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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4500

Mr SLIPPER (11:41 AM) —At the outset, I would like to wish the retiring member for Fowler a long and happy life. While we probably disagree on just about every political issue, I do have a very high regard for the honourable member and I think that it is a pity that the hatchet men and women of Sussex Street are forcing the honourable member for Fowler into a premature retirement.

Mrs Irwin —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member when he is making his address in reply to the budget, but it was—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Are you seeking to ask a question?

Mrs Irwin —No, I just want to raise a point of order on the comment that he has just made about the ‘hatchet men and women of Sussex Street’. Am I allowed to do that, Mr Deputy Speaker?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —It is not a point of order. I ask the member to resume her seat. There is no point of order.

Mrs Irwin interjecting

Mr SLIPPER —I would look forward to any discussion with the honourable member for Fowler. Maybe she jumped before she was pushed.

However, I just want to comment on this budget. While we hear government members talking about spending in a range of portfolios which they say will be of benefit to the community, one ought to appreciate that the budget position is underpinned by a great big new tax on mining. It is all very well to go out there and say that various aspects of government spending are desirable expenditure, and it is all very well to talk about how various sections in the community will benefit from government spending, but the reality is that this budget is built on an illusion because it is by no means certain that this great big new tax on mining will pass through the parliament. It is by no means certain that the companies involved in the mining industry will continue to make investments in that industry. The income projections from this great big new tax on mining are incredibly optimistic given the fact that large mining companies and smaller mining companies have been talking about voting with their feet and going to other opportunities around the world which do not have the same level of sovereign risk as is now presented by Australia under the Labor government. So, even if this great big new tax on mining passes into law, the amount of revenue which will be raised from it will be much less than the optimistic, rosy predictions of the government and the Treasurer. When that money is not received, the budget will not go into surplus within the time frame announced by the Treasurer.

From the point of view of the Sunshine Coast, the area of Australia I am privileged to represent in the Australian parliament, the budget is more significant for what it omits rather than for what is included. There is very little in the budget for the Sunshine Coast. I do not know whether this is a penalty being imposed on the people of the Sunshine Coast because they had the temerity to vote for the Liberal-National opposition at the last election, but this budget is just another big-taxing, big-spending Labor budget with no serious reform. Unfortunately, much needed infrastructure spending for the Sunshine Coast is entirely absent from this budget. I refer to a couple of articles in the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper, which services the Sunshine Coast, the seventh largest population area in Australia. I quote from an article by Bill Hoffman. He says that the budget ‘appears to have done nothing to boost regional economies that have been left struggling by the global financial crisis’. He goes on to write:

Sunshine Coast Business Council chief Jason Law said he had failed to identify any targeted assistance to the regions and rejected claims by Treasurer Wayne Swan that Australia had defied the economic gravity of the crisis.

“I don’t see that here,” he said.

Mr Law said it was essential that council, state and federal politicians, as well as business lobby groups, went in hard to chase any available money to assist the region.

I have already written to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and Ageing and other ministers in relation to infrastructure needs of the Sunshine Coast but have not received any response at all from the Prime Minister and from other ministers have received responses that do not give us any cause to be optimistic. Mr Law went on to say in the article:

“We won’t be noticed if we don’t make a noise,” he said.

“We have to punch above our weight. The Coast faces a drain of skills to the mining sector.

“The government isn’t talking about the regions. There has been nothing proscribed for them and we need to fight.”

Mr Law, a very well respected member of the business community on the Sunshine Coast, said what everyone believes—namely, that the government ignored the Sunshine Coast in the budget. The article went on to say:

Hopes that there would be Infrastructure Australia funding for key projects like the $200 million airport upgrade and assistance to get the Sunshine Coast health precinct going was a long bow, he said, because of the amount of money that was already committed to other projects.

Those projects, of course, are in other areas. He pointed out that the reduction of one per cent in company tax may have some impact on major corporations but would have little or none here. He of course is referring to the Sunshine Coast.

There was nothing of significance for seniors in the budget. As part of that nothing for seniors, there was an ongoing failure to index the eligibility for the Commonwealth seniors health card. More and more Sunshine Coast seniors are being forced off the Commonwealth seniors health card. By being forced off the card they lose eligibility for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at the concessional rate.

I refer to another article by Bill Hoffman and the AAP in the Sunshine Coast Daily of Wednesday, 12 May. In this very interesting article he refers to Angela Vogt, a very worthwhile member of the community. He points out that she juggles her own business, three children under the age of 12, the family budget and her husband’s frequent absence because of his job in the Western Australian mining industry. I quote from the article:

Last night’s Federal Budget has left her underwhelmed.

“I’m surprised there are no bells and whistles,” Ms Vogt said.

“There is no help for the average worker, no real tax cuts or benefits. Healthcare was an election promise that hasn’t been delivered before now.

“There is no help for a new hospital and there is no help to build up areas like ours that are experiencing the level of growth we are.

“It’s been tough but there are no incentives for small business to employ more workers.”

Ms Vogt said industrial relation laws which require employers to offer minimum three-hour shifts were doing nothing to help kids and students working casually to bring more money into their families.

A Coast resident for the past six years, the publicist said the Budget delivered nothing to improve her husband Steve’s employment prospects here.

He works four weeks on, one week off in Western Australia, and it is the second time the couple has been forced to take that option since they have been here.

“We do that because there is not enough consistent work here,” Ms Vogt said.

Ms Vogt said the new mining tax was scary for her family unit.

The article goes on to say:

“The industry will cut corners, and jobs will go because of it,” she said.

“The Budget does nothing to improve employment opportunities here and with the mining tax it just adds extra pressure on us.”

That is Angela Vogt of the Sunshine Coast expressing as a person in our community her view of the failings of this budget.

It is important also to look at respected commentators like Robert Gottliebsen in the Business Spectator, published at 7.45 am on 26 May 2010. He refers to the world crisis in finance resulting from poor management in Greece and the situation in Europe, but he indicates that there is a double-whammy effect in Australia. I quote:

Of course, as only Australia can, we have shot ourselves in the foot with the mining tax which has triggered a capital strike that will delay over $100 billion worth of new projects. So, if the global markets signal converts to a slowdown, then we face a double blow. That’s why our currency is being hammered and our stock markets are performing so badly.

We have reports that the government are about to do a backflip on this great big new mining tax. It would be a good thing if they did but when they do that their budget will be shown as the sham and illusion that it is. It is important to appreciate that this great big new tax on mining will make sure that residents on the Sunshine Coast will face higher electricity and grocery prices. The government has completely lost the plot and residents in the electorate of Fisher need a government that is committed to paying off Labor’s $93 billion of public debt and in doing so supporting families and securing jobs. It is truly scary that this government, which inherited a budget surplus, has through irresponsible spending turned us into a situation where the future of Australians not yet born has been mortgaged. That is just an incredibly scary position, as is the level of incompetence we have seen in so many areas. One only has to talk to any single Australian to find how concerned people are with the bungled foil insulation disaster which saw four people lose their lives. Now we find in the budget the necessity to spend another $1 billion to try and sweep up after the mess that was made by Minister Garrett and those in authority in his department. The government, however, has not in my view explained to the Australian community satisfactorily how it is worthy of continued support given its monumental and gross incompetence.

Then of course we have Labor’s dismantling of our border protection which has essentially turned the oceans around Australia into a superhighway for people smugglers. What the government has done is to go out there and tell people smugglers, ‘Roll up, roll up. We’re going to take you passengers,’ and people are paying a commercial figure to people smugglers to be shipped to Australia. Their lives are at risk, and now the government is having to spend another billion dollars to try to do something about the need to have border protection. It is also relevant that this budget deficit is the biggest budget deficit on record at $57 billion.

This high-taxing, high-spending budget is a danger to the economy and a danger to Australians born and Australians yet to be born. I am particularly pleased that the Liberal-National opposition has indicated our very strong opposition to this great big new mining tax, which is a massive threat to Australia’s economic future. On the other hand, the Leader of the Opposition has been prepared to take some hard and necessary decisions that the Prime Minister and the government have shirked. That is why the opposition found it necessary to make certain announcements over the last week or so to indicate that we will return the budget to surplus within the same time frame as the government claims it will but do so without the need for a great big new mining tax, which will threaten the economy, threaten jobs and see investment go overseas instead of to Australia.

It is interesting that the Canadian authorities have said that, now that the sovereign risk in Australia is as high as it is, mining companies ought to look at immigrating to Canada and voting with their feet by investing in a country that does not have the same iniquitous tax that is being suggested by the Labor government. This great big new tax on mining follows the other great big new tax, the ETS, which has been temporarily shelved by the Prime Minister. But there is no doubt that, if the government is re-elected, this other great big new tax, the ETS, will come back in. That will threaten our exports and our economy. There will be disaster all around.

I want to stress that I have written to the Prime Minister to seek assistance in our urgent need on the Sunshine Coast for extra hospital and health services. The Queensland Labor government promised, prior to the last state election, that the Sunshine Coast University Hospital—which is desperately needed, given the rapid population increases on the Sunshine Coast—would be built by 2014. No sooner had the result of the election been declared, they shredded that promise and said that the hospital would not be constructed until 2016. Given the fact that the Prime Minister has grabbed about 30 per cent of Queensland’s GST revenue, I suggest that some of that revenue should be spent on the Sunshine Coast to accelerate the construction of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital that was postponed by the state Labor government.

I would be the first to say that state Labor governments around the country have shown that they are monumentally incompetent in many areas, particularly in the area of health. Now that 30 per cent of the GST revenue is being raked in by the Prime Minister, that money should be disgorged and spent in areas like the Sunshine Coast so that we get our hospital built by 2014 and do not have to wait until 2016. The state Labor government is seeking to impose huge population increases on the Sunshine Coast. The Palm View development alone will bring 14,000 more people and the population of the Sunshine Coast will double in the next 10 to 15 years. But state Labor governments are not prepared to put in that infrastructure—such as the Sunshine Coast University Hospital—that we need.

It is also necessary to increase the size of the Bruce Highway from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast to six lanes. I have been pushing both the former government and the current government to do this. We have a situation on the Bruce Highway in which traffic is often gridlocked. The Howard government increased the size of the Bruce Highway to six lanes from Brisbane to Caboolture. That removed the worst bottleneck between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. But, as traffic flows continue to grow because of population continuing to expand, there is a need for six lanes all the way from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast.

I mentioned that I had written to the Prime Minister in relation to the need for extra health and hospital services on the Sunshine Coast. It would not come as a surprise to you, Deputy Speaker Georganas, to hear that I have not received a reply from the Prime Minister. I also wrote to the Minister for Health and Ageing. She did not reply but she got the honourable member for Port Adelaide, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, to respond on her behalf. Basically what he said was that the Australian government was aware of the challenges facing our public hospital system and is working with the states and territories to make real and sustainable developments.

He also pointed out an accurate statement and said:

… the States and Territories are responsible for the day-to-day administration of public hospitals, included capital infrastructure and service planning, and you may wish to raise your concerns with the Queensland Minister for Health, the Hon Paul Lucas …

And he gave me Paul Lucas’s contact particulars, which I already had. The only reason that I wrote to the federal authorities was the fact that Minister Lucas and the state Labor government had broken their promise to construct the Sunshine Coast University Hospital by 2014. I might add that Minister Lucas is the same minister who introduced the new computer payroll system which saw many people on the Sunshine Coast working for Queensland Health not paid or only paid a fraction of what they were entitled to. That of course was a scandal. I understand that a similar computer system is about to be introduced in another government department in Queensland.

In summing up, this is a budget which is significant for what is omitted as far as the Sunshine Coast is concerned. It is a budget built on an illusion. It is a budget which claims it will get back into surplus within a couple of years. The basis of the calculation of that so-called surplus is the great big new tax on mining, which will either not pass through the parliament or, if it does pass through the parliament, not raise anything like the revenue that the Treasurer claimed it would when he delivered the budget. This is a government which in three years has run out of puff. It really is time for a change of government. This government is more like the Whitlam government than any other government Australia has ever had. This is a government which is tired. It has run out of transparency. It is into creative accounting. We find this budget is a huge fraud on the Australian people, in particular on the people fortunate enough to live on the Sunshine Coast. I am very concerned about this budget, which is a disgrace. (Time expired)