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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6140


Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (16:29): I rise to speak today on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-13 and associated bills. I was reading something recently that hit the nail on the head with regard to this government and how it believes it always knows best. Friedrich von Hayek in his book The Road to Serfdom noted the profound truth:

… man does not and cannot know everything, and when he acts as if he does, disaster follows. … would-be planners arrogantly ignore traditions that embody the wisdom of generations; impetuously disregard customs whose purpose they do not understand; and blithely confuse the law written on the hearts of men—which they cannot change—with administrative rules that they can alter at whim.

I rise to speak on this package of appropriation bills that underpin the 2012-13 'fudge-it'. I strongly agree with the comment made by my colleague earlier in this debate, the member for Curtin, when she said that this is a budget that seeks to divide. This Labor government 'scare them by' budget or 'get a vote' budget has been strategically aimed at targeting the underprivileged.

It is worthwhile noting that some 70 years ago Sir Robert Menzies delivered his forgotten people speech. Sir Robert's commitment to the forgotten people became the foundation of the coalition and the strength of modern Australia. He believed that it was through hard work, aspiration and the individual hopes of Australia's forgotten people that a dynamic democracy would prosper and thrive. He believed it was a broad, growing middle class that would be the backbone of this country. Sir Robert rejected the politics of class saying, 'In a country like Australia the class war must always be a false war.'

Today we continue to reject the politics of class war and the policies that seek to penalise Australia's forgotten families. We reject the carbon tax, because it will harm the families and small business people who are the pillars of our national life. We believe that Australians who work hard should be encouraged not penalised. But what do those who work hard, are entrepreneurial and have a vision get from this budget? I would suggest very little, because this government seeks to divide this nation between rich and poor. It is worthwhile to consider at this point the words of Professor Wolfgang Kasper who in his book The Merits of Western Civilisation commented: 'It is only when successful entrepreneurs are widely respected for their success, and their well-deserved wealth is not attacked as illegitimate can modern development take off.' He went on to say: 'If envy of high achievers, the valuation of material achievement versus the conservation of nature or hatred of all tradition become community norms, modern civilisation, higher living standards and material comforts will over the long term be unsustainable.'

This is a budget that creates the illusion of providing tax cuts for everyday Australians, when in fact the reality is that individual Australians have faced and are facing tax hikes as a result of the introduction of the carbon tax and some 26 other increased or new taxes since this government came to power in 2007. In a desperate bid to try and hold on to power Labor have targeted parents of schoolchildren with handouts in a blatant attempt to win them over.

As I have mentioned before in this place, over the past four years more damage has been done to the people that Labor purport to seek to assist than they have done to the rich. Under this Labor government electricity prices have increased by some 66 per cent, gas prices are up by some 39 per cent, food prices are up by 11 per cent, the petrol price is up by 11 per cent and education and health costs are up over 25 per cent. Sadly, families will soon realise that the sugar-hit that they are receiving through the two instalments under the schoolkids bonus will in no way keep pace with the increases in the cost of living that continue to climb under this government.

Furthermore, these handouts are being paid for from borrowed money which incurs interest that will need to be paid back. Ironically it will be the children in school now that will be paying back the borrowed money plus interest for these handouts through the taxes they will pay during their working lives. The government is spending money it does not have, attempting to increase the national credit card at the same time as promising to deliver a surplus. Surpluses are supposed to pay down debt, but what is $1.5 billion going to do to our debt levels, which are set to reach $145 billion in 2013-14? As the government give out these stimulus payments and handouts with one hand, they are taking back with the other in a desperate bid to reach their two main objectives: to return to surplus and to keep their jobs. With one hand they give out a schoolkids bonus—which is really carbon tax compensation—and with the other hand they impose the world's biggest carbon tax to drive up the cost of everything.

The media reported that in my electorate some $3.2 million cleverly designed as a household assistance package would be paid to families over the next few weeks to cushion the blow of the carbon tax. But, as we all well know, there is no such thing as a free lunch; there is no such thing as a free handout from this government. Every time there is a handout we are plunged further into debt and, as the Treasurer has acknowledged, the government's handouts will continue to put pressure on interest rates. With this 'free' lunch comes an expensive side of 26 new or increased taxes. Is that really what you thought you ordered?

Also, on the topic of handouts, will families actually spend the schoolkids bonus on their children's schooling? This is a question I have been asked on a number of occasions since the announcement of these payments. In my electorate there are a number of organisations, such as the Twin Rivers co-op, which assist some of the most underprivileged families. It is interesting to note that the manager of the co-op has had conversations with families who have in the last little while spent handouts on—for example—plasma TVs and then turned up the next week desperate for food and support.

Community organisations such as Twin Rivers co-op bring me to my next point, which I touched on earlier this week. Great communities are not created by governments; they are created by individuals in our community working together. I will use the Twin Rivers co-op here to demonstrate my point. Briefly, the background is that the Twin Rivers co-op assists some 2,000 families and pensioners by providing low-cost groceries. The co-op differs from many other support organisations in this field, who normally provide packaged hampers, by giving these families and pensioners the opportunity to select their own items. Being able to select these items gives these people a sense of independence, and many of those registered at the co-op say that they could not survive financially without its help.

Community organisations such as the Twin Rivers co-op are the pillars of strength of our local community in Forde. Wouldn't it be nice to see more support for organisations such as these and less money spent on waste and increasing the size of government? The co-op functions without any subsidies, and, in a cruel twist, the co-op will soon bear the burden of the carbon tax not only on its electricity costs but also, as we are discovering, on the cost of maintaining its fridges and freezers. As for the items sold by the co-op, the compounding nature throughout the supply chain of the carbon tax will not be known until after 1 July this year. How much more expensive will basic necessities be for these people?

The government say that the impact on inflation is going to be 0.7 per cent, but, if inflation is 2.8 per cent, this impact would mean nearly a 28 per cent increase in the inflation rate. The people in this community are not receiving a 28 per cent increase in their various payments. One thing is for sure: the compounded costs in the supply chain will be passed on to the underprivileged families and pensioners who rely on the Twin Rivers co-op, and any compensation they receive will be transferred like a hot potato from their hands to the suppliers of the goods and services.

It is interesting to note that, due to demand from the community, the co-op will soon be seeking to locate to larger premises and that it is expected that this move will cost around $100,000. As the co-op point out, given the wonderful work they do in our community it would be handy if the co-op could receive funding and assistance to help fund the cost of this move.

The most significant part of these bills is that they seek to increase the limit of the Commonwealth's debt from $250 billion to $300 million—and this at a time when the government says it wants to run a surplus of $1½ billion. It is just the old pea-and-thimble trick: when this government struggles to pay for its waste it introduces a bill to increase its credit card limit, whilst the community organisations which are the pillars of strength for struggling parents, families and pensioners are left scratching their heads wondering where they will find the money to expand their services for the people in genuine need whom they seek to help. This grassroots approach benefits struggling families, yet the government seeks to take credit for it. I know for a fact that struggling families will benefit from being able to access such things as low-cost groceries on a regular basis. In comparison to the compensation payments in handouts, the grassroots approach is a long-term solution to financial hardship—it is not a short-term sugar hit—as it gives people a hand up, not just a handout. It has been very frustrating to watch as this government continues to destroy our nation's wealth through cost blowouts in border protection, pink batts, set-top boxes and the NBN—and the list goes on. We cannot look on as this government sets out to make room for more debt and more waste by increasing the limit of the Commonwealth's credit card, and we as a coalition will strongly oppose it.

It is instructive to note that the debt ceiling inherited by this government when it came to office in 2007 was zero—nil. This government, despite its desperate attempt to appear otherwise, is addicted to debt, deficit and wasteful spending. Only a coalition government has the capacity to provide a positive future for the Australian economy. The problem we have today is that this Labor government believes in big government and small communities, whereas the goal should be smaller government and big communities. That is what we as a coalition stand for, and I cannot stress enough the importance of the way organisations within my local community—not just the Twin Rivers co-op but also many others—are enriching the lives of others. Where the government fails to support people, the community provides for them.

As there has been no change to the budget outcomes this year, I am able to conclude my contribution with the same words with which I concluded my contribution last year:

This government is a wasteful and reckless government that continues to treat Australians with contempt and as fools by counting new or higher taxes as savings, continuing to deliver policies that lead only to a higher cost of living for all Australians and doing nothing for the future prosperity of our nation by leaving a legacy marred by debt, the interest on which will rob future generations of their wealth.