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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4685


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (12:03): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Treasurer's budget, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, a budget that was so good that the Minister for Foreign Affairs decided to turn his back on the Treasurer after he delivered the budget. Today, I would like to focus on some critical areas in this budget. As the federal member for Cook, I am keen to focus on the impact of government debt imposed on my constituents in southern Sydney to pay for Labor's waste. I am interested in focusing on the impact of the government's changes to the fringe benefits tax arrangements, which will impact on small business in my electorate of Cook, in southern Sydney, to pay for Labor's waste. I am interested in focusing on the impact on changes to family benefits that have been put in place by this government to ensure that families in my electorate will be forced to pay for Labor's waste. I am interested in focusing on the changes to the private health insurance arrangements where, in my electorate, there are 102,578 people who are covered by private health insurance. I am keen to stand up for them because they are being asked to pay for Labor's waste in this budget. The biggest area of government waste that has been brought to my attention in this budget has been the government's failures in the area of border protection. This is a waste, as a result of the government's policy failures, that people in my electorate of Cook will have to pay for. These are measures that the government has brought in, not as savings to reduce a deficit, not as savings to reduce a debt, but as savings they are forcing on Australian families and small business to pay for their waste. The waste and the exorbitant expenditure are exhibited in no greater area than in the government's border protection failures and what they have meant for our detention network and the costs that come.

The costs of paying for Labor's waste are particularly being sheeted home to those who this government thinks are rich, who this Prime Minister thinks are rich. Those on a household income of $150,000 are in the thoughts of this Prime Minister as being rich. I can tell those opposite and I can tell the Prime Minister that she must be so out of touch with the cost of living for Australian families, more generally, but specifically with the cost of living for families living in Sydney. She must know very little about the cost of living for families who are living in southern Sydney, in my part of the city, or in western Sydney or in north-western Sydney or even as far north as the Central Coast and other places. If she thinks a family living in a household in Sydney on a combined household income of $150,000 is rich, then she is dreaming and, clearly, she is completely out of touch with the cost of living for people living in Sydney.

I know that the Prime Minister does not live in Sydney and I know most of the senior ministers, particularly those who make the decisions, do not live in Sydney, and they are completely unaware, I think, of what the real costs of living are for people and families living in Sydney. As a proud Sydneysider and someone who has lived in Sydney all of my life, I need to tell the Prime Minister that she is out of touch with those who live in Sydney and particularly those who live in my own electorate who are being forced to pay for this government's failures and waste.

In the area of border protection, since August 2008, 11,357 people have arrived illegally on 227 boats. Labor has gold and silver when it comes to illegal boat arrivals in Australia—4,706 people this financial year and 5,614 last financial year. These are 'gold and silver performances', to quote the former Prime Minister when he used to hand out medals for these things, and those medals are now squarely and fairly owned by this government because of their failures. They have attempted many things to try to address their failures, but their ideas are mainly forged in this climate of denial about border protection and what is required.

We can all remember the asylum freeze from April 2010 which led to 1,200 additional people coming, processing times tripling and the number of people in detention doubling. That was the first attempt. Then of course we had the regional processing centre which the Prime Minister triumphantly announced before the last election in East Timor. She has finally admitted that that is going nowhere, the last person on earth to work out that that ridiculous proposal was never going anywhere. The previous Prime Minister, whom she rolled, told her that. She chose to ignore him and has learned through bitter experience how ridiculous the proposal was.

But we find that $130 million has been secretly put into this budget for a regional processing centre. This was revealed in Senate estimates over the last two days—$130 million has been set aside for a regional processing centre. It was not listed as an additional measure or a new measure in the budget. It was not in Budget Paper No. 2, it was not in the portfolio estimates; it had to be uncovered in Senate estimates.

The interesting thing about this $130 million is that it was put aside for a regional processing centre for a country they could not identify, of a size they could not nominate. It was a phantom regional processing centre. We know that it is a phantom regional processing centre because the negotiations, they say, are for a regional processing centre in Papua New Guinea and it was confirmed in Senate estimates that it is nothing of the sort. The proposal for an offshore processing centre in Papua New Guinea is not for a regional processing centre; it is to deal with irregular maritime arrivals to Australia. It is, as outlined in Senate estimates, the rebirth of the Pacific solution that this government, when opposition, condemned. This Labor Party had condemned it for the last decade and now they have been brought to a stunning recognition of the failures of their own policies and are now seeking to embrace the Pacific solution. But that process of embracing has been absolutely tortuous. This government has been trying to buy a stairway to John Howard on border protection, but the process has been absolutely tortuous. It has been characterised by desperate, half-cooked, panicked deals rushed out for a headline by this government prior to the budget to distract attention from nothing other than the budget that we are now debating. That is what they have sought to do. It has been characterised by a government that have been dragged kicking and screaming to a realisation that their policies have been the reason we have seen so many people seek to come to Australia illegally by boat.

Australia has the problem. This region does not have a regional problem. It has an Australia problem, not the reverse. The Prime Minister's rhetoric on all of this is nothing more than disguise for the fact that this government, at least now, I hope—and I can only deduct this—are seeking to change policies and to admit that it is their policies that were actually the problem. For three years we had denial. We had a nonsense argument about push factors, when the number of asylum applications around the world today is almost half what it was 10 years ago, when the coalition government faced this problem. The government have finally admitted, dragged kicking and screaming, that it is their policies that have actually created the issue that we have before us.

I cannot understand why this government does not put its pride aside and go the full measure. If you want to move towards our policies then by all means do so. But stop this tortuous agonising process of denial and trying to pretend you are not going to do it when clearly you have worked out that that is the direction you need to head in. Why not just pick up the phone to Nauru? They are ready and willing to do it. I spoke to the Nauruans last week. They are ready and willing to take up an arrangement for an offshore processing centre in Nauru, but this government continues to live in denial and pride and refuses to get on with the job.

We will see what the result is of the measures that the government have introduced, in particular their move towards reintroducing the Pacific solution in Manus Island, a long-held strong view of the coalition, which should be taken up. We will see what the outcome of those measures is. But what cannot be hidden is the cost of denial and obfuscation for the past three years. That cost is seen absolutely everywhere. It is exhibited in particular in our immigration detention network. The government cannot hide the mess and chaos that have been created as a result of their failed policies. That is the cost of Labor's denial. That cost is measured in the collapse of our immigration detention network under Labor and in critical incidents. Critical incidents include fires, riots, self-harm and even death. More than three critical incidents have been occurring in our detention centres every single day, and they include rooftop protests. We learnt yesterday in Senate estimates of the bizarre farce when on the same day, ironically and coincidentally, that there were protestors sitting on the minister's own electorate office roof in his own electorate, miraculously a deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, in an extraordinary measure, went down to Villawood and, standing on top of a box, popped his head up into the roof cavity to negotiate with detainees who had been protesting on the roof for some 10 or 11 days.

It was an extraordinary situation, and what were those detainees told? They were told that if they got down from the roof they would not be sent to Silverwater Prison, where 22 others had been sent without charge. The minister can pretend all he likes that there were no special deals, but the same DNA that was in the special deal of the Oceanic Viking was in this minister when he sat there and watched those protesters sit on a roof for 11 days. He did nothing until protesters came and sat on the roof of his own electorate office, and a deputy secretary of the department was, miraculously, all of a sudden poking his head up in a roof cavity—as I am sure deputy secretaries do routinely when they negotiate with people who are protesting and detainees who are defying lawful instructions for those who are in detention!

It was a very special set of arrangements. It was a sad farce and an indictment of the way detention is managed in this country. A damage bill of $9 million was revealed from the Christmas Island and Villawood riots. There have been 133 charter flights, costing $15 million, undertaken in this year alone. There has been a tripling of the time spent in detention, from 61 days to 174 days. People have been accommodated in motels and hotels at an annual cost of $4,500 per person per month. There has been a tenfold increase in staff numbers. This is why we need to have an inquiry and why the coalition is calling for one.

The cost of asylum seeker management has gone from less than $100 million a year to more than $1 billion a year in the short time that this government has been in office. That is a record it should not be proud of. If you go through this budget in careful detail, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I have done, you will see that since the 2009-10 budget was handed down the impact of the government's retreat, abandonment and demolition of the Howard government's regime—which the government now admits it has to restore but which it is just too slow in doing—has cost the taxpayer $3.2 billion in blow-outs, including capital. That is since the Howard regime was rolled back. More than $2 billion of those blow-outs is in this budget alone. Asylum seeker management costs have increased from less than $100 million a year to more than $1 billion a year.

This is a government that thinks that the Australian taxpayer should now have to shell out in cuts to family benefits and in higher taxes for those who are driving utes. Let me tell you about those who drive utes in my electorate. Because of the state of the economy, they used to be able to get plenty of work, where they are tradies, around the shire. These days they have to travel out to Western Sydney, up to northern Sydney and down into the Illawarra. They are spending more and more time in their utes to chase work, to get the contracts they need to sustain their businesses and to put food on the table for their families. That is what they are doing. But this government says, 'You should be taxed more.'

When I look at this budget I see a very sinister theory or principle being displayed by this government. It is that those who have worked hard to give their families a better deal and a bigger opportunity in life—those who have made sacrifices to give their families and their children a better standard of living—are being told by this government that they need to make sacrifices for this government's inability to control its expenditure and stop the waste. The issue that has probably been raised more than most others in my electorate, along with border protection, is the television set-top box issue. People cannot understand why they should have to pay more and more in taxes but receive less and less in support from this government. This government thinks they are rich and should be paying for the failures of this government and for its inability to control the borders and its expenditure.