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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5415


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (18:26): It gives me pleasure to be able to rise tonight to talk on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-12 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2011-12 and the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2011-12. In talking about the budget tonight, there are eight points that I would like to make. The first is with regard to the carbon tax. One of the alarming things about the budget was that it made no reference to the carbon tax. The government told us that it could not because there was no detail. Yet the mining tax was not finalised and we saw the mining tax included in the budget. Why, then, wasn't the carbon tax included—especially given the impact that it is going to have across the nation on families, on the manufacturing sector and on our agricultural sector? There will not be a part of life in Australia that this tax will not hit and will not impact on.

There are a couple of points that I would like to make on the carbon tax. One is that I was extremely disappointed to see that there was no new spending on bringing the rest of the world together so that we can address this global problem with a global solution. What we needed to see, rather than funding going towards trying to get our foreign minister a seat on the UN Security Council so that he can go off and do whatever he wants to do in the United Nations, was a focus on what he once called the greatest moral issue of our time. Yet there is nothing in this budget about what we are trying to do globally to get a global solution to this problem.

Instead, what we are hearing is complete silence on what impact the carbon tax will have. I would like to refer to some of the impacts that we are seeing. There was a very good report issued by the National Farmers Federation yesterday that showed that five years after the carbon tax is introduced, if it hits a rate of $36 a tonne—which is not unreasonable—you are likely to see a wheat-growing property incur additional costs of $36,000. Our farming community has to deal with the weather, the dollar and overseas commodity prices. Now we are whacking a $36,000 impost on them as a result of the carbon tax. Do we get a mention of that in the budget? No, we do not. Do we get a mention on what impact it will have on our manufacturing sector, a key sector? Portland Aluminium in my electorate have already made huge inroads into cutting their emissions. As a matter of fact, based on 2005 levels, they have already cut their emissions by 20 per cent. That is fantastic work and they should be rewarded in some way or, if not rewarded, they should at least be acknowledged in some way for that. Yet, what will the carbon tax do? It will penalise them even further and they will get nothing for already having started this work in reducing emissions.

That is what we are going to see occur across our manufacturing sector. The high energy costs which they have been hit with, which has led them in many instances to try and do very good work in cutting emissions, will count for nought because 'whack' they will get hit by the carbon tax again. While some of the bigger manufacturers may be able to get permits, and maybe get permits up to a 95 per cent free allocation; the smaller manufacturers in Australia will not. They will be hung out to dry with devastating consequences especially in regional areas. It is our small manufacturers in our country towns that provide the majority of our jobs.

It is extremely disappointing that we saw no reference to the carbon tax in the budget, particularly when it will start on exactly the same date as the mining tax, 30 June next year, and the mining tax was included in the budget. I think the Treasurer, Mr Swan, would have preferred that it was not because, only a few weeks after the mining tax was included, the Western Australian government blew a big hole in Mr Swan's budget. It is a budget which is built on a house of cards. It is a budget that may get a surplus in three years although, as we have seen, it has been a long time between drinks before a Labor government delivered a budget surplus.

Before we focus on three years time, and that is in part what the Treasurer wanted us to do, we should focus on the here and now because we saw a budget deficit of $47 billion dollars for the last financial year. I just want to put that in perspective. The Victorian state budget was handed down a week before the federal budget. The total expenditure for the whole Victorian budget is $47 billion. So our second biggest state's total budget, which includes all the spending in health, education and transport, is the size of the budget deficit which was handed down in this last federal budget.

It does not get any better next year. The forecast is for $21 billion. What is the effect of that? We already have debt of $106 billion which means we are paying back $135 million a day of Labor debt. Just think for a moment what that money could be spent on, and think for a moment about the $96 billion debt that Labor left us the last time they were voted out of office. Think of the length of time it took us to pay that off. Although we have been focusing on a minute surplus in three years time, we should not lose sight of what we have here and now, and that is budget deficit followed by budget deficit, and we are seeing net debt increasing to $106 billion, which amounts to $135 million a day to pay back. What we need to see now is the government saying, 'We're asking the rest of the community to tighten its belt. We're going to do the same.' But unfortunately we are seeing no indication that the waste will stop. We saw a very glitzy presentation of the NBN being rolled out in Armadale, but I think I am right in saying that so far we have seven people signed up to the NBN in Armadale. We saw a very glitzy launch down in Tasmania, in Launceston, but once again the uptake leaves a lot to be desired. So we are seeing waste continue on a vast scale.

It does not seem that the government has learnt its lessons from the stimulus package, where we saw the BER waste billions of dollars. There was not only the pink batt fiasco but also the home insulation inspection scheme fiasco. The prize example in my seat of Wannon was where we had an inspector come down to inspect six units. He did four because that is what the regulations told him he could do. He flew back to Sydney and then a fellow from the Gold Coast flew down two weeks later—

Mrs Markus: The Gold Coast? How odd.

Mr TEHAN: yes, from the Gold Coast—to do the remaining two units in a block. So there was a block of six units and they got a fellow from Sydney to do four, but he could not do the remaining two, even though he was asked to, so he disappeared back to Sydney and they sent a fellow down from the Gold Coast to do the remaining two. It is that sort of waste that the Australian people cannot tolerate, especially when you think about what this budget did to try and ease the squeeze on cost of living pressures. It did nothing.

We have seen electricity prices rise by 50 per cent since 2007. What is the government doing in the budget? It is hiding the fact that, when a carbon tax is introduced, electricity prices will go up by another 25 per cent. So our families, the forgotten families, are going to deal with a 75 per cent increase in their power bills.

Locally there were three outcomes which I would like to mention. We have seen south-west Victoria being promised a Medicare funded licence for its MRI machine. The funding has been promised for 18 months time. Obviously the community and I would have liked to have seen that occur right here and now, but we do have a promise that the Medicare funded licence will be provided. I will be looking forward to making sure that that promise comes true. We also saw two commitments for funding: one for Ararat hospital and one for Timboon primary health care. Those two million-dollar allocations were allocations for which the community had put forward compelling cases. I was glad to see that the government listened to the compelling cases and delivered on those two bits of funding and the promise of a Medicare funded licence for south-west Victoria.

What has been alarming, though, is that, while we have seen some small instances of health funding, the broader funding to regional Australia has seen pork-barrelling at an extreme level in the two rural Independent seats. This is not good government. Government should govern for all Australia. They should not pork-barrel for two rural Independents who are propping up what is a very weak government.

Before I conclude, I could not sit down without mentioning the budget reply speech. I think without doubt it was one of the best budget reply speeches which has been heard in this new parliament. Tony Abbott gave a speech pitched to the forgotten families in Australia, those families who are doing it tough as a result of this government's policies—a government, and especially a prime minister, that does not seem to understand and want to understand or listen to these forgotten families.

The cost of living pressures that these families are under are growing daily. Yet this Prime Minister, having lied to them by saying she would not introduce a carbon tax before the election, is now introducing a tax which will increase their cost of living pressures and is doing nothing else to help them in this regard. Tony Abbott nailed that. But he also nailed what the coalition would offer as an alternative: how it would help the Indigenous people, how it would help those suffering from mental health issues, how it would help families meet education costs; and also how it would stop Labor's waste and would put in place a government which actually values the taxpayers' money—a very positive agenda.

It was a compelling budget reply speech and one which sent a clear message to the Australian community that we on this side are listening. We are aware of the cost of living pressures they are facing. We will not put a carbon tax in place which after one year leads to your petrol prices going up. We will not put a carbon tax in place which is likely to lead to you losing manufacturing jobs, losing agricultural jobs, losing services jobs. We will listen; we will get Australia heading in the right direction.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! I did not want to interrupt the member for Wannon's speech, but the member for Wannon did make an unparliamentary reference to the Prime Minister and I would kindly ask the member for Wannon to withdraw.

Mr TEHAN: Sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should have said 'misled'.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.