every three times since World War II and it rather had been one in three as in western Europe, what would be the result of that? It would be mountains and mountains and mountains of structural debt. Thank God, we do not have that. The only thing standing between our country and structural, systemic, systematic debt is the Australian coalition. Thank God, we have won two out of every three elections since World War II, because every time this lot get into office they put Australia further into debt. That is a fundamental problem; that is the DNA of the Greens, the Australian Labor Party and social democracy in the western world. It has never changed and it never will change. That is the fundamental cancer within the Left in the western world.

Not only do they wreck the economy, but the Labor Party love to talk about social justice. What is the great bequest of Labor governments to the next generation? Let us reflect on that for a second. It is unemployment and intergenerational debt. That is what this lot leave to our children and our grandchildren. They have done that for all Australian children and grandchildren since 1901. That is the fundamental thread woven through Australian political history: every time this lot get in, Australia is further in debt when they leave. Senator Sherry can talk all he likes about Mr Keating and Mr Hawke—we will get to them in a minute—but that is the fundamental proposition that this lot can never, ever overcome. It is a problem in western Europe, and this lot reflect that.

If anything, of course, things have been getting worse. You might recall, and I know Senator Macdonald would recall, that it took Mr Hawke and Mr Keating 13 years to build up $96 billion in debt. They denied that we were in that much debt, but it took 13 years to accumulate it. For Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard, it took only four years to borrow even more than Mr Hawke and Mr Keating. That is Labor's attempt to Europeanise Australia, to make structural debt a permanent element in the new social democratic compact. What this does is ensure all interest groups are beholden to the state. They all put their hand out—and they have been doing this in western Europe since World War II—and what happens in the end? There is no money to pay the interest on the debt; they cannot even do that. Again, thank God this lot has only won one in every three elections since World War II. If they had won any more we would not be in this position.

If you do not believe me, Acting Deputy President, you might believe our newest senator, Senator Bob Carr. What did he say in the Financial Review on Friday, 2 March 2012, in an article titled 'Social democracy crisis'? Senator Bob Carr said:

There is not much glow in the Labor past because there was never a golden age for Australian Labor.


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