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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 31


Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (15:50): We have seen, over the last couple of months, the full impact of revenue write-downs. In particular, most recently we have seen revenue write-downs of amounts in the order of $20 billion. These, in their broader context, represent the fact that somewhere in the order of $160 billion worth of revenue write-downs have been experienced over the last couple of years. That, in part, has been as a result of the global financial crisis and its ongoing effects. It has been about the impacts of the international economy and the challenges that have been faced right around the globe.

The fact remains that the Australian economy is one of the most resilient in the world. It is indeed the envy of most developed nations across the global economy at the moment. That is a fact that is beyond dispute. For all of the talking-down of the economy that we hear from those opposite, we know that when they travel internationally, as they do, they stand up in international fora and spruik very loudly just how successful the Australian economy has been in getting through difficult global challenges. Of course, we recognise that despite the underlying economic indicators—as strong as they continue to be, as resilient as they continue to be—the multispeed nature of our economy presents challenges across the economy and that there are some people who are not sharing in the wealth that those figures would otherwise indicate might flow through to them.

We make no apologies for having a fiscal policy that will support jobs. That is absolutely central to our DNA. If you look at the record of this government you will see that it was this government which protected the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Australians during the global financial crisis. While we were focused on protecting the jobs of hardworking Australians, those opposite were distracted by a whole range of things. We all recall that the Leader of the Opposition—he was not the Leader of the Opposition back then—did not even show up to vote when the stimulus package was before the parliament. The decision we have taken is that, given the write-downs in revenues, we no longer think it is appropriate to continue to make further cuts in order to return the budget to surplus because we believe further cuts at this stage will jeopardise job opportunities and the prospects of our economy more broadly. That is the decision we have taken in the national interest. If those opposite were honest about the challenges we face as a nation, if those opposite were honest about what has occurred since the global financial crisis, their contributions would be somewhat less hysterical than what we have seen here today.

When it comes to the question of the surplus, those opposite speak as though it is beyond doubt that, if they are returned to government, they will simply return the budget to surplus. It is worth having a look at what they have had to say, because they have been all over the shop on this issue. I saw the member for North Sydney in here with bundles of photocopies. It is not hard policy work over the summer to be sitting at the Xerox machine photocopying pieces of paper to bring in here and to put them on the table and suggest that somehow the size of the bundle of papers you flop down on the dispatch box gives greater weight to your arguments. The only policy document, or anything that resembles a policy document, they have is the little leaflet we have seen them brandishing around. A little leaflet is not a substitute for real and costed policies. That is what the Australian people are expecting of the people who parade around as an alternate government. With the date of the election now having been determined, there will be increasingly greater pressure on the opposition to come clean not just on their future plans but also on the things they have already announced and on the true impact and cost of those plans.

On the question of the surplus, the little pamphlet—the poor excuse for a fig leaf protecting their lack of policy detail—says 'we will live within our means, get the budget back under control and pay back debt'. It is funny that they do not make a commitment to a surplus. A couple of pages later it goes on:

… we’ll immediately establish a Commission of Audit—to identify savings and efficiencies in all areas of government so we can start delivering real and sustainable budget surpluses into the future.

Once again, there is no commitment to a surplus. When Mr Abbott was pressed on the question of the surplus he said, 'We have to see their figures before we can tell you exactly what we'll do.' We know how consistent the economic message has been from those opposite. In fact, on the very same day, when the shadow Treasurer was asked a question on the coalition's commitment to a surplus, he said:

Our commitment is emphatic. Based on the numbers published today we will deliver a surplus in our first year and every year after that.

The Leader of the Opposition says, 'We need more information'; the shadow Treasurer says, 'Don't worry—in our first year and every year in office we will deliver a surplus.' For a mob that want to run an election on the issue of trust, I think they are going to have to do a little bit more than expect the Australian people to make that gigantic leap of faith. It seems that the pressure of the statements made by the member for North Sydney then applied to the Leader of the Opposition, who decided he needed to firm up his position. On 28 January—this was three separate positions on the one-day—when asked: 'Joe Hockey has been saying that the coalition would be able to deliver a surplus based on the numbers available today. Is he right? Can the coalition deliver a surplus?' the Leader of the Opposition said, 'Yes, he is. We believe we can deliver surpluses in each year of the first term of a coalition government.' That was three positions in one day from two people. That is the sort of policy consistency we are getting. Then, the following day, Mr Hockey said:

Our commitment is emphatic … we will deliver a surplus in the first year and every year after that.

It raises the question: if they are so determined, so committed and so certain that they are going to deliver a surplus, why will they not bring forward the policies they are going to take to the Australian people to show how they are going to pay for them? They cannot get the budget back to surplus while cutting taxes, which they tell us they are going to do, and increasing expenditure, as there is so much evidence they intend to do. It just does not add up.

The member for North Sydney announced on breakfast television to the world at large that the coalition does have a $70 billion black hole in their costings brought about by their commitment to repealing the carbon price and repealing the mining tax. But they have failed to be clear and honest with the Australian people about what they intend to do with the associated expenditure, with the compensation and with the other assistance to pensioners and to families and to tax cuts.

Last night on television we saw Mr Pyne say that all of that is up in the air. So, when they run around the country saying they are going to repeal the carbon price, they also need to come clean on what they are going to do with the assistance. Are they going to rip away the family assistance? Are they going to rip away the increases in pensions? Are going to rip away tax cuts for small business? Are they going to unwind the tripling of the tax-free threshold which will mean that one million Australians will not have to submit a tax return because their first $18,200 will be tax-free?

Are they going to unwind that? Are they going to return it to $6,000? Are they going to do that and slug low-income people, middle-income earners and, in particular, those such as women and part-time workers? Is that what they intend to do? It is about time they became honest with the Australian people. There are only two policies that they have been honest about. They said they would scrap the schoolkids bonus. I noticed over the last week or two Mr Abbott running around saying that he is the best friend that Western Sydney has ever had. He might want to explain to the families of Western Sydney—the families of the 160,000-plus schoolkids whose parents receive the schoolkids bonus in order to support them in their return to school—how he is going to ease their cost-of-living pressures by ripping that money away. What is the impact of this? We know those opposite think that it does not get spent on school expenses.

In the Penrith Press last week, Mrs Boorer, a mother with five children, had this to say about the schoolkids bonus: 'While it was always a stressful time—the return to school—it was made easier by the federal government's schoolkids bonus scheme. I've used the money to buy everything for school including uniforms, school shoes, joggers and stationery. I think it's great and I don't know how I would have got the money without it. As it is, the $1,230 we received in January did not cover everything, so without the payment I would have had to put everything on credit.'

The way these characters opposite operate is that they talk about public finances but rip away assistance and rip away support. The net result is that families end up carrying the debt. If you want to talk about debt, have a look at the increase in indebtedness of families in this country over the entire time that those opposite were in office. That might give you a better picture of the impact of their policies.

On the question of when their policies will be ready—the $70-billion question that the Australian people want answered—back in June 2011, Mr Hockey said, 'We intend to release our policies and costings by the end of next week.' We know that did not happen. We also know that Mr Robb, who is in the chamber—he has been pretty quiet of late—also backed the fact that that work had been undertaken and that the policies and costings would be released at that time. But they were not released. We have now heard from Mr Abbott, who says, 'The coalition will release our costings after the government releases theirs, after the budget and before polling day.' Thanks very much for that! Why don't you roll out your policies now and start giving the Australian people the opportunity to measure the impact of those policies?

There has been a lot of inconsistency about when they will actually front up. But I think the person who gets the prize for the best contribution is the shadow minister for foreign affairs, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, who on radio this morning came up with a slightly different take on the timing of the opposition releasing their costings. She was being interviewed by Fran Kelly, who said: 'You'll have all the numbers you need when the budget is released on 14 May, as of budget night. So there'll be no excuse, will there, for the coalition not to move on releasing costings for their policies?' Bishop said, 'Well, that's not correct, Fran.' Kelly said, 'Why not?' Bishop said, 'Well, the full impact of the budget is not known until 30 September.' That is after the election. Are you telling us that your position now is that you are only going to front up and provide the Australian people with your costings after the election? If that does not scare the living daylights out of Australians all around this country, then I will tell you what should. It is the fact that those opposite have said that they will do exactly what Campbell Newman did: they will set up a commission of audit and they will call in someone like Costello or some other individual to go through the budget line by line and work out which forms of assistance that are currently being delivered into the bank accounts of Australians all around this country—which payments, which services—need to be ripped away in order to fund the $70 billion-plus black hole that we already know they have. They have a $70 billion black hole because they have made these promises about cutting taxes.

The member for North Sydney was jumping up and down saying, 'We will cut taxes.' What about his monster parental leave tax? It is a $12 billion tax to fund a parental leave scheme that shovels all of these benefits into the wealthiest parts of the country. Who is going to pay for it? Mums and dads and pensioners all around the country will pay for it, and they will pay for it when they pay for their groceries and at the bowser. In addition to that, they want to jack up taxes on superannuation for the lowest paid workers, because that is what you get under a Liberal government. (Time expired)