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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12566


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (16:20): After that performance, I am not sure where to begin. I will give the parliamentary secretary one bit of credit: he can certainly talk. He can make it up as he goes along but he knows enough in his heart of hearts that the one thing that he cannot say is, 'This government guarantees a surplus.' We did not hear the Assistant Treasurer say that he would guarantee a surplus, we have not heard the Treasurer guarantee a surplus and we cannot get the Prime Minister to guarantee a surplus. And that is because the big drift has begun. The MYEFO was released last Monday. It is not even two weeks old—it is eight days old—and already the big drift has started. They are starting to pave the way to once again walk away from a guarantee of a surplus. They cannot say today that they guarantee that surplus. But they have guaranteed it in the past; they have given numerous guarantees.

The only guarantee from this government that the Australian people can rely on is that any guarantee is a guarantee that this government will break their word. Any guarantee is a guarantee that the position will be reversed. We have had surpluses guaranteed. We have budget outcomes guaranteed. We have had budget deficit projections guaranteed. But the one thing that we know about this government is that as soon as they say the word 'guarantee' you can be sure that they will walk away from it.

We have seen it on the carbon tax and now we are seeing it on their guarantee of a surplus. The shadow Treasurer outlined early today in this parliament how on 150 occasions the Treasurer has given a rock-solid guarantee about his surplus. But we only have to look at the history of Labor's rock-solid, solemn forecasts. Let's have a look at them.

Dr Emerson: What about the rolled-gold guarantee?

Mr TONY SMITH: It is normally at this point, Deputy Speaker Scott—and you are often on duty when this happens—when we get to the heart of Labor's fiscal credibility and to the detail of what they have actually done, that the minister is always on duty and, like a robotic lawnmower, he starts yapping. He is like a remote-control lawnmower over wet grass. It happens every time. I say to the parliament—and I do not like to reveal these secrets—that we find it mildly irritating, but his cabinet colleagues find it insufferable. I have discovered that this is not just a tactic for this parliament. This is an uncontrollable urge from the minister opposite to babble constantly, 24-hours a day. As I start recounting Labor's fiscal record, the babbling will start again, like it is remote controlled.

Let's go back a couple of MYEFOs, to December 2010. Is that okay? Do we have your agreement to talk about your MYEFO solemn commitments in December 2010? This is a couple of years after the global financial crisis. This is after the last election. Let's have a look at what the solemn prediction was for the size of the budget deficit for the 2011-12 financial year, the financial year that ended just a few months ago: $12 billion. Six months later the budget was brought down: $22 billion. In December of last year: $37 billion. And we got the final budget outcome a few weeks ago: $44 billion. From $12 to $44 billion—missed by how much?

Opposition members: Missed by that much!

Mr TONY SMITH: We are told that the budget will be in surplus by $1.1 billion. So, from a Treasurer who solemnly promises a $12 billion deficit and delivers a $44 billion deficit, we get the idea that he can have the precision of the best marksman in the world, all of a sudden, and deliver this surplus. The Australian public never believed it. If the Treasurer was competing in an archery contest the only safe place to watch would be on TV. The Australian people have seen this time and time again.

But we can go back right to the very first days of this government to see their form. I want to go back to the very first budget. The shadow Treasurer has rightly pointed out all of the fiddles and the manufacturing to try to produce this flimsy figure. He has been through the mining tax—that MYEFO document deliberately timed not to reflect the mining tax, because the amount collected was zero. As the shadow Treasurer has rightly pointed out this is the first tax we can think of that collects no revenue. The Henry review said that the lowest yielding tax in Australia was, I think, the queen bee levy. But, no, now we have the mining tax that collects zero. This is the pub with no beer. It is the steakhouse with no steak. The very day that that figure was coming in, the zero figure, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook was released, so that it would not reflect that zero. That is why it was released. There are so many fiddles in all of the budget figures and the shadow Treasurer and the shadow minister for finance have outlined them in detail.

Not only does this government have form but from their very first days in office they have been intent on fiscal deceit—from their very first budget. The first budget brought down by the Treasurer, in 2008, invented a new term. I will quote. He was talking about a surplus he inherited back then from Peter Costello.

It is a surplus built on substantial savings of $33 billion over four years, including $7 billion in 2008-09 alone.

After the budget was handed down, financial commentators and economists were interested to know that the term 'savings' had been redefined. Savings did not just mean expenditure reductions. It also meant tax rises. But it was just suddenly redefined by a Treasurer who began his first days with fiscal deceit and has continued to do so every day from them on.

The next year, when the Treasurer took the budget into deficit, he delivered a budget speech that did not mention the size of the budget deficit. There was a budget deficit that was not in the budget speech. Think about what a budget is. At the end of the day it is a whole pack of books, but they all add up to one figure: a surplus or a deficit. And he could not mention it in the speech. From then on the deceit of this government has grown and grown.

What we are seeing in this House now is another invention from this government. They will cover it with fiscal fiddles. If this government were ever able to produce a surplus, there would be more fudge in the figures than in Willy Wonka's entire chocolate factory. And the minister there reminds me of the TV kid. Remember that character? He also yabbered along constantly. He was the one with the painful parents and he yabbered on incessantly.

The minister knows in his heart of hearts that this is a government with no fiscal credibility.

Every promise that is made on the fiscal front, every guarantee, is broken. And it is replaced with another promise in the future years.

And now they have started the crab walk away from their surplus commitment. Those opposite know in their heart of hearts that this Treasurer will never produce a surplus. He has produced only deficits; he will never produce a surplus. In the meantime, he will fiddle every figure he can in the budget. He will do all he can to try to maintain this falsehood. But you need only look at his record for the 2011-12 year—the year just gone. Over two years, 12 went to 22 to 37 to 44, and all of a sudden he says he is the most expert sniper in the world. (Time expired)