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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4162


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:28): It is T minus three hours and counting, as Vice-Captain Wayne M Swan of the starship Laborites prepares to make a new entry in the captain's log. What this government is trying to achieve is almost a direct lift from the introduction of every episode of that great science fiction TV series, Star Trek: 'Surplus: the final frontier of these voyages of the starship Laborites, now in the sixth year of their mission to introduce strange new policies, to eek out new taxes and new regulations and to boldly go where no Labor Treasurer has gone before'—well, at least not in the member for Longman's lifetime. Rightly or wrongly, the Treasurer wants us to believe he can cross that final frontier tonight and boldly go where he has never been before—to a budget surplus.

The member for Fraser—who could be Mr Spock if he had pointy ears—talks about the need for a surplus, and not just the need for a surplus but also the need for transparency. Anyone can get up here and say they are going to deliver a surplus. You can say it as much as you like, but just saying it does not make it so. To deliver a surplus, you actually have to deliver a surplus. Sometimes there can be a difference—as we know so often with this Labor government—between what is being promised on budget day and what is proven to be delivered 16 months later. Sometimes there is a very big difference in facts and sometimes an epic difference, like the deficit that is currently in progress this financial year.

Let us not look at the wild forecasts of a desperate government. Let us look at reality, because we can actually do that. Let us go back to the captain's log from this time last year and look at what was forecast then. According to the 2010-11 MYEFO forecast there was going to be a deficit of $12 billion. At the time, that sounded like a pretty bad budget. But it actually got worse. Six months later, the budget forecast was a deficit of $23 billion. Then another six months later there was a forecast of a $37 billion deficit. And they reckon it is going to head lower. The Labor Party loves to come into this place and talk about this fictitious black hole from our side. What we have here is not a fictitious black hole; it is a very real one that is unfolding before our very eyes. At the rate that this blow-out is growing, it is not just a black hole; it is going to be a complete rip in the space-time continuum, like the one that Mr Spock sailed through in the last Star Trek movie.

If we want to talk about transparency, let us be transparent here and talk about the difference between the science fiction that the Labor Party would give you and reality. In reality this government has not got a clue about how to deliver a surplus or how to manage an economy. It is pure science fiction to think that these guys can actually deliver a surplus. This is the government that thrusts an economy-wide tax on the population, the carbon tax—and it brings in how much money exactly? How much money? Last time the government told us, it was none. It was actually going to cost more than it raised. That is because the tax will not actually achieve the goal that it sets out to do—lowering carbon dioxide emissions—so the government has to go offshore and buy some.

The Treasurer is just blindly firing out taxes like they are photon torpedoes, hoping he can bag himself a surplus. He is firing everything he has got: the carbon tax, a mining tax, 'We'll take away the rebate on your private health insurance.' But back in the engineering section, where all the productivity happens, the business sector is actually reeling. All the firepower is sapping the energy out of the ship called Australia. Manufacturers and small business exporters are all screaming at the government like Scotty: 'She cannot take it anymore, Captain. She's gonna blow.' We have the mining industry entering unchartered territory, where mines like Norwich Park in Central Queensland are closing down. We have the tourism industry on its knees, reeling from a downturn in international tourist numbers. We have manufacturing going belly up because of government neglect. And now we have a carbon tax coming in to give them all the Vulcan nerve pinch.

But the government just is not listening. They are just sailing the nation straight into oblivion, and they are doing it at warp speed. The government have driven us into debt and deficits. The Labor Party and their Klingon mates—the Greens, the so-called Independents and now the member for Dobell—led us into this mire. And now they are trying to tell us that they can lead us out. But they just keep on moving forward, telling us how to follow them. They have not turned around. They are still leading us into oblivion. That is because the Labor Party only knows one direction: a direction of reckless spending, waste, and more and more tax. And that is not how you deliver a surplus.

I want to see a surplus as much as anyone else, and I do believe it is imperative to get the budget back to surplus. But using smoke and mirrors will not do that. Pulling spending out of next year and putting it into this year does not achieve anything, except blowing out this year's budget even further. When people look at the cash for kids program that was announced this week, their first reaction might be to think of how they are going to spend that money. But when they think about it for a minute—and people will; the voters are not stupid—they will realise that they will actually need that money to pay the taxes needed to pay for the program itself. It is not just robbing Peter to pay Paul; it is robbing Peter to pay Peter. It is giving with the left hand and taking with the same left hand. For the hard-core Trekkies out there, it is like Ferengi economics. That is not creating a surplus; it is just pushing expenditure around. You cannot put this week's rent on the credit card then pay next week's rent in advance on the same credit card and tell everyone how you will not be paying rent next week. It is nonsense.

And what do you get for all of this? A flimsy $1.5 billion alleged surplus. Well, that is a surplus, Wayne, but not as we know it. That is as close to transparency as this government is going to get: forecasting a surplus that is so wafer-thin that you can see right through it. Put that figure into context. Compare it with the size of the actual blow-out in the current budget. If this Labor government turns a forecast of a $12 billion deficit into somewhere south of $40 billion, how long will the $1.5 billion surplus that is forecast stand up? I think it will be gone by the morning.

I said earlier that I would like to see a budget surplus. But we have to understand what the point of the surplus is. It is to pay off debt and put aside money for a rainy day. We have plenty of debt that needs to be paid off. But is it actually going to be paid off? Not on Labor's watch, because on their watch this parliament is going to be asked again tonight to raise the debt ceiling to record levels. And today we know that because when the Prime Minister was asked whether they would seek to raise the debt ceiling even higher we could not get an answer. If you think a surplus can be delivered by raising the debt ceiling then, again to quote from Star Trek, you are out of your Vulcan mind.

I want to see a budget surplus—a real budget surplus—because it is what a responsible government delivers for a rainy day. This Labor government inherited a $20 billion surplus and $70 billion of net worth. The coalition saved for a rainy day. We had a rainy day. We had a literal rainy day. We had the global financial crisis, but we also had the floods in Queensland and the cyclone. But the cupboard was already bare so they had to dig up more debt, and they had to dig around and put in new taxes. So what if we have another rainy day, with this wafer-thin so-called surplus? What if there is widespread flooding and cyclone damage? How is that surplus going to fare then? I have to tell you: set phasers to stun because it will be all gone. Unless that rainy day happens in the next 12 hours, it will be too late because this Treasurer's surplus will be blown out before he finishes his cornflakes in the morning.

Four times the government has come to this place and told us that we are going to have a record huge deficit. They actually came in here and said that. It turned out the reality was much worse. One thing we can be sure of is that whatever the Treasurer announces tonight it will be worse than that when it comes to the crunch. No amount of smoke and mirrors can save this incompetent government. No amount of cooking the books will stop a country from plunging into a real black hole, a worm hole you could say, that it itself has created. And when the good hard-working Australians look up from the bottom of that big black hole where Labor has put them—and it will be sometime soon—they are going to say one thing, 'Beam me up, Scotty'. We need to get this country back to reality and the budget needs to get back to a real surplus, not Labor's science fiction one.