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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 5406


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (4:33 PM) —When we last gathered, I had begun my address on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and cognate bills and I had been making the point, with regard to the new mining industry super tax being propounded by the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and the Treasurer, Mr Swan, that they were asking us to trust in them that this was a good tax. In looking at the question of trust, I drew people’s attention to the fact that Mr Swan was asking us to think the modelling showed that the mining industry paid only 17c in the dollar in tax. I asked whether you would believe that with regard to his track record back in 2000, when he was exposed by Wayne Sanderson, a journalist on The 7.30 Report, who brought to light that the Treasurer, the member for Lilley, who lost his seat in 1996, had tried very hard to keep it by giving to Lee Birmingham a brown paper envelope which contained some $1,400 in $50 notes. I said the envelope was taken by the said Lee Birmingham to the Democrats’ campaign manager, with whom, Mr Birmingham said, Mr Swan had spent some time only a day or two before. Mr Birmingham delivered the brown paper envelope to the Democrats and the Democrats in return gave their preferences to Mr Swan.

Subsequent to that, Mr Swan said that he had been wronged and that he had not paid for those preferences at all. He said the matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police, which it was. He said he had been cleared, but I think what the Australian Federal Police spokesman actually said was, ‘There is no further action in relation to Wayne Swan. I cannot say there is no case to answer, but no further action will be taken.’ That is very different from being cleared of wrongdoing. I reminded the House of this form, as we say, when we came to deal with the question of the case that is being put forward for the need for this great big new mining tax to be placed at the rate of 40c in the dollar on top of royalties, but royalties at a particular stage to be refunded, and only a permitted six per cent return to be earned before that supertax comes in.

I think it is important that we know the calibre and character of the people with whom we are dealing, because it is very likely that the Prime Minister and Mr Swan will try very hard to cut a deal, and they may even cut a deal on this mining tax. But you can never, ever believe that that will be the end of the matter. Time and again before the 2007 election, they swore that they would not do certain things. For example, they said they would never tamper with the 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance. They said they would not means test it or cut it, and of course they did. They said they would build 222 new childcare establishments, and of course that got scrapped in the last budget.

Mr Rudd described himself as a ‘fiscal conservative’ and said that he would manage things just as John Howard had done and that you could trust him. But he has shown himself to be totally untrustworthy in the way that the government have embarked upon a tax-and-spend regime. We had policies introduced—like the pink batts affair, where we spent $2.45 billion to put pink batts and other insulation into the roofs of family homes. There were supposed to be proper training programs overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister and member of the gang of four, Ms Gillard, who was supposed to ensure that everybody putting insulation into roofs would be properly trained. Of course, that did not happen. Unfortunately, four deaths and 146 fires have occurred, and now we have reports that more investigations and inspections of roofs should be undertaken than the government is prepared to undertake; and, in any event, they are planning to spend something like a billion dollars to take stuff out again. Highly incompetent.

I have often asked: why is it that Mr Garrett is the man who had responsibility stripped from him and Ms Gillard did not? What is the difference between Mr Garrett and Ms Gillard? I suspect that the only answer is ‘hair’. If you look seriously at the problem that has been left as a result of the faulty installations and the failure to train, the Deputy Prime Minister is just as culpable, if not more so, than Mr Garrett. But of course Mr Garrett continues to sit on the front bench, because he knows what is in that letter of 14 August of last year, when he wrote to the Prime Minister outlining his fears. The Prime Minister has refused to let that letter be made public and has locked it up as a cabinet paper for the next 30 years so that we cannot see its contents. But of course Mr Garrett knows what is in the letter, so he can continue to sit on the front bench. If we really think about it, it was Ms Gillard’s numbers that put Mr Rudd into the position of leader so he could become Prime Minister, so she too will not be penalised for her shortcomings with regard to the pink batts affair.

But then we come to a second area of hers—that is, the Building the Education Revolution. That title seems totally unconnected to the fact that they are building school halls, sheltered outdoor learning areas and canteens which are so inadequate that they cannot take a pie warmer, with inflated costs where big supporters of the Labor Party in the past are able to take large amounts of money that the state government is paying over on behalf of the federal government. The Deputy Prime Minister seems to be in a complete state of denial in that she refuses to acknowledge that there is a huge problem with this program. Sixteen billion dollars! There are so many things that could have been done which would have added to the productivity of this nation in the future, and yet we are absolutely weighed down by this hideous expenditure.

There is a net result for what this government has done, and it staggers me to think that it was done in just 2½ years. The coalition had left behind an economy which was debt free. We had paid off the $96 billion that Labor had left last time. Not only were we debt free; there was money in the bank, in the super fund, the education fund and other funds, and there was a surplus of $20 billion. How did they manage in just 2½ years to turn that around to borrowings? Bonds on issue are expected to be about $154 billion. The interest that they will pay in 2010-11 will be $4.6 billion and it will be $6.1 billion the year after that—money that could otherwise have been spent on benefits for the Australian people. We now have a deficit of $57 billion and we have not even started counting $43 billion for the National Broadband Network, which quite frankly nobody is going to want. The government is building a white elephant. What we have seen is a huge amount of debt imposed upon the Australian public. And it is their debt; they are the ones who are going to have to pay it back. There is no magic pudding.

The mining industry seems to be looked at by the government as either a magic pudding or a golden goose, in that they feel, with the huge tax they are going to place on that industry, that somehow they will be able to get themselves a $1 billion surplus in 2013. That is just staggering, if you think about it. If you examine it, they are trying to say that they are not going to change anything that is in the budget for 2010-11 for the next three years. What sort of nonsense is that? The forward estimates are based on what is in the budget as it is currently promulgated by the government, and yet every six months we have supplementary estimates to change the predictions because of a change in government policy or to correct mistakes that were in the original document. So to try and say that there will be no change between now and in three years time is pushing credibility just too far.

But for the Australian people the real choice is going to be this: they trusted Mr Rudd to govern the country as a fiscal conservative and in the interests of the Australian people. They trusted that he would not plunge us into debt, that he would not give us bad policies, that he would not squander money. We are a fair minded people, and fair minded people, Mr Rudd, gave you a go. They had great confidence in you. It was smiles all round until reality hit them, and then suddenly we see, and they see, that that trust was misplaced. We gave you a fair go, Mr Rudd, but now it is time for you to go. The Australian people cannot afford another three years which are a repeat of the 2½ that we have already had.

This is a wonderful country. It does not deserve what has been visited upon it. As we sat in question time this afternoon, we heard the usual spin—answering no questions, not even when they were well defined. It is just the same, almost non-sensical rhetoric that pours out. As I said, the Deputy Prime Minister refuses to see that there has been any waste in her program. So much so that, on 1 July, without even waiting to receive the report of the so-called audit—for want of a better word—she has put in place to look at the expenditure, she is going to roll out another $5.5 billion.

The plan is for this government to go on borrowing $700 million a week for the next three years. We will put in place a system whereby we will reduce our debt, reduce the deficit and start to put good, solid governance for the Australian people in place where the Australian people can again have confidence in government. Clearly every indicator shows that presently there is no confidence that Mr Rudd and his gang of four can deliver anything but debt and deficit. So I will say it again: we gave you a go, Mr Rudd. The Australian people gave you a fair go. Now it is time for you to go.