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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1282

Mr TRUSS (Leader of the Nationals) (10:49 PM) —This is the day that the Rudd government’s unbridled arrogance hit the wall. Its entire economic strategy collapsed in a giant, stinking heap. The $42 billion spending spree legislation perished on its rock of arrogance. The government has finally woken up to the fact that the Rudd emissions trading scheme will have a devastating impact on investment and job creation in this country, and it is to go back for economic analysis. Unemployment went up. Business confidence continues to plummet. Retirees’ savings are lost or frozen. Employers are closing their businesses. Labor government is back in Canberra and, in all the style of Whitlam and the state Labor premiers, the debt is racking up and our nation is suffering the effects of the incompetence of this government.

The Labor government, with all of its arrogance, came into this parliament last week and demanded that $42 billion worth of spending—the biggest spending spree in our nation’s history—should be passed in about 40 hours. In tonight’s debate it criticised the fact that the opposition rejected its package in one day. We only had one day to consider the package, debate it in detail and then vote on it. Are you suggesting we should not have made up our mind what we were going to do before the debate was finished? If you wanted us to take more time over it, why did you not give us a proper debate? Why did the government not allow a proper consideration of the issues that were involved? But, when it came to the Senate, the Senate said no. When the government did not have the majority to belligerently force this package through the Senate in the same arrogant way in which it treated the elected representatives in this parliament, the Senate said no, they wanted some time to look at the package. And every day they looked at the package the more it unravelled, the more it became clear that this was an ugly package that delivered not just cheques in the mail but also big bills that would have to be paid  forever.

Not willing to accept the judgement of the elected Senate, the government is belligerently bringing these appropriation bills back into this parliament again—‘Do it again; do it again until you deliver what the government wants.’ The Senate was completely within its rights to question this legislation, and it did so, as one would expect of it. And this package of bills failed in the Senate because it lacks the merit and the quality to deserve the support of senators, as it fails to deserve the support of the people of Australia.

This package is supposed to be about stimulating the Australian economy, not just about spending our savings. It is supposed to be about building a stronger nation. Indeed, I am amused, I despair, that the government could give a package of legislation like this the title ‘Nation Building and Jobs Plan’. It neither builds the nation nor creates jobs. Pink batts in every house may make us feel a little cooler, even if we have to import the batts from overseas, but it certainly is not a comprehensive plan to rebuild the nation. You do not get a boom by putting in boom gates! And more batts just give you a battier package! This package does not give you a comprehensive vision for our country or the imagination to build a stronger economy in the years ahead.

Nor does this package create jobs. The government do not even claim that it will create jobs. All they credit this package with doing is ‘sustaining’ 90,000 jobs—up to 90,000 jobs may be sustained by this package. Even if that is true, that works out at $450,000 per job sustained. Does that sound like good economics to you? Does that sound like a carefully crafted package, designed with a vision for our country that is about jobs, jobs, jobs? This package is not about jobs, jobs, jobs; it is about one job—the Prime Minister’s! He is only after the daily headline.

Mr Bidgood interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! The member for Dawson will respect the standing orders.

Mr TRUSS —And you do not need to take my word for that. Take the word of a man the Prime Minister admired very greatly only a year or two ago: Mark Latham. Mark Latham said of this government and of this package:

They have jumped all over the financial crisis, not with a clear economic strategy in mind, but with an urgent sense of the political opportunity it presents.

It is all about politics. It is not about nation-building, it is not about job creation; it is about political opportunity.

The whole package in a very real sense has been fraudulent, because Labor said every piece of the package was carefully calculated and put together as an element of a carefully managed plan. That is absolute rubbish. We all know that this plan was dreamt up on a plane ride to Port Moresby. It was plotted on the drink coasters in the VIP! There was never any clear economic strategy. It was not a comprehensive attempt to deal with the issues and try to plot a better course for our future. What Labor are doing is spending our children’s money to fund five minutes of sunshine—five minutes of sunshine to be followed by decades of dark storms, as we seek to pay the bills.

This package has not been carefully thought through. It is full of anomalies, as the Senate rightly pointed out. Last Friday my office received a call from a businesswoman who had just called the hotline and found out that she was not eligible for any of Labor’s stimulus payments—not any of them. She was a struggling businesswoman, battling to keep her business open. She had sent in her tax return last year and, because her business had run at a loss, she paid no tax. She is therefore not eligible for any assistance from this package whatsoever. If the business had run at a $100,000 profit, she would have got some help. Her employees, who were paid, would get a package, but she gets nothing. Is this the way you want to stimulate business—denying them assistance at a time when they need it? The same applies to most farmers and other small business men. If their business ran at a loss last year, they get nothing whatever from this package.

Labor has clearly not directed this package in ways where it can deliver the best possible benefits for Australia. It is just Labor pork-barrelling on a grand scale. There is no clear plan, no vision for the future; just a splash of cash—some enjoyment for a few moments, a spending spree, but in the end this is money that will have to be paid back. And we all know from history that little or none of this debt will ever be repaid by the Labor government. Labor only ever spend; they never repay. Labor have no plan whatsoever to repay the money they are spending today. What if the recession goes on a little longer? Are they going to come up with another $40 billion package? Where is that going to come from—and the one after that and the one after that, if this whole recession gets worse and worse? The $900 cheques in this package, wherever they are going, are effectively being accompanied by a $2,000 bill. That is every man, woman and child’s share of what will have to be repaid as a result of this $42 billion spending spree.

But perhaps the most alarming element of this package of legislation before the parliament tonight is the approval that will be given for Labor to run up to $200 billion worth of debt on our bankcard. It is not Kevin Rudd’s private bankcard; it is a bankcard that we, the people of Australia, our children and our grandchildren will have to pay back. It is almost $10,000 for every man, woman and child—and we are being asked to push that legislation and approval through in just an hour or two.

I thought it was especially alarming tonight that the Prime Minister considers this $200 billion approval to be so urgent that it has to go through the parliament within a few hours. He said, ‘We have to have this $200 billion approval immediately.’ Why does he want $200 billion tonight? Level with the Australian people. What is the true state of the government’s spending? What is the true state of their plans for our nation? It was particularly alarming tonight that the Prime Minister seemed to be trying to argue a case that this was a trifling amount of money, something we did not really need to worry about—other people have bigger debts than us, so we should try and match them. He is like the schoolboy in the playground: ‘I want a bigger debt!’ The bigger debt he is creating, though, is a debt that the children and the grandchildren of Australia will have to pay off for decades and decades.

The reality is that the government has got the fundamentals of this package wrong. The Prime Minster acknowledges, and has said himself on a number of occasions, that world debt is at the heart of the global financial crisis, and that Australia has avoided the worst of the crisis because we have less debt. We have less debt because we had a government that cared about balancing the budget and that was actually putting money aside for the future. Now we are going to try and join the rest of the world and surpass them by having more debt than other people, and somehow or other the Prime Minister is asking us to be proud of that fact. He should be ashamed to come into this House, only 15 months after he has been elected, and say, ‘I have already spent all the savings. I have emptied the cookie jar. I have already spent everything that has been saved up through the hard work of the Australian people, and now I want $200 billion more. I want to go out and spend more so that you have to save forever and for ever again.’

The Prime Minister was very keen tonight to quote to us industry organisations and others who he claims were supporting the package. I could, of course, quite readily go through a series of quotes from others who are opposed to this package and are very concerned about the debt that is being imposed on children. I hope that when the government members ring their local school principal and tell them that they are going to have a library or a new playground built in their schoolyards they also tell them that every child at the school is getting a $10,000 bill as well. I hope they are honest enough to say that. I notice that ACCI was quoted tonight as well. I just happened to find ACCI’s 2007 policy statement—their employment policy for the last federal election. This is what ACCI said: ‘Strong rates of economic growth involve containing public sector spending, and avoid deficit financing to stimulate growth.’ This is the organisation the Prime Minister was quoting as his authority to go out and run up debt on the bankcard. The reality is that this is a poorly constructed package that will give us a moment of pleasure but years and years of pain.

The coalition only has the best interests of our country in mind, both in the short and the long term. We do not want to indebt future generations of Australians with the cost of a package which the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Secretary of the Treasury will not guarantee to work. In fact, everyone says that there are serious doubts about the fundamentals underlying this package. Many simply say that it will not work. It is not good enough to give this government an authority to go out and immediately spend $42 billion and to run up a debt of $200 billion. The democratic process in the Senate has brought this to a halt. The government should take some deep breaths, listen to people, talk to people, and deliver a package that will really build Australia and will really create jobs instead of just squandering our birthright.