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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6790


Mr BILLSON (DunkleyMinister for Small Business) (10:34): I thank the member for Fraser for his question. Wasn't it a surprise—he did not ask about co-payments! He's got form on that, hasn't he? Higher education co-payments—he has form on that as well. There are so many things he is not able to talk about. And that is probably why we got a professorial thesaurus articulation to fill out some of the time! There are so many areas of this budget where the member for Fraser simply cannot go. He has form. If he was being principled in his articulations at that time, you would have thought he would be one of the strongest advocates for many of the measures in this budget. But he chose not to talk about those things for which he has form. He chose to talk about some other changes.

He talked about the fuel indexation changes. In fact, I have just introduced legislation into the House to reintroduce fuel indexation in precisely the form introduced by the Hawke Labor government. But what is different about our approach is that we have implemented that measure to ensure that we can fund the nation's biggest infrastructure program. Going back to my earlier point: in my community and as I travel around the country, I consistently hear the call for a longer term view. They would like to see more of the resources that come to the Commonwealth being put into building our capacity and opportunity for the future, not going into consumption. They are concerned that we are borrowing $1 billion a month to finance what is essentially consumption expenditure. That $1 billion a month would be set to go up to $2.8 billion a month if Labor's policy settings were put in place. Yet they were not seeing the investment in our productive capacity as a nation. So we have introduced this measure to go some way towards funding $26 billion of road infrastructure projects, to build that infrastructure and productive capability for the 21st century economy.

Why is it important? In Melbourne, we want to see the East West Link constructed. Labor have been all over the shop. I was going to say they have been talking out each side of the pie hole, but I thought that might have been taken as a slight against the Leader of the Opposition. They have been all over the place. I am not sure if they are for it or against it. But the communities that I represent know they are for it. That is because infrastructure like the East West Link has the capacity not only to support commuters but also to support commerce. It will support commerce in the direct construction phase and then in the ability of our economy to function through these infrastructure arteries—an important development—and the indexation that goes with it. What I am seeing and hearing is a call for that kind of infrastructure investment. But people also want to know that the funding of it can be sustained. That is why we have moved to reactivate the very indexation measure that Labor introduced. It will be interesting to see where they go with that.

The question then went to the carbon tax. I am not sure whether the member for Fraser is aware of it—he may have been writing a book or something at the time—but, under his team, the carbon tax is set to increase again from 1 July and, under Labor's policy articulation, it was to be extended to heavy road transport. If he followed this and did the analysis that he claims he does on some of his work in a professorial mode, he would know that the indexation of fuel excise has no net effect at all on off-road uses or on heavy transport for vehicles over 4½ tonnes. Why? Because they are offset; it does not amount to a tax that cascades, builds and grows through the economy. So his analysis that this is somehow the same as the carbon tax is patently wrong. In those productive areas of the economy—for off-road uses of the fuels that are covered by the fuel tax and excise regime and for on-road heavy vehicle uses—there is no impact. There is a net improvement because we have simplified the way in which those transactions of excise are calculated—they are rebated and there are road transport charges—so it was not down to the three decimal points that those opposite would love. The member for Fraser might love a third decimal point, but we think one decimal point is perfectly adequate. So those analogies are simply not relevant.

If the member for Fraser is concerned about cost impacts on our economy and on households, then the honourable, thoughtful and analytical thing to do is get behind the abolition of the carbon tax. That is what he promised his citizens: that he was going to terminate the tax. No, Labor is running a protection racket for its carbon tax; it is set to go up from 1 July and, if their policy musings are to be believed, they want to extend it to heavy road transport as well.