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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2505


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:09): For those listening to this debate—and I know a lot of people do via ABC News Radio—I just want to explain that the appropriations debate is about expenditure of government money. I am sad to see there are not many Labor Party senators listed to speak on this, and there should be because, boy, do they know how to spend other people's money. I make the point first of all that the government itself does not have any money. Anything the government spend is taxpayers' money. All too often the government act as if somehow, when they waste money, they are wasting government money. But, indeed, as I said, the government do not have money. What the government spend is taxpayers' money. It is the money of all those people who have done a hard day's work today and paid taxes on their earnings. It is their money that the government have a history of wasting.

As my colleague Senator Cash said, when we left government just a few short years ago, in 2007, there was about $60 billion in credit, thanks to the hard work of Peter Costello and John Howard and, indeed, the whole of the Howard government over a period of 11 years. We had turned the $96 billion deficit left by the last Labor government into something like $60 billion credit in the bank. In a few short years, this typical, high-spending Labor government has turned that credit into a deficit of something like $130 billion, and it is going up. In spite of promises by the Labor leader to not increase taxes, not bring in a carbon tax and leave the health insurance rebate as it was, we have found that, since the Gillard government has been in power, we have a new carbon tax, a new mining tax and several other new taxes. That just reinforces what I think all Australians now know: talk of Labor and you talk about taxes; talk of Labor and you talk about increased expenditure, usually on projects that are badly administered and money is wasted. This is not new; it is typically brand Labor, whether it be the Gillard government, the Rudd government, the Keating government, the Hawke government, the Bligh government in Queensland or the Beattie government in Queensland. Labor cannot handle money.

I have been in this place for a while and I was here when Labor delivered its last budget, for 1995-96, before the first Rudd budget. Australians were led to believe before the election that the budget was pretty good—that it was almost even. When we took office we found that the deficit in 1995-96 alone was $10.3 billion. An examination of the total debt of the Keating government at the time showed that Labor's total debt had increased to $96 billion. If you look back to the years of Keating and Hawke Labor you will see that a pattern has evolved. Before elections, Mr Hawke and then Mr Keating would promise tax cuts. They would promise that there would be no new taxes. Once they got into power, of course the exact opposite was done. People with a memory for political history might remember that, before the 1993 election, Mr Keating introduced legislation to say there would be a tax cut starting in 1996, following the 1993 election. When he was challenged at the Press Club on 9 February 1993, he said to the unbelieving journalists: 'That tax cut is law—l-a-w law.' It had been legislated, but as soon as Mr Keating won the 1993 election the first thing he did in the next parliament was junk the legislation that had provided for those tax cuts.

I simply make this point: you cannot believe anything any Labor leader says regarding tax cuts or new taxes. I know that in my own state of Queensland the Beattie government and then the Bligh government promised before an election that they would maintain the 8c-a-litre subsidy that Queenslanders—very nicely, thank you—had always had on their fuel. Before the election Ms Bligh promised that would stay, just as she promised, 'We won't be selling any government assets.' But in typical form, regardless of the promises before the election, as soon as Labor got in the first thing they did was remove that 8c-a-litre subsidy, making it much more expensive for all Queenslanders, and particularly those Queenslanders like me and the people I represent in the north—those who live distant from the capital cities and who rely on freight and therefore pay more in fuel costs and the added-on costs. This is just typical Labor: you simply cannot believe promises before an election.

In Queensland, my own state—and, as a senator, I feel justified in talking about my own state in the states house—we used to have a AAA credit rating. Why did we have that? Thanks to good Liberal and National Party governments in the past. You might remember that we were the first state to abolish those insidious death taxes and gift duties. We brought down the very substantial payroll taxes there were, and Queensland was a low-tax state. But it was also one of the wealthiest states, because its financial affairs were well managed by treasurers going back to the year dot—people like Gordon Chalk, going right back into the sixties and seventies. Queensland had a great economic story to tell. But, since Ms Bligh has been there, not only are we now in a position where we cannot pay our nurses in the hospitals because the government has run out of money but we have lost our AAA credit rating. How could that possibly happen with a state as wealthy as Queensland? It is just incredible that any government could mismanage the wealth of Queensland to such an extent that we in Queensland have lost our AAA credit rating.

I laugh to myself as I hear Ms Bligh wandering around Queensland: 'You've got a problem here? Right, we'll throw some money at it. We'll give huge grants. We'll build this road. We'll fix up that bridge. We'll get a new hospital here and a new airport there. Whatever you want, whatever it requires to keep us in power, you can have'—because who cares? It is not her money. It is not the money of Labor Party politicians that she is throwing around; it is taxpayers' money. But you can be assured that all of Ms Bligh's promises, like all of Ms Gillard's promises, are absolutely worthless. How can any Australian believe at any time any promise made by a Labor Party leader before an election? It distresses me that the affairs of our country and our states are in the hands of people who are just incompetent, dishonest when it comes to dealing with money and certainly dishonest in the promises they make to the Australian public. Again, we are not talking about governments' money; we are talking about taxpayers' money.

One of the taxes that will be borne by all Queenslanders is the tax that Ms Gillard specifically promised would not be introduced. I hear Minister Wong saying: 'Look, this carbon tax is needed to save the world. It's going to be great.' I say to her and to any Labor Party senator who might take part in this debate: if the carbon tax is so great, why did you promise before the last election that you would not be introducing a carbon tax? Why did you do it if you are now telling us it is so good for us all? I know the people of Queensland are asking that very same question.

I represent Queensland as a senator, but I try to look after the north of the state, and on behalf of the opposition I look after northern and remote Australia. It just so happens that with all of the big mining development—the development that has just in the last week again been taxed by a Labor government—northern and remote Australia is the area where jobs are being created. People working in the mines in Queensland earn fairly big money, and good luck to them. It is not an easy job, and they are skilled workers—well, many of them are; some of them are unskilled, but they are still earning big money because of the wealth of the mining industry that has been brought on by investment from overseas and from within Australia. Many of those workers fly in and fly out, and there is some controversy on whether that is good or bad; I have views on that, but not for tonight. They live in places like Yeppoon in the state electorate of Keppel, and they buy there because it is a very desirable place. They buy these new houses, but they pay big mortgages. Whilst they are earning big money in the mines and are able to afford these things, that is good, but if they lose their job because of the mining tax or the carbon tax then who is going to pay the mortgage? Who is going to pick up the pieces of that family's life when their life comes to ruin?

The Labor Party, as well as increasing taxes, are about to introduce the quite ridiculous rules on cabotage and coastal shipping. That means that the 800 people living in Gladstone who work in the cement factory there will find that they no longer have a job. Why? Because it will be cheaper to bring cement from South-East Asia into Townsville than to take Gladstone's cement up the coast into Townsville. The shipping will be cheaper. As time goes on the workers in Gladstone will be losing their jobs. I am sure they, as well as the electors of Keppel, will take that into account.

I mention the state electorate of Whitsunday, which takes in the northern beaches of Mackay. They are suburbs that are full of fly-in fly-out or drive-in drive-out workers in the Bowen Basin and the Galilee Basin. They are good citizens and have borrowed big to build very nice houses and build a nice life in those areas. But, if the Labor Party and their mates in the Greens shut down the coal industry, where are those people going to get their jobs? Where are they going to get the money to pay the mortgage? The Greens will tell us that they will get a job building windmills and putting in solar panels. Big deal!

This, I think, is crucial. I know people in Queensland are thinking about this at the moment. They understand that carbon taxes, mining tax and every other tax which you can be assured this federal Labor government and Ms Bligh and the Queensland state government will impose upon them are bad for their jobs. They know that. The Greens and Graeme Wood, their great benefactor, have destroyed the Tasmanian forest industry and destroyed the jobs of all those very honest workers, members of the CFMEU, who had jobs in Tasmania in the forestry industry. Now, having done that, the Greens want us to put another tick on the board. With the help of their big benefactor they are moving to shut down the coal industry in Queensland.

If I shout, Mr Acting Deputy President Furner, I do it because I want every worker in Queensland to understand and to hear this: if you vote Labor, if you vote Greens—and, effectively, it is the same—you are putting yourself out of a job and you are ensuring that your mortgage will be foreclosed upon by the bank.

Government senators interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I hear laughter from the Labor senators, and I hope that when they participate in the debate they will be able to tell me where I am wrong. Where are the jobs coming from—building windmills, building solar panels? Where else are we going to get them—digging hot rocks? Have a look at what is happening in Mackay and Townsville, which are two areas I know well. Mackay is an absolutely booming city. Townsville is doing not too bad either. Why? Because in Townsville we have three mining refineries—copper, zinc and nickel. But, if you keep taxing the mining industry, those factories will shut down. The jobs at Queensland Nickel and the copper refineries at Stuart or at Sun Metals will disappear. Where are those people going to get jobs?

You cannot trust Labor with money and you cannot trust any promise that any Labor politician might make. Ms Bligh in my home state of Queensland is, as I say, running around promising the world. She lied—and I can say this without fear of contradiction—about her only initiative in the Queensland election campaign, and that was to make up lies about Campbell Newman and to make up lies about referring to the CMC. She knew there was nothing in it. She actually admitted she had no evidence. She could not have anyone look at her record. Her total campaign has been about telling lies about a respected and honourable gentleman, Campbell Newman, the son of a former minister in this chamber, former senator Jocelyn Newman. He is a very upright and honest man. All Premier Bligh could do in her campaign was to tell lies about him.

The message I want to leave with senators in this chamber, and with any Queenslanders who might be listening to this broadcast as they drive home from a hard day's work, is that you simply cannot trust Labor with money. What is more important, you cannot trust anything a Labor leader will tell you before an election. I am delighted that Campbell Newman, in understanding the imposition on business of the payroll tax, has committed a new government, a Liberal National Party government, to reducing substantially the payroll tax burden on jobs.

My point is that before the last election Ms Gillard promised no carbon tax and she promised that there was a rock-solid guarantee to maintain the rebate on private health insurance, and what happened? Broken. Before an election a while back Ms Bligh promised that they would retain the 8c subsidy on fuel and they would not sell off Queensland Rail, and immediately they get into power what do they do? They break their word. You cannot simply believe anything that any Labor Party leader will ever tell you. I think it is important in this debate on the appropriations we all understand that mismanagement of money is Labor's hallmark.