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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 413

Mr HAASE (3:38 AM) —At local time 3.40 am, it is indeed an honour and a privilege to be debating the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and related bills in the House. I am sure some would also say that it is a privilege to follow the last speaker, the member for Shortland, in this debate—although I am not sure about that; I am somewhat confused. I was note-taking during her contribution, and I wrote down that schools and this package equalled economic activity. That was confusing, but it may be the early hour that confuses me. However, when I heard that this package would also green the farms, it struck me that that was rather ambitious, and I gave up and thought we should move back to reality and do away with fantasy.

This is the greatest, most arrogant insult to democracy that I have experienced in just over 10 years association with this place. We have been asked to approve legislation requiring in excess of $40 billion. We have been asked, in a grand total of 48 hours, to pass this legislation as a responsible opposition in Her Majesty’s government. What could be more insulting? Does this arrogant government believe that a responsible opposition representing the people of Australia should pass this legislation on their say-so? We have been given no absolute information about the efficacy of this program and, certainly, no time to contemplate it and give it the analysis it deserves. This is the biggest, most expensive package that has ever been put to this Australian parliament and we have been given less than 48 hours to consider the whole detail of it and make a decision on it that is in the interest of the Australian people firstly and in the long-term welfare of this nation. It is an insult. Everything that goes before it pales into insignificance. This is disgusting; this is horrible. This is the sort of thing that you could only imagine the government of losers led by one Kevin Rudd could come up with.

I look to the wonderful media that serve this country and their reaction to the announcement of this package—the most expensive legislation that has ever occurred for this nation. We have been through two world wars and never has there been an occasion where we were asked as an opposition to contemplate bills that require so much of the taxpayers’ funds in addition to so much of the taxpayers’ future regarding their ability to pay back such an excessive loan arrangement. I looked at the popular press to gauge their reaction. I confess freely, the popular press are an institution that I have no particular love for but I have been convinced absolutely of their total embrace of this new Rudd government.

This is the new Rudd government, by the way, that less than a year and a half since taking office is now running up a debt for this nation well in excess on a day by day basis of the debt that it left us with back in 1996 when we first took over the malaise that was created by the 13 years of ALP government. It left us with $96 billion of debt after that run of mistakes. It took us the best part of 11½ years to secure the nation’s financial security by paying off $96 billion worth of debt. Now, just 1½ years down the track of this new Labor government under Kevin Rudd, we are talking about projected deficits and national debt in excess of $100 billion. We know, history tells us, the records show, that when the Labor government last came into power it had some $16 billion worth of debt. Some 13 years later it had $96 billion worth of debt.

It is not difficult maths. Labor had $16 billion worth of debt when they came in and finished up with $96 worth of debt. That is $80 billion dollars worth of accumulated debt in 13 years. That is excessive, you might think. Compare that with a commitment to $100 billion worth of debt in just 18 months. It is enough to curl your mo. I can tell you, my mob back home will know what it means. It will mean debt for their grandchildren. It will mean higher interest rates. It will mean general difficulties. Somebody on the government executive had the temerity to say to me across the floor yesterday, ‘Do you suggest that your farmers do not want $950?’ I can tell you that my farmers are saying to me: ‘$950? What will we do with that? We can’t even buy a motorbike.’

Through question time yesterday we heard a new mantra from the executive: tradies. What a wonderful institution this is when we can have a mob leading Australia so out of touch with reality that the word ‘tradies’ is a revelation. Tradies, tradespeople who have kept this country going decade after decade, are suddenly a new thing to this government. The word ‘tradies’ is a new discovery. It is amazing. At the same time, they grin and leer across the bench and accuse us of being out of touch with the electorate. Yet, to them, ‘tradies’ is a newly discovered word today.

Over the Christmas period and prior to the Christmas period we heard about ‘schoolies’. That was the word that caught one’s imagination then. I guess the spin doctors, with the Rudd government well captive, thought that schoolies, tradies, chalkies will be something that will capture the imagination of the Australian people. It does not do much for me. I am a tradie and I was not enthused. I certainly was not enthused to the point where I would swallow this load of codswallop—this package that is going to put my children into debt and my children’s children into debt; the worst, most horrendous, arrogant act of any government in Australia since Federation. I just do not know where they get off, Madam Deputy Speaker Moylan.

Somebody said to me today, ‘Are you writing a speech, because I believe you will be going quite late into the night?’ I said, ‘Actually, it will be the morning and, no, I am not going to write a speech because, really, does it need much consideration?’ Does this horrendous act by this government need any careful consideration for speech writing—a mere 20 minutes of invective against righting the ills perpetrated on the Australian people by this government? No, it does not. What this Rudd-led government is trying to do is con the Australian people into believing this is some bitter pill that they need to swallow. It is not; it is a con. It is more of the Rudd we have come to expect: all spin, no substance. For anyone across Australia who might eventually listen to my words tonight, I have a wonderful bumper sticker: ‘Rudd-a-dud-dud.’ It says it all. When you look at this package you see that there is some perfect symmetry.

Investing in Our Schools comes to mind. That was a package that the Howard-led government introduced some years ago—one of the most successful funding programs for schools, both public and private, right across this nation, year after year. That very popular program, which infused dollars back into schools to create learning environments that were effective and that were complemented regardless of the bastardry of state governments that were neglecting the education system year after year, gave heart to P&C associations and made them aware that the Howard-led government knew about them and was prepared to invest in them. But suddenly, having cancelled that vital program, the Rudd government invents the idea of investing taxpayer dollars in education facilities—oh, wait, not education facilities, simply facilities at schools—and then tries to call it an infusion of dollars into our future via education. Actually it is assembly halls, art departments and—what else?—a number of things that do very little for true education but nevertheless try to score points for this dowdy government. But I digress.

I am reminded by some of the spin on this package of very, very clever, very, very hollow men. There is an association of words, surely, when it comes to the idea of insulating ceiling spaces and hooking onto the popular concept of reducing energy consumption and, therefore, irrefutably saving the planet. I admire Kevin Rudd’s spin doctors for that association. It is very clever. It is nothing new, as the member for Higgins reminded us just this evening. There is nothing new about the idea of the tree huggers of this world wanting to put up a proposition of insulating ceilings at the cost of taxpayers across this nation. It will affect 2.2 million homes. There is no consideration for the homeowner who insulated their ceiling last week, mind you. We acknowledge, however, all of the homeowners who are going to insulate the ceilings of their houses tomorrow and, as a consequence, save the planet.

I believe it is a bridge too far to decide to invest in 200 boom gates across this nation. We know that ceiling insulation, investing tax dollars from the taxpayer and saving the planet, can be easily identified by the Australian people, and the Rudd government will surely get a tick for coming up with such an innovative idea. However, boom gates to encourage a boom environment is surely too much even for the spin doctors of the Rudd government. I stumbled across this. Surely it could not have been as obvious as it first appeared to me. Nevertheless, there are many commentators in our popular media who tomorrow morning, I am sure, will realise that, as well-defined, well-intended and expensive as this package is, it does not come with a guarantee.

It is the most expensive millstone that the Australian people, via their parliament, have ever purchased—a millstone that they in the future will have the opportunity to rail against, possibly for many decades to come. But this millstone has been declared by the Rudd government as a great opportunity to support 90,000 new jobs. During question time in this place today, when the executive of this Rudd government, so gung-ho about locking the Australian people into an eventual $100 billion plus of debt, were asked if they would repeat the words, ‘This will guarantee the securing of 90,000 new jobs,’ no, they would not. Pressed as they were, time after time, question after question, the best they could come up with was a paltry, very soft, ‘This might support some jobs into the future.’

The issue is jobs firstly, jobs secondly and jobs thirdly, because it is through the idea that this package will secure jobs that the government are trying to convince the people out there to support it, into which so much of our grandchildren’s economic success would be invested. But their own effrontery is such that they do not even have the courage to say that they will guarantee the creation of 90,000 jobs. They have backtracked from their initial position in now saying that this, the greatest amount we have ever been called upon to approve, will not guarantee anything. They say it will support the possibility of 90,000 jobs—the most expensive jobs that have ever been created in Australia, hundreds of thousands of dollars per position if one does the math. Do we believe it? Not for a moment. Do the Australian people believe it? According to the media, not for a moment.

If, through a stroke of magic, suddenly I was the Prime Minister of Australia today, suffering the headlines that our current Prime Minister is now suffering as a result of this package being announced publicly, I would be absolutely ashamed—and rightly so, because along with my executive and my paid spin doctors I would have tried to con the Australian people into believing that this is some sort of guarantee; that this amount of money, an unprecedented amount of money, will somehow guarantee that we do not move into a recession; that all of those hardworking individuals out there who make up this nation will be guaranteed an ongoing job. It is all nonsense, because when the government were pressed on the issue they would not say there was any guarantee of a job for anyone as a result of this package.

The only sure thing that will result from this financial deal is that our children and grandchildren will wear the millstone of financial burden around their necks into the future. Even this government, in trying to sell this dud of a package, will not say that at a point in the future, ‘We will go back into surplus budgets.’ They will not even say that. In trying to put the window-dressing around this package, they will not even say that this package will work. (Time expired)