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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1134

Mr BALDWIN (12:14 PM) —I rise today to oppose vehemently the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011. As the Leader of the Opposition said in this chamber today, ‘We have a Prime Minister who has never met a tax she didn’t like or a tax she couldn’t hike.’ This new Julia is no different from the old Julia, and like her predecessors—Rudd, Keating, Hawke and Whitlam—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! The member will refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Mr BALDWIN —she is addicted to putting up a tax as a means of solution. It just shows a lack of management understanding

This Labor package will place further burdens on Paterson residents who are already dealing with skyrocketing living costs. Budgets are stretched to the limit because of recent increases in the price of power, water, rent, interest rates, groceries and fuel under the Gillard Labor government. Because our Treasurer, Wayne Swan, cannot manage a budget, local families have to rework theirs time and time again—and he is supposed to be a leader.

As Peter Martin wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 February:

IF YOU think your cost of living is rising faster than what official figures seem to say, you are probably right.

Living cost indices published by the Bureau of Statistics yesterday show the increases facing working families, age pension households and welfare beneficiaries have all outpaced the consumer price index.

In the year just gone, working households faced extra costs of 4.5 per cent, aged pensioners 3.1 per cent and welfare recipients 4.5 per cent. The CPI grew 2.7 per cent.

The bureau says there are different reasons for each of the rises. Aged pensioners spend a relatively high proportion of their income on utility bills and fruit and vegetables, the cost of which shot up.

As a group, welfare beneficiaries spend more than most on alcohol and tobacco, which rose sharply in price largely as a result of the 25 per cent increase in cigarette tax.

Working families are highly likely to face mortgage payments, which rose by 30 per cent over the year as a result of four Reserve Bank rate rises and one imposed by the banks themselves.

This just about sums it up and it just is not good enough. Why not? Because this Labor government cannot get its spending under control. It is not that it cannot; it is a fact that it refuses to do so.

The coalition had more than $20 billion in the bank when Labor took over power. Now we have a debt which will peak at $94.4 billion according to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. Because of our Treasurer’s and Prime Minister’s reckless spending, Australians have been paying for Labor to borrow more than $100 million every single day. That places upward cost pressures on just about every single product you can buy.

The spending and the debt would not be as shameful if the money had been spent wisely. But just look at our Prime Minister’s long list of failures. There was the school halls rip-off; that wasted an estimated $8 billion, which was half of what the entire program cost. Worse still, it left some schools with more inferior buildings than they had actually started with.

The border protection failure means there have now been more than 200 illegal boat arrivals under Labor, and it will cost taxpayers more than $760 million in this financial year alone. Rather than doing what is necessary to stop people smugglers putting lives at risk, Labor is building more facilities to house asylum seekers on Australian soil. They have actually put up the sign ‘open for business’.

The dodgy home insulation tragedy cost $2.4 billion, and was finally shut down after more than 190 related house fires—not to mention the deaths. The $50 billion National Broadband Network will take at least eight years to roll out and will not even reach all of the population. A paper released on 9 February this year by the Economist Intelligence Unit, one of the world’s most respected research organisations, shows that the NBN will cost Australian taxpayers 24 times as much as South Korea’s cost South Korean taxpayers. Despite the excessive cost, it will only deliver one-tenth the speed.

I have to mention GroceryWatch, Fuelwatch and the bank switch, all of which were supposed to help Australian families deal with the cost of food, petrol and lending. All those promises were abandoned, and now all of those things cost more. GroceryWatch alone saw this Labor government waste $7 million in taxpayer money.

I could go on, but there is not enough time. It makes you wonder: are Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Julia Gillard really so incompetent that they cannot roll out a successful program, or do they just not care about wasting money and forcing up costs for everyday Australians? I think it is the latter. After all, a government with a $350 billion budget should be able to find $1.8 billion—the amount it hopes to raise through this flood levy. That is like having $350 in your pocket and asking someone for $1.80.

As Derek from Tuncurry, in my electorate, commented in a letter to me about the flood levy:

We are taxed enough, I am a single parent who receives no government support, pays most of my income in child support, escalating electricity costs, food etc. Now to lose several hundred more dollars a year because the Rudd/Gillard governments have wasted the national savings on insulation bats and blatant wasteful spending on ridiculous tin sheds for schools is totally unacceptable.

Labor seems to think that a tax is the answer to everything. If the Labor Party has its way, 2011 will be the year of the mining tax, the carbon tax and the flood tax, and that will mean higher prices, as history shows. In 2008, when the Labor Government introduced a new tax on alcohol, the price of alcohol went up; when it introduced a higher tax on cars, the cost of cars went up; and when it turned its focus to private health insurance, the cost of health care went up. As has been said, our Prime Minister has never met a tax that she did not like, or a tax that she was not prepared to hike.

The only way to stop history repeating itself this time is for Labor to get its spending under control. The coalition offered to help out. In fact, despite being in opposition, it was the coalition that was able to identify over $2 billion in savings over the forward estimates—enough to mean that a flood levy would not be needed. We were able to do so because we understood that in government you have to make tough decisions to protect your citizens. The coalition demonstrated that when last in government, with a clean record of fiscal responsibility. Then Treasurer Peter Costello entered government with a massive $100 billion debt from the previous Labor government, but he made the gutsy decisions he was elected for. Like any responsible person running a household or business budget, Peter Costello and Prime Minister John Howard not only paid back Labor’s debt; they also put some money away for a rainy day. That is the coalition way.

Since Gough Whitlam, the Labor way is to spend as if there is a money tree at the Lodge, when in fact the money tree is made up of hardworking taxpayers who will pay for Labor’s ineptitude for years to come. Labor’s failure to make tough decisions is nothing more than political cowardice. Today I oppose a legislation package which is unprecedented in this parliament. Never before in Australian history have people been asked to donate, responded to that call with overwhelming generosity and then had more of their money forcefully stripped away. I have received dozens of letters at my office on this very issue. Jo-Anne from the town of Paterson summed up her feelings when she wrote:

I cannot believe that we are being forced to contribute to the rebuilding of Queensland by the Gillard government. Is it likely that this is going to pass through parliament? Sadly, it has made friends and acquaintances of mine not privately donate, and long term I think it will make a lot of people think about whether to donate to other disasters in the future.

Australians are a generous people. I see it every day when travelling in my electorate. As soon as the floods hit, my office was overwhelmed with offers of money, goods and time. A number of local events were also held to raise money, including a fundraiser organised at Salamander Bay Shopping Centre which raised in excess of $15,000. Of course, that was just one of a number of local events. There was also a lunch at Corlette, a barbecue at Bulahdelah and a bucket collection at Australia Day celebrations in Maitland, to name just a few. It is amazing to see that when people are struggling with their own finances they still find a way to give. In punishing them afterwards, by making tax time more costly, Labor is delivering a slap in the face to those generous Australians.

I join the government in offering my sincere condolences to those who suffered in the floods: those who lost homes, businesses, loved ones and friends. I also join the government in thanking the amazing volunteers and charities who have worked tirelessly to help affected residents. They have been supported in their work by the provision of public donations. They have been helping our neighbours, which I believe is our moral duty. But it is a government’s duty to supply infrastructure. It is a government’s duty to ensure that the roads are maintained, levee banks are constructed and bridges are built. It is a government’s duty to ensure that it handles public money with the respect it demands. Labor has not done that and it does not deserve to be trusted with further public money, garnered through another new tax. These are completely unnecessary bills, which could easily be made redundant if the Gillard Labor government made a few tough decisions. I urge the Prime Minister to do the job she was elected for: to cut spending, instead of introducing a great big new tax. That is the best way to help our fellow Australians—in fact, all Australians. You will not maintain faith in the Australian spirit of helping your mates out with the Labor way of forcing people to do what is in their nature. Accordingly, I vehemently oppose this package of bills.