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Thursday, 3 June 2010
Page: 5259

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (10:00 AM) —I welcome the opportunity to rise in this debate to speak about some of the important issues in the federal budget but also some of the important issues economically for Australia, with particular regard to the electorate of Casey. Madam Deputy Speaker, as a fellow Victorian I have said before in this chamber I know your familiarity with the eastern and outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Your electorate is a little more than a torpedo punt away but you are in the vicinity of the outer eastern suburbs. The electorate of Casey comprises outer eastern suburbs, part of the Yarra Valley, part of the Dandenong Ranges. The decisions that are taken here in Canberra in a budgetary sense are very much felt on the ground in the electorate, and I want today to address a number of those as we talk about the Rudd government’s third budget.

Three years ago this government inherited one of the best budget situations of any government in the world. Now as we consider this budget all Australians are very familiar with the policy implementation failures, the waste and mismanagement that have become a feature of the Labor government. We have had billion-dollar blowouts in the Building the Education Revolution, we have had countless examples right across Australia and within my electorate of value for money being abandoned in a rushed project with poor and disastrous policy implementation. No amount of opposition from the government members in this parliament will conceal the fact that the Australian people are a wake-up to what has been monumental policy failure on so many levels.

The parents of school communities across Australia and within Casey know about the failings of the Building the Education Revolution program because they see the waste, they see it in their school community. They know that under the previous government they had a choice about their school’s future through the Investing in our Schools program. Under this government they have no choice and when large amounts of money are spent they know that they are not getting value for money as a result of the mismanagement of this government’s programs.

On the ceiling insulation program—and I know this will be the case for all members of parliament and I know many of those opposite will never say what I will say but they know that what I am about to say is a fact—there has not in recent memory been an example of a government program that has adversely affected so many people in our electorates. The number of phone calls and amount of correspondence about this failed Home Insulation Program has been astronomical. I say that because the experience of Casey residents will be the same as the experience of other residents right across Melbourne, Victoria and Australia.

The Home Insulation Program, which the government belatedly admits was a failure, will be a symbol of the incapacity of this government to deliver policy effectively. It will be a symbol of this government’s waste and mismanagement. I stand here with my friend and colleague the member for Mallee, who has been a member of this House longer than me, and I am sure that he would agree that, once, a billion dollars seemed an incredible amount of money. Of course it is, but with a billion dollar blow-out in the Building the Education Revolution and a billion dollar blow-out in the ceiling insulation program, these are now just rounding errors for this government—rounding errors that occur time after time. The amount of debt we have—and the Leader of the Opposition spoke of this in his budget reply—now sees Australia borrowing $700 million each and every week.

In the electorate of Casey, under the Howard government, community infrastructure projects were funded, despite what those opposite would say. Significant community infrastructure projects were funded between 2004 and 2007—for example, the Monbulk Community Centre hub, to the tune of a couple of million dollars, and the Montrose Recreation Reserve, to the tune of $600,000. These were funded out of surplus budgets. We did not borrow that money.

Casey residents see the federal government racking up debt and deficit and they know that, at the end of the day, that is paid for by them. It is paid for in higher taxes, it is paid for in higher interest rates and it is paid for in fewer opportunities. In three short years, many people across the electorate have seen the government’s form on policy implementation and they rightly pose the question: if the government cannot run a ceiling insulation program, how could it possibly run bigger programs and how will it possibly implement policies into the future? The one thing the electors of Casey know is that the government has revealed its incapacity and that this government cannot and will not get any better in the expenditure of their money here in Canberra.

We have also seen broken promises and mass hypocrisy. The greatest hypocrisy we have seen over the last week—and I know the member for Mallee will agree—has been the decision, and the concealment of the decision, by the government to engage in political advertising on its resources tax. Australians will be interested to know that tomorrow will be day 7 of a national emergency. We will be at the end of one full week. Last Friday we and the Australian public discovered that the government had bypassed its own processes to enable this advertising campaign. Not only that; it spent all week in Senate estimates concealing it.

Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister, could not have been clearer when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Last Friday night the news footage showed him as the Leader of the Opposition pledging with his hand on his heart to change the system and inviting journalists to come back if he when in government did not meet his promise. Well, he has not met his promise. He deliberately decided that the emergency of saving his political skin was more important than his solemn promise to the Australian people. People want to know when the Prime Minister decided he was going to break faith with the Australian people. Once he had there was, as we have seen with this government, this incredible effort to cover it up in the inquiries during the week.

The electors of Casey have seen that, if this government makes a promise, it is likely to break it and, if it implements a policy, it will muck it up. They have seen in just a few short years this government make promises to them that it does not keep and this government seek to implement policies and then waste money. When confronted over many weeks and months, as it was with the ceiling insulation debacle and the Building the Education Revolution school halls debacle, there is stubborn refusal to acknowledge the failure. There is not even the slightest attempt to say, ‘Maybe there’s a problem here and we should fix it.’ The government’s first instinct is to deny. This went on for months with the ceiling insulation program and the Building the Education Revolution program.

The sad part for those opposite is that the residents of the electorate of Casey and right across Australia can see this policy failure every day. They see it in their community. More than 40 residents have contacted me with disastrous stories about ceiling insulation. A lady had people knock on her door and proceed to install insulation. They damaged her roof and then disappeared. There are countless examples—

Mr Forrest interjecting

Mr ANTHONY SMITH —I am tempted to say that maybe the same installers went to Mildura. Sadly, there were so many cases like that. The first instinct of the government was to pretend that it was not happening. In doing that, they knowingly let this bad and catastrophic program continue.

This third Rudd government budget has answered the question for many in the Australian community. This government cannot manage money, cannot implement programs and cannot be trusted on anything it says in the lead-up to the next election. If the government will break promises it made before the last election, it will break promises in the future if it gets a chance. If the government is not competent to implement basic policy, that will never change. At the next election, the people of Australia will have a choice, and they will have that choice having seen the Rudd government over three years of policy failure, broken promises, waste and mismanagement. This budget is a budget that is starkly different from the budgets of the Howard government. Back in those days, those opposite complained about how money was spent in times of surplus budgets. Now, their promises on reducing the deficit and reducing debt must be kept alongside their track record on broken promises to date.