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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1514


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (12:09): I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. When talking about the overall economic performance of the Gillard government there are three issues that come top of mind. The first one is the issue of trust and credibility—the issue of the truth. The second one is waste—and we have seen a lot of waste. The third one is the carbon tax and what it is going to do to the already increasing cost of living being felt in communities across the country.

Trust in government is vital and trust in the Prime Minister is vital. Yet sadly what we are seeing day by day is that our Prime Minister cannot be trusted. We saw it with the promise that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, which was made before the last election and then was immediately disavowed after the election. We have seen it rear its ugly head with what happened on Australia Day. As 7.30 highlighted last night, we now once again cannot believe the version of events that we are getting from the Prime Minister on this issue. We have seen it with the private health insurance bills, the commitments that were made before the 2007 election and what was done immediately after to renege on those commitments.

Trust in government is very important for overall economic health. If you cannot trust what the Prime Minister and the government are saying then the overall sovereign risk increases. We now have companies, small businesses and individuals—farmers and manufacturers; people in all sectors of our economy—unable to believe what this government tells them. That means that the investment decisions that they would like to make are being put off, because they do not know whether this government will go back on its word and make a decision that will harm that long-term investment if they go forward with those investment decisions.

The best thing that we can do to improve sovereign risk in this country is to go to an election. People are fed up with their being told one thing and then the government doing another. It has got to the stage where lack of trust is eroding people's confidence in this government. It is time for the government to recognise this and to realise that it is damaging the nation and increasing sovereign risk, meaning that investment in all sectors across the country is being curtailed. No-one has the confidence to believe what the government is saying, even when it is looking them in the eye. They are worried that it will do something else. That is sad.

This was personified in the Prime Minister's appearance on Four Corners. I do not think that we have ever seen anything shiftier in political history in Australia than her answers to the two questions that were put to her about whether she had seen the polling that was being handed around to destabilise Kevin Rudd and whether a speech was being prepared in her office two weeks before Kevin Rudd was rolled. If you cannot have confidence in the words of the Prime Minister, it harms in every way people's ability to look and say, 'Okay, what is the level of sovereign risk in this country?' Australia has always been seen as a safe place to put investment.

I now turn to the question of waste. You have all seen today just another example of how this government treats the taxpayer with utter contempt. On the front page of today's Australianwe have the $700 Labor Party set-top box. We then have the $19 set-top box, which you can get down at your local discount store. The $19 set-top box versus the $700 Labor set-top box. On the front page of the Australianis pictured one of my constituents, who made this very valid comment which I think stands true for a lot of the spending problems this government has. She said:

I think their idea might have been well intended, but you wonder if they thought it through.

I will just repeat that, because I am hoping that the Labor members who are here today might just take this into account the next time they think of one of their wonderful ideas: 'I think their idea might have been well intended, but you wonder if they thought it through.' That is the $700 Labor set-top box versus the $19 set-top box that you can get from your local discount store. It is gross waste.

Let us turn to the BER. Once again it would be fair to say that the idea might have been well intended, but you wonder if they thought it through. Sadly, they did not. I have seen in my electorate example after example of waste and more waste. There is a little school, which I will not name because the school is still dealing with the BER issue, in one of the areas of socioeconomic disadvantage in my electorate. There is a school principal who is doing outstanding work in trying to educate those students. They had a roof which needed replacing because it was leaking. An amount of $1.2 million was spent on giving the school a new roof. The first time that it rained, the principal had to get up with a hammer because the rain was pouring so badly into one of the classrooms. She had to get up on a ladder herself and get a hammer and fix a hole in the roof to make sure that damage was not done to all the inside carpet and from rain running down the walls and ripping all the paint off the walls. So it was $1.2 million to fix the problem and the problem was made worse.

Mr Neumann: Whose fault's that?

Mr TEHAN: Yes, whose problem was that? It had nothing to do with the federal government that allocated the money! No; you just gave the money and then you wiped your hands. You do not care what happens to that taxpayers' money.

Mr Neumann: Oh, rubbish; that's nonsense.

Mr TEHAN: Why are you laughing then?

Mr Neumann interjecting

Mr TEHAN: You are laughing at this; you do not care what happens to the—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! The member for Wannon will not respond to the interjections, and the member for Blair will desist from interjecting.

Mr TEHAN: What happened in that school is an absolute disgrace. You should come down and talk to the principal about it, and then you would see firsthand what happened to that $1.2 million. That program was rushed out. I go back to my constituent who was on the front page of the Australian today, who said, 'I think their idea might have been well intended, but you wonder if they thought it through.' And they did not.

Just think about what could have been done with the money that was wasted. When we talk about employment, when we talk about job creation, think about what could have been done with that money. For instance, what about if you had thought: 'Okay, we've got a couple of billion dollars here; maybe we should go to state governments. One idea which might be quite a good one is, ''Let's work towards the reduction of payroll tax.''' If you understand business in the community, you will understand that payroll tax is one of the biggest disincentives to employing people. That would have been a very constructive way, a way which structurally would have changed the employment market in this country and led to more job creation. That is just one idea. The member for Blair asked me for one—there it is, right on the plate. Think about it; it would be a very good way to go about it.

The third issue is one that is about to hit the community and businesses across my electorate and across the country. It will add to the cost of living. It is the carbon tax. It is not too late to say that the carbon tax is the wrong policy at the wrong time. If you will face up to that you can save this country from immeasurable damage from this insidious tax.

I have an aluminium smelter in Portland in my electorate. It is a very good investment by Alcoa. It provides incredibly important jobs and, not only that, those jobs feed into the local community and provide jobs there as well. The carbon tax will add a $40 million cost to smeltering for Alcoa in the state of Victoria. That is the figure that was announced by the company in Senate estimates. At this time, when a review has just been announced of the 600 workers' jobs at Point Henry, and the company has come out and stated that the carbon tax is going to be a $40 million hit to its bottom line, why would you progress with it? Surely you would step back and say, given the climate for manufacturing at the moment, that this is not the right tax for the right time. You would admit, 'We got it wrong.' I would go back to my constituents and say, 'Maybe the idea was well intended, but I wonder whether we have thought this through properly.'

It is not just big manufacturing; it is small manufacturing. With a company like Gason in my electorate, which manufactures equipment which leads to a reduction in carbon emissions from soy, what are they getting for producing this equipment?

Mr Stephen Jones: Carbon farming!

Mr TEHAN: Carbon farming does nothing for them. Understand the issue—they are a manufacturer. Carbon farming does nothing for them. You do not understand your issue. What do they get for producing carbon-reduction equipment? They get a carbon tax. How is that fair? The carbon tax will add to the cost of living, and understand that the cost of living is increasing. We see it with insurance premiums, with people's electricity bills and with the cost of child care—another policy where once again this government's intentions might have been okay but they did not think through what the ultimate result of their policy would be.

I welcome the opportunity today to talk on these two appropriation bills and to raise the three key points that I have raised. The first was about the issue of trust and, sadly—I know the members sitting opposite saw it—that Four Corners show once and for all detailed that we have a Prime Minister and therefore a government which cannot be trusted. The second point I have highlighted is that we continue to see waste upon waste upon waste. Labor's $700 set-top box is just another example of this, especially when you realise that for $19 at the local discount store you can get a set-top box. The third issue is what the carbon tax is going to do to manufacturing—both small and large—in this country and, also, to the cost of living, to what it is going to do to increase people's electricity bills and to what it is going to do to a range of issues in driving up overall costs. It is an insidious tax and the government should just admit that it was an idea that might have been well intended but they never thought it through. (Time expired)