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Thursday, 19 February 2004
Page: 25275

Mr CIOBO (12:39 PM) —It is a pleasure for me to follow the member for Dickson—a good friend and a very fine representative of his constituency on the northern side of Brisbane. I even hear the Independent member for Windsor agreeing with me on that point. He cannot be too bad a bloke if the Independents agree with me. I am very pleased to rise to speak on A New Tax System (Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2003. I am pleased because it provides the opportunity for me to highlight the mismanagement and financial bungling of the Queensland state Labor Party in the grand tradition of Labor parties throughout this wide brown country.

I heard the member for Dickson run through a number of ways in which the Queensland state Labor government continues not only to cook the books but also to make sure that there is very limited funding available to the people of Queensland that could be used on important services—services it should provide, compared to the ways that the Beattie Labor government is dreaming up to spend money. This bill provides the avenue to highlight some of these inconsistencies and the way state Labor governments around the country are making a mess of their responsibilities when it comes to state finances, and the way the Commonwealth government stands in stark contrast to the performance of these various state Labor governments.

It occurs to me that there has never been a point in our nation's history when the contrast between the careful economic management of a coalition government and the poor performance of state Labor governments can be more clearly seen. At the Commonwealth level we have a coalition government that, in addition to paying for the war in Iraq and for all the expenses that are incurred as part of government and delivering a tax cut, still has a $7 billion budget surplus. Compare that with my part of Australia, Queensland, where the Beattie state Labor government has run deficit budgets for three years in a row. There was a day when in Queensland, during the Sir Joh era, to have a deficit budget would have been political annihilation. But those days are well and truly gone—Peter Beattie has demonstrated that with three budget deficits in a row.

Strictly speaking, I should not say three budget deficits in a row, because the last one had a $23 million surplus. But the question is: how did Peter Beattie get that $23 million surplus in the last state budget? He got it because he took, in special dividends from the government owned corporations of Queensland, some $750 million. That is the only reason the Queensland state budget was in surplus this last financial year. It was because the Beattie Labor government cooked the books, and they cooked them with nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars of special dividends from state owned corporations.

As the member for Dickson highlighted, the Labor Party have no credibility at all when it comes to economic policy. The Labor Party are about one thing: taxing and spending. They will make sure they tax and buy themselves out of political trouble by spending every single dollar they can to shore up their constituency wherever they can. The bill before the House today provides the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the differences between a coalition government—one that is committed to good economic management, strong economic growth, bringing down unemployment rates and ensuring low interest rates—and state Labor governments which, quite frankly, are committed to one thing: looking after their own backsides.

If you look at what the Commonwealth government have been doing, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will see that we, as a result of the new taxation system, have afforded a growing revenue stream to state Labor governments. If you look at the GST payments to Queensland, for example, you will see that in 2000-01 the Queensland government received some $4.66 billion from the Commonwealth. In 2001-02, it was $5.02 billion; in 2002-03, it was $5.88 billion; and for 2003-04 it is estimated that there will be $6.23 billion flowing from Treasury's coffers here at the federal government level to the Queensland state Labor government. But there is more. There is $146.2 million in national competition policy payments and some $4.2 billion under specific purpose payments, for a grand total of $10.588 billion from the Commonwealth government to the Queensland state Labor government. And, despite that amount flowing to the Queensland state Labor government, Peter Beattie still cannot run a surplus budget.

Where would Queensland have been if it had not been for the fact that the coalition government had the integrity and the courage to introduce the new tax system? You would recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Labor Party stood opposed to the introduction of the GST. The member for Brand ran around like Chicken Little, screaming, `The sky is going to fall in; the sky is going to fall in if we introduce the GST.' Where would the Queensland state Labor government be today if it were not for the introduction of the GST? I can advise the House that, if the GST had not been introduced, Queensland would have been $334.3 million worse off than it is as a consequence of the introduction of the new tax system. Next year, it would have been $490 million worse off and, by 2006-07, the forecast is that, had it not been for the new tax system, the GST, the Queensland state Labor government would have been $555 million worse off.

So I can honestly say to all of my constituents on the Gold Coast that the Commonwealth government is carrying the state of Queensland, because we have good visionary policy—policy that means that we have the lowest interest rates in some 20 years; the lowest unemployment rates in some 20 years; and people who can afford to get into homes and pay off a mortgage. That stands in stark contrast to the Queensland state Labor government. My constituents on the Gold Coast recognise this, and that is part of the reason that the Beattie Labor government was given a resounding thumping in the seat of Surfers Paradise, for example, where a good friend of mine, Dr John-Paul Langbroek, was recently elected as the new member for Surfers Paradise. The people of the Gold Coast know all about Labor's hypocrisy. They can see through your tricks. They can see past the populist rhetoric that we hear from the Leader of the Opposition and they can see through the populist rhetoric of the Beattie Labor government.

The member for Dickson made some comments about where all the money goes at a state government level. He spoke about large increases in the public service, but I would like to home in a little bit more than that. We know that Peter Beattie in Queensland has more than doubled the size of his PR department. In fact, the Premier's Department in Queensland has more staff than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra. When you think about it, it is sort of ironic that self-confessed media tart Peter Beattie has more spin doctors working on press releases, on getting good web sites up and on making sure that the Queensland people think that they are getting good service from their Queensland state Labor government, so much so that he has a bigger department than the Prime Minister does in Canberra—and of course the Prime Minister, by definition, is responsible for the whole nation. So imagine what we find when we start comparing the various premiers' departments nationwide and taking a cumulative total of all of their staff!

The Queensland state Labor government is a beneficiary of the good economic management of this government. The fact is that the coalition ensures that we have optimal business conditions. The coalition works in partnership with business, because we believe in the maxim that wealth generates wealth. We believe the best thing government can do is to get out of the way in nine out of 10 instances. That is the reason that this government creates good business economic conditions—to ensure that people (1) have an income stream and (2) are inclined to employ people. That is what ensures that we get unemployment down; that is what ensures that people have money to spend; that is what ensures that there is less financial stress on families—not the kind of populist rhetoric we hear coming especially from the member for Werriwa.

As a consequence of these good economic conditions, we see that in Queensland, for example, stamp duty collection—which historically in 1998 and 1999 was some $630 million—is today some $1.22 billion. So the Queensland government is not only benefiting from some $334 million under the GST but also benefiting from the fact that stamp duty has increased from $620 million to $1,220 million—almost double.

Mr Dutton —And they are still broke.

Mr CIOBO —As the member for Dickson points out, they are still broke. Why? Because they waste money—and that message is getting through to the Australian people. The time will come in Queensland when the Beattie Labor government will pay the price for their financial mismanagement.

Mr Laurie Ferguson —It's only been a week since the election and you're carrying on.

Mr CIOBO —I will take that interjection and highlight that, in my seat, we had a turnover to the Liberal Party in Queensland. I am very confident that, when that message continues to get out there in the electorate, we will see many other seats turn from the Labor Party to the Liberal Party, because people want sound economic management.

In addition to stamp duty, there is payroll tax—what would have to be one of the very worst taxes that could exist. It is a tax on employing people. It is a tax that Labor governments stand by. For example, in Queensland in 1998-99, payroll tax amounted to some $1.01 billion. These days, because of our good economic management and because we are trying to encourage business to employ people, the Beattie Labor government receives $1.3 billion in payroll tax. So, the better the economy does, the more people who are employed, the more Peter Beattie and his Treasurer laugh all the way to the bank.

We see that there is more money from payroll tax, more money from land tax and more money from stamp duty flowing to the Queensland state Labor government. There is more money from the GST, more money from specific purpose payments, more money everywhere—but the Queensland state Labor government are still broke. So what do they do? They introduce new taxes. They introduce the new Queensland ambulance tax, which would have to be one of the most disgraceful taxes that I have seen. I petitioned my community very strongly with respect to the ambulance tax, and I was delighted at the response I got, especially from my small business sector—people who go out there to make a living; people who are paying this new ambulance tax at home and paying the new ambulance tax at work.

In my own family's situation, because we have a number of holiday units, we were paying the new ambulance tax over 20 times. Apparently it is all about equity and fairness—so, if you have 20 electricity accounts, you have to pay the new ambulance tax some 20 times. I have heard stories where, in Western Queensland, farmers are in a situation where they run a separate electricity account on their water pump generator. Guess what? Bang—they get taxed a second time for that. The reality is that the Beattie Labor government will tax and tax and tax and they will spend and spend and spend, yet you do not see any improvement in services.

How many times have I stood up in this chamber and called on the Beattie state Labor government to deliver more police? Members of the opposition are laughing: they know the number of times that I have come into this chamber and asked for more police on the Gold Coast. The Beattie Labor government have a formula that says that the Gold Coast resident population is about 450,000 people, so they apply the formula and say that the Gold Coast should be entitled to X number of police. The reality is that our resident population is around 450,000 people, but the Gold Coast also happens to be the most visited holiday destination in the country. Over Christmas, the population goes to over a million people; yet, according to the stupid formula that the Beattie Labor government continue to pursue, we have enough police for only 450,000 people. There are a million people in the city but, because the resident population is 450,000, the Beattie Labor government says, `Sorry, I am not interested'—that is the response from the Queensland state police minister.

In addition to that, let us look at health care. We know that the Premier runs around the state of Queensland crying poor and talking about how hard done by the Queensland state Labor government is by the Commonwealth government, especially on health care. I have highlighted some examples of the way in which the Queensland state Labor government is very much better off under the coalition's changes to the new tax system. The reality is that, under the new Australian health care agreement, Queensland will be receiving some $8 billion over the life of the agreement—an increase of $2.1 billion compared to the previous agreement. Allowing for inflation, in real terms it is an increase for Queensland of some 19½ per cent. Under the new health care agreement, Queensland gets an increase of 19½ per cent in real terms—some $8 billion—that can be used to provide basic health services to support the hospital system. This is on top of all the additional funding—the $10½ billion—that the state Labor government is getting.

As I have said in this chamber many times, Peter Beattie is another example of why I would never play poker with the Labor Party—they are all card sharps, I am sure of it. They would all sit there with straight faces, look you straight in the eye and tell you that they are broke, that they cannot do this and that the coalition government is worse off when, in reality, the situation is 180 degrees opposite. I will not play poker with Peter Beattie or with any of the other Labor members because they can look people in the eye and tell absolute lies about Queensland's financial position. In the same way, they keep that deceptive conduct up when they talk about the funding to the health industry.

It is not just me who thinks that Queensland has got it good when it comes to GST funding. I would like to turn for a moment to some people the Labor Party might be interested in hearing from—some of their Labor colleagues. The New South Wales Treasurer, Michael Egan, pushed for a significant change to the new tax system. Why would he do that? Let me quote from the Australian Financial Review of Tuesday, 27 January of this year:

NSW Treasurer Michael Egan said the present system—in which the financially wealthy states of NSW, Victoria and WA effectively cross-subsidise the rest of the states and territories—could not be sustained.

They quote Mr Egan from an interview in which he says—

We can't see any justification for a state as strong as Queensland not only receiving a subsidy from NSW and Victoria but also not sharing the burden of assisting the other states.

That is an example of the New South Wales Labor Treasurer crying foul over the way in which the Queensland state Labor government is benefiting from the GST. I highlight each and every one of these points today because they reinforce the notion that Labor is bad when it comes to economics, that Labor is about taxing and spending with very little impact on social services.

If we were about equity, we would be looking to introduce a bill in the chamber that would ensure that the Queensland state Labor government were in a position that it rightfully should be in. The reality is that the agreement before the House has the agreement of all states. The agreement recognises that some states require more assistance than others and gives effect to that actual outcome.

I will continue to reinforce the message that the coalition government at a federal level is committed to strong economic growth, low interest rates, keeping unemployment down and generating good business conditions. That is a focus on economics, but there is an upside and a positive that flows when it comes to the social side of life. In contrast, state Labor governments are about taxing and spending, about running down budgets, and about billion dollar black holes, as we saw with the previous Leader of the Opposition, the member for Brand. I commend the bill, but I condemn state Labor governments.