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Monday, 24 May 2010
Page: 3728

Mr HARTSUYKER (5:28 PM) —I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and cognate bills. I listened with interest to the words of the member for Werriwa when he talked about truth in this place. It is interesting to note that yesterday we had the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister of this country trying to tell us that the corporate tax rate paid by Australian mining companies was 13 per cent. Where did the Treasurer get that figure from? One would think that a reasonable Treasurer would rely on the advice of the Australian Taxation Office as the appropriate thing to do. The Australian Taxation Office says that the rate of tax paid by resources companies is 41.34 per cent. So when we ask about truth and integrity, which the member for Werriwa has raised in this place, the question is: why did the Treasurer of this country falsely claim—a political fraud—that resources companies are only paying 13 per cent? Why did he do that? The member for Werriwa is silent, and he is now slinking out the side door and even giving me a wave. But how could any Treasurer of this country misrepresent such an important figure? For what reason would he do that? When the Australian Taxation Office is telling you that resources companies are paying 41.34 per cent, why would you say the tax rate is only 13? Was he having a bad hair day? What was the reason?

It was a gross misrepresentation made by an important public figure purely for the purposes of political spin. That is what this government is all about. That is what this Prime Minister is all about. That is what this Deputy Prime Minister is all about, because she also participated in this sport of misleading the Australian people, making the same false claims, going on with the same tripe. The people of Australia will judge them for that. You would never have seen Peter Costello get figures so drastically wrong as we saw our Treasurer and our Deputy Prime Minister do just yesterday. For what reason were they misleading the Australian people? Purely because the Hawker Britton book said: ‘We’ve got to have a diversion, we’ve got to have one of those weapons of mass distraction. We’ll create some figures. Where can we get them from? We can’t find them from the Taxation Office because those figures don’t support the claim, so what we’ll do is find a US student who produces figures that aren’t even for Australia, they’re for Australia and New Zealand, but that’ll do. There are some published numbers out there on the internet, we’ll bring them in and we’ll try and spin a yarn.’ Well, they have been caught out pretty badly using figures from a student, not from the Australian tax office, that were not even solely for Australia—and the members opposite try and talk about truth and honesty. What sort of ridiculous argument is that? Thirteen per cent? That’s not far out! I guess that is Swan-onomics.

Mr Dutton —It’s a rounding error for Labor!

Mr HARTSUYKER —Yes, Swan-onomics. Thirteen per cent is pretty close to 41.34 per cent—it’s not far out! They needed a distraction, they needed to bag the mining companies, so they just invented some numbers. What does that say about the credibility of the Treasurer? He keeps trying to justify it. I have to say that the Australian people will not wear that.

In the same vein, the Australian people should rightly be concerned about Wayne Swan’s budget. If he cannot quote figures accurately, if he cannot act with integrity, if he cannot properly reflect the taxation regime that applies to resources companies in this country, how can he be trusted with a $400 billion budget? He claims the most slender surplus in 2012-13 of $1 billion, but everything has got to go right for that to happen. We have to have low inflation at a time when we are having very strong growth and the most favourable terms of trade for 60 years, yet he is going to promise us a billion dollar surplus. Well, if he does not know the difference between 41.34 per cent and 13 per cent, if he cannot get that right, how can we trust him to get the budget right?

Seldom in recent years have there been issues in this debate that are so clear. In recent years there have been arguments about whether the government has struck the right balance between different policy areas: health, education, the environment, agriculture, infrastructure and social security. Every government has to make choices. The arguments have reflected differing priorities amongst members of this House and, of course, differing political opinions. The arguments have been about what we as politicians do to shape this country and our society. But this year it is very different. I would go as far as to say that there is only one issue related to this budget that is really the central focus, and that is economic credibility. We saw, just yesterday, the Treasurer of this country shred his credibility by trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people by quoting false figures in the media, as did the Deputy Prime Minister.

This is a Deputy Prime Minister who cannot manage the Building the Education Revolution, who has presided over a massive cost blow-out in that program and in the computers in schools program. Where on earth would you find, in commercial practice, jobs being let for 10 times the proper rate? The worst thing is that these problems have been highlighted since last year. The Deputy Prime Minister has been warned that the government is paying too much for projects, that the government is being ripped off by state bureaucracies and that there is gross profiteering occurring in the program. Does she spring into action to save the public purse? No. What does she do? She sits on her hands, in a state of denial, trying to mislead the Australian people that all is well. She started off by saying, ‘It’s only an isolated incident—this is not what is happening across the board.’ But we now know it is happening everywhere. It is happening in New South Wales and in Victoria; it is happening right around the country. Taxpayers are being ripped off, and this minister, the heir apparent to Kevin Rudd’s throne, is sitting on her hands waiting to glide into the position of Prime Minister, but she is not acting on this. She has appointed a task force. First she said, ‘There’s an audit going on, so I don’t have to worry.’ What was the result of that audit? It simply compared one grossly overpriced project with another. It was not comparing the price of a building delivered in the private sector with the price of a building delivered under the BER program; it was comparing one grossly overinflated BER project with another BER project. It was an audit that was actually planned to fail. It was an audit that was planned to conceal the waste and mismanagement that this minister knew, or ought to have known, was part and parcel of this program. It is an absolute outrage, just as the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement yesterday claiming that the rate of tax on resources companies was only 13 per cent is a blatant lie, a blatant untruth, which does nothing for her credibility as a potential future Prime Minister, I might say.

What is really important with this budget is what has not been included. A very important item has not been included in this budget—that is, an increase in expenditure on the Pacific Highway. We saw over the weekend yet another tragic accident on this road. Far too many of my constituents have been killed or injured as a result of the poor state of the Pacific Highway, yet in this budget we do not see one additional dollar for the most important infrastructure project in this country.

Freight levels are massively increasing and heavy vehicle traffic is massively increasing and yet we still have on the Pacific Highway B-doubles driving through the main streets of small towns and villages and B-doubles struggling to pass on very narrow bridges that were designed and built in the 1930s that are not up to modern traffic levels and are not up to the weights that are going across them. It will be only a matter of time before we have more serious accidents. Everybody knows that; the government knows that. Despite this fact, in this budget there was not one extra dollar for the Pacific Highway. Tragedies happen all too often.

On the weekend I attended the 50th anniversary of the Halfway Creek Rural Fire Service. It was a great celebration of the great work they do. They said that most of the work they do now is not to do with fires; tragically, the most common call-out they have is to attend traffic accidents, mainly on the Pacific Highway. It is a national tragedy that deaths are still occurring that could be avoided. More resources need to be put into the Pacific Highway.

Labor has form on poor budgeting. The Hawke-Keating government left us with $96 billion in debt. When the coalition came into power what did we find? We found a $10 billion budget black hole. The Labor government of that time was fudging the figures and concealing from the Australian people and the then opposition the exact state of the nation’s finances.

We have seen in just one term this government totally turn around Australia’s fortune. We have seen this government turn a surplus into a situation of debt and deficit. The Australian people are rightly concerned. When I go down the street people say to me, ‘I’m worried that my kids and my grandkids will still be paying for Labor’s debt.’ That is precisely the situation.

We have the promise of a convenient, wafer-thin surplus in 2012-13. That surplus is unlikely to be realised and it depends on a range of assumptions. The massive new mining tax is going to have to come into effect to balance the budget in the future. We have a dependence on future profits in the mining industry, which can be a very cyclical industry. The settings that this government is putting in place leave us absolutely unprepared for a potential downturn.

When it comes to economic credibility and the resources tax, what are those in the industry saying? They are saying they do not trust this government. They are saying they do not trust this government with the prospect of paying back 40 per cent of future losses. They are saying they do not trust the government at all. If there are major mining losses, rather than mining companies being able to send a cheque to the government for $400 million or $500 million, the government will simply change the law at the time and avoid its responsibilities. So, rather than it being some form of safety net for junior miners, the industry sees it as nothing more than another hollow promise from this government. This government is all about underdelivery.

We had the pink batts program. It was going to be a great environmental program. What happened? The taxpayer has been left with the bill for Labor’s gross mismanagement and gross incompetence. I have many people concerned about the insulation that was put in their roof. We have got spot checks with the pink batts program. If the insulation put in your roof was faulty and your house burned down, it would be of little consolation to know that you were not randomly selected for a spot check. You suffer the same fate: your house is destroyed—destroyed largely because of the poor administration of this program.

I have schools in my electorate complaining about the mismanagement under the Building the Education Revolution program, which I touched on earlier. We have had problems right across the electorate. Where there is a public school, there has been a problem with the BER program. At Eungai and Stuarts Point there are concerns. There are concerns about cost overruns at Scotts Head. And there are concerns about not getting what was required at Willawarrin and Corindi Beach. Where there is a project there is a problem and a cost overrun. It is just not good enough.

The people of Australia have a right to expect that public moneys are expended in an appropriate way, that there is a proper focus on value for money, that there is a proper focus on due process and that their taxpayer dollars are not being wasted. Everywhere you turn this government has underdelivered. Everywhere you turn not only is their economic management suspect; their program management is suspect. People are getting very sick of it. As I go round my electorate the call comes out time after time: ‘Get rid of this lot before they drive us deeper into debt. Get rid of this lot before they make the country broke.’ People are really concerned.

Spin only gets you so far. On the weekend we saw the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer trying to spin the resources tax fraud that has been perpetrated on the Australian people with false claims about 13 per cent or 17 per cent. The truthful figures were available, but they were ignored conveniently by those two parliamentarians.

This is a budget that raises more questions than it answers. It is a budget that leaves Australia in debt. It is a budget that is unlikely to achieve the projections that are in it. It is a budget that should be of concern to the Australian people. I certainly would not commend this budget to the House.