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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1347

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (17:28): I rise—I would say with gladness but unfortunately I cannot—because of what is contained in the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013. It is a case of saddling up again for another spending expedition by the Gillard Labor government. Together these bills load an additional $1.27 billion in expenses into the economy's saddlebags—that is, $600.8 million in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) for, amongst other things, offshore asylum seeker management and visa compliance, with a bill of $37 million; visa and migration services and refugee settlement, with a bill of $23 million; increased water protection capability, with a bill of $24 million; and $19 million to help the Australian Taxation Office funnel potentially lost superannuation member accounts into government revenue.

Appropriation Bill (No. 4) will add a further $660 million worth of weight to the economic saddlebags—that is right, $660 million, the mark of the beast. I am starting to wonder, with all this lead in the saddlebags when the pony is going to crumble under the weight. Already the economy is straining under the weight of the biggest government debt ever on record. Already the Gillard, and previously the Rudd, Labor government has delivered the four biggest budget deficits on record, back to back. So they are on a roll, and who is at the reins? Economically speaking, it is the Treasurer—he is the culprit. The same Treasurer that abysmally failed to balance the books under the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, and who is continuing to be an abysmal failure for the current Prime Minister.

The reason behind that consistent failure and the consistent failure of the Labor Party is the fact that they only know one thing: they know how to tax and spend. 'Wasteful' Wayne—or the Treasurer, I should say, is a one-trick pony, and if I could borrow a line from that great musician Paul Simon:

One trick is all that horse can do.

Paul Simon might have had a premonition when he released the song One Trick Pony back in 1980—because that was before the member for Longman was born—and, as we all know, we have not seen a Labor government deliver a surplus in his lifetime. Just before Labor delivered their last surplus, Paul Simon wrote these words:

He's a one trick pony

One trick is all that horse can do

He does one trick only

It's the principal source of his revenue

That is exactly what we have in this Labor Treasurer: a pony whose only source of revenue is to tax

In five years, the Rudd and Gillard governments have done nothing to increase revenue other than tax. They have done nothing to grow the economy. They have done nothing to help manufacturing be more productive, nothing to encourage tourism in this country—and I acknowledge the shadow tourism minister here in the room—and nothing to boost agriculture. Instead, to find the extra revenue they need to feed their out-of-control spending habits, they simply jack up the taxes. Not content with taxing families alone, they borrow more money and they are adding to the debt that will be serviced and repaid by taxing the next generation. Today's debt, Labor's debt, is tomorrow's taxes; plain and simple.

The Gillard government is trying to convince us they are a low-taxing government, and there are two problems with making that claim. Firstly, the spending this year will be 23.8 per cent of GDP—that is $90 billion more than the last budget of the Howard government. It is all funded by taxes, as I said, taxes on families today and taxes on the next generation. The debt is tomorrow's taxes—that is how it is paid off. It is one trick and one trick only, and people can see through that trick and they are getting pretty sick of it. They are getting sick of it, because the things that they need are not being funded.

The infrastructure we need for a strong and prosperous Australia will never be funded by this government, because they are too busy trying to cling to power, too busy giving out cash to people in blatant vote-buying exercises and trying to hide the fact that it is the same money that they have actually taken away from them, only some of it got wasted in the process.

The legacy that this Labor government has built so far is an annual interest bill of $7 billion a year, $7 billion they have to tax Australians every year just to pay back the interest on the debt that they created in five years. In simple terms, it is $800,000 an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week—that is the interest bill. The biggest boom the country has ever seen, and Labor has created a debt so big it costs us $800,000 an hour in interest. While the wealth producing sectors and regions in the economy are crying out for infrastructure, we are wasting $800,000 an hour every hour in interest.

If 'Wasteful' Wayne had never taken the reins of this one-trick pony, we would have had $800,000 every hour available to spend on something important like the Bruce Highway in Queensland. In three days the money that could have fixed, say, Sandy Gully, a section on the Bruce Highway that floods every time there is a heavy shower, cutting off the port of Abbot Point from workers based in Mackay or nearby Bowen. In just over 18 days, those interest repayments on Labor's debt could have fully funded floodproofing the Goorganga Plains, which separates the Whitsunday Coast Airport from the Whitsunday Coast—one of our prime tourism destinations—or it could have been used to replace the Haughton River bridge in the Burdekin and floodproofed the approaches. In just over three weeks, those interest repayments on Labor's debt could have fully funded the Mackay ring road, a project that would make the region, which is producing so much wealth, even more productive. The ring road would connect an intensive industrial centre servicing the mines of the Bowen Basin while keeping dangerous heavy vehicles off local roads. These are big projects. They are important projects for the continued development of the wealth in this country, but, faced with the challenge of a shrinking income, the government plays to its strengths. It resorts to the only thing it knows: increase taxes and borrow more money, which taxes our children before they are even born.

At the same time as racking up debt and raising taxes, the Gillard Labor government still manage to cut funding for essential services. In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which the Treasurer delivered in October last year, we saw federal government cuts to state health funding. They cut the funding they were delivering to the states, not just from this year but from the last year as well. Current and retrospective cuts to the national health reform fund and the national healthcare special purpose payment leave the states copping the blame for federal Labor's savage cuts to health. In the 2012-13 budget released in May, the national healthcare special purpose payment for Queensland, for that year alone, was $2.545 billion. But, when that year's final budget outcome was released in September, the figure was reduced to $2.505 billion, a cut of $40 million. Again in the 2012-13 budget released in May, the national health reform funding for Queensland was supposed to be $2.724 billion, but when the Treasurer released MYEFO in October that figure was reduced to $2.661 billion, a cut of $63 million. So, combined, Queensland is forced to pass on federal Labor's health cuts of $103 million to regions that only have half a year in which to make up those savings.

In my electorate, the Gillard Labor government's health cuts translate to a $3.2 million cut to the Mackay Hospital and Health Service—a cut to their budget midway through the year. I have spoken to the independent chairman of the board of the hospital in Mackay and he has confirmed that the board is deliberating this month on how to find those savings. It is a real cut and his board has to find real savings, either by cutting staff, which is a prospect they do not want to face but may be forced to, or by cutting services at probably all the hospitals—the Mackay Base Hospital, the Sarina hospital, the Proserpine Hospital, the Bowen Hospital and the Warrambah hospital as well.

The Townsville Hospital and Health Service, in the northern part of my electorate, also face federal Labor health cuts of $7.8 million this year. They have already said that the cuts are going to be borne by numerous things, one of which is a cutback to the number of free bandages they hand out to patients. The federal government's cut means fewer bandages for patients. It is just disgraceful. How much can be saved by cutting back on those bandages I do not know—I do not think it will amount to much, actually. At some point, they will have to go further and find more savings. I have to say that it is truly disappointing to watch the Queensland Nurses Union just sitting on the sidelines on this issue, because everyone apart from them acknowledges that these are real cuts. It just shows that they are beholden to the Labor Party.

In the town of Home Hill in the Burdekin, which the Townsville health board services, they have this fantastic little local hospital, the Home Hill Hospital. It is a marginal hospital in terms of costs. It is quite possible that this hospital will have to be looked at and could suffer quite drastically when it comes to finding savings for the $7.8 million Gillard Labor government to the Townsville Health and Hospital Service. We are going to have to fight for the survival of that hospital because of this. These are the real things that are happening on the ground in my electorate because of the savage cuts imposed on health services right throughout Queensland. The Gillard Labor government are happy to roll out cuts to services across wealth-producing regions in North Queensland, but then they try to blame it on the state governments. It will not work. There has been no attempt to increase revenue from the region by fostering growth and investing in infrastructure and industry. In fact, we had the bizarre situation in the parliament last week when the Assistant Treasurer said spending money on infrastructure in North Queensland was investing in white elephants—white elephants, that is what he said. My North Queensland colleague the member for Herbert rightly challenged the Assistant Treasurer to nominate exactly which infrastructure projects in North Queensland he considered would be white elephants. I suggest that if the Assistant Treasurer should ever head north to explain himself to North Queenslanders he would have to leave the boat in the marina and take a drive on the Bruce Highway. The Bruce is the lifeblood of the north and responsible for an enormous amount of wealth generation. When it fails it is an obstacle to wealth generation. Investing in infrastructure like the Bruce Highway, our national highway, is not investing in a white elephant, it is investing in the future. It is investing in revenue streams that do not involve increasing taxes and taxing the next generation, taxing our children. In 2½ years this Labor government has done nothing positive that I can see.

The Gillard Labor government is focused on taxing the wealth creators. Instead of playing to Australia's strengths and supporting mining, supporting manufacturing, they have played to their strengths, taxing and waste. They have taxed the mining industry, creating uncertainty although delivering no money, but it has created a sovereign risk, deterring investment and costing jobs. There are 3,400 of them that the Queensland Resources Council said had been lost from across my state. They have taxed every business in the country with a carbon tax, every household in the country with a carbon tax on their electricity bills. You cannot tax a country into prosperity. If tax and waste is the only trick the Labor government can perform, it will never lead us to prosperity. It will lead to a slump, it will lead to lower GDP, decreased revenues, yet more tax and more cuts to services. What this country needs is a plan for a stronger, more prosperous economy through supporting and developing our strengths.

I spent the last two years travelling around my electorate of Dawson talking with families and engaging with industries and locals, and it is clear that North Queenslanders feel that the government has lost its way and continues to lose its way. Through conversations and surveys and other forms of engagement my constituents are telling me that the government lacks vision. They say this government lacks a plan for the future. North Queenslanders have also told me about their concerns, their hopes and their dreams. Through two years of information gathering, through community surveys, forums, my Fix the Bruce campaign where I had a comprehensive survey of the electorate on the Bruce Highway, through business forums, responses from newsletters. And I have got a whole of the electorate survey going out at the moment which has had a great response. We have had thousands of surveys flood back in. All that information I am going to use to create a roadmap for the region. That will be the plan I will be pushing for the next government to commit to for the benefit of my electorate and the nation as a whole, as we are a wealth generating region. The things that are going to be in that plan will be what the community wants and a lot of them I been talking about for the last two years in this place. But the Labor government has failed to listen to me and to the people and has failed to address those important issues. North Queensland, North Australia and Australia as a whole will not realise their full potential when saddled with a government that knows only one thing. It is time to put the one-trick pony out to pasture and it is time to get on with the job.