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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 1054


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (17:30): This has become an annual event under this government: every February rolls around and every February the immigration minister—this time a new Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, taking the place of the last one—comes before this parliament and asks for more money. It happens every single year. Every year they put forward a budget, every year they blow that budget and every year they come back here and they ask this parliament for yet more taxpayers' money.

Just to remind the House of this government's failure in the area of budgeting for their border protection failures, it is worth going back and just looking at their history. This is a government whose failure to manage our borders has directly translated into its failure to manage a budget. These two failures are hardwired, one to the other. In 2008-09, the budget blow-out from the original budget, as revealed in the additional estimates, was $2,257,000. The following year, 2009-10, the blow-out in that budget from the original estimate was $167 million. In 2010-11, the blow-out from the original estimate for that year was $765 million. In 2011-12, the budget blow-out leapt to a whole new level, and the variation from the original estimate first advised by the government was $1.3256 billion—that was the blow-out from the government's original estimate of the expenditure for that year. In the current year it has exponentially gone to a whole new level. In 2012-13, the government is now estimating that it will spend $2.2328 billion on asylum seeker management costs. That is a variation from their original estimate, when the estimates for this year were first published in the forward estimates, of $2.1263 billion.

This is a level of border cost blow-out which has no precedent. There are many costs to this government's failure on our borders. We know of the chaos, we know of the tragedy, but the financial costs are also significant. They have gone beyond testing the patience of Australians as they see billions upon billions of dollars having to be sucked in to this whirlpool of border failure, drawing resources from other important objectives that a government should be funding—resources that, at the very least, would be ensuring that the deficit would not be at the stratospheric levels it has been at under this government in recent years.

A habit, a practice of border protection failure, has led to this habit and practice of constantly underestimating the costs and constantly having to come before this parliament and ask for more money. The cumulative budget blow-out as at this point in time, when the costs of the increase in the refugee and the humanitarian program to 20,000 are taken into account, is more than $6.5 billion over the last four years. $6.5 billion—that is the level of blow-out.

Let us reflect on what the government have asked for over the last few years as these appropriation bills have come before this parliament. Following the 2009-10 budget, they brought forward the appropriation bills, now acts, No. 3 and No. 4, and in those bills they sought $54 million extra for recurrent and $34 million extra for capital—some $88 million. In the following February of 2011, they came into this parliament and they said, 'Please, sir, can we have some more?' They asked for $298.5 million in recurrent appropriations and a further $192.956 million for capital—a grand total for that year of an extra $491.5 million on top of what had already been appropriated to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The following year, in February 2012—groundhog day—Appropriation Bill (No. 3) sought an extra $332.546 million in recurrent and a further $9.3 million in capital for a grand total of $341,815,000 extra to cover the recurring blow-outs in this government's border budget through asylum seeker management—year on year on year.

Then, of course, came this current budget year, and such has been the level of blow-out that the government have had to ask twice. Last year, in November or thereabouts, the government came before the parliament and asked for another $1.674982 billion on top of what had already been appropriated in the budget of the previous May. The government tried to dress that up as funding the implementation of the Houston panel, but that is an absolute deceit, because the overwhelming and vast majority of those funds were not going to the implementation of measures from the Houston report, they were going to fund the sharpest increase in illegal boat arrivals that our country had ever seen. Too many people had just turned up, and it had absolutely collapsed the budget. So, the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship came before the parliament and asked for $1.674982 billion. You would think that between November and February that should have been enough to tide them over, but, no. Once again, here we are in February, despite that enormous appropriation of last November, and the government is now asking, in these bills that are before the House, for $64.7 million in recurrent and $32.4 million in capital appropriations. That brings the grand total of these additional appropriation acts and bills since 2009-10 to some $2.7 billion.

As we reflect on those numbers, it is the score card of this government's fiscal failure and of their border failure. They are failures which the government are only too aware of. I mean, you just can't go around asking for that much money every year and not notice—you tend to notice that you always have your hand out to this parliament. That is what the government do in this area. Asking for that much money in this particular area is unprecedented. So they ask again, and the parliament is asked to shell out once more on behalf of the taxpayer. The government have gone even further on this bill, though, because the additional estimates that were released last Friday are a record. There has been an escalation in the budget from just $85 million for asylum seeker management related costs in 2007-08, when the government inherited management of these issues, to the current year's budget of $2.2 billion in just five years. Remarkably, next year they say that the costs involved in asylum seeker management are going to fall by a billion dollars, and then the year after that they are going to fall by another billion dollars. Within the space of two years, the government are budgeting to cut the cost for asylum seeker management by $2 billion.

You would have to think that a reduction of that magnitude could be assuming only one thing: that they had actually stopped the boats. The budget for 2012-13 as revised by the portfolio additional estimates, which was saying where the expenditure would be in the out years, down to $871 million and $833 million, has now been revised down by this government in those out years to just $451 million and $338 million. I asked a simple question in estimates yesterday, through Senator Cash: 'Is that what the budget looks like when you stop the boats?' The answer was yes. So that is what it can look like. But the government have missed one fatal point, and that is: you have got to actually put the policies in place which stop the boats before you bank it in your budget—and this government have failed to do that consistently. They have resisted, for years, putting back the measures that are absolutely necessary to achieve the very outcome that they have now budgeted for in this desperate raid on out year savings that can be legitimately claimed by the coalition but cannot be even remotely credibly tamed by a government that has the worst border protection record of any government in our history. The estimates are based on a belief that Labor's policies can achieve that objective, and they simply will not.

If we look at what has happened with boat arrivals over the last five years, we have gone from an average of two per month in 2007-08 to an average of more than 2,000 per month. That is where the arrow is going. The arrow is going up in terms of arrivals, and this government is claiming that the expenditure is going to come down. That is the parallel universe we live in here in Canberra when we sit around this place, where the government believe they have delivered a surplus and that they have stopped the boats. They are living in an absolute fantasy land when you look at these estimates. They cannot stand. This sort of deceit in a budget document cannot stand. Today in estimates the finance department secretary indicated that they had accepted this assumption on the basis of offshore processing being the central component of what was announced following the Houston report. At no stage have the coalition ever claimed that the simple introduction of that one measure is necessary. We have always argued that it has been a suite of measures.

There were two other very critical measures in place back in 2001-02. There were temporary protection visas, which this government continues to reject, and there was Operation Relex—the process of turning boats back and sending people back. Those measures are not in place under this government and therefore they cannot budget for coalition policy outcomes if they are not going to put coalition policies in place. One could be forgiven for thinking that the budget revision which was released last Friday was assuming the election of a coalition government, because that is the only way that the figures that are maintained in this set of budget estimates and that are funded by this bill, at least for the current year, would ever be realised.

There is a great measure of responsibility that will fall on the Secretary to the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury when they put the non-political estimates out there for budget prior to an election and we ensure that the true figures, based on the actual performance of this government's policies—not on their imagined performance, which is what is before them in these figures we see here today—and it will be incumbent on them to ring true. But there is an opportunity for the government to get this right. They can stop putting across this absolute fiscal furphy and they can correct these measures when they prepare the estimates for the next budget. As a result, I seek leave to table the letter that was sent to the Secretary to Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury last night by the shadow Treasurer and I, highlighting these very points that there has to be confidence in the budgets and the estimates upon which costings will be based.

What we have before us at the moment is only a demonstration, once again, of why the numbers that this government is putting out in terms of expenditure are pure fantasy and are not a basis for anything in assessing the relative costs of the government's programs and what the impact will be on taxpayers. It is absolutely critical that we get this sorted out.

There is an opportunity for the government to come clean. They are a government that point-blank refuse to implement the coalition policies that they have abolished. That is their choice. They have made that choice. It has cost us $6½ billion in budget blow-outs and far more in the chaos and tragedy that we have seen since. But they have the opportunity to at least get the estimates of their expenditure right, and what is currently in the portfolio additional estimates is nothing more than fantasy on behalf of the government. It is nothing more than an absolute fiscal furphy. It is imperative that they remedy this, because we know that they have not delivered a surplus, despite their claims, and they are certainly not going to deliver these figures with their border protection record and the policies that they have put into place, because they just do not measure up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Lyons ): Is leave granted?

Mr Melham: No, it is not. If he had followed the protocol and given it to us before he wanted to table it—that is the protocol. After that speech, I would not give it to you anyway.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I notice that the member for Fowler is in another place and speaking at the moment, so I call the member for Banks.