Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Budget

Statement and Documents

9:56 pm

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | Hansard source

Reports that I have delivered my final speech are an exaggeration! I'll take this opportunity to speak on the budget. Senator Leyonhjelm made it very easy to understand what happens in the budget, because, in his negotiations, he arranged for the government to provide, on the last page of the budget paper, data in real terms—that is, adjusted for inflation—in per capita terms. So I don't really need to read the budget; I can just look at the last page.

Here's the headline: this year, right now, tax, per capita, is the highest it has ever been in Australia. Did you hear that from Treasurer Frydenberg last night? I can't remember. Did he say, 'Tax per capita is the highest it has ever been in Australia'? I don't remember him saying that. I wonder why. It seems to me to be the highlight of the budget. Let's look at payments per capita. Maybe that's a better story for the government. Sorry! Again, payments per capita are the highest ever in the history of our Federation. What a shame! Two for two! This coalition government—a 'Liberal' government, I think it calls itself—has delivered the biggest government in Australia ever. In both tax and government spending, it's the biggest ever. It's not me. The government published it. It's on the last page. The numbers are right here. Just to make it clear: on average, this financial year, an Australian is taxed $15,465. No other number in the past has ever been as high. Isn't that something to be proud of, Liberal Party?

Let's look at payments, government spending per person. The government are spending $16,634 on your behalf. That's an even bigger number. Even though they're taxing you more than they ever have in the past—it doesn't matter what government you look at, be it Whitlam's, Rudd's or Gillard's—they're still spending more than that on your behalf. That means more debt. They cannot live within their means. We heard last night: 'We're not taxing you. We're living within our means.' It's just not true. The government said last night that they're doing things without increasing taxes, but it is clearly the case that they are increasing taxes. It is in their very own budget.

Another of my favourite pages in the budget, because I am a bit of an ex-Treasury wonk, is table 7 in the fiscal strategy. This is the one where the government of either persuasion, Labor or Liberal, try to pretend that they're not increasing spending. They often have tricky ways of saying, 'We're reducing overall spending,' or 'We've made decisions to reduce overall spending.' Most budgets have them. This is the first budget I remember reading—and I've been reading budgets for about 20 years—where they don't even pretend to be making policy decisions that reduce overall levels of government spending. Normally you have these promises that will offset all new spending. It doesn't exist. This might be the first budget ever where there's no promise to offset new spending. The coalition must have just realised: 'Hey, we've got no particular benefit in restraining government spending. There's no other party in this place that cares. The Labor Party don't care if we're increasing spending, so let's just do it.'

This financial year, the very prudent government that we have says, 'We are going to make policy decisions to increase government spending by a mere $3 billion.' Isn't that nice of them? We could have nearly had a budget surplus this year if the government had just decided not to spend. And, over the coming four years, the government has decided to make policy decisions to spend an additional $8 billion. This is unheralded in budgeting, particularly from a coalition government, which normally at least tries to pretend that they're reducing government spending. They use smoke and mirrors. They move money into out years. They didn't even bother doing it this year. It's an absolute disgrace. No-one's watching. In an election year, they've made an assessment that no-one cares about the rising size of government. They've given up any semblance of being a Liberal government. Anyone who thinks that government should be restrained and who continues to vote for the coalition is absolutely crazy. Your only option is to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

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