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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3790


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (16:30): I rise to speak on this matter of public importance about the urgent need for government to deliver budget transparency to the business community. Let me start by talking about the fact that transparency requires honesty, integrity and openness. I think the Australian public demands that of us. When I walk through my electorate and meet with small business owners and with other people, they ask why we do not put things up front for them so that they can understand the implications when it comes to the financial management of their businesses, including the financial management of their own homes. It is not hard to provide numerous examples of gross ineptitude by the government in demonstrating budget transparency.

If I were to do an analysis of all the answers that the Treasurer gives in this chamber to questions around budget and fiscal management, then I would find that there would be very little in the way of transparent answers, as opposed to attacks on the opposition and attacks on individuals—individuals who create the job opportunities for other workers which the government says that they represent but that we forget. That is a factor within any economy.

There are many facets to the economy that are important to the way this country develops its wealth and the way it supports the families and communities that we have been elected to represent. It would not hurt to have some transparency. It would not hurt to have the detail so that people can make judgments. There is a need to promote transparency so as to improve consumer confidence and assist the business community to effectively plan for the future. Just look at this week: we have had the biggest tax on our most successful industry passed by the Senate and yet the companies affected do not know the full detail. Today, when the Treasurer was asked what the arrangements with the big three companies were, he was not able to provide transparency around what has been negotiated and around what their contribution will be to the tax.

We have the carbon tax coming out on 1 July this year and still we do not know the final detail. I have companies in my electorate that say, 'Can you provide any of the detail that will roll out with this so that we can consider what the costs will be, what our decisions will be about the provision of services, what the decisions will have to be about our financial viability and about other arrangements we have in place?' I was talking to a builder who tells me that he now has on the bottom of all his invoices a reference to the fact that his price will be affected by the carbon tax and its implications. How can the Treasurer claim to be back in the black in this financial year's budget when he does not include future policy costings that the Gillard government is committed to but does include costings for policies that do not have the detail in the legislation and have not had the proper modelling released?

However, what the Treasurer can take claim for is creating uncertainty in our business community. How can our business and industrial sectors make decisions to address the compliance requirements? The flow-on effects of these taxes are huge and our business community does not yet know the detail. Let us look at some facts here. Labor have consecutively delivered the four biggest deficits in Australian history: $27 billion, $55 billion, $48 billion and $37 billion. The numbers do not lie. Labor say that this financial year is different. They say it will be back in the black. They say they have changed their ways, but we all know that a leopard does not change its spots. They say they have realised that pulling out Australia's credit card at every opportunity is not the definition of being fiscally conservative.

It has taken them a while, yet if you look at the information the Treasurer provides in the budget you will notice there are no ongoing financial commitments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As a public servant, I used to rely on the portfolio statements and the budget statements to forward plan in the work that I did. When I look through some of the portfolio statements now, I find there are gaps or I find there are elements of the financial thinking of the Treasurer and the relevant minister that puzzle me—their thinking is not reflected in the transparency that is required in order for people to make business decisions. Nor is there any mention of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which is, in total, a hundred billion dollar black hole in the budget. Not to mention, within that one hundred million, the debacle that is the National Broadband Network. A lack of planning, a lack of consultation and, ultimately, a lack of transparency has plagued this government since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formed government in 2007.

I was at a breakfast just two mornings ago where the people who I was sitting with said that at one time there used to be green papers and white papers, which allowed the private sector or the business sector to provide input into the process before it became entrenched in a bill that was debated in this chamber. They had the opportunity to argue for a reduction in red tape. They had the opportunity of reflecting on the impact on them and on their business. We no longer do that; I have not seen evidence of that for some time. I hope that it is a practice that trickles back in. The coalition would certainly be committed to a process that engages those affected.

Accounting tricks to shuffle money and hide spending so as to keep it off the budget bottom line contribute to the government's projected surplus, which is one-tenth the size of the deterioration in this year's budget deficit over the six months between last year's May budget and the November mid-year economic and financial outlook. The biggest example of this mess is the government's Energy Security Fund. The government recognises that the carbon tax poses a threat to Australia's energy security. In response, it will spend just over one thousand million dollars this year to support energy markets. It will also do this in the 2013-14 and again in the 2014-15 financial years. But according to this government the carbon tax poses no threat to our energy security, because the government are spending less than $1 million dollars on it. You would think that if the government took the implementation of the carbon tax seriously—which, by the way, is coming into effect in the 2012-13 financial year—they would fund the Energy Security Fund at an amount equivalent to the other three financial years. The government only care about their promise to have a surplus next year and they put this above the security of our energy industry. You cannot play political games with our industries. Businesses cannot cope with this uncertainty and lack of transparency much longer. Businesses within Hasluck want certainty.

How can a small business plan for the future, when they do not know what the cost of the carbon tax will be on their bottom line? Small businesses are already struggling with many of the impositions placed on them over the last three years. Small business owners in Hasluck often say to me that they cannot make ends meet at the moment and cannot budget for the carbon tax because they do not know what the flow-on cost will be. We still do not know who the 500 companies are that will pay the carbon tax. How will flow-on costs be measured? There are many questions within the scope of fiscal and financial planning and within the budgetary cycle that need to be transparent to all those affected. When my colleague the member for Moreton has his turn to speak, I will be interested to hear what he will say with respect to transparency.

The Treasurer still refuses to tell the Australian public the real story about the full costings of all the associated measures surrounding this new tax. He should also explain what he promised the big three mining companies. This tax imposes a significant new administrative burden on all mining companies, even if they are below the government's threshold for paying the tax.

Wouldn't it be an incredible situation for the Australian public and the voters if they had honesty and transparency? They could see and understand the bottom line, they could see clearly and understand what was contained within the budget. Elements of the budget would not be hidden or taken out of the bottom line and they could be fully conversant with where the carbon tax sits in the context of the total budget. We expect it of financial planning and of businesses. They expect from this government and this Treasurer a clear indication of what the financial implications will be for them and for the work they have planned that will develop the Australian economy to a position of strength within a global society and economy.