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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4720


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (17:32): I might, unlike the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, speak about the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills, which are before the House. I know there is a practice that we can talk about a wide range of issues in this place, but I thought it was quite ironic that the member for Lindsay, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the third in charge and third in line—after, of course, the Assistant Treasurer, who is desperately hanging out there waiting to be the Treasurer for just one day—could not actually bring himself to talk about the budget until about the last minute; his speech was about a hockey field. What he was talking about was the carbon tax, which, of course, ironically is not in the budget; it was left out of the budget, which makes these figures a complete house-of-cards-based assessment of where the national fiscal policy will be at in a couple of years time. So it was quite ironic that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer could not talk about the Treasurer's own budget—probably an endorsement of the performance of the Treasurer. We saw again today the Treasurer not being able to answer direct questions about what is in his budget.

I think it reflects upon the nervousness of the members on the other side that they continue to try and play this nasty, negative campaign that we saw the Prime Minister leading on Saturday about the Leader of the Opposition, who is out there day after day talking about the challenges that Australian families and businesses face and proposing policies which will deal with them—policies that we have now had in place for some 18 months and that we took to the election. We had there in the election the direct action policy to deal with climate change, and we still have it today. I know it is an unusual approach for the Labor Party, because of course the Labor Party were for the emissions trading scheme before they were against it before they were for it; it was just that there was an election in the middle there where they did not tell the people quite the full truth about what they intended to do if they were re-elected. That was absolutely difficult to deal with, what with the challenge of the economy. Plus there was a stimulus package put in place which we supported. That was the first stimulus package. The second stimulus package we said was too much debt and deficit. But the first stimulus package we supported because there was estimated to be a big loss in revenue and we were not sure how much that was going to be. The estimate was $210 billion. It turned out to be about $90 billion. The deficits at the time were estimated to be around $50 billion, around the same amount as what they are now. So there is a missing $90 billion there. I will tell you what happened to it. They spent it.

The problem with the budget is not the revenue side; it is the spending side of the budget. It is the payment side of the budget. The claim that the global financial crisis meant that they had to go into $106 million of debt is wrong. There was an estimated $210 million loss in revenue over the forward estimates; it turned out to be only about $90 billion over the forward estimates. If they had managed it properly, if they had not gone and spent the $90 billion that they actually had and did not estimate having, if they had not wasted that money on roof batt programs, overpriced school halls, set-top boxes double the price of what Gerry Harvey could do, Green Loans, more public servants—should I go on with all these programs?—then we would not be in the deficit and debt situation that we find ourselves today.

I hate to say that the member for Dobell is predictable, but I am guessing that he might get up and, like some of his colleagues, talk about how the government will supposedly return to surplus in 2012-13. I have just a sneaking suspicion that the member for Dobell might say that this budget is about tough decisions, jobs in the future and returning to surplus in 2012-13. I thought I might make a point about that too. This is interesting. If you look at the spending and the revenue base of the government, the claim in this tough budget, with its tough decisions and so-called reduction in spending—which actually turned out to be tax increases, whether they be a mining tax or a freeze on family tax benefits—is that the revenue will go from $272 billion in 2006-07, the second last Howard budget, to an estimated $378 billion in 2012-13. That is an increase of about $100 billion since 2006-07. The spending side of the budget in 2006-07 was $253 billion. The spending side of the budget in 2012-13 will be $372 billion, an increase of $120 billion.

In other words, just to flesh out the picture for the member for Dobell, they are getting more and they are spending more. They are spending more year upon year, and that is why we have $106 billion in net debt. We have $106 billion of debt above savings because they spend more. They plan to spend $120 billion more in 2012-13 than was spent in 2006-07. That is because they cannot make hard decisions. When they find a problem they throw money at it, and they always spend double the money. They cannot do anything without spending double the money that is actually required to do the project in the first place.

There are no better examples than the overpriced school halls, the Green Loans or the roof batts—the disastrous program where workers died. It is quite clear that the deficit and debt situation is not because of the GFC. It is not because the government inherited some terrible budget situation. They of course inherited a $20 billion surplus in savings at the bank. It is because the Labor Party spend too much money. They cannot make hard decisions and they make policy decisions which make things worse.

One of the worst policy decisions this government has made—and I am sure in his quieter moments the member for Dobell would probably reflect on this—was in August 2008 when they changed the border protection laws in this country. The outcome of that is that in this budget there is a $1.7 billion blowout in detention costs. I am someone with a detention facility in my electorate. The only budget promise which directly affected spending on infrastructure in my electorate was for the Inverbrackie detention facility. The outcome of that is in this budget: a $1.7 billion blowout in detention costs. It is one of the worst outcomes you could ever imagine from a government policy decision. They came to government and the situation was fixed, and they created a problem. Now they are desperately trying to thrash around. The minister for immigration, who is fundamentally a nice person, is stuck desperately hoping he gets moved out of this portfolio at some point because it is killing him. He has watched his career wash away. The decisions made by a former minister and by a former Prime Minister are holding this government to the situation where the boats keep coming.

They are trying to be hard. The member for Lindsay of course was the famous admiral on the ship out of Darwin just before the last election. He was out there on coast guard. He had the hat on. He was ready to take them on himself. He was going to stop the boats. He was going to be part of the process to stop the boats. But of course he did not stop the boats, because the other side is trying to look soft and nice and humanitarian in dealing with the issue. You cannot be both. It is costing the budget $1.75 billion more than what it should every year. More waste, more Labor spending, more Labor deficit, more Labor debt—that is the real story of this budget.

The country faces genuine challenges. We have a huge opportunity in the next few years with increased revenue because of the international circumstances because of the Asia-Pacific century, because China is growing so rapidly, and we should take advantage of that. I am not a pessimist about the Chinese growth. I am not a pessimist about Australia's opportunities which come from that. We must make the most of those opportunities. But spending more than what you get is not making the most of those opportunities. Looking at the out years of this budget, it is a disgrace. You get an increase on spending by 2012-13, in just six or seven budgets, of $120 billion. This is a disgrace and it will saddle our future generations with massive debt when we should be investing the proceeds of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we find ourselves in now. We find ourselves in this position because of growth in our region and we should take advantage of it.

I do not have today the opportunity to go through the inflationary impacts of all this extra spending, or the inflationary impacts of the re-regulation of certain laws in this country. But at another opportunity I will talk about that, because these are the risks, the decisions that have been taken by this Labor government, this incompetent, hopeless Treasurer, as we saw during question time today. This budget is a disgrace.