Senate debates

Thursday, 26 June 2008



7:39 pm

Photo of Grant ChapmanGrant Chapman (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take a minute or two to expand on a point that I was making earlier on at the conclusion of my remarks about this year’s budget. For the last 11 years, I have sat in this place on budget night and been inspired by the direction our nation was taking. Budgets were presented with vision and responded to economic and social challenges with innovative and responsible solutions, as did a number of the other initiatives of the Howard government over the years I have sat in this place. Sadly, on budget night this year, I was left with a sense of emptiness. Even those on our side of the house, those in the Liberal and National parties, expected that the Rudd government would have some semblance of a coherent agenda for economic management and social progress. At least you would expect that because they stole half of the budget from us in the first place, including the tax cuts, which they now claim as the centrepiece of their budget. I think everyone needs to be reminded that those tax cuts were, in fact, an initiative of the Howard government, copied by the Labor Party during the election campaign.

All we have seen from this Treasurer in all that he has delivered in this budget is a budget of unintended consequences. We need more from this federal government than empty rhetoric and spin. You cannot Google an education revolution. A real education revolution requires genuine substance to invoke genuine change in our education system. A real revolution would inspire passion in our teachers and a sense of hope for the future of our students.

It is not a budget for all Australians when our rural Australians are delivered yet another raw deal. This is indeed a sunburnt country of droughts and flooding rains, and we have seen that on both counts over the last several years. But you need to understand that when you sit behind a big desk in Canberra. That is what Labor consistently fails to do. The Prime Minister and his work experience Treasurer claim this budget confirms their self-advertised credentials as economic conservatives.

The PM is a churchgoer. Can I remind him of the parable of the talents. Three servants are given money by their master—in this case, for the sake of analogy, the Howard-Costello government and its record surpluses. Prime Minister Rudd would be the one who buries his money in the ground and eventually comes back and says: ‘Praise be to me. I didn’t spend it wisely. I didn’t invest it at a profit, but I didn’t lose it. I must be an economic conservative.’ To this his master replies—and here I translate freely from the original Hebrew: ‘You’re a dill, mate. You’re not an economic conservative; you’re an economic Neanderthal.’

In conclusion, as these are my last remarks on my last occasion as a member of the Senate, I will not be here to see the Rudd government and whoever replaces Wayne Swan as Treasurer squander the magnificent inheritance they got from the Howard-Costello government. But I am confident that in a couple of years or less the Australian people will see the Rudd government and dismiss it for what it is: an unintended consequence.