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Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Page: 4859


Mr IAN MACFARLANE (5:47 PM) —It is quite an extraordinary budget, as the member for Solomon just said. It is budget like we have never seen before! It is a budget with a $57.1 billion deficit. It is a budget that highlights the fact that this is a tax-spend-borrow, tax-spend-borrow government. They cannot control their spending. They cannot make the decisions that have to be made. They cannot stop the waste in a whole range of programs that are going on. They cannot deliver the programs that they have in front of them. But they have delivered to this country the biggest deficit since World War II. And the member for Solomon has the audacity to say that the Treasurer has done a better job than Peter Costello would have. Let me tell the member for Solomon—


Mr Hale —Paul Keating.


Mr IAN MACFARLANE —There is no argument about Paul Keating! Paul Keating as Treasurer managed to rack up $96 billion worth of debt. But Paul Keating at least had the courage of his convictions. He at least understood what reform was. He at least was prepared to do the things that had to be done for this country, and—for the member for Solomon’s benefit, because I know he is only new to this House—the coalition in opposition supported those reforms. What we are seeing from this Treasurer, arguably the worst Treasurer we have seen in this country, although there were some in the Whitlam years that would rival him, is a continuation of the socialist philosophy of spend, spend, spend. As Margaret Thatcher once said, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend. So then we go into a borrow, borrow, borrow program—$700 million a week. I bet that would fund a few projects in the member for Solomon’s seat.


Mr Hale —Bring them on!


Mr IAN MACFARLANE —We are not going to bring them on, because we are in opposition to that, as we were in government. We are a responsible money manager, so we are not going to borrow $700 million a week. We are going to make the tough decisions that have to be made. What we are seeing from those who sit opposite is a reckless regard for Australia’s fiscal position, a reckless regard for what wild spending by government will do to interest rates. We have seen a succession of interest rate rises. Thankfully, today we did not see another, but if you talk to economists they will predict that interest rates will continue to rise.

The thing that disturbs me most about the government is that they have no plan on how they are going to rein in their spending. They have no plan on how they are going to reduce the burden that they place on the taxpayers of Australia other than to introduce another tax, a new tax, a $9 billion and growing tax, a tax on the jobs of everyday Australians, a tax on the superannuation of everyday Australians, a tax on the returns of the shareholdings of everyday Australians, a tax on the confidence of the business community, and a tax on the small businesses like the one I named in question time today, Laser-Tech in Toowoomba.

Laser-Tech have had a 90 per cent fall in their income from the mining industry in the last three weeks. I could give the figure but the proprietor has asked me not to. I know the figure. I know the investment that he made in the expectation that the mining industry would lead Australia out into recovery. I know that his business is already feeling the pain of a tax that has been introduced by a government that no longer believes in anything but being re-elected. It is a government that has no core values with a Prime Minister who has no belief in anything. He is someone who will say anything and do anything to maintain his position as Prime Minister. I just say to the Prime Minister: keep looking over your shoulder because your deputy, the minister for education and everything else, is looking at your job very closely. I doubt she wants it right at the moment. I think she thinks that the Prime Minister is getting himself into so much trouble that she will just walk into the job at some point later. But the Prime Minister had better start believing in something.

The member for Solomon, who has now left the chamber, talked about the previous Prime Minister Paul Keating. I knew Paul Keating. I had some time with him when I was the leader of the grain industry in Australia. One thing that Paul Keating did was believe. He believed in what had to be done. He was not right, but he believed in it. He went out after it. He was a true believer.

What we see from this government is that they have nothing to believe in. Their policies are knee-jerk reactions. Their reckless economic mismanagement of this economy is hurting all Australians and Australian families, and this budget reveals the high price all Australians will pay for their spending spree over the past 18 months.

When we left office we left $40 billion in the Future Fund and $20 billion in the university fund, and we left $20 billion in surplus. What a turnaround—a debt in excess of $100 billion! Even I could not believe that they could spend so much money so quickly. We are seeing money wasted in the BER program. It is now estimated that $5 billion will be wasted on the hall program, the school building program. We are seeing private schools, particularly Catholic education schools, producing buildings four times the size of those being produced under the BER in the state school system. This government cannot manage a program properly. This government has no idea how to run a program. So there is $5 billion. Let us go to the insulation program.

The government has not only wasted money but also tragically killed people. There are more at risk. Almost every day we learn of another house fire or another warning from a fire authority about the risks of the insulation program for people who are still waiting as we speak to have their houses assessed for safety. What a tragedy to see four Australian lives lost. What a tragedy to see the wastage that has gone on under that program.

The Minister for Education has failed to deliver on computers in schools. She has delivered about a quarter of the computers that the government promised in its election campaign. This government always promises but it never delivers. It talks the talk but it cannot walk the walk. If we look at its promise to deliver childcare centres, the Minister for Education has wiped that off the list as well. There is a pattern here of waste and mismanagement. It is a pattern of spending, borrowing, spending, borrowing, taxing, spending and borrowing. It goes on and on.

The member for Solomon—I must admit I admire his front—spoke about the new super tax on the mining industry in Australia. One of the states and territories of Australia that requires the mining industry to continue to grow is the Northern Territory, and his seat makes up a fair part of Darwin where a lot of these people live. Yet he does not seem to have any concept of the damage this tax is doing to the mining industry in Australia, to the extent that he quoted Andrew Forrest, the head of Fortescue. Andrew Forrest has cancelled three projects as a result of this tax. Why doesn’t the member for Solomon ask Mr Forrest what he thinks of this super tax? Why doesn’t the member ask Mr Forrest how many Indigenous Australians will lose their jobs as a result of this tax or how many Indigenous Australians will not get a job in regional Australia as a result of this tax? The member should ask Andrew Forrest. Andrew is one of the scathing critics of this scheme because he knows that this tax is going to kill the development of the mining industry in Australia.

The mining industry in Australia has underpinned our economy for decades. Yet this government, in its lust for money and in its desperation to plunder the Treasury, has put a tax on the industry which will make it uncompetitive with the rest of the world. It will tax the mining industry in Australia to a point where future investment will go elsewhere. They are not my words. They are the words of the financial institutions—the banks, the ratings assessment agencies such as Moody’s, and the Citibanks—that have been analysing what this tax is going to do to the Australian mining industry. It is going to destroy its future. Yet those who sit opposite say that this is a good thing.

The member for Solomon also mentioned the 40 per cent rebate on capital investment if a project fails. I know those on that side aim for failure in their projects, and they have got a very good track record in that regard: most of the projects they start fail. I have just mentioned some in the education minister’s portfolio and the environment minister’s portfolio, but there is a whole string of them. You can go across to the Assistant Treasurer and the Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch programs which failed. There is just one after the other—promises that could not be kept and programs that could not be run.

The mining sector does not do projects with the goal of failing. They are not interested in a 40 per cent rebate. They cannot borrow or finance their project if they go to the bank and say, ‘By the way, if I fail the taxpayers are going to cough up 40 per cent of my capital expenditure’. The banks will just put a red line through that application. No-one in the mining industry supports this 40 per cent rebate—not the big miners, not the little miners, not the mid-caps, not the juniors. Not one person has come forward and said this is a good idea. Yet we have the member for Solomon saying that this is a good thing for the Northern Territory.

It would be good for the Northern Territory if this government were not returned and this tax were then rescinded by a Tony Abbott government. That is what would be good for mining development in Australia. That is what would be good for the jobs of Australians. That is what would be good for the superannuation and shareholder returns of the self-funded retirees. That is what would be good for small business in Australia. That is what would be good for the future jobs of young Australians. What would be good would be getting rid of this tax.

The other thing I will talk about on this budget is what is not in this budget. What is not in this budget is a new road across the range at Toowoomba in Queensland to open up the economy of south-east and western Queensland to further development. That range crossing was funded in the 2007 budget with $700 million to start it. It is probably a $1.8 billion to $2 billion project. But in true style and in its city-centric thinking, this government has decided to walk away from that commitment. The people of Toowoomba will not forget them.

There was no money of any significance for any road in my electorate. There was no money of any significance for the electorate of Blair, held by the Labor Party. The road between Toowoomba and Ipswich is a disgrace, and one of the reasons it is a disgrace is because this government will not spend money in regional areas on roads. We have committed ourselves to fund that range crossing. It is in the forward estimates in the out years. We have made a commitment that, if elected to government at the coming election, we will commence that road within 12 months and we will complete it by late 2017. That road would have already been in progress for three years had this government kept its commitment, but, along with all its other failed programs, the government has failed to keep that commitment to the people of Groom.

We need to see a government that cares about all Australians. We need to see a government that cares about ensuring economic development in Australia. We cannot afford to have a continuation of a government that just wastes money and accumulates debt and then has to borrow more money to accumulate more debt. To have a debt that has, in three years, exceeded the debt that was accumulated under the Hawke and Keating governments is an extraordinary effort. It will require an extraordinary effort by the governments that come after this one, by the taxpayers of Australia and by the future generations of Australia to repay that debt.

What we want to see is a government that stops wasting money. Not only do they waste money on their major programs but they waste money in advertising. They are spending $126 million in political print, radio and television advertising. They are spending $30 million on climate change. The last time I looked, this government, despite the fact that the Prime Minister said climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time, had completely abandoned action on climate change. If you talk to the Greens they will say, quite openly, that the only party that has a policy to address the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions is the coalition.

The Labor Party have no policy. They have a policy that they have deferred until 2013. They did not have the guts to take it up in the Senate. They decided to run away from it and make a stream of misleading statements about how they are going to address it in other ways. There are no other ways. You have to have a program. We have set aside billions of dollars to lower greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. All they have done is set aside $30 million to spend on advertising.

Now there is this latest revelation that $38.5 million was allocated a month, we think, before anyone was told about this new supertax on the mining industry. It is $38 million to attack the mining companies that have built Australia. They will be vilified by those who sit opposite as ‘dirty multinationals’. Go and say that to Woodside, a company started in South Australia. Go and say that to Santos—South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search. Ring a bell? They are an Australian company that is going to be hit for six by this tax. They are looking at whether or not they can proceed with their coal seam methane LNG plant in Queensland simply because this government does not understand what it is doing and does not understand the damage it is doing in regard to that industry.

Because the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the finance minister are not able to sell their own new tax, they have to borrow some more money, another $38.5 million, to try and sell their idea. We know it is a bad tax. The world knows it is a bad tax. Shareholders know it is a bad tax. If you look at the dip in the value of shares in Australia compared to the dip in the value of shares in Canada, there is a marked difference and that marked difference is due to the new tax. If you look at the fall of the Australian dollar compared to the fall of the Canadian dollar, there is a significantly larger fall in the Australian dollar. That is because of the super tax. It is not just me saying that; it is the rating agencies and the financial institutions. All this government can do is lie about when they decided they were going to have an advertising campaign against the mining industry, an industry that supports people all over Australia.

In the northern part of Tasmania there are companies whose livelihoods depend on the mining sector, yet I wonder if the member for Franklin is going to be standing up for them. Is she going to be standing up for the Caterpillar Elphinstone plant? Is she going to be standing up for the iron ore, nickel, gold and copper mines in Tasmania, or is she just going to say to them: ‘It was nice knowing you. You made a huge contribution but we don’t want you anymore’? This is a budget from a government who have no idea on economic management. This is a government who spend constantly. This is a government who cannot control their addiction to spending money. This is a government who have delivered the biggest peacetime deficit of all time. This is a government who deserve not to be re-elected at the next election.