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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 1080


Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (19:29): The electorate of Wright consists of families, small businesses, farmers, sporting groups and organisations. It is not that dissimilar to most electorates throughout Australia.

As a government we ask each of those organisations or groups or families to do one particular thing. It is appropriate that, in speaking about appropriations bills Nos 3 and 4, which we are debating here tonight, and talking about managing finances, as a government we ask these organisations and families, we ask mums and dads, to live within their means, to live within the parameters in which they can survive without getting themselves into financial risk. This is an election year. One of the greatest things we have about democracy is that people have the final say. They will determine who they believe is better able to manage this economy, and they will base those decisions on the track record of the coalition and the track record of this Labor government. I suggest that this election will also come down to a position of trust. As a person voting this year in an election year, who do you best trust to manage the economy and the future of our nation?

I want to take you on a journey. I want you to remember that, recently, Labor decided to walk away from their not-negotiable budget surplus for 2012-13. It was a concession that they had lost control of the nation's finances. On over 650 occasions the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation repeated their promises that they would deliver the nation a surplus. In fact, there was an embarrassing situation in the chamber the other day when nine members of the government were brought to task over pamphlets that had been circulated in their own electorates by the government stating that they had already delivered a surplus. Surely the economic credentials of those members are such that they must have known that at the last budget Labor actually delivered a $44 billion deficit, a far cry from a surplus. When we ask the electorate to take politicians into their trust in the next campaign, it is right up there with the Achilles heel of the Australian Labor Party: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' I would be very surprised if we do not run it and run it. How can you trust a Prime Minister who says one thing one day and another thing the next day to suit her political survival strategy? Just in case you thought the Prime Minister got it wrong and she was out there on her own, let me tell you that, no, she was flanked by the Treasurer of the nation, who said during the 2007 campaign that it was hysterical that Australians believed we were moving towards a carbon tax.

The government has delivered four of the biggest budget deficits in history, with an accumulated value of $172 billion. To put that into perspective, that is $172 billion worth of deficits in four years. I would challenge anyone who has the capacity to go to the library or to go back through Australia's history books to as far back as Edmund Barton, our very first Prime Minister at the beginning of Federation. This is not a Liberal line, this is not just the rhetoric that we roll out on both sides of the House. If you go back and have a look at the cumulative deficits from both sides of the House since the beginning of Federation and add them together, you would come to a figure of only $123 billion. But in four years this Labor government has stuck on $172 billion, more than the entire deficits since Federation. Admittedly, in that calculation there is not an equalling calculation—

An honourable member: Let's be honest!

Mr BUCHHOLZ: Yes, to change it—a pound would have been worth more then. That is at face value.

I am glad the interjection from the other side spoke about honesty because I am going to get to honesty. As I said in my opening comments, this election will be about trust and who you trust to best run this economy.

In effect, the government has spent $172 billion more than it has earned over that period. That is how a deficit comes about. In 2011-12 the net debt hit an unprecedented $147 billion. Every day this government has been in charge of the budget, debt has increased. That is a fact. The Prime Minister loves that saying. Well, that is a fact. Since Labor has been in government, debt has increased. Labor has now sought to increase the government debt ceiling limit on four separate occasions. We had only one GFC; we did not have four of them. The government amended its debt ceiling limit in 2008 to $75 billion. It was again increased in 2009 to $200 billion during the global financial crisis, and rightly so. In 2011 the government increased this limit yet again to $250 billion. Then in the budget the government increased the limit to $300 billion.

Government debt on issue at the moment is well over $250 billion. There are still further spending projects, such as the NBN, which is around $56 billion when the initial estimates for that project were that it would come in at $4 billion. That is a big difference. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is $10 billion of government expenditure that does not get counted in the deficit, so that is extra again. As a result, that money is going to finance subprime commercialism that our banks will not pick up. We boast that we have the best banking structure in the world. If our banks will not touch these projects, why is it that, when this nation is drowning in debt, that would be a priority project for this government? Who knows where these figures will end up with reference to the increased deficit next year?

Labor cannot manage money; Labor cannot manage the books. Regardless of the government's rhetoric, it has a spending problem and a forecasting problem. It does not have a revenue problem. Let me take you back because the best way to understand the integrity of future forecasts is to go back in history and look at what the forecasts were four years ago. This will demonstrate that your budgeting expertise is right. I take you back two years ago to when the forecast for this budget was a $10 billion deficit. At the 18-month mark that $10 billion figure was revised to $22 billion. Six months after that, at the 12-month mark, that $22 billion figure was revised to $36 billion. They were substantial jumps. Finally, the deficit that was delivered upon the mums and dads of this nation to be paid back in the future was none less than $44 billion. So it started at $10 billion and went to $44 billion. I encourage the Australian people when they cast their vote and are making their assessment on trust to look at the facts.

It consistently assumed unrealistic high levels of future revenue and spend levels and then cried, 'Woe is me,' when the politically aspired forecasts were not realised. The government is now spending more than $90 billion a year more compared to the last year of the Howard government. So, from a stimulus perspective, this government is spending $90 billion more than when we last left office. Federal government revenue was more than $70 billion higher compared to when Labor took office. How can that be? We have $70 billion more revenue going through the coffers. You will often hear the Treasurer say on the floor that forecasted revenues are down. The fact is that there is $70 billion more revenue being generated today than when we left office. Why is there more money coming through? Because of the 27 new taxes.

Again, the people of Australia will get their democratic right to say whether they have had enough or to continue down this track. I suggest the longer this Labor government stays in power, the greater the chance we will see more taxes. In the first four months of the financial year, government revenues were 4.2 per cent higher than previous years. Despite crying poor, the government has benefited from a mining boom that has delivered the strongest terms of trade in 150 years. You would think that if you were in that rush of gold and the rivers of gold were flowing, that would be the ideal time from an economic perspective to pay down debt. When revenues are peaking is the time you should be paying down debt, but not this government.

Spending was four per cent ahead last year. Labor has proven to be incapable of living within its means. Yet we ask families to do it. The problem with this government is this: when the forecasted revenues are coming back, as we have heard the Treasurer say, a householder would reduce their expenditure, but not this government. The Treasurer says that on the back of the resources sector revenue forecasts are coming back, but this government is talking about Gonski reforms and the NDIS with absolutely no idea of where the coin is going to come from to pay it let alone balance the books. I would suggest that between now and the election date we will see some very tricky manoeuvring with the management of the books for the so-called surplus that we were to have at the end of this financial year. I will not be surprised if you see that figure blow out. As they have done in the past, I would not be surprised if they bring forward expenditure to make that figure look bad so that when they get to the pre-budget economic fiscal outlook that will look a lot better.

Respected forecasters Independent Economics believe that the budget should already be back in surplus by about $15 billion or around 0.1 per cent of GDP at this point in the economic cycle. We have seen unprecedented levels of waste. Pink batts, overpriced school halls, cheques to dead people and blow-outs in border protection are symbols of this government's incompetence. Talking about the waste of money, it was interesting to hear speakers in the House during the last couple of months talking about the way some of the federal government money has been appropriated. I thought it appropriate to remind the Australian public tonight that this government spent $140,000 on a study to look at the sleeping habits of snails. This government spent $340,000 to see whether climate change is affecting fiddler crabs—fact; I am going to use that every time. This government spent $314,000 to study whether birds are shrinking. There was an additional—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr BUCHHOLZ: Interject, but you need to question where you guys spend money as a government, because this is ridiculous. Another $578,000 was spent on research on an ignored credit instrument in the Florentine economic, social and religious life from the 1550s. The previous speaker spoke about how as a nation we need to increase productivity. Guess what? I have just given four great ways how as a nation we can increase productivity! We need to spend money more wisely. We need to be more diligent. I suggest that the capacity of this government to bring the budget into surplus is beyond it. Only a coalition government will truly be able to deliver the nation to prosperity. (Time expired)