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Monday, 28 May 2012
Page: 5881

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (17:42): I rise to speak on the various appropriation bills of 2012-13. Where does one start with this budget? Perhaps the best place to start is with the current financial year. Twelve months ago the Treasurer stood in this very parliament and forecast a $22 billion deficit. Last week we found out it was only out by 100 per cent. The actual deficit for this financial year has actually ballooned to $44 billion. So what went wrong?

Then we can move on to this year's budget, which is being sold under the political spin of returning the budget to surplus. We have heard that over and over from speakers on the government side. We all know this wafer-thin surplus is a mere illusion achieved through nothing other than accounting tricks by bringing expenditure forward and shifting it backwards, and the smell of cooked books is still wafting around the corridors from budget night. Even the chief of CPA Australia, Alex Malley, heaped insincere praise on the Treasurer when, on budget night, he declared that 'accounting chicanery was the winner tonight'.

Let us just assume that this government actually achieves the $1.5 billion surplus, which I note SportsBet think is a very long outsider. We have to also look at the previous four Labor budgets. Those four budgets have a cumulative deficit of an amazing $174 billion. So, even if this current budget forecast of $1.5 billion is correct, even if that is achieved, the legacy Labor will leave this country, after five budgets, is a cumulative deficit of $172.5 billion. Try to visualise $172.5 billion. It is such a massive sum. Think of a stack of $100 bills spread out across a standard sized pallet, with the bills adding to $100 million. You would need 1,720 pallets to get to $172½ billion. Those pallets, stacked high with $100 bills, would reach 2.4 kilometres into the sky. That is how much debt this government has gotten us into. Of course, then we had the change to the debt ceiling. When this government came to office our debt ceiling was at just $78 billion. But after four years that had been increased by another $172 billion. And at this budget, although the government is claiming to run a surplus, they need to borrow another $50 billion, which will push that debt ceiling to an incredible $300 billion.

What does this debt mean to the average Australian citizen? According to the figures in the budget papers, over the next four years, because of the debt that Labor has run up with their reckless spending, Australia as a nation will be forced to pay $28.9 billion in interest alone on the debt—most of it going overseas, to foreigners. That $29 billion in interest payments alone is $1,300 for every man, woman and child in the country, or an addition bill, on top of everything else consumers will have to pay over the next four years, of $5,200—courtesy of the economic management of this government. That is the bill they will get in the post.

Remember: to pay off at the current rate the combined deficits of the last four years of Labor and deliver this great surplus of $1.5 billion, we would have to repeat that for no less than 116 years. That is what we would have to do to undo the damage, to pay back the deficit that they have run up in just four years. That is the task that we face.

How have we gotten into such a mess? I know it has been well canvassed. Some of it has been because of studies funding, such as $145,000 for a study into sleeping snails. Of course, we had the $300,000 for a study to see if climate change is making Australian birds shrink. That is just the tip of the iceberg. It appears the way to get a grant from this government is to mention the magic words 'climate change'. Following are a few other studies that this government has thrown money at. A quarter of a million dollars, $250,000, has been given to a study on rethinking climate justice, whatever that is. Another $125,000 has gone to a study on the future of trade unions and how trade unions can contribute to an environmentally sustainable world. A grant of $192,000 has gone to a study for the role of emotion and reality in sending and responding to messages about climate change.

More money has been thrown away, $185,000, to produce a new autobiography on Labor opposition leader HV Evatt. Of course, such an autobiography might be very interesting, but to make sure the grant was given, the subject is to be 'how his life resonates with modern challenges … in a time of global warming'. What has Dr Evatt got to do with global warming? That seemed to be the secret to getting the grant. Another $122,000 was given for a study of rural communities in South Australia as to how they would adapt to the health challenges of climate change—and yet the hottest day ever recorded in South Australia was on 2 January 1960.

There is another great study here: $380,000 for modelling the mechanisms causing the observed increases in the rate of melting of Antarctica's ice shelves. The only problem with that is that the Antarctic ice has been growing for the last 30 years. We have a study to try and work out observed increases in the rate of melting. In fact, even in the Bering Sea, in the Arctic, we have had record sea ice. Half of the fleet that we see in Deadliest Catch have been held up in port for a record time. Then, of course, we have the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency themselves. In those government departments we have 118 bureaucrats who are on a salary between $280,000 and $700,000 a year. And we wonder why we are in such debt.

But the studies go on. This government has thrown $85,000 to a study of garden statues in the Renaissance garden and $65,000 to a study to examine who actually reads Tom Keneally's books. They are very good books, but do we need to spend $65,000 of taxpayers' money to find out who reads them? This is a beauty: $60,000 for a study of Marxism, religion and the relationship between theology and political radicalism. Here is another one. This is perhaps my personal favourite. There is $180,000 for a study to rethink the history of Soviet Stalinism, to provide a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of Stalin's Russia. Surely this $180,000 will be well spent. It could show that Stalin was a good bloke, merely misunderstood! Here is another one: $164,000 has been thrown to a study of magic spells and rituals from the second century BC to the fifth century AD to achieve success in personal relations. The list goes on and on.

There is another good one here: a study of the life and times of musical artists, bands, managers, recording studios and relevant radio programs since 1945 in Western Australia. They have been thrown $120,000 of taxpayers' money. Remember, this is money that we do not have. This is borrowed money, because this government continues to borrow $100 million a day to finance these schemes. Every single hour for the last four years our nation's debt has grown at a rate of $4 million. There is another lovely little grant of $72,000 to hold 'enviro tea salons' where participants will debate climate change and the carbon price in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Dari, Hindi and Dinka. Participants will be encouraged to take part in activities including quizzes, chalking, candle making and calligraphy, all in a politically sensitive environment. This is more waste of taxpayers' money, and it goes on.

There may be some commuters out there listening to this on the radio while they are stuck in gridlock traffic. I am sure they will be very excited to find out that this government is spending $160 million of taxpayers' money to build a new bridge. The only issue is the bridge is being built across the Mekong River in Dong Thap province in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I am not making this up. It goes on and on and on.

One of the great things we have heard the government taking credit for is the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I think it is worth noting what the Carers Alliance have said about the National Disability Insurance Scheme announced in the budget. If anyone knows about the difficulty of caring and what we need under a National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Carers Alliance are first and foremost. I quote from their press release:

In the cold light of day Budget Night was Fudge it Night for people with disabilities and their families … the government's proposal for implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a sad, poorly executed hoax pulled on those Australians with a severe dependent disability …

The Budget provides for just over $85 million a year for individualised packages for people with significant disability, while about $164 million a year is set aside for more fatcats, technocrats …

They conclude:

It is fanciful to claim this version of the National Disability Insurance Scheme as historic when in reality the Gillard government has squibbed …

They are the words of the Carers Alliance. Then we look at issues where this government has actually cut spending. We see that our defence budget has been reduced in real terms this year by 10.5 per cent. That is the largest year-on-year reduction since the end of the Korean War. As a result, our national defence spending as a percentage of GDP will now fall to 1.56 per cent, the lowest we have had since 1938. The only thing we had missing in this announcement was the Prime Minister standing up and declaring 'peace in our time'. As Babbage Smith, the government adviser and author of the 2009 defence white paper, said about these cuts, 'We're going to be in real trouble for at least 20 years. We won't have the ability to defend ourselves.'

Many of these instances of waste should be put in a museum. Our future generations need to understand how we have ended up in such a mess and how we have gotten in such debt. But it was very nice to know in this budget that the government has handed out 1.5 million taxpayers' dollars for a new Islamic Museum of Australia. This is all very nice, but it sets a precedent. I have already had members of the Australian Coptic Church asking where their grant to build a Coptic museum of Australia is. Now we have set this precedent, in the future are we going to give every religious group taxpayer-funded money to have their own Australian museum? These are the problems that we get in.

Another issue of waste and mismanagement by this government that I would like to raise is the ACCC's pursuit of Metcash. The Metcash takeover of 80 Franklins stores, as anyone in the industry understood, would have increased competition, but still we had the ACCC trying to take this to court to block this takeover. Even Justice Arthur Emmett dismissed the ACCC's case in August, saying the deal was likely to be pro-competitive because it would help Metcash, Australia's largest independent grocery retailer, to compete more effectively against Coles and Woolworths. But we had this government spending $16 million of taxpayers' money to try to stop this competitive merger.

Finally, in the time left, in my electorate we have seen $900 million being spent on the Moorebank intermodal. This is a mega-intermodal project. The residents are actually getting the worst of both worlds. This is a mega-intermodal. We are spending $900 million merely to relocate—not actually to get it but simply to relocate—the School of Military Engineering. It is opposed by every stakeholder, except of course the infrastructure minister and his department head, Mike Mrdak. (Time expired)