Senate debates

Monday, 16 March 2015

Matters of Public Importance

Higher Education

4:41 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training) Share this | Hansard source

Developments today where the minister ensured that this important national infrastructure—NCRIS, as it is known—is going to continue for another year, after Labor left it unfunded, actually make a number of the pre-prepared speeches of those opposite rather irrelevant.

Underlying this, is a much more important issue. Underlying this, there is a truth that every dollar of public expenditure actually has to come from somewhere. It has to come from taxes or it has to come from borrowings. There is no magic money tree growing in the middle of Parliament House, despite what some may think, that ensures we can fund any and all projects that we desire. Indeed, there are many more worthy projects than any government ever has the resources to directly fund.

Every dollar has to come from either taxes or borrowings. Every dollar will eventually have to be covered by taxpayers. It either gets covered by taxpayers now, through paying tax on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis, or it gets paid by taxpayers in the future, with the additional burden of interest, which seems to have been the budgeting approach of the Greens. We know for a fact it was the budgeting approach of the previous government.

This is actually at the very core of this debate. Bert Kelly called it a trade-off. In modern budget parlance, it is referred to as an offset. In an era where we have a record deficit inherited from those opposite, in an era where the amount of money that is being borrowed not only to fund the operations of government but to actually pay the interest on previous handouts and waste and operations of government, we cannot simply keep adding to the public burden. We cannot continually say we will borrow more or, mythically, we will keep taxing more and more.

In a small business, if you want to invest in one part of your business, you are not going to have the money to invest in another part, or in some cases maybe you are not going to have the money to even take the family holiday. Every household knows that buying the new car might mean putting off the holiday. In more basic sacrifices, paying the school fees might mean you do not have as much discretionary income somewhere else. This basic concept is something that is utterly lost on those opposite. They offend the Australian people when they pretend that no sacrifice is necessary and that the money can come from anywhere they wish.

The ALP and the Greens like to pretend that no sacrifice is necessary to actually designate someone receiving public funds. In this sense, both of them are in a competition for the arrogant status vote, the idea of everything worthy must be undertaken by the public sector. There is some fantastic support for research and higher education in this country that comes from the non-government sector. Government plays a critical role, and I will speak about this government and the coalition's record about that later on. This idea that everything that is worthy must be funded by the taxpayer, particularly when we are in an unsustainable deficit situation, does no service to the importance of the projects that they talk about.

The ALP and the Greens are competing in the championship of the politics of grievance or for the trophy for magic pudding economics! Both of them refuse to outline where the resources for important projects come from. The refusal of the ALP to provide ongoing funding for NCRIS illustrates the hollowness of their commitment and the hollowness of their words as they read out their speeches in this chamber. The truth is that expressions of commitment and support, without outlining the source of the revenue—where this will come from and how it will be paid for in the longer term—are meaningless. Labor's commitment to this program, or lack of it, was shown when we came to office: there were less than two years of funding for NCRIS left in the budget. There were more than two years of NCRIS unfunded by those opposite. There were crocodile tears and magic-pudding economics. They could print a bumper sticker saying: 'I care about researchers in Australia, I think research in Australia is critical, I think all of these institutions are critical; but when I was in office I did nothing to ensure they had ongoing funding.' They did nothing whatsoever.

Senator Wright interjecting—

Senator Polley interjecting—

Senator McKenzie interjecting—


No comments