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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Page: 4509


Mr SECKER (12:21 PM) —I am always pleased to follow the member for Melbourne Ports, who I think gives us a very good knowledge of foreign affairs, which I think many parliamentarians would do well to take note of. It was a shame that at the end of his speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and the cognate bills he brought out a scare campaign that all the half-finished buildings would be stopped if the coalition got into government. That is a complete fallacy—as anyone knows, whether a Labor government or a Liberal government comes in, those sorts of contracts are already signed and they would continue. That is just one of those fallacies that unfortunately marred the rest of the speech and the contribution from the member for Melbourne Ports. Whilst he said that foreign aid and development can often be cut in areas when governments are looking for cuts because of the prevailing economic circumstances, he should acknowledge that the government have cut the foreign aid budget by a billion dollars. They have changed some reporting on how they recognise the GNI, but the fact is the government have cut foreign aid funding this year in the budget.

This was Labor’s third budget and it was just as disappointing, if not more so, than the previous two. We all know that Labor inherited a budget surplus from the Howard government. In fact, the Labor government came into government with the best terms of any incoming government in our history since Federation. Unfortunately, they then embarked on a superspendathon that exhausted not only the surplus—and we left them $45 billion, which they have exhausted—but also plummeted Australia into deficit. There is not much in this budget for rural people and certainly not much for people in the electorate of Barker. One of the crying shames of the government is their continuous cut to research and development in agricultural industries in Australia. We will pay the price for that further down the track.

There is no doubt that Labor have been out there spruiking that it was them who carried Australia through a bad economic climate. They are quick to claim that they orchestrated the measures that made Australia survive and be so much better off than many other countries. Never mind that the Howard government built up a surplus or that the resource sector helped carry us through. The government are trying to put a nail in the coffin of the resources industry with their great big superprofits tax on mining. The Rudd government are quick to claim the successes but quick to deny the failures.

This budget is built on hopes and dreams. It is built on a great big new tax. The Labor government are robbing the resource industry to pay off their debts. Isn’t it interesting that the $9 billion a year in extra income that they are hoping to get from the mining super profits tax is equivalent to the interest bill we will be paying each year to pay off our debt. With the debt they have run up, they need to tax someone. So they have said: ‘The resource industry is an easy target. We’ll bring in a great big new super profits tax and that’ll pay off our debt.’ The budget is built on hopes and dreams, and it is built on a prayer that the inflation rates will stay at 2½ per cent and we will have four per cent growth. The budget is a house of cards. They think we are going to have 2½ per cent inflation and four per cent growth and somehow have the best terms of trade that we have had for 60 years.

We all remember the erratic behaviour of the new Labor government. They suggested that the inflation genie was of the bottle, that it was public enemy No. 1 all of a sudden, and that this was all the fault of the previous government. And they think they are somehow going to keep inflation at 2½ per cent over the next four years. This will almost certainly lead to higher interest rates and, of course, higher interest rates will lead to a higher Australian dollar, which will make it much harder for our export industries to compete with the rest of the world. So this budget really is a house of cards. I do not think any rational person would believe that the government can deliver a surplus in 3½ years time. I like to call this budget legislation the ‘Net Debt Bill’.

We have a history of Labor governments being addicted to debt. It is very interesting to look at our history since Federation. In 1901 we federated, we basically created a new government. We built a new capital city. We have fought in two world wars and in a few other skirmishes. We took on huge debts to make sure we had a substantial defence force. In our first 90 years, from 1901 to 1991, this country accumulated a net debt of $16 billion. For 90 years the accumulated net debt was $16 billion. But, over the next five years, the Hawke and Keating governments repeated that 90 years worth of debt each year. So the coalition ended up coming into government with a $96 billion debt. The problem with that was that we had to pay $7 billion or $8 billion in interest each year to the banks, the lenders, rather than actually spending it on the things that we really needed to spend it on. It was a huge problem for Australia and for the incoming coalition government. But we were up to it and we delivered surplus budgets. In the end, we were the first government in Australia’s history to have a net budget surplus. We were the first government in Australia’s history that actually had money in the bank. Of course, the current Labor government have benefited from the fact that we were such good managers.

There is no doubt that the Prime Minister and his government are in a league of their own when it comes to waste, mismanagement and sending the country into debt. This year alone they are projecting a debt of $40 billion. Of course, they have been very successful in saying, ‘That’s all right because in three years we’ll be back in surplus.’ But this $40 billion deficit is still a debt of $2,000 for every man, woman and child in Australia—and that is just one year’s borrowing. And that is on top of the previous year’s deficit of $53 billion, which is about $2½ thousand for every man, woman and child in Australia. So, in two short years, we have gone from having $2,000 in the bank for every man, woman and child in Australia to owing $4½ thousand for every man, woman and child in Australia. This is a salient point: this Labor government have no hope of ever actually repaying this debt.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The honourable member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.