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Monday, 31 May 2010
Page: 4668

Mr SECKER (4:31 PM) —When I was speaking on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and related bills last week I noted that this budget actually projected a $40 billion deficit on top of the $53 billion deficit from the previous year. That works out to about $4½ thousand debt for every man, woman and child in Australia and contrasts quite markedly with the former Howard coalition government, where we actually left $45 billion in the kitty, which was nearly $2½ thousand dollars in favour of every man, woman and child. There is quite a strong contrast between the finances of this government compared with the previous.

It is interesting that the Labor government has not put the NBN, the National Broadband Network, on the balance sheet, instead saying that this is a commercial project. However, the government will have to take out loans for it. These will be loans that the taxpayer will have to pay back. Labor is cheating the Australian public and bending the truth about what money will be spent, so we have that on top of the other debts as well. This is a government that cuts corners and lies to sell itself as an economic conservative. This government takes the taxpayer as a fool. It is time everyone saw through the Prime Minster, Mr Rudd, and learned the truth about his plans for their money.

The Howard government in contrast had a broadband program in place, an OPEL contract that would have seen high-speed broadband delivered to homes all around Australia and certainly in a much better way for rural people. Unfortunately, the Rudd Labor government scrapped this program, took the money and offered this half-baked wasteful legislation instead.

Let us start with the promises that this government could not follow through with and that they broke very carelessly. It is up to at least 52 at this stage, so I can only detail a few of those. There was the promise to build 226 childcare centres across Australia. The reality is that only 38 were built and the rest have been scrapped. It is an incredible fallacy to make employers, employees and families believe that they would have more childcare centres but then rip them off undeniably and only give them 38.

In fact a country town called Keith in my electorate is struggling currently because the only childcare centre facility shut down a week ago. Where is the government’s promise on child care? How can a town like Keith be left with no childcare facility whatsoever when Labor stood up and promised to build more than 226 childcare centres? The Keith childcare centre was given a month’s notice, so the government has known about this for five or six weeks now and has not found a solution. It is interesting to note that, when the ABC childcare centre problem came up, there was a guarantee by the government; but, this being the seat of Barker, in the township of Keith, there is no solution.

There was also a promise to build a trades training centre in each of the 2,650 high schools in Australia. There are currently only 12 trades training centres in operation nationwide. How is this ‘investing in our students’? How is this making sure that Australia becomes a skilled workforce in the future? It is not. The government also promised that every student in years 9 to 12 would have a new computer. Of course, when they came into government they changed that and said every second student would have access to a computer. Many parents and students were sucked in by this promise. For many families, buying a computer is out of reach. So in comes the Rudd government promising that students would have computers. The prospect was exciting and there is no doubt that people voted on the basis of that promise. But it was a blatant lie. The Prime Minister pulled people in and then broke his promise. In my electorate of Barker that promise has been nowhere near fulfilled. Under the newly constituted rules there should be nearly 6,000 new computers in schools in the electorate of Barker but there are actually fewer than 600. That is a great improvement—not!

Prime Minister Rudd also promised that he would invest in our schools. Labor said that they would ‘build a revolution’. Julia Gillard, the Minister for Education, has had to do the most embarrassing thing for her credibility and call an investigation into the whole debacle. They have wasted billions in taxpayer dollars and there has been a lack of consultation. They have barged in and told the schools what the Labor government thinks they need most. I have a project in my electorate that showcases the waste and mismanagement which the government calls Building the Education Revolution. Down in the south-east of my electorate, in the town of Millicent, is St Anthony’s Catholic school, a great little Catholic school. I was there a week ago. They had a BER project built—a $2 million gymnasium. But the government did not think it necessary to consult the public as you would normally do. In fact, the government legislated so that the local and state government planning powers were not used. The problem with that gymnasium is that it towers over the front of someone’s house. When the residents open their front door they see a great big building looming over them instead of the decent view that they used to have. Who would want to buy that house now? How will the owners recoup their losses on their investment? They may not be able to sell the house because of the lack of a view. This project is under investigation as part of the task force the government has set up to investigate rorting and taxpayer funded blowouts. A government school in Naracoorte, South Australia, had to use contractors from Adelaide, some 350 kilometres away, to build their school hall because they were not allowed to use local contractors. They built their hall at 2½ times the cost per square metre of the hall at the private school down the road, which was built using local contractors and avoiding the state government bureaucracy and rip-offs.

I have listened to Labor member after Labor member talk about BER and about GP superclinics. I think we have two GP superclinics that are actually in operation in Australia. The government have promised more, but what hope do we have of that promise being fulfilled? I have heard members talk about their own electorates, as they should, and where their projects are up to. But I have also heard excuse after excuse about how great the funding is. They say they trust their project and that it will be outstanding—once it is built, once it is finished! Is it due to start soon at all? What an embarrassment for these members!

Mr Rudd made some very heroic statements regarding the budget. He claims that he will have a surplus in three years. The way he proposes to do this is with his superprofits mining tax. This tax uses Rudd logic. He honestly believes that he can introduce a cigarette tax and it will reduce smoking, but then he announces this great big new tax worth at least $9 billion a year and says that mining will increase not decrease. This is breathtaking. He says that the mining giants need to pay their way. What about the small local businesses like the one I have in my electorate, Mulgundawa Salt? This business has been around for 140 years. It employs 18 staff and has invested quite a bit of money recently in upgrading technology and machinery. It is a small and environmentally friendly operation. It does not dig holes in the ground. It uses groundwater to crystallise the salt from the water. If this operation was based in Victoria it would not be classified as a mine, but in South Australia it is and in Queensland it is and Mulgundawa Salt will be in great danger of going under if this tax is brought to fruition.

This tax is poorly thought through, rushed and there has been insufficient consultation with industry. I think it is really interesting to note that when they talked about the offshore PRT, the petroleum resources tax, they said people had an idea that the sky would fall in, but it took two years. There were two years of consultation from the time the thought was introduced to when the legislation came through and a lot of things were changed, so to have the Treasurer today in question time quote speeches from 1984, talking about a situation that was quite different from when the legislation came in in 1986, is stretching the truth.

I believe that Labor has had to come clean to the Australian public a number of times lately. The Home Insulation Program has failed miserably and four people have unfortunately died as a result, 146 homes have burnt down and there are possibly 100,000 houses around Australia that are electrified. Just this week the Prime Minister refused to meet with the installers that were rallying at Parliament House. He hid in his office, hid from his mistakes, hid from the damage he has done to the families and to the businesses. Is this the sort of person we want leading our country?

I was contacted by many concerned residents in Barker about the government Green Loans Program. There were blowouts in the number of assessors that were trained nationwide yet in rural areas such as Barker there are not enough assessors. There were hold-ups on the assessments and householders were waiting for their assessments, but the department ended up with a massive backlog. There are assessors that are owed money by the government and assessors that are now unemployed. It is a total mess.

We have all these failed programs, all these wasted taxpayer dollars, the reckless spending, the lack of basic consultation and the inability to roll out programs smoothly and successfully. The government’s list of failures is truly amazing. It is time that the taxpayer started to take notice of what Labor are doing with their money, held them accountable for their mistakes and demanded better answers. This budget, with its holes, hidden slush funds and figures that do not add up, is a total disgrace. What has been presented to the Australian public is a misleading budget that is built with rotting boards. It will collapse under the slightest bit of pressure. There is no way that the government will be able to achieve a surplus with a budget that is built on hopes and dreams. I was not expecting much from this budget, but I must say even I was surprised at the fib of a budget that was presented to the Australian people.