Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Abbott Government

9:58 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Having entered this place only five months ago, this is going to be my first Christmas as a senator for Queensland. As is customary at Christmas, you think about the year that has passed and the year ahead, and you think about those who have helped you and those who hindered you along the way. But, also, you start to think about those people who have been good and those whom you would like Santa Claus to bring presents to. I should particularly mention three wonderful people in the whips office, otherwise I will never get a speaking slot in this place ever again—Charlotte, Bec and Megan—hope that they take this offering in goodwill.

There are those who are good and those who are bad. The Labor Party and the Greens, I am afraid, have been very naughty boys and girls this year, and I do not think Santa Claus is going to be bringing too much for my friends in the Labor Party and the Greens. I think there might be some lumps of Queensland coal for the Labor Party and, hopefully, extra coal for the Greens because of their naughtiness and how they have behaved, sadly, over these past few months.

I would like to set the record straight, to remind the Greens and Labor of the achievements of this government. If I have time, I can then highlight some of the disappointments and some of the naughtiness of Labor and the Greens. It would be very wrong of me to talk about what happened in our party room today, and I would get in lots of trouble from the whips office, but what is in the public sphere at the moment is the presentation that the Treasury gave about the highlights and the wonderful things that this government has been able to do since the election on 7 September 2013. So what I am going to do is just very, very quickly give you a highlight—

Senator Moore interjecting

I know my friends in the Labor Party really, really look forward to this!

Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You're going to sing it, are you?

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not going to sing. If there is one thing you do not want, it is to hear me sing—or even to watch me dance.

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

We've had dancing in the chamber before!

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will not be dancing. I do not do that. I am very puritan in that respect. But let us talk about what the government has been able to do in the 14 months or so, almost 15 months, that it has been in power. It has commenced the budget repair job, and it isn't that fantastic, ladies and gentlemen? It is fantastic. It has started to get the budget back under control.

We have delivered the largest infrastructure package ever. You can go to Queensland and see where the infrastructure is starting. If you go along the Gateway near Deagon, you can see the works and the planning for what is going to happen. We can talk about the Bruce Highway and the extra funds that are going to go into the Bruce Highway. As a senator who lives in regional Queensland—admittedly the Sunshine Coast but I spend a lot of time driving up and down the Bruce Highway—I am particularly excited about the work they are going to do with the Bruce Highway.

We have repealed the mining tax. We have repealed the carbon tax. We went to the election saying we would get rid of those taxes, and we have delivered. We have got rid of that carbon tax. We have got rid of that mining tax. Do you know what has happened with that? After getting rid of those taxes, we have seen the largest falls in electricity prices on record. For those Queenslanders listening at the moment—farmers driving their tractors and things like that, if they are still out there tonight—that means that your electricity prices are going to go down. We have got another hot summer coming up—as we always have hot summers in Queensland; it is not to do with climate change; we live in a hot state—and this means electricity prices are going to be lower and people's electricity bills are going to be lower.

We have privatised Medibank Private, in one of the largest floats this year, globally, and we have raised over $1 billion more than was expected. Do you know what that means? That means that money is going to go to pay off the debt that the axis between the Greens and the Labor Party wreaked upon future generations of Australians. That debt is $1 billion a month in interest alone. So we have privatised Medibank Private.

We have removed around $2 billion worth of red tape. That is over 57,000 pages of legislation. That is probably about this much. For people listening at home, I have put my hand up about two feet high. That is a lot of legislation. That is a good thing.

Senator Moore interjecting

Senator Moore, I realise you are very excited about this, but it is a good thing we are getting rid of red tape.

We have also ended—and this is quite serious—the age of entitlement for industry. We have made some tough decisions in relation to the car industry, and that has not necessarily been popular in some parts of this country. But it has helped us to finalise three free trade agreements—with Korea, Japan and China. What that is going to do for the Australian economy and the Asian economy, opening up borders, is fantastic. We have to think about our geographical placement, and having those three free trade agreements will certainly cement us as part of Asia.

We have delivered smaller government. I think most people here know that I am a big fan of small government, and getting rid of 76 agencies, authorities and boards is a positive start. I would like to see some more progress in that area, but that is just me speaking as a mere backbencher.

We have also had $1 trillion worth of environmental approvals. Over 300 major projects have been approved. That means jobs. It means jobs for people not just in Queensland but across Australia. It means that we can get this country moving again. The more jobs we have, the more money people can earn. The more they can spend, the more it grows the economy. We really want to grow the pie for all Australians.

But we have done other things. We have rebuilt the employee share schemes, because we want people to be able to own the companies they work for. We have dealt with Labor's tax backlog. I was a bit surprised about this, because Labor and the Greens are the parties of tax—and I respect them for that; those are the views they hold; I disagree with their views—but there are almost 100 unenacted tax measures. Some of these measures have not been enacted for so long that, when the Treasurer was wandering around the Treasury building, he could not find any public servants who knew what these tax measures dealt with, because they have been waiting there for so long to be enacted. We have taken the leadership—and this was shown in the G20—in cracking down on tax cheats: a 15-point plan with the OECD.

But we have got more to look forward to this coming year. It is going to be a very exciting year. I am a new person here, but everyone says that, in the last sitting week, everyone puts the cranky pants on and people get a little bit short with each other, but I am very excited about this coming year, because we have got some very exciting things happening. We have got the Federation white paper coming out. I am really excited about that and what that means in terms of how the different levels of government deal with each other. We have got the tax white paper coming out, which I also find terribly exciting. We have got the Intergenerational report, which will come out in February. We will hopefully have further progress on budget reforms. And—and I think we should all agree on this—we have got other free trade agreements that we should encourage the government about. I think Labor would come together with us and support further free trade agreements—with Europe, with India and with the Gulf council.

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

We have negotiated them; we have just not finalised them.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Finalising them would be very good. What is a little bit disappointing is how Labor—and this is why they are going to get a nice lump of Queensland coal from Santa Claus for Christmas—are sabotaging the budget and stopping us from getting on and getting the budget back on track. Labor are opposed—and, Mr Deputy President, I am sure you will be shocked to hear this—to $28 billion worth of savings, and this includes $5 billion worth of their own savings. I hope that Labor, when they are having a sip of communion sherry or something like that over the break, will decide that they will support these changes to help us get the budget back on track.

The other thing is that Labor want an additional $15 billion of spending restored. That would worsen the budget bottom line down to $43 billion. Australia just cannot afford that. While Santa might bring his presents for free—and he is a good person, and I love Santa for that—the budget does not come for free; it is the Australian taxpayers who pay for that. I hope that the Labor Party and the Greens realise that they cannot just keep squeezing the poor Australian taxpayer to pay for their unfunded promises. I hope that they will join with us in helping to restore the budget bottom line.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for that entertaining contribution.