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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2501


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (17:49): I rise to contribute to the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. This is a government that, when it comes to spending taxpayers' money and when it comes to robbing the mums and dads of Australia blind, has absolutely no shame whatsoever. Time and time again when faced with a situation where there is no money left in the pot, what does it do? Does it do what an economic conservative would do, which is sit back and take stock of why there is no money in the pot? The answer to that when it comes to the Labor Party is no. The Labor Party has no shame at all. It merely comes into this place with another bill requesting a few more hundred million dollars from the Australian taxpayer and says to the parliament, 'We have run out of money, and we need a bit more.'

Why do I say that? That we are currently debating appropriation bills in the Senate is proof of the fact that this government, consistent with so many Labor governments that have gone before it, when it comes to managing the Australian economy is absolutely reckless. It is not just the coalition saying that. Let's look at the figures. When the Rudd government came to power in November 2007 a great gift was bequeathed to it, and that was the legacy of the former Howard and Costello government to the tune of $22 billion with zero debt. Let's look at the situation four years on. We have had the execution of Mr Rudd, who now has so many 'formers' before his name it is embarrassing. Let's look at the situation now under the current Labor government. Under Labor, Australians are now bearing the brunt of the four biggest budget deficits in our history—not four budget deficits, but the four biggest budget deficits in Australia's history. Under those who are currently in government, Australia is borrowing $100 million each and every day of the year, and that is merely in interest alone. That's right, the Labor government is currently borrowing $100 million a day. The figure is so big you can hardly get your mind around it. If you equate that back to the average household budget, it would be like the mums and dads of Australia borrowing $1,000 every day to prop up their reckless spending. But the mums and dads of Australia cannot do that because they have to stick to very strict budgets. Unlike the Labor, they do not have the capacity to come back into this place and say, 'We are economically reckless. We have wasted taxpayers' money. We have no shame and we are going to ask for some more.' That is exactly what the Labor Party are doing under the bills we are currently debating.

Under Labor, not only have Australians had the economy destroyed but they have also been hit with no less than 20 increased taxes in just four year. The Labor Party must be the only party which, when they put through a tax in the Senate, open bottles of champagne and congratulate themselves and say, 'Well done. We've just re-robbed the Australian taxpayer blind. We think they're mugs to pay for our reckless spending.' And who pays the price for this government's continued fiscal incompetence? It is the Australian people. It is the mums and dads of Australia. Governments do not have any money of their own. The money the government has comes from the mums and dads of Australia who pay tax. They have a right to expect that the hard-earned taxes they hand over to the government will be expended appropriately. And what do we have under this government? This government have ensured that Australians are now consistently struggling under rising costs of living due solely and utterly to their reckless spending.

I am going to turn to the portfolio that I refer to often in this place, and that is Immigration and Citizenship. What these appropriation bills are doing in relation to Immigration and Citizenship is seeking an additional $330 million. That is right, the government has come here today cap in hand seeking an additional $330 million in that portfolio alone. In typical Labor style, when these bills were debated in the other place they were described by Minister Shorten as:

These funds are sought in order to meet requirements that have arisen since the last budget ...

What a quaint and innocuous statement which, quite frankly, shows the contempt with which the Labor Party treat Australian taxpayers. Minister Shorten failed to tell Australian taxpayers the real reasons why, in February this year, the Labor government had to come cap in hand to the parliament and ask for an extra $330 million for the Immigration and Citizenship portfolio. Why did they need the money? The additional $330 million is to make up for a further blowout in last year's costs and a further increase for the 2011-12 budget, cost blowouts which, I note, Bill Shorten conveniently did not mention when he introduced the bills into the other place.

Mr Shorten refused to come clean with the Australian people. He refused to be honest with them and tell them why an additional $330 million, on top of what this parliament appropriated in the budget last year, was actually required. If he had any decency at all, if he had any respect for Australian taxpayers, he would at least have said in his speech to the parliament that Labor's decision to abolish the Pacific solution, to abolish temporary protection visas, to abolish the Howard government's proven border protection policies, is the sole reason for what is now a multibillion dollar cost blowout in this particular portfolio area.

Why do I say that is the case? Because the government has now admitted—on Monday, 13 February 2012 in Senate estimates—that Mr Rudd's decision to abolish the Pacific solution and temporary protection visas has increased costs for taxpayers with the budget for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship blowing out by more than $1 billion a year since Labor was elected. In this portfolio they are now looking at a cost blowout in excess of $4 billion. In the Senate estimates I drew attention to the fact that since Labor was elected the cost of running the department of immigration has increased from $1.6 billion in the last year of the Howard government to more than $2.7 billion following the release of the additional estimates figures. When I put this to the department, this is what they said:

Senator CASH: The cost since the 2008-09 budget have increased from less than $500 million over the forward estimates to more than $3 billion based on the current figures. And again I ask you: what was the impact on your department of the changes in policy of the Rudd and Gillard governments? Was it an increase in costs?

Senator Lundy: Senator Cash, you are trying to extract from the official some comment on policy. That is inappropriate.

Senator CASH: I’m asking what the impact on the department was. Was it an increase in costs?

Senator Lundy: You know that.

There is an admission, if ever I heard one, that the Labor government's decision to abolish the former Howard government's proven border protection policies has led directly to the multibillion dollar cost blowout that the Australian taxpayers are now footing as a result of the government's incompetence. It is not the Australian parliament that foots the bill for these budget blowouts; we merely appropriate more money for the Labor Party to spend. It is the mums and dads of Australia who, as I said before, have an expectation that, when they hand over their taxes to the government, those taxes will be spent appropriately. They do not get that in relation to this portfolio area.

In 2008-09 this government made no additional provisions for increased costs as a result of abolishing the Howard government's measures. In 2009-10 the government did it again. They did not provide for an increase in costs, despite the fact that they knew the minute they started rolling back the proven border protection policies of the Howard government that there would be an increase in boat arrivals and that increase in boat arrivals would give rise to further costs in this portfolio area. In the 2009-10 budget the government provided less than $500 million over the entire forward estimates to manage asylum seekers, and yet the direct blowout on the costs alone in this portfolio is now almost $4 billion. The government appropriated $500 million—that was their expectation of projected costs—probably because it sounded good when they read it out in the budget statement, knowing full well that that was never going to be the case. The Australian taxpayers are now faced with this government coming cap in hand to the parliament and asking for additional moneys to cover up the fact that Labor could not get it right.

In just five months since abolishing the Pacific solution and temporary protection visas the Labor government are now spending on boat arrivals what they said they would spend in four years. The result? The result is why we are here today. In relation to this particular portfolio area, the parliament is going to legislate for the government to go and waste a further $330 million to cover what is just another cost blowout. That is on top of when they came back to the parliament last year cap in hand and asked for an additional $295 million, because again they could not get their figures right. There will be $330 million extra this year, on top of $295 million extra last year and $120 million extra the year before. You would think that the government would start to try and properly estimate what this portfolio is going to cost them; $120 million extra, $295 million extra and today we are going to give them another $330 million. That is just for this portfolio area.

The question Australian taxpayers should be asking is: when is this government's insatiable appetite for wasting taxpayers' money going to end? But the sad reality for the Australian taxpayers is that when it comes to border protection the Labor Party only ever had a political strategy—that is, to appease the left of the Labor Party and the Australian Greens. When you enter into an unholy alliance, as the Labor Party have done with the Australian Greens, someone gets to pay for it. In this case the someone is the Australian people, the mums and dads of Australia.

The additional estimates released by the government now show the extent of the current budget blowout in this portfolio area. The actual extent of the blowout is $866 million, or more than 25 per cent of what the government had estimated it was going to spend. I have to say that in May, when the government brings down this alleged surplus, one can only assume that if it has not been able to get its figures right in relation to this portfolio to date—and that is going to translate across a lot more portfolios—it will bring down a magic number, which I believe will be plucked out of the air because it is going to be fake, and the Australian taxpayers will be entitled to think that it is just one great big lie. To date, when it comes to economic credibility, this government has proven time and time again that it has absolutely none.

If we look across the entire immigration portfolio—and this does not include last year's budget blowout—the increase for the four years to 2014-15 is $759 million. This is $559 million, or almost three times, more than the $197 million the Treasurer and Minister Bowen told taxpayers the bill would be for immigration when they released MYEFO for this period last November. In just the two months, between November and February—and I have to say this is quite a good effort—the government has blown out its estimates by more than $560 million. It would be funny if it were not actually true. It would be funny if it were not for the fact that the mums and dads of Australia, who are already struggling under the 20-odd taxes that the Labor Party has so proudly imposed on them in the last four years, will have to foot the bill. It would be funny if it were not for the fact that new reports have been released that show that Australia's electricity prices are at a record high and are only going to get higher as of 1 July when the carbon tax is introduced. But it is not funny. It is not funny because the only people who are going to end up paying for this and, in fact, the only people who are already paying for this, are the Australian taxpayers. They are paying for it because the government is borrowing $100 million every day due to its inability to manage the economy properly. Under both Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard, the Labor government have presided over disaster after disaster, failure after failure, budget blow-out after budget blow-out, and boat arrival after boat arrival—all at the expense of the Australian people. The strong, robust economy that they inherited from the previous, coalition government has now been well and truly destroyed and is but a distant memory. In fact, a $22 billion surplus has been reduced to what is possibly going to be a $37.1 billion deficit. That is not the worst part. The worst part is this: that figure is actually up from what the government, at the last election, thought it would be. The government thought that their fiscal incompetence was so bad that they would be delivering a $10.4 billion deficit, and yet they have had to revise up that estimate and Australians are now looking at a $37.1 billion deficit.

In relation to this portfolio, on his watch the minister has dismantled the last remaining bricks in John Howard's wall of border protection. His budget has blown out to record levels, the detention network has been set on fire a number of times and the minister has admitted that almost 10,000 people will turn up this year and the government will not be turning any boats back before the next election. This is not an attractive legacy, to say the least.