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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4389


Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (20:06): I am pleased to rise to speak on the appropriation bills that are before the House to do with the most recent federal Labor budget. I must say, this is an extraordinary budget. It is extraordinary because it gives the lie to the idea that Labor knows how to manage Australia's economy. Day after day we hear members opposite, and in particular the member for Lilley, the Treasurer, speak about his brilliance when it comes to economic management and speak about how Australia is situated with one of the lowest net debts in the world as a percentage of GDP. He speaks about how unemployment is low and speaks about how in some way the Labor Party was able to provide us with a road map that steered us through the GFC. For those of us sitting on this side of the chamber, when we actually look at what the Labor Party has achieved in four short years, the proof is actually quite to the contrary, because the current position of the Australian economy has much less to do with Labor Party policy and much more to do with the way in which the coalition left the Australian economy when we lost office in 2007. The reality is that this is a government that has overseen one of the biggest explosions in our level of debt in our nation's history. This is a government that has overseen one of the largest budget deficits in our nation's history. This is a government that has turned what was a 33-year record low in unemployment into a skyrocketing level of unemployment because of its policies and economic incompetence.

In reality these bills that are currently before the chamber do a number of very historic things. One is to increase the debt ceiling. This is the debt ceiling that the Labor Party needed to raise previously to some $200 billion. The bills that are before the House now push this debt ceiling up to $250 billion. We were told in November last year that this recklessly spending government had debt under control. They told us that we would see debt blow out to $94 billion. That was in November last year, and here we are now, with the budget only a matter of weeks ago, seeing that in truth net debt under this government will reach $107 billion. I grow tired of moving around my electorate and other parts of the country and seeing Labor members opposite standing up, chests puffed out, spruiking about their great vision and how they have delivered this project or that project. That is the most shameful aspect of it all.

In particular, I just recently went along to a primary school where we saw the opening of yet another so-called Building the Education Revolution designed project, another one that the government have put out there and provided funding for. It was amazing because there was a letter spruiking the government's virtues and how much they have done for the children of Australia under their BER program. Standing there in that primary school, surrounded by several hundred primary school children, I thought to myself, 'I hope they get value out of it because those same primary school children will be paying that debt off for the next 20 or 30 years. Those same children will be forced to repay all the debt that this government incurred in four short years.'

We spent 12 years paying off $96 billion of debt—12 years of hard work, 12 years of difficult policy decisions and 12 years of saying no to the kind of largesse and reckless spending that Labor so embraces. We did it because we had the belief that we have a responsibility to hand this nation over to our children who follow us in a better condition than in which we received it. But that is not Labor's policy when it comes to economic management. They are very happy to take what they have and bastardise it. They are happy to leave our children with $107 billion of debt. They are happy to leave our children with a debt that will take decades to repay so that they can run around the countryside and spruik about what economic geniuses they are and what vision they have.

If that is vision, I do not want anything to do with it. Is it vision to waste $50 billion on the NBN and so-called nation-building projects like that when Telstra announced today that they are privately rolling out in four cities a 4G network that provides 100 megabits per second, the same maximum speed that you will get under the NBN? The government are spending $50 billion on a project that is still 12 years in the making and we have a private operator using shareholder and equity funds—and perhaps debt funds too—to roll out the same thing.

It is an indictment on the Labor Party, and these budget bills speak the truth about the Australian Labor Party. It is the same old Labor budget that we saw under Whitlam. It is the same old Labor budget that we saw under the Hawke and Keating governments. It is the same old Labor Party that basically comes down to a couple of key features, and that is that this is a Labor government that taxes big and that spends big. That is it. It is Labor DNA to tax and spend every step of the way.

Queensland in particular but also parts of Victoria just had an extraordinary amount of tumult over the summer season. We saw devastating floods and we saw the impact of Cyclone Yasi. We saw challenges across the length and breadth of the country but in particular in Queensland and Victoria with the flooding. This caused an incredible amount of damage. Families had to rebuild. Businesses had to rebuild. What we saw was that, out of a $300-odd billion budget, the Labor Party had to impose a new tax to raise $1.7 billion to help pay for it. Out of a $300 billion budget, this government are so useless that they could not actually find $1.7 billion to spend on reconstruction and they had to impose a new tax. They had the political cover of saying, 'We have to do this because it is part of every Australian putting their shoulder to the wheel to look after those less fortunate.'

I have a better idea, as does everyone in the coalition. How about this government tighten its belt? How about this government not waste billions upon billions of dollars on useless programs like Fuelwatch, GroceryWatch and its failed border protection policy. On every measure, this is a government that has let down the Australian people, and it shows as Australians turn their backs on this Labor Party because this Labor Party offers them nothing. Most importantly as well, they can see straight through this Prime Minister. They know that this Prime Minister will say and do anything if she thinks that there is a vote in it. They see straight through it, and that is why the Australian people are walking away from this Labor Party. It irks me, and I know it irks my constituents and everyone on this side of the chamber, that the Australian Labor Party will raise $1.7 billion in new taxes and in the same budget allocate an extra $1.7 billion for border protection because of its useless, failed border policies which have now seen a nearly $2 billion blowout in the budget to try to do something about our ballooning detention centres and the ballooning number of asylum seekers. This is from a government that would lecture the coalition about how insensitive we were and how much we lacked compassion when it came to asylum seekers. In 2007, there were something like six people in mandatory detention. We now have some 6½ thousand. We now have in excess of 220 boats and we have a government that slugs people who may have been affected by the floods themselves with a new tax to raise $1.7 billion out of a $300 billion budget. Then, to rub salt into that wound, this government goes and spends an extra $1.7 billion on so-called border protection because it has lost control.

This is the same government and the same Prime Minister who, only eight days out from election day in 2010, looked down the barrel of the camera and promised, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Then, with the puppeteer Bob Brown over her shoulder, this Prime Minister turns her back on that solemn promise only eight days out. She said it because she knew she had to to get elected but had every intention to change it once elected. This Prime Minister now just walks away from that promise, having completely fooled the Australian people. As the old saying goes, you can fool them once but not twice. I have no doubt that the Australian people recognise that this Labor government has done an incredible amount of damage in only four short years.

In my city, the Gold Coast, the damage is being felt profoundly. Because of this government's inability to appropriately manage taxpayers funds, we are now seeing the Australian dollar, due to upward pressure on interest rates and forecast interest rates to come, reach 106c to the US dollar—$1.06. It has been as high as $1.10. It is forecast to stay in the vicinity of $1.06 or $1.07. For a city like the Gold Coast—a city of 500,000 people that is built on services industries, that is built on tourism and that is built on construction—this government's policy settings could not be any worse. Because of this budget that is going through the chamber as we speak, we continue to see upward pressure on interest rates. Because of this government borrowing $135 million each and every day, we continue to see upward pressure on interest rates. Because of this government's reckless spending, because of $107 billion of net debt, we continue to see the crowding out of private operators in the debt market who are so desperately in need of finance. Each one of these directly goes to the economic viability of a city like the Gold Coast. Each one of these has a material impact on the ability of our city's developers to secure finance for their projects; on the confidence of consumers to be able to purchase, for example, apartments and to drive the second biggest industry in our city, which is the construction industry; and on the ability of Australians to choose to holiday in Australia rather than abroad because the Australian dollar is sitting at $1.06.

We reached this stage because of the rampant appreciation of the Australian dollar as a consequence of interest rate increases and forecast increases. There are now more Australians travelling abroad than there are international visitors coming to Australia. The impact on a city like the Gold Coast is that unemployment skyrockets. In my own constituency we see its impact. That the unemployment rate climbed to nearly eight per cent, and it still currently sits around that figure, is the consequence of Labor Party policy. We see the consequence in the small business sector, a sector that this government has turned its back on. This party preaches its concern for workers, but unfortunately this party only believes that workers are employees. This party is blind to the fact that employers are workers too, that employers drive wealth generation, that employers drive jobs and that employers drive economic activity. That is part of the reason why between 2007 and 2010, Labor's first term in government, we saw 695 small businesses close in my electorate. If every one of them employed only one person, between the owner and the employee you are talking close to 1,300 people all out of work as a direct result of this government's economic incompetence.

Most distressing is that the government have not learned anything. After the failed programs of GroceryWatch, Fuelwatch, the pink batts disaster and the school halls disaster, you would think the government would start to get the message. Instead, they budget to spend $400 per pensioner for a set-top box for their TV when Harvey Norman can install and provide a set-top box for $168—less than half price. You can buy a new TV for less money than the Labor Party is budgeting. On every measure, this is a government that is completely blind to what makes the Australian economy tick. To all the children of Australia, to those children who are under 21 who will be paying off the debt as a consequence of the reckless spending and largess of this government: I am sorry that the government have had the power, as a consequence of their poor decision making, to put you some $5,000 or thereabouts in debt for the next couple of decades. It is a great shame.