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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4716

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (17:17): It is a great pleasure to be able to join this debate to inject some facts into the discussion. We heard from the member for Brisbane who comes to this place not as a new member but as someone who served previously in this place and was part of a government that failed this country in so many respects. I was interested to hear her talk about mental health. What she did not talk about was the complete failure of the previous Liberal government, of which she was a part, to invest in mental health. We have heard the discussion about Mr Abbott proposing this or proposing that, when they had a chance in government. When they had a chance in government, they did absolutely nothing. In fact, when the Leader of the Opposition was last the health minister, he ripped a billion dollars worth of funding out of the health system.

Let's have a look at some of the facts. This is a budget that is about getting the budget back into surplus. We are charting a pathway back to a surplus in 2012-13. We hear so much about debt and deficit from the other side. Let's look at the facts. When it comes to debt, national government debt in this country is amongst the lowest in the world: 7.2 per cent of gross domestic product. That is 10 times less than that of the UK, at 75 per cent, or the US, at 72 per cent. The comparison is 7.2 per cent to 75 per cent and 72 per cent. They come in here and lecture us about that. The thing that the opposition seem to have forgotten is that there was a global financial crisis. There was a global recession, and we as a country managed to escape sinking into recession. There was a reason why that occurred. That is because we invested in jobs in this country. This budget is a further investment in jobs. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created during our response to the global financial crisis, at a time when comparable countries elsewhere in the world were shedding jobs by hundreds of thousands. If we look back to when the stimulus package was being voted upon, we see that Mr Abbott was not even in the House. At the time, the Daily Telegraph correctly reported that he was having a few glasses of chardonnay with the then member for Higgins. We can go back and pull out the article. Not a lot of attention was paid to that. The point is that the jobs of working Australians were not at the forefront of his thinking then and they are not at the forefront of his thinking now.

This budget is good for jobs. It is about recognising that we now have an unemployment rate of less than five per cent. Our unemployment rate in this country has a four in front of it, but we are not finished yet. We know that the massive challenges that this country faces in the future will be about confronting the supply challenges and the various skills and labour shortages that this country will face as a result of mining boom mark II.

We remember the more than 20 warnings that the Reserve Bank gave the previous government about the need to tackle these chronic shortages or we would have upward pressure on interest rates. They failed to act. That is why we had interest rate increase after increase—10 of them in a row. We hear the talk about the cost of living. There is no question that families are facing challenges when it comes to costs of living, but let us look at the facts. When it comes to official interest rates, when the Liberals lost office, rates were at 6.75 per cent. They are now at 4.75 per cent. So, when we talk about cost of living pressures, we know how much greater those pressures would be if the opposition had their hands on the treasury benches and were able to carry out the sort of economic vandalism that we have seen put forward in the various proposals from the opposition. In fact, to their credit, at least this time they did not even attempt to put up an alternative budget. They did not even attempt it. There was not one mention of what they would do if they were in government.

We saw what they did at the last budget. Mr Abbott squirmed out of it by passing it to Mr Hockey. Mr Hockey turned up the Press Club, where everyone was waiting with baited breath, and flicked it to Andrew Robb. When Andrew Robb gave that much-celebrated press conference that ended up being cut short by his staffer signalling that it was time to bring this production to an end by gesturing a cut across the throat, we saw what a debacle that was. What a debacle!

If that was not bad enough, when it came to the election costings and the commitments that were being brought forward before the election, we had an $11 billion black hole. Mr Abbott and those on the other side thought they could fool the Australian people with this one, but let us be absolutely clear about this. There are two reasons why the Liberal Party is not in government at the moment. One is because of the shonky costings. They were eventually caught out by Treasury costings that occurred at the request of the Independents after the election. That shows the sort of gross economic mismanagement this country would have been subjected to had their commitments—with an $11 billion black hole—ended up being foisted on the Australian people. At least that crisis was averted.

The second reason was the National Broadband Network. That continues to be a significant investment that this government is making in our future. It is about giving people in communities all around this country access to high-speed broadband with sufficient bandwidth to ensure that we are competitive and that economic opportunities are opened up to people regardless of where they live in this country. The NBN will one day be seen as a visionary program. The sort of criticism that we hear from the opposition today is the same sort of criticism that big projects of national significance have always faced from those who did not have the courage to bite the bullet and do what the nation required in the longer term.

Let us have a look at the budget. The member for Brisbane said that there was nothing in it for families. That is just not right. With regard to the improvements to our tax and transfer system that have benefited families, just have a look at the election commitment that we made and are now implementing in relation to family tax benefit part A. We have extended it to those families with teenagers. We recognise that, in this day and age, for families that have dependant children, that dependency stays on right up to the end of the teenage years and indeed, in some cases, well and truly beyond that. We have sought to fix an anomaly in the system to ensure that those families with teenagers at the older end of the spectrum have better access to the family tax benefit system. For some families, this will mean up to $4,200 extra per year. Mr Abbott runs around from fish markets to door manufacturers to grocery stores to the town of Whyalla. He went to Whyalla and said he would wipe it off the map. How irresponsible was that? It is irresponsible because the sort of fear and smear that is being spread in relation to the pricing of carbon pollution in this country is appalling. The day of reckoning will come for Mr Abbott, because people are going to see that if this is implemented it will not have anywhere near the sort of negative impact that he is suggesting. The member for Mayo comes in here and he has all the arguments in the world, but deep down in his heart of hearts—and I know he has one in there somewhere—he knows that we need to price carbon in this country.

There are big economic calls that governments and political figures have to make on occasion. Sometimes you get them right and sometimes you get them wrong. But when they are the really big ones, if you get them wrong then they are like an albatross that hangs around your neck and sits with you for the rest of your political career. The member for Mayo knows that because he was one of the architects of Work Choices and he wears that almost as well as he wears that resplendent red tie that he currently has on. He wears it around his neck. But he equally will wear around his neck the ongoing damage that will come from having opposed what is one of the most significant reforms that this country needs. He knows that we need to price carbon. He knows that we need to do it. The fact is that others in his party do not have the political courage to do it. I can understand why they might take the coward's option, but when people know that this is what needs to happen and they choose not to do it they should be condemned for it.

We will price carbon because it is important that we do that so that we put a price on pollution. The big polluters will have a price signal to do what they do—to provide energy, to provide goods and services across our economy—in a way that is less dependent on fossil fuels, less dependent upon the carbon emissions that are damaging the climate not just here in Australia but right around the world. We need to take action. Other countries in the world, even countries governed by conservatives, are taking genuine action. History will judge them well. History will not be so kind to those on the other side, who oppose everything and will stand in the way of making one of the most significant changes that we need to make.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: I am always encouraged when the member for Mayo tells me to move on to another topic, because it means to me that he does not want to talk about this topic, and I can understand that. I can understand why the member for Mayo does not want to talk about pricing carbon. To his credit, he is one of the more talented people on the other side. It must frustrate him to see some of the fossils on the front bench supporting this proposal to continually oppose taking action on climate change. I think he actually believes in climate change, unlike a very large contingent within his party.

But the reality is that, whichever way you like to look at it, the coalition have a pretence of a policy when it comes to carbon pollution. They say they want to reduce emissions by five per cent, but they do not have a plan that will do that. The only thing they have is a plan that will be business as usual and will require us in the end to fork out money to import carbon offsets from other countries. It will cost families $720 a year. It might not be with a new tax, but I tell you what: services will be cut or their taxes will ultimately have to be increased. That is the dishonesty of their argument. They will not acknowledge that there is a significant cost to their proposal. But their proposal will not do anything. It will not cut emissions and, at the same time, it will cost families $720 a year and there will not be one dollar of compensation. We will get on with the job of pricing carbon, with or without the support of the member for Mayo. Let him and his colleagues stand condemned if they oppose what is going to be a significant reform.

I have observed some of the more significant figures that we have seen in recent times in the political debate. For example, I will give credit to John Howard. There were occasions when major reforms were being proposed by the Labor Party and, in opposition, he acknowledged that these reforms were in the long-term national interest and he actually supported them. He offered bipartisan support. In fact, one of those proposals was to have an emissions trading scheme. This is one of the perversities of what we currently have. We have the current opposition being more brown than the Howard government. The Howard government had committed to introducing an emissions trading scheme and, had they been elected in 2007, by the end of this year we would have an emissions trading scheme in place. We would have the Howard emissions trading scheme in place. Instead of the Howard emissions trading scheme, we have a proposal called the Abbott subsidies for polluters scheme, and the member for Mayo knows what a sham of a policy that is.

I want to spend the remaining time talking about a couple of projects that have been funded in this budget in my local electorate. I want to draw the House's attention to the investment of $1 million in the Western Sydney regional hockey facility, which is located in my electorate. This was a commitment that was made by the government during the election, and the funds have been delivered. Hockey is a significant sport in our local area. For a very long time, the facilities have been very poor and inadequate. This funding will ensure that improvements will be made.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: I hear some interjection about the New South Wales government, and that is an interesting segue that I would like to make into talking about the massive investment that we have made into our hospital system through the Health and Hospitals Fund. The Nepean Hospital now has an investment of over $100 million being undertaken in relation to the construction works being carried out there. Ninety-four million dollars has been committed by this government, the Labor federal government. I see that shortly after being elected the new Premier of New South Wales, Barry O'Farrell, came out to Nepean Hospital and stood out in front of the construction works that our government has funded, and he talked about how hospitals will be much improved as a result of investments that his government is making. I do not think anyone in the community is silly enough to think that within a matter of months any government could inject money and get construction works underway, but Mr O'Farrell seemed to think that, by standing in front of construction works and talking about investments he purportedly is going to make into hospitals, he was going to get some credit for that. It is a disgrace. Labor has delivered and will continue to deliver for the health and hospital services in my electorate. (Time expired)