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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 27


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:35): I am a little disappointed that the Treasurer is not here to answer the charge. He made his announcement just before Christmas, and we have not seen him since. That just says everything about the Labor Party in government. We are the parties which offer stability and certainty; the Labor Party only offers chaos. Firstly, they cannot keep their word and, secondly, they cannot manage a budget.

On over 500 occasions—and we have not even started on the other ministers—the Prime Minister and the Treasurer promised to deliver a surplus in 2012-13. The Treasurer alone did so on 366 occasions since 2 May 2010. It is one thing to come out with a promise and forecasts and projections; it is yet another thing to do so with language that is extremely emphatic. Their language was totally unqualified. They benchmarked their capacity to manage the economy against that unqualified promise. They benchmarked their capacity to lift the burden of a rising cost of living off everyday Australians against that unqualified promise to deliver a surplus. They used words such as 'ironclad commitment' and 'failure is not an option.' They said the surplus would be delivered 'come hell or high water'.

These are the words of the Treasurer in this place at the time of the last budget. We all remember it because, when he said it, we all scoffed—because none of us believed it was going to be delivered. But the Treasurer stood in here just seven or eight months back, delivering the May budget, and solemnly said:

The four years of surpluses I announce tonight—

that was about where we scoffed—

are a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy, resilience of our people, and success of our policies.

He went on to say:

This Budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, strengthening over time.

No qualification, no talk about revenue like the weasel words we heard from the Prime Minister today. Does anyone really understand what the Prime Minister said today? What she is saying is that she does not know how to explain it. But the Treasurer did not let us down. After setting that benchmark, he went further. In May the Treasurer went on:

The deficit years of the global recession are behind us. The surplus years are here.

Then he gave us a lecture about what a surplus means:

Surpluses that provide a buffer against global uncertainty, and continue to give the Reserve Bank room to cut interest rates for families like it did just last week.

So how appropriate it is that he comes into this place and boasts about the fact that the Reserve Bank did not change interest rates? He is right. These are powerful words; this is not empty rhetoric. Let us go back to the original promise that was made when the Prime Minister solemnly said in a speech to the Australian people after she had knifed Kevin Rudd, for the first time, that the surplus was essential as a benchmark for the economic credibility of the government. Thank God for television! I apologise to my friends from the print media, but they are all going into TV these days at any rate—maybe not you, Sid. There are some people who still believe in print, and long may the printed word continue. In the election campaign we thanked God for television because we have it all on tape—all the solemn promises at the community meetings, all the benchmarks about how you cannot run the economy if you cannot manage the budget. It is a bounty of riches. What does it all mean? It all means that the Prime Minister told another fib. It was unqualified. It was emphatic. It was a benchmark for the government's economic performance claim.

Of course the government did not just promise a surplus; they claimed to have delivered it already. On 24 June 2010 the Prime Minister said:

… we saved jobs, stayed out of recession and got back to surplus.

The last time Labor delivered a surplus was in 1989-90—before the member for Longman was born. What a glorious year 1989-90 was. On the eve of Christmas, the Treasurer admitted delivering the surplus was unlikely:

… dramatically lower tax revenue now makes it unlikely that there will be a surplus in 2012-13.

I wonder how the Assistant Treasurer feels about that. I do not quite have it at hand, but I seem to recall the Assistant Treasurer boasting to his constituents in Lindsay that the government had delivered a surplus. Do we all remember that? The member for Lindsay, who has now dropped the tone of his voice a few decibels in an attempt to be earnest, has to explain what happened to the surplus that he said to the people of Lindsay he had delivered. Here it is: it is headed, 'Our strong economy—how is it working for you?' Commodore, listen to this; do not be distracted by the new Attorney-General. Are you familiar with this? You sent it to your constituents. Under 'Australia's economic report card', it says:

… back in surplus, on time, as promised—in these uncertain global times there's no clearer sign of a strong economy than a surplus.

Come home spinner; come home Commodore—your mission is complete. But we have not finished with you, old china. Now we are getting all the weasel words from the government; more excuses. The Treasurer said:

We ought to be very clear about why this is the case—

That is, why they cannot get back to surplus—

it's not because the government is spending too much, it's because we didn't collect the amount of taxes we expected to collect.

So all of you Australians, you are at fault—you are not paying enough tax. It is your fault. The Prime Minister repeated that today. I could not believe my ears when I was watching intently the Prime Minister's speech at the National Press Club. The Prime Minister was determined to lock in her leadership by committing herself to an election on 14 September. Then she was prepared to commit Australians to more pain. She said Australians are not paying enough tax and that the Australian people are to blame for the government breaking over 500 promises to deliver a surplus this year. So the Australian people are to blame. The Prime Minister has a history of blaming people—she blames Kevin Rudd, she blames John Howard, she blames the G20, she blames Rob McClelland, she blames Joel Fitzgibbon and she blames her caucus. How do you feel, old china, being blamed for leaking against the government?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The member for North Sydney will refer to members by their seat or their title.

Mr HOCKEY: I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker; I am trying to be familiar. I apologise. I am just hoping to encourage them to be more honest with those journalists who seem to sit in caucus. It is hugely important to recognise that this Prime Minister does not accept personal responsibility for her actions. We need to have a leader that is prepared to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Revenue this year has been expected to increase by $37 billion above last year.

Mr Craig Kelly: Increase?

Mr HOCKEY: Increase—that is, the increase on last year. So this government gets $37 billion of extra revenue and then it blames the Australian people for not paying more tax. That is an 11 per cent increase on last year's tax take, and still they blame the Australian people and say, 'Australians, you aren't paying enough tax.' Of a total budget of around $370 billion—$360 billion, say, of revenue—they say that a $3 billion, $4 billion, $5 billion or $6 billion fall in revenue is 'devastating'. That is why they cannot live within their means. Devastating—a fall of barely one per cent of revenue, and all of a sudden the house of cards comes down.

Look at Labor. Look at what they say and then look at what they actually do. Remember: last year they said they would have a deficit of $22 billion. What happened? It ended up being $44 billion, as the Prime Minister tried to shore up her leadership against the member for Griffith. It is all about that paradigm. The Labor Party is talking all about itself—about its leadership, about who gets what job, about how it can manage to trick the Australian people. In the meantime, the Australian people have a government that does not care about what they think, does not care about the cost-of-living burden and does not care about the challenges for families in everyday life. This government just cares about winning the election.

It is the Labor Party that has delivered the four largest deficits in Australian history. It is the Labor Party that in five years has borrowed over $200 billion—$200 billion! The interest alone on that is $7 billion a year, and that $7 billion a year would immediately fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It would immediately fund the Gonski reforms. But, instead of that, now we know that Labor is going to increase taxes. Look out, superannuants; look out, every worker of Australia: the Labor Party is coming after you. They have said it; they have background-briefed the media on it: they want to start taxing Australians over the age of 60 when they take their super. That is coming, as sure as night follows day. I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, the Labor Party does not have the guts to be honest with the Australian people.

They have more problems. They say to us: 'You've got a problem about the mining tax.'

Mr Bradbury interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: Well, let me let you into something, old china—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order!

Mr Dreyfus: Mr Deputy Speaker—

Mr HOCKEY: I'm sorry—old mate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The Attorney-General will resume his seat. The member for North Sydney—

Mr HOCKEY: I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker—china plate, mate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have called member for North Sydney to order once—

Mr HOCKEY: I understand. I am letting you into something, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, no. I asked him before to refer to members by their titles—

Mr HOCKEY: Sure. It was a general statement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: and I ask the member to withdraw that—

Mr HOCKEY: China—mate. Let me—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have been asked to withdraw.

Mr HOCKEY: Okay, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott; whatever you want. I withdraw. I would say to the new Attorney—

Mr Dreyfus: Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I wish to raise a different point of order from the standing orders that you have been drawing attention to, which is that the member for North Sydney needs to direct his remarks to the chair.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the Attorney-General for his assistance. The member for North Sydney has the call.

Mr HOCKEY: Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I say to you that this is a government that cannot live within its means; and, when the government cannot live within its means, it defaults to higher taxes and new borrowings. The Labor Party, over five years, has introduced 27 new or increased taxes. Remember the alcopops tax, the flood levy, the carbon tax and now a mining tax that hardly raises a dollar? Only Wayne Swan could introduce a new tax that hardly raises a dollar and brings down two prime ministers. That man is a genius as Treasurer! And it leaves the budget worse off. Their mining tax package leaves the budget worse off. Their carbon tax package leaves the budget worse off. What does that mean when you add the borrowings, the $200 billion of new borrowings, that Labor is out there collecting? And let's be frank: whenever the government borrows money, it is borrowing future taxes from our children, because someone has to pay the money back.

So the Labor Party's call on the Australian people is higher, much higher, than anything in the coalition years, because when we were in government for 11 years we did not borrow a dollar—not a dollar—but the Labor Party has borrowed over $200 billion. This is what the Labor Party does. It completely trashes the joint, tries to claim the high moral ground and leaves Australians to pick up the pieces and pay the bills. Labor writ large are a disaster for Australia, and the sooner they are gone the better.