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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4167


Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (16:48): That was the third contribution from our colleagues opposite that has been full of froth and bubble but, as usual for this government, with absolutely no substance. The member for Fowler has tried to say that we have not been able to produce a coherent economic strategy. Well, I give you 11 years of coherent economic strategy under the former Howard government that left you guys with $20 billion in the bank and $70 billion of net assets. And what have you done with it? Absolutely nothing. You have just frittered it away.

Mr Neumann: What about the roads in Queensland?

Mr VAN MANEN: We never voted against the repair of roads in Queensland; we voted against you introducing a new tax. Because of your economic incompetence you had to introduce a new tax to fund the fixing of the flood damage in Queensland—just one of 20-odd different taxes you have introduced.

It is important that we return our budget to surplus but it has got to be done in an orderly and sensible manner. This budget surplus is only a promise. The IMF is a bit early in its call to congratulate the government on returning the budget to surplus, because it is a promise that we will not know about until September 2013.

Labor's record of budget surpluses does not bear spending much time on, because they have not produced one in 20-odd years. We have got to a stage where we now have the highest debt in the nation's history. This Labor government has lived in the red, spending up big at the taxpayers' expense. It is building up quite a credit reference, borrowing up to $100 million every day and paying up to $100 million a week in interest. Net debt is forecast to peak at about $136 billion in 2013-14, with about $7 billion a year in interest. Last time I checked that would probably fund the NDIS. It is just one of many examples of the profligate spending of this government. Programs that could have been implemented if they had spent their money more wisely cannot be implemented, or have had to be delayed.

In all of this the average Australian is yet to see real value for money. They have not benefited at all from the $4 billion blow-out in the cost of border protection. They certainly did not benefit from the nearly $2 billion blow-out for the Building the Education Revolution.

Dr Emerson: You came to the school openings!

Mr VAN MANEN: We have not benefited from the Pink Batts program that cost four lives. I was talking about the blow-out, Craig. Just listen to what I am saying. You do not want to listen to anything else we are saying.

Australians cannot see the sense in the blow-out from the set-top box scheme. I have had seniors call my office wondering why, when they can get a cheap set-top box from Harvey Norman for $150, it cost several hundred dollars to install it under the government's program. The spending spree just continues.

The NBN is another classic example: extra funds being spent on the NBN without a proper business plan, without a cost-benefit analysis. How much money is in there that could be redirected to other programs to solve some of the problems we have in our community?

Dr Emerson: I will let the people of Forde know about that too!

Mr VAN MANEN: I am not getting any NBN in Forde, anyway, Craig. Check your facts!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I would remind the member for Forde to refer to members by their correct titles.

Mr VAN MANEN: Business and taxpayers alike will be contributing to the blow-out in costs associated with the rollout of the NBN. Locals are also complaining about an upgrade to the M1—if funds were redirected from the NBN, maybe we could get finished some of infrastructure in Queensland the member for Oxley was talking about. Where is the value for money? How are Australians expected to believe that this government is looking out for their best interests? Bribing everyday Australians with handouts and compensation is not looking after their best interests, and the old pea and thimble trick of taking with one hand and giving with the other is not going to work either.

I sometimes wonder whether those opposite are wearing green tights under their clothes. It seems to be an inspiration gained from acting out their own roles in a new kind of Robin Hood drama where the Labor government continues to rob from the rich to give to the poor. What they do not seem to appreciate is that most of their economic policies for the past four years have actually done more damage to the people they purport to seek to assist than they have done to the rich. We saw this with the changes to the private health insurance rebate, and we saw it with the carbon tax and its evil twin, the mining tax.

The centrepiece of this year's budget in the past 12 months has been the world's biggest carbon tax. No accounting trick or bribe can hide the strength of the carbon tax and its deleterious effect on the Australian economy and confidence in our nation. The carbon tax is socialism dressed up as environmentalism. It is just one of the vehicles Labor is hoping to drive from red town to black town. But it is all based on a promise, on a wing and a prayer, in 18 months time. Given this government's track record, I am not holding my breath.

The world's biggest carbon tax is based on a lie. It will destroy jobs and do damage to household budgets and our economy in general. It is another example of this government's solution to every problem, which is to tax it, increase the cost for Australians and then give back with the other hand. The urgent need to see the budget return to surplus comes as the level of net debt soars to its highest level in our history. The guilt of Labor's spending spree is starting to set in, and now the government are desperate to get the budget back into surplus. They realise the urgency of it now, before interest on the Labor government's debt reaches the $7 billion mark. What a waste. This $7 billion could have been used to pay for a National Disability Scheme.

As I said earlier, Labor are right at home in the red. They have not delivered a surplus since 1989-90. Labor have not delivered a surplus, as the member for Dawson touched on earlier, in the member for Longman's lifetime. At this stage this surplus is a promise only—and, given Labor's interpretation of a promise, I really have to question whether we will see that surplus in September 2013. We are more likely to see the Disney blockbuster sequel to Pinocchio before then. This is a budget that will be based on cooked books, with the Treasurer being the master chef. The forecast surplus will be based on fiddled figures with spending brought forward or pushed back. For example, the bulk of the NBN expenditure is not even in the budget documents—it is mostly for standard spending like digging trenches and laying cable—just by treating it as an equity injection.

Today's MPI stresses the urgent need to return the budget to surplus, invest in boosting productivity and provide open and transparent costings to the Australian people. Improving productivity and innovation is going to come about through lower taxes and lower regulation, not increased taxes and increased regulation—both of which this government have been absolutely consummate professionals at. It was noted that, if the government were being honest with the Australian people, the real starting point would be a $8.5 billion deficit not a $1.5 billion surplus. Labor have an appalling record in forecasting budget and economic numbers. It is this that makes me rest quite comfortably that they will not produce a surplus in 18-months time.

It is the coalition that has a proven ability to manage the economy. The urgent need to return the budget to surplus, invest in boosting productivity and provide open and transparent costings to the Australian people will not be achieved by this current government but through a coalition government that will bring reward, hope and opportunity to the people of Australia.