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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4362


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (18:10): This budget is indeed a record budget. The Treasurer has devised a 2011-2012 budget that delivers record growth in real spending, a record level of net debt, a record number of public servants and record spending on cleaning up the mess of this government's previously failed programs—programs which have not only failed to deliver for Australians but cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

After the tragic outcomes of the home insulation scheme, I hoped we had seen the last of this disastrously delivered program. However, here it is yet again in this latest budget— another $110 million to continue to clean up the mess it has left.

Before 10 May the Treasurer spun this budget as 'getting tough'. Plain and simple, this did not happen. Instead of getting tough, this Labor government has stuck with its tradition of poor and reckless financial management, talking surplus but delivering deficits—talking budget cuts but, once again, increasing its spending.

Indeed, increasing its spending so much that this bill, the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, is seeking to raise the government's gross debt ceiling, from $200 billion to $250 billion.

I remember when the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith, originally put through amendments to increase borrowing capacity to $200 billion, ostensibly for the stimulus package, up from just $75 billion. At least at the time they could argue that the global financial crisis threw out proposed budgeting plans. However, these days the Treasurer continuously repeats that Australia is in the best position of any OECD country and that others should be envious of our finances.

Why then do we need to further increase our borrowing capacity? Where has the money gone? It is real money that has to be paid back, but how will the government achieve this? Can we expect yet another tax or levy?

I am sure other countries are indeed envious of this Treasurer's position, being the only OECD country to enter the global financial crisis with a surplus, a surplus that was a legacy of financial discipline of successive Howard-Costello budgets. They were budgets that produced surpluses through responsible financial management, a concept alien to this Prime Minister and a concept wilfully ignored by this failed Treasurer.

The Treasurer never seems to mention to the public that Australia has the highest interest rates and highest home mortgage rates, when compared to those of OECD countries.

He also does not like to admit that a large portion of so-called government saving comes simply from freezing indexation, hurting families and the business and industry sectors in real terms. This makes a real difference to a family's bottom line. Freezing indexation of the childcare rebate alone could see over 72,000 families receive a lower subsidy by 2014.

It also particularly hurts sectors that rely on government funding to deliver real outcomes for Australians. I am talking of course of medical research, yet another example of how Labor closes their eyes to the real consequences of their decisions.

In the lead-up to this budget, it was leaked that medical research could take a hit of up to $400 million as part of Labor's attack on health. I remember hearing a statement by the Minister for Health and Ageing at the time, where she implied that as medical research had not faced cuts under last year's budget, why was the health sector complaining? I was shocked to hear how little regard she seemed to have for this sector.

World-leading research is being undertaken at University of Queensland. Indeed, researchers are on the cusp of many discoveries and innovations and they just need funding commitments for their projects, which will in turn realise health and economic benefits for the wider community. I can understand exactly why the research community reacted to the proposed cuts the way they did. This is a government that likes to make grand claims which then fall apart under proper scrutiny.

On the subject of poor and reckless financial management, Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, you need look no further than NBN Co., the largest infrastructure project in Australia's history at $47 billion—plus, plus. Everyone agrees as to the benefits of a national broadband network, but not at any cost. Smaller infrastructure projects require a cost-benefit analysis; why not this project? And why is the government repeating the errors of the past, basing the network on an out-of-date monopoly telco model from last century and in some areas building over existing fibre installations? If NBN is to achieve its potential it must provide open access. Even at the outrageous cost of $47 billion plus, it is alleged NBN Co. was unable to attract companies to build the project within budget. Their solution was to shoot the messenger. The employees who ran the tender process have now parted company with NBN Co. and the contracts are still well behind schedule. The government claims NBN Co. will change the lives of all Australians, and indeed it will: all Australians and their children and their children's children will be paying off the debt from this flawed, mismanaged project.

With the failure of the Treasurer on a national level, I held little hope for any projects in my electorate of Ryan, and regrettably this budget met my expectations. I have on many occasions called for the recognition of PLD, Primary Language Disorder, as a disability, and for funding for The Glenleighden School. I have made personal representations to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood, and Youth. Despite this, Glenleighden has again missed out under this budget. It is the only school of its kind, and families even relocate from other states to enrol because of the excellence and success of their program. This continued snub from the government is simply not good enough and demonstrates, yet again, that they are not serious about real outcomes.

Speaking of not good enough, I think back to the fight that Brisbane City Council had to have to ensure funding for vital Brisbane infrastructure after the floods. As I said in my maiden speech, I stand for the future of our cities, and it is imperative that the government support the infrastructure needed to manage growth in our cities not only in good times but also in bad times. The Gillard government was actually going to deny aid to Australia's third biggest city after it was hit with one of the worst natural disasters on record. This is an absolute disgrace, as is the fact that the only way they could fund rebuilding after these natural disasters was to impose a $1.7 billion tax on Australians. They had no surplus to fall back on, no savings from prudent government spending over the past four years. 'Just impose another tax' seems to be their only solution to their ongoing poor and reckless financial management. This government expects everybody else to pay for their mistakes. Even when it comes to taking real action for our environment, their solution still is to simply impose yet another tax. However, the much heralded carbon tax does not even appear in this budget, other than an expense item of $13.7 million for promoting this big new tax.

This is simply a bad budget. The government have failed to deliver positive change for Australians and they make a mockery of prudent financial management. Labor have once again shown their true colours. They are big spenders; they are mismanagers; they have no real grasp on the reality their governance has on Australians. How could a government waste hard-earned taxpayer dollars with so little regard or concern? If they were spending from their personal accounts, perhaps they would stop and reconsider their poor and reckless financial management.

We often speak in this place of the debt we owe our courageous servicemen and women, who have volunteered knowing that they put their lives at risk to ensure our safety. It is timely to remind the House of the coalition's commitment to ensure that their entitlements reflect the contributions and sacrifices they have made through the indexation of the DFRDB, the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme, and the DFRB, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. Yet, in not matching the coalition's election promise of indexation for our servicemen and women, the government's words have not been matched by action in this budget.

In short, we have a government without morality, driven by focus groups, determined to build this house of cards, this charade, whatever the cost, well knowing that its track record of failed delivery with home insulation, BER bungles, cash for clunkers, the cost blow-out of computers in schools, the disaster that was the Green Loans Program and the now scrapped Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch is likely to occur once again elsewhere in this budget. We have a government that arrogantly ignores the damage its poll driven expenditure will cause. The trouble is that all this comes at a cost, not just in terms of today's budget but for generations in the future. Once again it will be a future coalition government that will have to put right the wrongs of this budget. Once again it will be a future coalition government that will have to put right the ill-conceived implementation of so many programs.

This budget represents a wasted opportunity. This budget is reminiscent of a drunken streaker at the Gabba, with the excuse: 'It seemed like a good idea at the time!' The people of Australia see through this government. They are not ready for a Bob Brown driven economy. They simply want sensible, rational decision making, careful planning and proper implementation. They want a budget that plans for the future. They want a budget that does not raise living costs for families, singles, seniors and business. They want a budget that does not borrow $135 million per day and does not accumulate $7 billion in interest payments every year. They want a budget that stops poor and reckless financial management. Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, is that really too much to ask for?