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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 392


Mrs MARKUS (1:54 AM) —In the debate tonight on the Appropriation (Economic Security Strategy) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills I think it is clear that we agree on one thing and that is that there needs to be some stimulus package. What we do not agree on is what form it takes and the potential impact not just for those who reside in Australia today but indeed for the generations to come. Before the last election we heard Kevin Rudd and the now Labor government tell Australia that they were economic conservatives. Yet today we witness a $42 billion package they want to rush through the House that will plunge our country into enormous debt. The sum of $42 billion is just shy of half the debt they handed over at the end of their reign in 1996. Who said history never repeats?

Incredibly, Labor would like the coalition to give the spending of $42 billion a reckless stamp of approval without sufficient time to weigh up the impact on the future children of this nation. Just a click of the fingers and $42 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent. What is even more concerning is that this government is seeking approval to, if required, borrow up to $200 billion. This was not mentioned yesterday. If the Labor government is so confident that this package will work then why is it trying to slip through a parliamentary request to have a borrowing capacity of $200 billion? This will equate to a debt for every Australian of $9,500. The government has yet again displayed its lack of credibility when it comes to sensible economic management. The government is waving around its massive credit card, but who will pay back the debt? Future generations will be responsible for ensuring that the debt is repaid. With a high debt to repay, services will suffer and taxes will increase. The money has to come from somewhere. The government has yet to suggest a time frame or indeed a plan for when this debt will be repaid. People will welcome any type of financial relief, but the stimulus package has to be right for all Australians. As a parent I dread the thought that my children and their generation are going to have to pay back a debt created by a government of this generation.

As shadow minister for veterans’ affairs I want to focus momentarily on the veterans and their dependants. May I say that they are entitled to support. Like all Australians, they deserve a future—a strong future without debt. This should be a future where debt is not a heavy burden. I note that some will receive payments under this legislation through the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme. While such payments in and of themselves are positive, as a responsible opposition we are obliged to consider the full impact of a $42 billion package and its ensuing debt. We must consider the result of a $9,500 debt for every Australian. The question needs to be posed. The government has raised expectations, both prior to the election and since that time, that the outcome of reviews and inquiries will result in expenditure to address issues important to the veteran community. Will these expectations be met? Will the government address the indexation of superannuation? Will all promises made to the veteran community be met after such a huge spend—$42 billion? Will such expenditure and future expenditure be put at risk?

We can only speculate how our young people of today will be feeling five, 10 or 20 years into the future as they pay back manyfold the debt of the Rudd government policies. As not only a parent but also a member of this parliament I am committed to ensuring that the next generation is set for success. It is each generation’s responsibility to build a strong platform from which the next generation can launch forward and build a future—a future characterised by greater financial security, increased opportunities to engage in enterprise and a quality of life that exceeds their expectations. A government in debt will bring the nation to its knees. A government hampered by debt will become crippled, unable to deliver any help, particularly as we see unemployment rise.

It was not long ago that our country was $96 billion in debt, thanks to a Labor government. It was the coalition government that paid off the debt, balanced the books and, in turn, created a surplus. The Labor government do not want the public to remember that the country was in a good state of affairs when they took over from the previous government. They do not want the public to remember that it is because of the previous government’s sound economic management that Australia is in a better place than other nations that are falling further into recession. The government have only taxpayers’ money, but this money is contributed by mums, dads, self-funded retirees, our defence personnel—both past and present—small, medium and large business, couples with or without children and single workers. It is their hard-earned money that goes into the Treasury, and it is those people who trust us to invest and spend their money wisely.

The stance of the opposition may not be popular to some, but it is our responsibility to make sure that we are committed to ensuring that our country and her people have a strong future. It is our commitment and our responsibility to make sure Australia is the best place on the planet to live, to work and to raise children. We are committed to making sure that the money taxpayers provide to this economy is wisely managed and spent, which is why we believe changes need to be made to this package. We are not the party who are being selective when it comes to those who benefit from this package. We are not the party trying to sneak through a request for $200 billion of borrowing capacity, knowing it will plunge the country further into debt. Our focus here today is on fiscal discipline, as we look for practical solutions which will assist with the long-term future of this country so that our nation’s children are not made to pay yet again a debt left by Labor.

The $42 billion package equals a debt of $2,000 for every man, woman and child. As a coalition we want to make sure that we can go to every Australian and give them the confidence that this package has been carefully and comprehensively considered. We cannot do that with the package in its current form. We cannot say that this is a well-considered and carefully prepared package when the Leader of the Opposition could not get all the answers to specific questions from the departments that have responsibility for delivering the measures in this package. The Prime Minister claims to be an economic conservative, so why would he put this country billions of dollars in debt in order to hand out one-off cash bonuses—a short-term gain for a long-term pain? A plan for jobs is what Australians need to see in the current climate of rising unemployment.

We see a Labor government grandstanding on what they will deliver to help stimulate the economy. The media reported this and relayed the government’s news to all. Readers of Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph would have seen a table on page 2 which provided them with details on what they will receive as a tax bonus based on their household income. People from my electorate and other readers of the Daily Telegraph in Sydney who thought they were going to get a tax bonus are now finding out, on reading Wednesday’s paper, that the bonus will be based only on their 2007-08 income, not on what they are earning today. The Prime Minister failed to mention that there would be conditions when he announced this to Australia on Tuesday. I believe that, as more details come to light, there will be more disappointed people. We as a coalition are proposing that this government bring forward the 2010 tax cuts so that all income earners will benefit and, as a result, the additional money going into the household budget would assist all sectors of the economy. The country’s success relies on the leadership of its government, and its people rely on a government which gives them confidence.

The language of this government, particularly the Prime Minister’s, has contributed towards the erosion of confidence and indeed added to people’s fears. This has again contributed to businesses cutting back staff and people locking in interest rates. What of the tens of thousands of couples and individuals who fixed interest rates only several months ago and are now paying higher mortgages than those who did not? The Prime Minister promised that in the $10.4 billion stimulus 75,000 jobs would be created. Where are those jobs? In what industries have they been created? How can Australians have confidence in a government that promotes a $42 billion stimulus package on the one hand while increasing the credit limit to $200 billion on the other?

Let us reflect on Labor’s past record when in government. Again, let me highlight record unemployment and a $96 billion debt that took a decade to repay. If this package that Labor are proposing does not work then the people of this country will face the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and individuals, couples and families will face the challenge of paying for, contributing to and building a future without work. We will also face an enormous government debt and the potential for new and increased taxes. Our nation’s children are our future. Let us not give them a gift of debt. It is for these reasons that the coalition and I oppose this package in its current state.