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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1916


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (16:58): I welcome the opportunity to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4). It certainly has been interesting to watch the theatre over the past week. We see a government tearing itself apart—not focused on the needs of the people of Australia, not focused on our future, but busy fighting amongst themselves over the leadership of their political party. We see a Prime Minister who has lost the trust of the Australian people. We see a Prime Minister whose word is not considered fair dinkum by most Australians. They have seen the promise the Prime Minister made that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. They saw the promise that the government made to the member for Denison in relation to gambling reform. They saw the promised east Timor solution. On all of these issues, statements were clearly made and clearly articulated by the Prime Minister—an actual statement put not only in words but in writing with the member for Denison, promising that the Prime Minister, as a precondition to her forming a government, would support mandatory precommitment on poker machines. And what happened? As soon as it suited this Prime Minister, she abandoned that promise and we were left with just another example of how this Prime Minister cannot be trusted.

We also see that the Australian people cannot trust this Prime Minister and this government with money. Before us today we have appropriation bills, and the theme of my contribution today will be the endless waste and mismanagement of this government, because whenever this government tries to fix something it seems to get worse. Whenever this government has a new scheme to save us money, we seem to end up deeper in debt. When this government plans to save the planet, we find that our jobs in our factories and in our businesses start moving offshore. Of course this is just a political game for the government with the aim of clinging to power just a little longer. But, for the people I represent, the government's dysfunction and mismanagement is having a real impact on day-to-day living. Full-time, well-paid jobs are more difficult to find because employers are hesitant about the future, and interest rates are higher than they need to be because of the actions of this government. The actions of this government through new taxes are eating into family budgets and, on top of all that, the impact of the carbon tax is yet to be realised.

To give you an example of how out of touch this government is, we discovered recently that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry which was allocated more than $100 million through these bills, recently spent $77,627 on rebranding. Consultants encouraged the department to change its mission statement to exclude the words 'agriculture', 'fisheries' and 'forestry'. Is there anything more absurd than to have a rebranding exercise that removed the words 'agriculture', 'fisheries' and 'forestry'? The farmers and fishermen in my electorate do not care how the department is branded. What they want is freedom from a carbon tax and some degree of confidence that the government understands and respects the work that they do.

Of course, we know this government has failed also in the area of border protection policy, with an additional cost of over $330 million in this year alone. When the Rudd Labor government was elected in 2007, illegal immigration was barely a blip on the political radar or on the budget papers due to the Howard government's strong border protection policies. But, when the Labor government started to roll back the coalition's border protection policies in favour of a policy proudly authored by the now Prime Minister, the boats started arriving and costs started to grow—costs that are being met by the taxpaying men and women of Australia. The additional estimates released by the government recently show a blow-out of a third of the budget in asylum seeker costs: some $866 million to 2014-15. This is almost $560 million more than the figure released in MYEFO only two months ago. The immigration budget now is $2.7 billion for this year alone. Processing and detaining boat arrivals has become a multibillion dollar task which is draining funds away from more productive tasks.

The government would not have had to rip $2.4 billion out of private health insurance if it had not dismantled the Howard government's strong border protection policies. The irony of the government's wasteful spending is that the Prime Minister promised before the last election that she would maintain spending restraint, yet everywhere you look there are cost blow-outs. Unfortunately, we have come to realise just what a promise from this Prime Minister is worth and we now know a promise from this Prime Minister is worth absolutely nothing. The member for Griffith knows the value of a promise by this Prime Minister. He knows more than anyone.

Ms Marino: The member for Denison.

Mr HARTSUYKER: The member for Denison, as I said, knows the value of a promise from this Prime Minister. He knows all too well, with a document signed in blood by the Prime Minister to support mandatory precommitment. What happens when the pressure is on? We just walk away. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

The Australian people now know exactly how much a promise from this Prime Minister is worth. That is why I concur with my colleague the member for Brisbane, who said, 'What is needed now is an election'—and it very much is. The people of Australia are sick of broken promises. The people of Australia are sick of having a Prime Minister they can no longer trust. The people of Australia are sick of hollow words. We heard all too clearly her promise in relation to the carbon tax, and many people trusted the Prime Minister at that time, to their detriment. Small businesses in my electorate are very concerned about that broken promise on carbon tax. The tourism industry in my electorate is very concerned about that broken promise in relation to the carbon tax. Unfortunately, the carbon tax which we were not going to have and which we are getting on 1 July is going to make it much more difficult for those businesses to survive and compete with competitors overseas. It is of great concern. We are seeing a total lack of confidence out in the community, and a major driver of that lack of confidence is that people have no faith in this government. The small business community has dramatically lost faith in business conditions and in this government because they see a government that is not in control. They see a government that is out of control and is too busy fighting itself to be concerned about the issues that are important.

Increasing prices are flowing through to aviation. Qantas is having to increase its fares. Those fare increases have already taken effect for flights after 1 July, and that is going to have an adverse effect on travel to my electorate in the very important tourism industry. We see other countries defending their airlines against a ridiculous carbon tax. We see the Chinese and the Americans standing up for their airline industries. But what does our Prime Minister do? She just rolls over and plays dead. We do not mind slugging our aviation industry with a carbon tax. We do not mind one bit. We do not care if it is going to put people out of work. We do not care if it is going to have an adverse effect on our tourism industry. We are going to sit there and do nothing in relation to international airlines and we are going to actively work against our airline industry in relation to our local carriers. Many airlines around the world will be flying carbon tax free. Their governments were wise enough to realise that this is a tax that is bad for our country and that is not going to improve the environment one bit. Let me quote the words of Professor Garnaut in relation to the price rises under a carbon tax. Professor Garnaut said:

These higher prices will require households to spend a greater proportion of their incomes to obtain the same goods and services purchased before the introduction of an emissions price. This will reduce households’ real incomes and purchasing power.

I could not agree with him more. He has really belled the cat. This will reduce households' real incomes and purchasing power. Thank you to this government. Thank you to the Independents for supporting this carbon tax, which is so unpopular in their electorates.

What does the government say? They say: 'Don't worry. Some of you will be 20c a week better off.' The Prime Minister says, 'Trust me.' Twenty cents a week better off! If I were the member for Denison I would not be trusting the Prime Minister that you could be 20c a week better off. If I were the average Australian I would not be trusting this Prime Minister that I would be 20c a week better off. If I were a small business person, apart from the impact on my business I would be very concerned about that 20c margin of error. Twenty cents! This is a government that said we were going to have a $22 billion deficit this year, and it blew out to $37 billion. They were out billions and billions in their budget forecast, yet their forecast in relation to the adequacy of compensation—and we will get to compensation in a moment—depends on a margin of error of 20c. I think average Australians are, rightfully, worried about this. As I said, they do not trust this Prime Minister and they certainly would not trust a 20c margin of error.

Another issue that is of great concern is the wasteful spending in the NBN. The coalition agrees there is a need for high-speed broadband. Every Australian should have access to high-speed broadband. We saw a project which, in the true way this government does things, started off at $4.3 billion—fibre to the node; a fairly workable solution. But then there was a rethink. A feasibility study was done by Senator Conroy and the then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, on the back of a drink coaster on a flight to Perth, and what did we get? A $4.3 billion project blew out to a $50 billion project almost overnight. That would have to be the mother of all cost overruns.

Ms Marino: And it is not over yet.

Mr HARTSUYKER: And it is not over yet, thank you to the member for Forrest. It is not over yet because day by day we see prices blow out. Day by day we see low take-up rates. Day by day we see the very business plan that underpins the NBN falling apart. The connections are not meeting up with what is anticipated, the speed of construction is nowhere near what is required to meet the business plan estimates, and the cost is blowing out. On April Fools' Day last year we saw that the tender process had to be abandoned. They had 14 tenderers, they went out to the market, and what did the market say? You have not got enough money, guys. You have not budgeted enough. It is going to cost us more. So miraculously, and again there becomes an issue of trust, through a magic process a contract was struck—

Ms Marino: A magic pudding!

Mr HARTSUYKER: Yes, it was a magic pudding. A contract was struck with Silcar. We do not know what it says; it is completely secret; it is commercial-in-confidence; but we have to trust this government that the contract with Silcar has not exposed taxpayers or the Australian government to increased risk of cost overruns. We do not know what risks we have bought for this contract with Silcar, but I think it is a pretty fair bet that we cannot trust this government. I think it is a pretty fair bet and it is of great concern. Yes, we want high-speed broadband; but we want it done in a timely way and we want it done within a reasonable budget. A $50 billion budget, which is going north, is not reasonable, is not sustainable and is of great concern.

Another concern is the fact that this project is not targeting the worst areas first, and that is a most important thing. It would be common sense to look at those areas where broadband is most deficient and start attacking them immediately. But what do we do? We have a largely politically motivated rollout that picked the eyes out of the politically appropriate sites and have a duplication of services where broadband is already adequate—we actually pay taxpayers' money; we pay Telstra and we pay Opel for nothing more than not to compete with the NBN. Now, if this project were so incredibly superior, as the government would make out, would you not think that market forces would drive people to rush in hordes to the NBN? They would be like barbarians at the gate, trying to get in and get connected. But what happens? We saw in Armidale a take-up rate of two per cent!

Ms Marino: And 18,000 in total.

Mr HARTSUYKER: That is right: 18,000. We have got about 2,000 people connected to fibre. We have got another 2,000 on satellite. We have got about 18,000 people connected but not using. So it is a pretty small total. And it is of concern that so much money has been poured into it without a feasibility study. This was a government that came to power promising total assessment of major investment decisions. We had Infrastructure Australia formed—

Ms Marino: To let the sunlight in

Mr HARTSUYKER: Yes, the sunlight was going to flow in. We were going to be irradiated with a new warmth and a new glow and we were going to feel confident! What have we got? We have got a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted and a project that is running off the rails. It is north of $50 billion. Who knows where it is going to end? It is of concern. This government cannot manage money. This government cannot be trusted. This government should be facing the people. People should be offered an election so that they can pass their judgment on this government for all of its faults—too many to mention here in the 15 minutes I have available to speak.