Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Questions without Notice
Budget, Asylum Seekers
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to last night's budget and the $5 billion blow-out it revealed in the cost of protecting our borders over the next four years. Will the government now admit that the fact that more than 20,000 boat people have arrived so far this financial year is proof that the government has lost control of our borders in the same way as it has lost control of the budget? Will it admit that the extra $5 billion amounts to more than five times the $900 million cut from the tertiary education budget over the next four years or more than 13 times the amount the budget cuts from school funding? Why does the budget contain no plans to get the nation's borders back under control?
We see the priorities of the opposition, and we see yet again their laserlike focus on negativity and their complete refusal to ever tell Australians what their plans for the future would involve, which of course we know would involve cutting to the bone because that is what Liberals do. That is what Liberals do.
That question is the same sort of thing we heard from the Leader of the Opposition today—it might have been last night—when he said this budget offered 'no hope'. No hope. What a thing to say of a budget that delivers disability care for over 400,000 Australians with permanent and significant disability in this country. You go out and say, 'There is no hope.' The extraordinary negativity in the face of what is supposed to be a bipartisan reform reflects very, very badly on the Leader of the Opposition and his representative, Senator Abetz, in this place.
And it is extraordinary in the face of a reform of schools to fund the schools of Australia so we no longer leave so many students behind, something we on this side regard as unacceptable. Why should someone's chance in life be determined by their postcode? That is the attitude of the opposition. It is not the attitude or the vision of the Labor Party. That is why we have done the hard yards in this budget to reform our schools and to provision for it.
But all the opposition can talk about, all they ever want to talk about, is asylum seekers. All they ever want to talk about is negativity. What they will not tell the Australian people is that they actually have no plan to manage this. It is amazing. Mr Abbott's position has gone from, 'I'll stop the boats,' to, 'We'll demonstrably diminish the flow.' (Time expired)
What a nonanswer that was. Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister confirm that the deficit the Treasurer announced last night will be his sixth deficit in his six budgets and the 13th Labor budget in a row to deliver a deficit? Will the minister also confirm that the $5 billion blow-out in border protection costs is a major contributor to the size of the 2013-14 budget deficit and in fact is equivalent to more than 17 per cent of all the future deficits the government budgeted for last night? That is why border protection is important.
Opposition senators interjecting—
They have got their talking points: 'Don't talk about education. Don't talk about disabilities. Don't even talk about jobs. Just talk'—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Thank you, I will take that interjection. 'No hint of a plan—don't even hint about a plan; just talk about boats. That's all we want you to talk about.' That is a day after the budget has been handed down that looks at a plan for Australia's future, a plan to deliver the biggest reform in schools the nation has ever seen, a plan to deliver the next stage of Medicare—and only a Labor government would ever have delivered disability care. We remember how many times the coalition in history tried to tear down Medicare. You have always been late to this argument. But, no, they do not want to talk about that; they want to talk about boats, because that is all they ever want to talk about. In terms of the budget position— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister confirm that the $5 billion blow-out in border protection costs is more than three times the cost of the personal income tax cuts the government scrapped last week or would have been enough to build five brand-new world-class teaching hospitals?
This is really quite a ridiculous set of propositions from the opposition. Between the midyear review and the budget, we have seen a $60 billion write-down in revenue. It is the second largest hit to revenue in a year since the Great Depression—the second largest hit. Those are the economic facts that a responsible government has to deal with. If the strategy to return the budget to surplus that has been put by the Leader of the Opposition is simply, 'Stop the boats,' he is a long way short, because the reality is that the nation and the government have been facing this challenge, which is far less tax being paid to government than Peter Costello received. In fact, if the government were receiving as much tax as Peter Costello received, we would have $24 billion more in extra revenue next year. (Time expired)