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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4296

Mr TUCKEY (11:29 AM) —I was listening quite politely to the member for Petrie and towards the end of her speech I came to the conclusion that she should have taken those two or three days off from this place and done the NAPLAN test and then she might have learnt how arithmetic works. She stood up here and put forward a huge list of things that this government and this budget propose to deliver. But how will they deliver them? By increasing the tax burden on Australia at every level to pay for it.

Anybody who can get away with that sort of tax trick and that dodgy policy position can balance a budget—if they are prepared to rip enough money out of the community. Every cent of the government’s resource rent tax on mining will be taken off individual Australians through reduced dividends flowing to their superannuation funds, which the member for Petrie said is something the government are going to gift the community. No, they are going to tax the very source of national wealth and they are going to say to 480,000 retail shareholders in BHP here in Australia, ‘Having trashed the value of your shares, we’re going to make a gift of a slightly improved superannuation arrangement.’

I heard the Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law quoting dodgy figures yesterday. I drew to his attention that when you quote statistics in the parliament it is not a bad idea to quote them all and that the suggestion that the recent crash in the value of mining stocks was to do with later announcements regarding the Greek and EU economies just does not stand up to the simple arithmetic of looking at the dates when each occurred. The mining stocks crashed and a week later or thereabouts there was a more demeaning situation with a steady correction across the entire stock market because of a simple fact: the Europeans have discovered that the type of activity undertaken in this place, stimulus by government, has a downside. We saw governments rush into the borrowing market and borrow a heap of money to prop up dodgy financial institutions in the Northern Hemisphere. But surprise, surprise, in Europe they now do not have enough money to pay their own debts and the financial sector is panicking because it thought it was rock-solid to lend to government. Yes, it is probable this government can repay its debts, but, of course, it was borrowing from a position of no debt. Those circumstances are extremely obvious in this budget.

The member for Petrie said, ‘You’re going to stop kids getting their computers.’ On a very friendly occasion last week, the Speaker of the House, Harry Jenkins, and I visited some schools in my electorate. It was a great day; we went there to talk about what the Speaker does and educate kids on the workings of the parliament. But when it came to the question and answer session, what these year 12 kids wanted to know was, ‘Where are our computers?’ I was sorry for Harry because he is the Speaker and he was not expected to get into the politics of that, but the kids are awake to this government. This is not somebody denying them computers next year or in the next parliament; they were promised these computers in this parliament.

This is the issue that becomes obvious in this appropriation debate. I wrote it down. I am well and truly old enough to have experienced the Whitlam government. I happened to participate in the later years of the Fraser government and I well remember—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr TUCKEY —If you think it is a joke that someone has a corporate memory of the performance levels of the different governments that have run Australia—

Mr Ripoll —Fraser’s got a very good corporate memory.

Mr Turnour interjecting

Mr TUCKEY —Let’s get it straight, because I am talking about my experience. I well remember the Hawke-Keating government and the Howard government and, of course, I know the Rudd government. If there is any ground for humour in this place, it is in talking about the latter.

Let me just make some points. I said this at the time of that election: in living memory, the only time a good government got sacked by the Australian people—that is, prior to the last election—it was on the basis of a jingle. Talk about deficits! I can see myself involved with colleagues arguing as to whether we as a nation could afford a billion-dollar deficit. That is what Parliament House cost. The reality is that that is how tight-fisted we were about borrowing money on behalf of future generations. What did the Hawke government get when they came to government? They got a government debt of $16 billion, and they managed to get it up to $96 billion in the life of that government. Of course, when the Howard government was elected, there were problems associated with balancing the forthcoming budget, which was planned by Labor, and they found themselves extremely unpopular. During the election campaign the Howard government never admitted to borrowing another $10 billion. That was the situation.

There have been substantial changes to tax from time to time, but they have typically been announced prior to an election. John Howard made that extremely clear before we introduced the GST. We watched the then Labor opposition come into the House with ‘Joe Hockey pyjamas’, asking, ‘How much will the price of these go up?’ I think they came in with a lettuce at question time one day. The other day, when a question of a similar nature was put to the Treasurer, he called it a scare campaign. Everybody who voted for the Howard government at the 1998 election knew we were going to introduce a GST. But just think about the rhetoric at the last election. When did Labor say, ‘We’ll introduce a resource rent tax retrospectively on the mining industry’?

Mr Fletcher —Nowhere.

Mr TUCKEY —Nowhere. Why is it happening? When it comes to telling the people of your policy position and truly putting it in hard language, I can remember Bob Hawke when in government calling the privatisation of government assets an ‘obscenity’—until the government ran out of money and suddenly it was in the national interest to sell off the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and TAA. Admittedly, TAA went into Qantas, but then they sold Qantas. They then proceeded to sell tranches of the Commonwealth Bank, an icon of Labor ideology—and we sold off the last piece of it. The only bit of family silver left in the parliamentary drawer was Telstra—and, in a commercial sense, it was worthless because we had borrowed $96 billion against its worth in those days. The public voted for Hawke on the understanding that he would never sell anything—and I think the people of Queensland might have voted for Anna Bligh on a similar understanding. The Hawke and Keating governments spent the money from everything that Hawke sold and Keating finished off—and still they borrowed up to $96 billion.

The evidence is that, if you vote Labor, you will find all these sorts of tricks. I love the bit about giving the Australian people a bigger share of the mining industry—the tall poppy syndrome. I have already pointed out that as shareholders and compulsory superannuants they are the owners of those companies. They do share in the profits, even at that level. But, of course, there are the jobs. It is worth noting that there are now two scheduled flights a week between Cairns and Karratha—I think they are 737s, with 150 passengers. With 14 per cent unemployed in Cairns, the people on those planes ain’t goin’ to Karratha for the scenery. They are flying over there because they have a job they cannot get in Cairns. Already, day after day after day, people are announcing, ‘I’m sorry, we’re not going to go ahead with project A, B, C or whatever.’

Gorgon, the minister has told us, means 10,000 jobs in construction, and now it is on the way. There are 10,000 jobs in construction. How many jobs will there be in its operation? Maybe 1,000. As soon as the construction phase stops—or is delayed while the world’s investors make up their minds over whether they are going to risk future investment in Australia; Australia has only a fraction of the necessary money for these projects upfront because we cannot be trusted—those big jobs, the construction jobs, are just going to disappear. It will not be long before the two flights out of Cairns are the first to be cancelled. There are half a dozen flights out of Melbourne. There is a flight through my electorate—and it will still be mine after the election—from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide. The people that travel on that do not go for the scenery, I can tell you. They are not tourists; they are fly-in fly-out workers. The boom in Western Australia is spread across all of Australia.

I like horse racing. On Monday I picked up the ‘Thoroughbreds’ pages of the Australian. The headlines were ‘West Australian buyers still thin on the ground’ and ‘Proposed mining tax to hit Magic Millions Gold Coast sale’. Things are looking grim for the Gold Coast Magic Millions sale of tried stock and brood mares. Why? Because 60 West Aussie businessmen, who are typical attendees, are not coming, and one of them said that he had lost $5 million on his share portfolio and there would be no horses this year. That is the spread—

Mr Ripoll —Poor bloke, struggling for a dollar!

Mr TUCKEY —Yes. You are just the one to come up with a tall poppy comment. What I am telling you is that these people create jobs for people in your state of Queensland. People with the lowest level of skills typically gain employment in horse racing because they would have grave difficulty getting other sorts of work—and to the best of my knowledge they have made the mistake of voting Labor over the years. Labor does not care. Labor does not understand that, when you shrink a high-level resource industry, it hurts some bloke who mucks out boxes in a stable. The evidence is there in black and white. When those people who offer their horses for sale get less for them through lack of competition, they will go back to their studs, to their racing operations, look at their balance sheet and say, ‘I’ve got to put a couple of people off.’ It is not by choice. It is not because they are nasty little businessmen who ring up women after dark and order them to work and leave their kids behind. If you have met one of those men, tell me, and I’ll argue with them. I know a lot of small business people. I was one of them myself—in the shift-work industry—and my wife would have murdered me if I had even thought of doing that. She would have said, ‘I’ll go and mind their kids,’ if it was a desperate situation. Small business is not like that.

But coming back to the member for Petrie: not every small businessman—not even the Deputy Prime Minister’s favourite tradies—gets a tax reduction from this budget because they are not all incorporated. And they are not likely to be incorporated, so will not get one. What is it? Something like 20 per cent of small businesses are incorporated. So all of the others will go on paying tax in the way they are paying it now. But be they incorporated or not incorporated—and the member for Petrie mentioned this—they will be hit with another three per cent of payroll to contribute to the superannuation funds in this country, and those funds do not have a very good record of administering them.

Let me come back to the issue that astounds me most in this debate: the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the finance minister getting up there and saying, ‘The Australian people are being robbed’. I have just given all the reasons that they are not doing too badly out of mining. The proposition is that the Rudd government need the money, and their record of managing it is outrageously bad! There are the laptop computers. There is the Building the Education Revolution. Everything is a revolution; everything is a reform. But in the end it comes back to wasted money and taxation. If the Australian people had their druthers, would they give the money to the Prime Minister or would they give it to BHP to manage on their behalf? I would like to run a referendum on that, and I would like to run the book on the outcome.

The claim that you do people a favour by raising taxes is stupid. Historically, in the Pilbara, the then WA state government under Charles Court said to the miners, ‘When it comes to the infrastructure, you’ve got to build it.’ They built all their own railway lines. They have typically built all their own ports, and have been happy to do so, particularly if they get a tax deduction for writing off those assets. So why does the government have to tax them because it says it can build things better or make better choices? The BER is proof that that does not work. In the paper the other day they compared a $400,000 or $500,000 house of substance—four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a TV room et cetera—which cost half the price of a school canteen. I am building a house now myself, and it will be about 400 grand. But I see in my electorate $1.9 million being spent on putting new benches and a bit of copper pipe into science labs. I know what all of those things cost—I am a frustrated builder; I have been doing it for years; it is my hobby—and I just watch this waste. Then the government say, ‘Give us more money from the mining sector and we’ll spend it better’. There is no evidence that that would ever happen, and it is just so silly. All of those at the top should have done the NAPLAN test to prove that they at least got basic arithmetic. (Time expired)