Senate debates

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Carbon Pricing, Economy

3:06 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy President, I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

As honourable senators know, there will be an election in Queensland on Saturday. I am not going to tell the Senate that the carbon tax, the Labor Party's toxic tax, is the only issue in the Queensland election because it is not. There are many more complaints that Queenslanders have about Labor than just the carbon tax, but there is no doubt that it has been one of the most important issues in the Queensland election campaign. Whatever else may befall on Saturday, the Queensland election will be, among other things, a referendum on the carbon tax. I expect that Queenslanders will send a message to Canberra long, strong and clear that they do not want this tax.

How appropriate it is, therefore, that it was in Brisbane six days before the 2010 federal election that Prime Minister Gillard stared down the barrel of a television camera, perched on the cliffs above Kangaroo Point, and uttered those immortal words: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, was the venue of the lie.

The effect of a carbon tax on the Queensland economy will be devastating. I know Senator Mason is going to speak—no doubt with his customary eloquence—about debt. But I want to say something about the effect of the carbon tax on jobs in Queensland. I refer in particular to the Queensland government's treasury modelling, tabled by the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Andrew Fraser, in August 2011. This is a document which bears the imprimatur of the Queensland government. This is what is projected by the Queensland Labor government's own modelling: it says that the difference in employment in Queensland with a carbon tax as opposed to a scenario where there is no carbon tax will be a difference of 41,000 jobs. There will be 41,000 fewer jobs as a result of the carbon tax. That is what the Labor Party itself says. I do not mean any disrespect to your state, Mr Deputy President, when I say that this is the government that caused Queensland to fall behind every state in the country, including Tasmania, in the middle of a mining boom! How do you do that? How can you manage the Queensland economy so badly that it was the worst performing economy—worse even than Tasmania, which has been reduced to an industrial museum by the Labor-Green alliance in that state? Queensland did worse in the middle of a mining boom! It takes rare genius to do that. But wait for it, Mr Deputy President: the Queensland Treasury's own assessment is that the difference in gross state product in Queensland as a result of the carbon tax is some $28 billion. The Queensland gross state product will be $28 billion less in the out years as a result of the carbon tax, according to the Queensland Treasury.

Mr Deputy President, I see you inquiring into my eyes and asking: why is it that Queenslanders are so infuriated with this Labor government? It is not just the catastrophe of the state health system. It is not the fact that the roads are in disrepair. It is not the fact that government services cannot be delivered. This Labor Premier and this Labor Treasurer, who are so incompetent that they reduced Queensland to sub-Tasmanian economic performance in the middle of a mining boom, are also complicit in introducing a carbon tax which will wipe $28 billion—on their own estimate—off the Queensland gross state product and cost 41,000 Queensland jobs. And they are proud of themselves. Let us see what the people of Queensland have to say about that on Saturday.

3:11 pm

Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The only relevant point that was made by Senator Brandis in his contribution was that there is an election this Saturday in Queensland. He referred to jobs. When I refer to jobs I think about workers, and I think about their conditions of employment. Just recently the Liberal National Party in Queensland made a promise that they will cap workers' pay increases at one per cent. We are talking about nurses. We are talking about nurses like my wife. We are talking about police officers and hardworking teachers out there who are going to have their wage increases capped at one per cent. If you want those sorts of conditions in Queensland, vote for an LNP government, because that is what you are in for: a one per cent pay increase per year. What an absolute disgrace.

There have been a lot of other things happening in Queensland leading up to this election campaign and throughout it. Just recently Campbell Newman—I would not call him a member; he is the leader of a party, the Liberal National Party, but holds no seat—has distanced himself from statements made by Clive Palmer about having some association with the CIA and the United States government over an environmental campaign against coal workers being funded by them.

On the subject of the environment, we only need to look at the policies of the Liberal National Party in Queensland to know what they will do to the environment. We know what their policy is on wild rivers; and that is something that I am passionate about. They will wind them back. They will wind those rivers back to allow mining in areas like the Wenlock River. I do not think Campbell Newman has ever been up there. He is too busy, with his miners cap on, with the light in the front—a little fellow running around in tunnels, looking for another tunnel to implement somewhere in Queensland. I am sure he has never been up to the cape, with his little miners cap on. He is too busy looking at those failed tunnels in Queensland that put the Brisbane City Council in enormous debt. If you want debt in Queensland, vote for an LNP government, because you will get Campbell Newman with his miners cap on, searching around with his torchlight, looking for another cross-river tunnel. That is what we are in for in Queensland if we end up with Campbell Newman. Talking about improprieties, the CMC recently investigated what Campbell Newman has been involved in, and it has already come out that there will be an investigation through the Ombudsman about the donations to the Liberal National Party Forward Brisbane Leadership fund made the week before a controversial development was approved by the Brisbane City Council—the Brisbane City Council that Campbell Newman was the Lord Mayor of. So the CMC, the Crime and Misconduct Commission, is going to investigate, through the Ombudsman, those donations to your party, Senator Brandis. That is what they are looking at.

Remember Joh Bjelke-Petersen? We are going to return to the bad old days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen if people elect the Liberal National Party in Queensland. Just to give you some idea of the calibre of some of the candidates that they are supporting, there is a candidate on the Gold Coast who has already been linked to pornography websites. This is the sort of candidate the Liberal National Party wants to endorse and support—someone who promotes pornography on a website. Then we go to the Far North of the state, up to Cairns. The Liberal National Party candidate up there talks about women who go out dressed for a good night and wear maybe a miniskirt or a nice blouse—

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

What are you talking about?

Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Listen to this, Senator Cash. These are your candidates in the Liberal National Party up in Queensland saying that women who go out dressed in a short skirt deserve to be raped. What an atrocious statement! This is the type of calibre that the LNP have endorsed and will support in this election come Saturday. If you end up with a Liberal National Party government in Queensland, this is the type of calibre that you will end up with. These sorts of candidates believe that women—

Senator Cash interjecting

Senator Cash, you should be horrified by that sort of statement by a candidate.

Senator Cash interjecting

You should be—someone who believes that women going out on the town wearing a short skirt deserve to be raped. What a disgraceful position to take from a Liberal National Party that wants to be in government in Queensland this Saturday. (Time expired)

3:16 pm

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

With Easter upon us we have learnt two things. We now know that modern Labor, the Labor government, is based on two pillars. It is based on a great con and it is based on a great lie. The great con, of course, is that debt does not matter and the great lie is that the unilateral imposition of the harshest carbon tax in the world is in our national interest. It is a twin pillar: a great con and a great lie. We have the great lie, the carbon tax, to pay the great con, Labor's debt. They are working arm in arm.

It was not that long ago that Senator Joyce spoke about sovereign debt, and everyone laughed at him. The government said, 'He has no idea,' and within 18 months Western Europe is on its knees and the United States is not doing too well either. Senator Wong today in the Senate in answer to my question said, 'It's all okay, Senator Mason, because there is no real problem; Australia's debt isn't too bad.' Well, it is bad—and I will get to that in a second—but the only reason that it is not worse is that Labor have won about one in every three elections since World War II. If they had won two out of every three elections since World War II—as the social democratic parties have done in Western Europe—we would have a debt crisis.

Why can I say that with absolute certainty? It is because every time Labor get into office, what is the situation when they leave? Australia is further in debt. Every time the Labor Party get into office and then leaves, are finally thrown out, Australia is far further in debt. If the coalition had not won two out of every three elections since World War II we would be just like Western Europe. There would be institutionalised, systematic and systemic debt. If this lot survive long enough we will have that here too.

We know that because even their great stimulus policy, the Building the Education Revolution, was an absolute disgrace—not because they spent the money but because they spent it wantonly. Their own depart­ments could not even determine whether the money was well spent. They spent $16,000 million dollars doing that and they wasted much of it. They did not even have the oversight mechanisms to ensure that the money was well spent. And now what do we know? We know that each Australian already owes $6,000 to cover the interest payments on Labor's debt. So it is all very well for Senator Wong to go on and on about 'It isn't too bad', but it is already bad and it is getting much, much worse.

Every time we talk in this chamber about debt, Labor not only say, 'It doesn't matter,' but also say, 'We had to do it to stimulate the economy'—as though in some way it is very hard to spend money. You know what the hard thing to do is? Spend it well and get good value for money. That is the test of good government. On that test alone, this government failed. That is the test. It is not hard, believe me, to spend billions and billions of dollars. That is really easy. The really tough bit is to spend it well. I do not give any credit to this government for spending money wantonly. I do not give them any credit for spending billions of dollars on, allegedly, some sort of stimulus package. I would give credit if it had been well spent and the taxpayer had got value for money. Did they? No, they did not. That is the great crime of Labor, and that is why Labor are always the party of debt and have been ever since 1901.

And Queensland—look, I do not need to go there! They are $85 billion in debt—nearly as much as the Hawke-Keating debt—and we lost our AAA credit rating. It is typical, modern social democracy—placing the people of Queensland further and further in debt. It is a disgrace. But it is of course just true to form. And it is all to be paid for by the greatest lie of this century from modern Labor—the carbon tax. So we have not only that lie that the Prime Minister told the populace before the last election but also the great lie that it is in our national interest to do it unilaterally. That to me has always been a great concern: that the government has always lied and said, 'It's in our national interest to act unilaterally,' irrespective of what anyone else does. In the end, the great lie will not pay for the great con. (Time expired)

3:22 pm

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always a pleasure to participate in a debate about the economy, even if it has a somewhat specific Queensland focus as a consequence of the election that is to take place on Saturday. But, of course, this is the federal parliament and I will take up the challenge of Senator Mason. Senator Wong—and, indeed, other ministers, including me when I was Assistant Treasurer and held a range of economic responsibilities during the global financial crisis—has well pointed out the circumstances Australia faced in terms of what was a world recession. We determined to stimulate the economy and we prevented Australia's economy from going into recession.

Senator Mason, in his contribution, said that it is hard to keep a budget surplus; it is hard to keep a budget out of debt. I can tell you it is pretty damn hard to keep an economy out of recession when the rest of the world is in one. That is pretty damn hard. Let me refer to the evidence—

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

You've got to spend well.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Mason!

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I did listen to Senator Mason in silence. Let me refer to the commentary at the time when the world was slipping into recession. As I said, Australia did not have a recession. Let me refer you to commentary from none other than the so-called shadow Treasurer, Mr Hockey, who said there would be a million unemployed in Australia and that we would have double-digit, 10 per cent, unemployment. That is what he predicted in the middle of 2008. The well-known economic guru, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, predicted: 'If the rest of the world has a recession, you will not keep Australia out of recession.' I remember those two predictions—from Mr Hockey, that there would be a million unemployed in Australia if there was a world recession, and from Mr Abbott, that you could not keep Australia out of a recession if the rest of the world went into one. Well, the rest of the world went into a recession and Australia did not have a recession. Those two leading economic spokespeople for the opposition, Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott, were wrong. They predicted a recession in Australia and they predicted a million unemployed, and they were wrong. They were wrong because this Labor government took the correct actions to stimulate the economy.

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

Was it good value for money, Nick? No.

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is why we have got a 5 in front of the unemployment rate in this country, whereas in Europe they have a 10, Senator Mason, and in the US it is not much better. In the rest of the advanced economic world, there is deep unemployment—

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

Deep debt.

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will get to debt in a moment—and Australia has a 5 in front of its unemployment rate. We have half the level of unemployment of most of the advanced European economies and the United States.

Let me move to the debt issue. The debt arises from two consequences. One: the world recession reduced Australia's revenue. We lost over $120 billion in revenue as a consequence of the world recession. So revenue dropped significantly as a result of the world recession. And, yes, we did spend money, and in spending money we kept this economy out of recession, and that is recognised by almost every leading independent economic authority in the world, from the World Bank to the IMF to Australian economists. The decisive action we took to keep this economy out of recession is recognised by almost everyone but the Liberal-National Party opposition, who, as soon as we moved into government, developed the habit of saying no, no, no. That is all you get from this Liberal opposition: no, no, no.

I repeat: in the middle of 2008, it was the current Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, who said: 'If the rest of the world goes into recession, you won't keep Australia out of it. Don't spend any money. Don't have a stimulus package.' That is what Mr Abbott predicted. Mr Hockey predicted a million unemployed. He shifted his political lines very quickly to focus on what he thought would be a million unemployed. They were wrong: Mr Hockey was wrong and Mr Abbott was wrong. This Labor government, of which I am proud, kept Australia out of recession. That is why we are in such a strong position. (Time expired)

3:27 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Whether it is Senator Brandis's remarks on a carbon tax or Senator Mason's remarks on debt, whatever the feeling is, overwhelmingly the Queensland people have had enough of Labor. The carbon tax is a big issue. It is a huge issue in Queensland and it is a huge issue everywhere else.

Labor's own Treasury modelling in South Australia shows that 1,500 jobs will be lost, the New South Wales Treasury says that 31,000 jobs will be lost, the Victorian Treasury says 24,300 jobs will be lost, and the Queensland Labor government says there will be 43,000 jobs lost due to a carbon tax. What has escaped a lot of people is that the loss to GDP with a carbon tax by 2015 will be $36 billion, and by 2050 it will be $1 trillion. That is not a Liberal-National Party prediction. The page on the government's own website entitled 'Strong Growth, Low Pollution' says $36 billion. So you can understand why people are so concerned about all those jobs. They are not predictions by the LNP; they are Labor Party statements about job losses.

Senator Joyce today pointed out the absolute stupidity and folly of putting this tax on. Everyone knows that, unless it goes on worldwide, it will not work—it cannot work. Unless you go to the Indonesians, the Indians, the Chinese and the Third World countries and say: 'We want you to pull your weight. We don't care if you're starving. We don't care if you don't know where your next feed is. You pull your weight and put the price of your fuel up for cooking and put the price up for electricity'—if they have electricity—'You pull your weight.' Of course, what are they going to say? 'Listen, we don't even know where our next feed is coming from. How can we pay a carbon tax?' Unless you can get the Third World countries to do it is a farce. It is a folly. It is stupidity. But you underestimate the brainpower of the general population. You underestimate their intelligence, because they can see it. They know it, and they know that what they are being asked to do is going to have no effect on the economy.

I just want to pick up Senator Furner's remarks. Senator Furner said that the public service was going to be limited to one per cent. I had never heard that before, but I just went up and got some reference to that. Mr Nicholls said that the LNP was determined to deliver a public service that was affordable and grew in line with the community needs:

The LNP is offering public servants long term job security and the removal of the wage cap in return for managing overall growth. We want neither a big nor a small public service—we want the right sized public service.

So for Senator Furner to come him here and say that everyone's wages will be capped at one per cent is not the truth. It is absolutely turning the truth around.

No amount of the Labor Party telling people untruths about what the LNP government will do is going to change the effect of what is happening in Queensland. People have made their minds up in Queensland. They have put up with the Labor Party just spending and spending and running up debt, losing their AAA rating and plunging them into debt. They plunged what was a wealthy state with a huge mining income into a basket case. Queensland is a basket case under the last 20 years of Labor government. It cannot perform, and the people have made this assessment.

They have made it over a number of years. They have made it and added it all up. What does a carbon tax do? Why are we in debt when we have a huge mining industry in Queensland? Why are we numbered last— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.