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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 8649


Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (15:16): Interestingly enough, I have learned, as some of my colleagues would know, to become a student of form in recent years. And, given we are in Spring Carnival time, I think it is probably a good time to study the form that is in fact to the fore of the debate here. On the form, on the history of Labor governments and, more particularly, on the sad and sorry story that is this Labor government, the form tells me that it is looking more and more unlikely that Labor will actually make a surplus. I think they might even abandon their promise to return to surplus, on the form that we see in front of us at the moment. After all, why else would they have brought forward the MYEFO to October—for only the third time in history? They must be worried about something.

They have themselves wedded to the 'return to surplus' mantra, but their resolve, it seems to me, seems to be weakening. Just listen to the change in words used by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer—moving from their 'promise' to much more weasely words. It was a surplus which was 'promised' to start at $3 billion but was reduced to $1.5 billion in the last budget. Now, if you just move the numbers around a little more under the thimbles, you get to $1.1 billion. So let us hope, for the sake of the Australian people, that those thimbles do not move too much further. They have brought $2 billion out of the Future Fund into the budget to save just over $400 million this financial year—and then they launch into the superannuation accounts of Australian workers to try to find themselves $500 million more.

There are a lot of things you hear in coffee shops around the towns and cities of this country. But I was actually sat back on my chair by a woman the other day who was talking to her ageing parents. She said to her ageing parents—

Senator Feeney interjecting

Senator PAYNE: Well, I did leave; there were some undesirables. She said to her ageing parents—

Senator Feeney interjecting

Senator PAYNE: No, they were members of the Labor Party, Senator. I heard her say to her parents, 'You know; if Gillard does that'—and I am quoting; not using an inappropriate term—'that's the end of it for me and it should be the end of it for every other Labor voter.' That is just coffee chat; that is not people on a political soapbox or anything like that. It is falling apart at the seams for this government.

Senator Feeney interjecting

Senator PAYNE: The person who should be listening to that is the member for Lindsay—but, of course, he and his glass jaw will be off somewhere else on a patrol boat doing something entirely different. This whole government is falling apart at the seams. It is a 'commitment' and a 'promise' that is apparently now a 'plan' and a 'determination' to deliver a surplus. It is absolutely typical of a crazy-spending, irresponsible government that has absolutely no plan to fill a gaping $120 billion black hole in its own budget. It is absolutely inconceivable that the Australian people would trust this government to deliver even a $1.1 billion surplus or any surplus at all with the red ink that is flooding across the pages of their balance sheet.

Apparently the Treasurer thought that delivering a surplus was as easy as raking off the record profits from Australia's miners through the MRRT. Wrong again. Now the government, apparently, is going to receive nothing meaningful from the MRRT. Only a government that could invent a carbon tax that costs more money than it recoups, than it takes in, could conjure up a tax that raises no money. If it were not so serious it would be funny.

In fact, I am not entirely sure it is not an episode of TheHollowmen. I am just waiting for Rob Sitch and Lachie Hulme to pop up in various roles across the chamber—and, I am sad to say, neither Rob nor Lachie will be playing Senator Feeney in that regard—and to pop up in the House of Representatives and say: 'It’s ok; it was a joke. It's a script for TheHollowmen.' But, ladies and gentlemen, it is not a script for TheHollowmen; it is our country; it is our economy; it is the Australian people—it is their lives, it is their livelihoods, it is their businesses.

Fifteen billion dollars of the MRRT windfall was promised to people who probably fell for The Hollowmen joke and who thought that there really would be regional infrastructure funds paid for, superannuation increases paid for and concessions to small business paid for. But they will not be paid for by the MRRT; they will be lost in the vortex of Labor spin that is this government and this budget—and the Australian people deserve better. (Time expired)