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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4277

Mr MORRISON (10:08 AM) —This is a budget that betrays the truth by a government that have betrayed the trust of the Australian people. The government have lost their mandate not just for their failures, which are many and costly, but more significantly for their betrayal. Many governments from time to time have failed. But betrayal is the reserve of the Rudd government. The electorate sometimes forgives failures, especially for a first-term government, but the electorate is right to punish betrayal. The Rudd government have betrayed those for whom they willingly, knowingly and falsely raised hopes and expectations before the last election. They will now be held to account for those expectations at the election. They will be held to account for the things they led people to believe, for the things that they allowed people to believe and for the things they talked up so that people believed. It will be for what the government have failed to do in their own actions and the way that they have done it, whether it be the home insulation bungles, the budget blow-outs, the failure on border protection or the Building the Education Revolution debacles.

All of these things they will be judged for, but the one I think they will be judged most harshly for is the way they led Australians to believe it would be a very different story under a Rudd government. To that question they cannot give an answer. They may try and seek to point to clever statements on carefully prepared notes that were circulated before the last election, but what the electorate will hold the government to account for is what they were led to believe.

This is a budget that relies on false assumptions. It is a budget that spends the future today, creating a burden of debt once again for our future: $93.7 billion in net debt, a $6.5 billion annual interest payment created by an addiction to spending, and deficits of $40.8 billion in this budget that has been announced and $57.1 billion for the year that is about to conclude. This government’s reckless spending requires borrowings of a staggering $700 million a week. This is an extraordinary figure. As each second ticks by, as each day passes, the debt bill continues to rise—and it is a debt bill that is necessary only to satisfy this government’s addiction to spending. Remember it was the Prime Minister, when in opposition, who declared to the Australian people that this reckless spending must stop, raising those expectations, making a suggestion that somehow he was going to maintain the consistency of economic management that was offered by the Howard-Costello team. But what we have seen is spend after spend, deficit after deficit, and a debt that continues to spiral.

By contrast, the coalition in responding to this budget has outlined real measures for savings—real measures that are designed to get a budget back on track, measures that do not rely on the high-tax-and-spend model of Labor governments both today and in the past, but most specifically today because this government has really taken the perception of Labor’s administration in terms of fiscal matters to a completely new level, leaving in its wake the Whitlam government, leaving in its wake the governments that have borne the Labor name in the past. This is a government that has relied on a great big tax to fund its addiction to spending—and not just any great big tax but a tax that has aimed a dagger at the heart of Australia’s prosperity in our mining sector. This government can spin until it loses sense of balance on these matters, but at the end of the day it is just implausible to suggest that a great big tax on the mining sector, which puts our sector at a disadvantage to all of our competitors around the world, can in any way assist. The government might want to argue the toss in terms of various economists’ reports about the impacts of these matters, but they cannot sustain an argument that this type of tax will assist.

We will not introduce a tax. In fact, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, we will repeal it in government if it is passed by this parliament. We have said quite clearly that we do not support this tax. Therefore, as a responsible consequence we do not support the measures that would be potentially supported by such a tax. These are difficult decisions, but difficult decisions are what coalition governments are good at. It is what we have a record for. It is what we have the trust of the Australian people for. They understand these things. They understand our record. They understand our ability to exercise this discipline in government and deliver the economic management the country deserves. Before the last election the then shadow Treasurer and the then Leader of the Opposition, when they were in their ‘reckless spending must stop’ mode, suggested grand total savings of just $3 billion in their post-budget reply. This was also a budget reply that said there would be 2,600 trade training centres, that they would be building childcare centres all around the country, that every small business who had a bill overdue would be able to get interest paid on these things. These were extraordinary speeches; the record has proven their worth. In the post-budget reply speech there were just $3 billion worth of savings. Contrast that to the $46.7 billion that has been announced by the coalition.

The government argue, ‘Some of that is capital and some of that is not about tax cuts and things of that matter,’ and they want to argue the technical distinctions. But when it comes to reducing debt, not borrowing money for an NBN counts. It means that you do not have as much debt. When you plan to sell off Medibank Private to reduce debt, it will reduce debt. The debt burden will remain long after. Hopefully this country will once again return to surplus, but that is incredibly unlikely under this government.

This is a government that will never deliver a surplus because this is a government of blow-outs. The blow-outs are well on the record. They are relying on returning to surplus with the princely sum of $1 billion. You could fairly say that $1 billion in the context of any other government is a significant amount of buffer, but with this government it is what Monty Python would describe as ‘wafer thin’. One billion dollars for this government is what they can blow out in one cabinet meeting, with one decision to try and fix the problems that they themselves have created.

There is nothing more significant in my view, as shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, as the blow-outs that have occurred on our borders. The Rudd government have become completely overwhelmed by their failure on border protection policies. In 2009-10, this financial year, 104 boats have already arrived illegally, carrying 4,893 people. This is not only the highest number of boats and people to arrive illegally on record in a financial year but it represents an increase of more than 350 per cent on last year. When this government put last year’s budget together, they thought that 200 people would arrive—that was their projection—and that is how they framed their budget, and we have had 4,893 people so far. It is May, and we still have around five weeks to go. We have had over 600 people arriving this year, 2010, as a result of their policies.

We are aware that in August 2008 this government rolled back the border protection regime that had been so effective and that they inherited from the coalition government. They rolled it back in terms of the abolition of temporary protection visas and provided permanent protection visas to those who came illegally by boat. They closed the offshore processing detention centre on Nauru and abolished the universal offshore processing and detention arrangements that we have universally for those who arrive illegally by boat, and there are hundreds of people now being transferred to the mainland before their claims have been assessed or determined. Even when their claims have been rejected we bring them to the mainland to pursue their merit appeals, and goodness knows how many other appeals they will now have access to through our courts, while they literally stay for years pursuing those appeals. The previous government had ensured that process had discontinued.

The government abolished their promise, made famously the day before the last election when the Prime Minister said, as Leader of the Opposition, that he would turn the boats back where circumstances allowed. That has not taken place. That was probably his most deceptive comment in terms of misleading the Australian people about his position on this issue, more than any other. And then there was the special processing deal offered to the 78 passengers taken on board the Oceanic Viking, which was a testament to this government’s lack of resolve and metal on this issue, which people smugglers understand and take advantage of.

This failure in border protection, the serial wind-back to a border protection regime that is unrecognisable from what was there previously, has resulted in a significant blow-out in the detention population in this country. We now have around 2,500 people on Christmas Island; in July 2008 there were six. But that does not include the overflow in onshore detention centres. Since the beginning of this year we have had an increase of over 240 per cent—from just over 300 people, which largely comprised those who had been detained for overstaying and various other matters, to a population of over 1,100, and the number is climbing. It has got to the point where we are now asking churches to find beds. We are looking for beds all over the place. The next thing they will look for is your granny flat and the room at the back of the house to let out to ensure that this government can pursue their habit of chasing beds rather than stopping boats. That is what the government do. They are quite happy to just continue to try and find more beds but, when it comes to making the tough decisions that are necessary to stop the boats, you will find them all at sea, literally.

This has had a very significant cost attached to it. In the budget this year we will find the cost, at the very least, of what all of this has meant. In this budget there is a $777 million blow-out in the cost of offshore asylum seeker management as contained in the budget papers as opposed to what was announced last year. For the years 2009-10 out to 2012-13, there has been a $777 million blow-out in this budget to deal with these spiralling costs of the failure of the government’s border protection policies.

But it does not end there, because there is a further $236.5 million which this government is going to spend on having to expand these facilities—putting dongas in, paying for motels, doing whatever is necessary to ensure that they have beds in which to put all the people who are arriving as a result of their policies. That is $1 billion. But you would think and hope that was the end of the story, because as you go into these papers, Deputy Speaker Sidebottom, what you find is that they are actually projecting in 2011-12 that the cost of offshore asylum seeker management is going to fall by 49 per cent. Apparently at the end of 2010-11, this problem is going to halve! The boats are just going to stop arriving miraculously! That is what this government has projected. They have said that that is also going to be true for 2012-13 and 2013-14. All of this is just going to go away! Why? Because the government has put this in their Treasury papers and said, ‘Well, it’s all just going to vanish. No need to make hard decisions, no need to change policy; we’ll just continue the way we are and it’s going to miraculously just stop in around 14 months from now.’ That is not only misleading because they are not taking those decisions to put an end to the rampant business of people smuggling bringing people to this country, but it is misleading to include in these budget papers costs that do not reflect the cost of their policies. To say that there is going to be a 50 per cent reduction in 2011-12 is misleading and dishonest. They are underestimating the costs of their own policies by at least half a billion dollars alone in this area. There is a $1 billion blow-out already. Add to that another $500 million at least—unless they are forecasting the election of a coalition government at the next election, because that is the only way these policies are going to change and those costs are going to change.

But in addition what they have not done is factor in the costs for operational expenses for the additional burden that is being placed on our onshore detention network. I said earlier that we have had a 240 per cent increase in our onshore detention population due solely to the increase in illegal boat arrivals to Australia and the transfer of those detainees to the mainland. You would think if the government were honest in putting its budget papers together that it would actually be allocating additional expenditure to cope with such an increase. But you will not find that in these budget papers. When you look at the onshore detention network costs you will find that in 2009-10 they are expecting this year to round out less, and then over the forward years there will be virtually no change to those onshore detention costs. The Curtin detention centre will be reopened by this government to take those whose claims assessments have been frozen—and we have had almost 1,000 people turn up since that was introduced. They are going to transfer those to the Curtin detention centre and apparently the Curtin detention centre is going to run itself! It will not require an extra cent to run!

Now we have the reports of potentially another centre being set up in a mining camp in Western Australia. That is going to run itself as well—it won’t cost any more money to do that! The fact that we have got a doubling in the population of the Villawood detention centre and we have an increase in Darwin, which is almost at capacity now when there were only about 50 people there about five or six months ago. Apparently that is going to run itself! There is no increase in any of these costs. My point is this: this government is not being upfront with the true costs of their failed policies in these budget documents. While admitting under pressure to the fact that the blow-out on Christmas Island has a necessary impact on the budget, they have admitted it in one year and then told an absolute untruth that these costs are just going to miraculously fall and the impact on our onshore detention network is somehow going to pay for itself.

If this government, as it has done, is going to roll back policies that work and replace them with policies that do not, the least it can do is be honest with the Australian people about what that is going to cost. Last year they perpetrated a massive fraud on the Australian people, suggesting only 200 people would arrive illegally in this country by boat under their measures, on their watch. As I said before, we have had thousands—almost 5,000—as a result of those failed policies. Now they are saying it is not going to cost us anything, that this is somehow going to miraculously all just disappear.

The failure of these policies has created gridlock in our immigration department and has undermined the integrity of our immigration program. It is essential that we get our borders under control and that we do all we can once again to stop the boats. With the right policies and the right resolve, we can achieve this goal, and the coalition achieved this goal in government. We had an average of three boats per year for our last six years after the measures we introduced following a surge in arrivals when asylum applications around the world were more than 50 per cent higher than they are today. We put those measures in place, they worked and the Australian people know they worked. The Australian people trust our resolve on this issue. We are consistent on this issue. We walk one side of the street on this issue. This is a government who one day pretends to be tough and the next day pretends to be compassionate, and most days they do not know where they are. At least those in the Greens and other parties who have taken a position on this issue are consistent.

Mr Craig Thomson interjecting

Mr MORRISON —I am sure the member for Dobell is very upset at the coalition’s policies of strong border protection and I am sure he will remind all of his electors in Dobell that he stands for the policies that this government has introduced which have allowed almost 5,000 people to arrive this year. I am sure the member for Dobell is going to stand up proudly in his electorate and talk about the Rudd government’s strong border protection policies which have allowed this level of failure—and if he fails to do so I will make sure I remind them when I visit there frequently over the next few weeks. I was on the Central Coast just the other day, as I am sure he knows. This government needs to own up to the fact that its policies have failed in this area, that its policies are misrepresented in terms of the costs in this budget.

The coalition is ready to put in place direct and real action in this area which is strong, which is tough and which is consistent. People know where we stand but, most importantly, they know we will be fair. We have always stood for fair process—one rule for all who fall foul of our laws and fall foul of the way that we would prefer them to arrive. We do not have one rule for those who might be Iraqis, Iranians, Indonesians or Pakistanis and then another rule for Afghans and Sri Lankans. That is just a disgrace of a policy that has proved to be as ineffective as it is discriminatory. If those opposite were honest they would say so, and I notice only the member for Melbourne Ports has been prepared to stand up for that in his own party room. At least he has the decency of consistency on these matters. We will not discriminate, as this government has shamefully done, but most importantly we will be fair and we will have the resolve. We will get these borders under control. We will get these costs under control.

This government budgets that it will get back into surplus but at the same time fails to include in its budget the costs of its own policy failures that will actually deny it that outcome. So it is a budget that fails to tell the truth. It fails to tell the truth about the cost of the government’s own policies. It is built on a great big tax to fund the government’s addiction to spending and it will result, no doubt, in continued economic profligacy, to the great disadvantage of all Australians.