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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7163


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (16:27): It is like Groundhog Day! I must have followed the member for Lindsay, the Assistant Treasurer, on at least five or six occasions this year where we gave the government the opportunity to defend their economic performance, their economic policies and the structure and the strategy of their budget. We have given them an opportunity on so many occasions and, on every occasion I have had the opportunity to follow the Assistant Treasurer, I will say one thing for him: I think he has been very consistent. He is consistent in his inability to defend this government's economic performance. All we ever hear is a litany of personal attacks. We get a litany of make-ups about things that he thinks we will do, that we would do or that he would like us to do. What we saw again today was another symbol of the incompetence that this economy has had to endure for three years under this Prime Minister and for six years under the two prime ministers on the Labor side.

This debate is about the adverse impacts of the government's economic policies on confidence and the budget. The Assistant Treasurer did not spend one minute—not even 30 seconds—defending their performance. It was another pathetic performance. It was ill-informed, he made no points, he made personal attacks and it demonstrated once again the division, the bile, the poison and the disarray on the other side. That is why the economy is in its current form and why there is no confidence in the community. It is why the government bragged about saving rates being at 10 per cent today. The reason that saving rates are at 10 per cent is that people are scared to spend any money or to make any investment. They are paying off their mortgages as fast as they can; they are paying off the plastic. They are being spooked into saving. And today the Treasurer stands over there and claims a victory by claiming that he has helped Australians save more money. He has spooked them into it. He has them so frightened about their job prospects and the prospects of a reliable income that they are saving as they never have before. This is the disarray we see over there. They see the disarray.

This government are a government beholden to the Greens one day, the Independents the next day and the union movement the day after, and occasionally they try to get in something of their own volition. No wonder people are spooked. No wonder investors have put money back into the bottom drawer. They are not investing, because there is no confidence. They have seen this government heading in a whole series of different directions every day for years now. That is why this government's economic policies have produced the lack of confidence that we are seeing.

It is quite ironic that for nearly 2½ years now we have been hearing the same defence from this government. We have heard it from the Treasurer in particular and we heard it again today. The government say that they have the big calls right. How often do we hear this—that they have the big calls right? People might be waking up at 2.30 in the morning worrying about their job prospects and how they are going to pay the mortgage and all the rest of it, but the government have the big calls right! What are these so-called big calls? What are the things you would look back on over this term of office that you would say are big calls? The ones that they take great pride in are, firstly, the stimulus—the $87 billion of stimulus money—and, secondly, the fact that for years they have lectured us about the fact that they were going to deliver a surplus. These were the big calls: a stimulus and a surplus. Let me say to my colleagues and to those in the gallery: the stimulus is not something to be proud of. The stimulus did not save jobs in this country. The stimulus has been at the root of the massive debt that we now have. It is at the root of the lack of confidence in this economy. It is at the root of the structural deficits that we are confronting as an economy. It is at the root of the waste from the mining boom over the last few years. Here we are blessed like no other developed country with the opportunities we have from China. We never hear the other side talk about China. You would think that over the last few years with the highest terms of trade—

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: Mr Deputy Speaker, can we shut up the people on the other side of the House. They are so rude.

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

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: Here they are again, Mr Deputy Secretary—another example of the lack of respect for debate in this House. Their incompetence—

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: Now they are laughing. People and families are worried sick and they are laughing. It is a great joke. The stimulus came in too big and too late. The Reserve Bank reduced interest rates by 4¼ per cent. It put tens of thousands of dollars into people's pockets, as it should have. Also, we saw the Australian dollar drop to US60c in the first quarter of 2009. Those opposite never refer to these sorts of developments.

We saw the biggest trade surplus in the country's history three months after the global financial crisis. We saw the biggest drop in interest rates in such a short time in our history. By the time the government passed the $87 billion stimulus package in that May budget—and most of it was spent not that year but two or three years later—Australia was coming out of it. Why? It was because of those two automatic stabilisers and because this government inherited an economy which was in the best shape of any economy in the world. They went into this without any debt. The rest of the world was wallowing in hundreds of billions of dollars of debt. In Australia, we had $70 billion in the bank—no debt federally and no debt at a state level. There was a ratio of zero debt to GDP. Now we have 11 per cent national debt and 11 per cent state debt. We have a 22 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio and we have the fastest growing debt in Australia's history. That is why we are vulnerable. That is why people are waking up at 2.30 anxious about their jobs. That is why people are saving at 10 per cent when historically they were saving at one or two per cent. People are frightened and business is nervous. Business is not prepared to make decisions or to create jobs.

The government inherited a four per cent unemployment rate—unheard of in history. They inherited all these things and that is how we got through the global financial crisis. What happened nine months after the global financial crisis? This government started to spend like drunken sailors. They said it saved jobs. Why did the Reserve Bank increase interest rates while the government was increasing government expenditure? The Reserve Bank was trying to cool down the economy. That is what they were doing.

This government was inappropriately fuelling the economy with massive doses of wasteful spending. It was not even good spending. It was not cutting the costs for business and helping to preserve jobs. It was spent on pink batts and school halls that cost double the price they should have and in many cases were not needed. It was spent on ridiculous things like paying dead people $900. This is the incompetence of those opposite and that is why people have lost confidence in them.

Now we see that at seven o'clock tonight there will be a ballot. That is what they are all concerned about—a ballot at seven o'clock tonight to see who is running this country. For God's sake, this is unacceptable. This government are so incompetent. Here we are, a month or two from an election—we will not know until seven o'clock tonight whether we are one month or two months from an election, I suspect. But here we are, with this government have been so consumed with themselves over the last few months rather than the major issues: the structural deficits, the fall off in commodity prices, the threat to jobs and the fact that mining is coming off yet the rest of the economy is not picking up in response. These are the things that are worrying people. These are things that this government are not focusing on.

We have an agenda. We will get rid of the carbon tax. We will get the budget back in the black. We will stop the boats. With that agenda, we have a plan for the future. If this government is re-elected, it is a recipe for more and more incompetence and a greater lack of confidence and concern within the community. We need an election and we need it now.