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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1557

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (18:30): I rise to speak on Appropriations Bill (No. 3) 2011-12 and Appropriations Bill (No. 4) 2011-12. In taking this opportunity, I would like to speak about the single biggest issue affecting families, individuals and businesses within my electorate of Forde, and that is the issue of the rising cost of living and the rising cost of doing business. Under this Labor-Green government, we have all witnessed the cost of basic essentials going up and up. Interest rates are climbing and jobs are being shed—and that is before we even get to the carbon and mining taxes, which will only make these issues worse. For example, last year food shot up by about 6.1 per cent, electricity shot up by about 10.7 per cent and motorists paid a little bit over 11 per cent more for petrol. At a time when these costs are skyrocketing, jobs are at risk. More than 1,800 jobs are known to have been lost in January alone, and that figure does not include the 1,000 workers at ANZ who were shown the door earlier this week.

Last year we were promised the creation of 700,000 jobs by the Prime Minister. However, yet again, we are left feeling betrayed because no net new jobs were created last year. The Executive Chairman of Manufacturing Australia has warned that 400,000 Australians are in danger of losing their jobs in the coming year. Whilst the Prime Minister continues to be consumed with the future of her own job, many other Australians are facing the prospect of underemployment or even unemployment in the near future.

Just this week an article in the Courier-Mail grabbed my attention with the headline, 'Workers struggling to get full-time jobs,' as employers increasingly hire part-time and casual workers. This can be supported by some statistics from Roy Morgan that were released in January 2012. The figures show an unemployment rate of 10.3 per cent. It is important to bear in mind that these are calculated on a different metric from the ABS, but that is as it is. An estimated 1.3 million Australians are unemployed or looking for work. This is Australia's highest ever number of unemployed as reported by Roy Morgan and according to their methodology. It is also Australia's highest unemployment rate for a decade—since January 2002. A further 7.5 per cent of the workforce are working part time or looking for more work—an alternative term is 'underemployed'. They represent 934,000 Australians. This takes it to a record total of 17.8 per cent of the workforce or 2.21 million Australians who are either unemployed or underemployed.

The single biggest question I face when I return to my electorate is: when are we going to get a break? Where are we supposed to find the means and the funds to pay for all of these increases? Australians are bunkering down with their savings because they do not feel confident about where this government is leading this great nation. I wish I could tell them some positive news. However, when I return to my electorate at the end of this week, I will be bringing more bad news—news that, again, Labor has broken a promise to the people by spearing an arrow into the heart of the private health insurance rebate. I have already spoken about that and the proposed introduction of means testing in the other chamber. That legislation has now passed, so I will not elaborate on it here. But I will use it as an example to highlight my point that, yet again, the cost of living is set to increase as premiums will grow for every man, woman and child in this country when others pull out of private health insurance cover.

Last week, I was confronted with the question of why there was so little government support for a single mother battling with the costs of medical bills for her child who has serious health conditions. Here is a woman who could benefit from a national disability insurance scheme. However, instead of a national disability insurance scheme we are given an NBN, and I can tell you that the feedback in my electorate about the NBN has not been positive. Most people do not want it, most say they will not sign up for it and most are outraged at the billions of dollars going into this project with no checks or balances. After all, what can one expect from an idea born on the back of a drink coaster on a VIP flight?

The cost of the NBN has already blown out to—who knows?—$50 billion. That is $50 billion that could have been far better utilised elsewhere. As an example of the failure to control costs on the NBN, we have a business in my electorate that can supply the same infrastructure as the NBN is providing for half the cost, yet we have an NBN that is using a foreign company to provide the services and locking out our local providers and businesses.

While we are on this topic of funding poorly thought-out ideas, the latest figures on set-top boxes show a cost blowout to $700 per set-top box. I had a constituent contact my office asking why money is being spent on set-top boxes when they have seen digital televisions advertised for around $200 or $300. Another blow-out in Labor's budget is the abolition of the Pacific solution and temporary protection visas. This has seen a blow-out in the budget of more than $1 billion. The costs of running the immigration department have gone from $1.6 billion a year under the Howard government through to $2.7 billion a year under the current government.

Back in my electorate we have a range of infrastructure projects in desperate need of funding, like the expansion of the M1 between the Gateway and Logan motorways. It is extremely frustrating to see so much money being wasted by this government which could instead be allocated to projects that would improve the daily lives of commuters in my electorate and also those surrounding me between Brisbane, Logan and the Gold Coast.

Under Labor we have seen four of the biggest budget deficits in our history. Labor continued to borrow $100 million a day, and in just four years Labor has turned a $20 billion surplus into $167 billion in accumulated deficits and $70 billion in net Commonwealth assets into $133 billion of net debt. That is $6,000 for every Australian man, woman and child. In addition to this these Australians are paying $100 million a week in interest, which is robbing our future generations of their wealth. The truth is that Labor loves spending money, and in its latest spending spree Labor has spent more than $17 million setting up an agency that will enforce—enforce—the carbon tax. This is another great big new bureaucracy—that $17 million was borrowed funds because Labor has not raised any money from the carbon tax yet—towards enforcing a tax that the majority of Australians strongly oppose. I agree with the statement made by Senator Birmingham in a recent media release that it is outrageous to spend $200,000 on the branding of an agency that has no competition. Long before the implementation of this toxic tax we are seeing the early days of its purpose, which is to bleed taxpayers dry.

To add salt to the wound, this week banks went out on their own, independent of the decision of the Reserve Bank, and increased their interest rates. Mortgage holders around the country can thank Labor for those increases, as Labor's growing mountain of debt continues to place an unnecessary strain on interest rates.

Mr Craig Thomson interjecting

Mr VAN MANEN: You need to put away your Keynesian economics textbook and get a proper one.

Housing affordability is also a big issue in our electorate. There are many housing developments going ahead within Forde, but these are being curtailed because of the inability of both the developers and home buyers to get finance. In addition, the ability to service those mortgages or loans is being restricted because of the level of interest rates. People are being forced away from the dream of buying a new home or buying an investment property. All of this has a flow-through effect to our local builders and contractors, where they have little or no work.

Additionally, it was reported in today's Courier-Mail that one in five residents of the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Coast struggle for necessities like food and power bills because of the cost of servicing the mortgages on their homes. According to this survey, these areas suffer the worst housing stress of all Queensland council areas. On the Gold Coast, for example, which is about a third of my electorate, 41,000 families spend more than a third of their income on housing. Brisbane has one of the highest numbers of people suffering housing stress, at 55½ thousand, and Logan sits somewhere in between. What people cannot fathom is why they should have to pay for Labor's reckless economic mismanagement. For 12 years Australians were able to enjoy good government under the coalition. The prosperity of that time speaks for itself. We had a 20 per cent increase in real wages, more than two million new jobs, and our real net worth per head more than doubled. We need to turn this country around for future generations and ensure there is hope, reward and opportunity for our children and our children's children.

The Treasurer boasted yesterday about our AAA credit rating, which is great. But the average family do not feel as if they are benefiting from the AAA credit rating, nor do they feel the benefits of the mining boom. The Treasurer restated Labor's big productivity agenda to invest in skills and infrastructure like the NBN, but nowhere in his dialogue did he mention relief for everyday Australians. It is one thing to say the economy is steaming along, but it is another thing to see with your own eyes families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet—and I am sure that is not just in my own electorate.

While on the topic of those who struggle, I am very concerned about the decline in financial support for our not-for-profit community groups. As people's ability to donate dries up as a result of ever-increasing cost-of-living pressures, individuals are finding it harder and harder to donate or volunteer their time because more and more people are having to spend longer hours at work just to make ends meet for themselves. Individuals, along with businesses, in my electorate keep putting their hands in their pockets to help these organisations but it is becoming increasingly difficult.

A number of local business in my electorate have also suffered as a result of the actions of this incompetent government. Business owners are working longer and longer hours, sometimes around the clock, and taking home less and less, just to ensure their staff are being paid. At the end of the day, though, many businesses are starting to just give up and shut up shop in an economic crisis that burdens business with excessive red tape and hinders and disables their ability to grow and prosper. We need to remove the dead hand of government from the economy to give business the opportunity to be more productive and more innovative.

The coalition believes that the key to a strong economy is to live within our means so we can improve productivity. This means borrowing less, thereby putting less pressure on interest rates, providing the ability to lower taxes and ultimately putting more money in the pockets of Australians so they can live long and prosperous lives and leave a positive inheritance for future generations.

Labor governments continue to scramble to support their dubious claims that they are looking out for the underprivileged. It is the poor and needy that end up being stung most by the politics of envy. Labor have a problem with success. They do not want to see everyday Australians be personally responsible or entrepreneurial. They want to create a society where everyone is brought down to the lowest common denominator.

They call us negative and accuse us of false pessimism. However, it is my duty as the elected member for Forde to fight for my constituents. At the risk of being seen as negative, I know that I am listening to my electorate and carrying out their wishes. In conclusion, I hope that the government take some time to reflect on their role. It is not fair on the Australian people for this government to continue focusing on their own political survival. It is time for the government to listen to the people, not the polls. I speak on behalf of my constituents when I say enough is enough and let us get Australia back on track.