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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3663


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (12:17): In the absence of any government speakers in support of their budget, let me make some more contributions on behalf of the opposition in the hope that there may be a more realistic assessment of the budget's presentation Tuesday a week ago than we heard from the Treasurer.

The Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and the cognate bills before us are really all the evidence anyone needs to demonstrate this government's chaotic mismanagement of our national economy. It is of course going to be Australian families that will end up footing the bill. In this budget the government delivers to families taxes at least $25 billion higher over the next four years. There are more taxes on super and on their income through increased Medicare levies, there are cuts to promised family benefits, there is the abolition of the HECS upfront discounts, there is a cap on self-education expenses, and there are perhaps 10 or a dozen more.

The Treasurer is always full of excuses as to why the government is in such a lamentable position. They have been so unlucky to be in government when everything is going wrong around them! It is all beyond the government's control! We hear all the lame excuses: 'The dollar's too high,' 'The resource boom has slowed,' 'It's the GFC' and 'The revenue has collapsed.' Those are all the kinds of excuses that the Treasurer used on budget night and has used again subsequently.

In fact, the revenue in last year's budget did not collapse as the Treasurer has said. It was actually up by six per cent. Revenue went up, not down! In this year's budget the revenue is forecast to grow another seven per cent. Most businesses would be happy to settle for a six or seven per cent growth in their revenue. It adds up to more money than any Australian government has collected in history. This budget will collect more tax than any other budget in Australian history. The revenue raised will be $80 billion more than in the last year of the Howard government—$80 billion more. Labor is spending $120 billion more than was spent in the last year of the Howard government. So this government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending crisis.

The Treasurer has also complained that the dollar is too high; but that was one of the only forecasts in last year's budget that was actually confirmed by the figures Tuesday week. The dollar was precisely, on average, the value that the government had predicted: US$1.03. That was one of the rare things that they actually got right. And now the government is trying to blame it for the failure of their budget strategy.

Over 500 times, going back as far as 2010, the government promised that there would be a surplus in the 2013 budget. The Prime Minister herself made that promise on at least 165 occasions, but each one of those 165 commitments were broken like so many of the other promises that she has made to the Australian people. For the fifth consecutive time the budget handed down last week has a deficit, a whopping $19.4 billion.

The original promise was a surplus of $1.5 billion. But three weeks before the budget the Treasurer finally owned up to the fact that he would miss his target as a result of revenue drops of $7 billion. Two weeks before the budget, it was $12 billion. And as little as one week before the budget it was $17 billion, and then on the night it came in as $19.4 billion. Who knows where it will really be by the end of June?

With this year's forecast deficit, it brings the government's record to $192 billion in cumulative budget deficits—the biggest budget deficits in our nation's history. When they first brought down a deficit budget it was supposed to be temporary; six budgets on, it is still in deficit and this budget forecasts at least another two deficits before they finally break even. But since they cannot get their estimates right for even a week, who could believe them in three years time?

The budget confirms that the government gross debt will exceed $370 billion at its peak, way beyond anything we have ever known before in our country. When the credit card limit is next raised—and it will be the fourth time under this government—it will have to be to a number around $400 billion. Is there really any end in sight at all? That is the debt Australians are going to have to pay back. Government debt is no different from the debt that householders or businesses face. The banks expect their interest, and they expect the debt to be paid back. It is all about waste and out-of-control spending.

The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and this government inspire a lack of confidence. The central theme of the budget now that the government has lost all interest in surpluses was that the budget was to 'grow jobs and grow the economy'. But the budget has failed its first test. The budget forecasts indicate higher unemployment at 5¾ per cent, and lower growth at 2¾ per cent.

Labor's plan to return to surplus in three years is simply not credible. The potential for a black hole in future budgets is enormous. There are just so many time bombs in this budget. There are so many commitments that have been made that are not funded. And let us also remember that there are still $28 billion worth of taxes promised in the last federal budget that have not even been legislated.

Here we are with four weeks of sittings of parliament left, and Labor still has $28 billion worth of tax increases from the last budget that have not even been passed by the parliament—we have not even sighted the legislation for some of them. So they cannot get last year's taxes in place—and many people believe that they are not being put in place because they simply cannot be administered; they will require new taxation returns to be lodged by thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Australian taxpayers—and that legislation still has not been introduced, yet the government has banked the revenue as though it was all being collected. It is counted on the revenue side but it has never been legislated and it has never been collected. This is an example of the way in which this government is leaving behind big name promises and big launch occasions, while the programs are actually not properly funded.

We hear about the Gonski report and what a great revolution it is supposed to be for education—but this budget actually spends $300 million less on school funding over the next four years. So if there is going to be more money under Gonski, it is not provided for in this budget; it is another time bomb waiting to go off when somebody else has to pick up the trouble. And what about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something all Australians support? This budget does include a 25 per cent increase in the Medicare tax levy but that only funds 40 per cent of the NDIS. There is no sign in this budget as to where the other 60 per cent is going to come from. This, too, is a time bomb, waiting for someone else to have to deal with it.

There has been deceit also in relation to Labor's commitments in relation to infrastructure. On the day before the budget, we were told in the morning newspapers that the $100 billion centrepiece of the budget was going to be expenditure on infrastructure. When the announcement was made on budget night, it was not $100 billion; it was just $24 billion over five years. That compares with $36 billion over six years in the previous package. So Labor has actually significantly cut road and rail funding. And many of the projects announced are barely funded, if indeed there are any funding commitments for them at all. For example, the Melbourne Metro link rail project was announced as a $3 billion scheme but the four-year estimates in the budget only allocate $75 million. The rest is simply not funded. WesConnex in Sydney is a $1.8 billion commitment for Labor—but with so many strings attached that it will never go ahead. Of that $1.8 billion, in the first four years only $200 million is allocated. The rest is not funded. And it is a similar story with the $5 billion Cross River Rail tunnel in Brisbane. Despite the billions required for the project, only $100 million has been allocated—and then with conditions that Labor knows the state government can never meet. It is irresponsible budgeting, but it is also plain dishonest. It is about rhetoric and spin. When it comes down to it, the money is simply not there. It is a time bomb sitting around for future budgets.

There is no new money for projects like the Bruce Highway, beyond what has already been announced many times over. The government is spruiking $4 billion for the Bruce Highway but we know that much of that is not new money—in fact, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport admitted before the budget that only $2.4 billion of that is actually new money. It short-changes the Bruce Highway—and his own promise—by at least $2 billion. Under Labor, communities along the highway will play an anxious waiting game. They will be waiting to see which one of the projects announced has not been funded by the government; which one of the required roadworks that the government claims to support will not in fact be funded. It is the same story with the Pacific Highway: there is no new money at all in this budget, which still leaves Labor $2 billion short of the funding that is going to be required to finish the project. By contrast, the coalition is already guaranteeing the extra $2 billion needed—and that is on top of the $3.5 billion currently tied up in this government's dangerous game of charades with the New South Wales government over funding shares. But it goes on. Labor announced further work on the Ipswich Motorway, which is a long way off. There does not seem to be any actual funding for this project in the four-year estimates at all. Then they said they are prepared to meet only half the cost of the Ipswich Motorway upgrade, despite the fact that the former Prime Minister promised faithfully the people of Ipswich and the southern suburbs of Brisbane that the federal government would meet 100 per cent of the project cost.

When you look at this government's budget, you see that it has simply collapsed all around but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than the mining tax. Revenue from the mining tax, personally and secretly negotiated by this Prime Minister, has collapsed from an estimated $22.5 billion to just $3 billion over the next four years. The actual collection so far is 95 per cent below the estimate. As a result, many of the projects that were to be funded through this sharing of the boom have had to be abandoned. The words 'sharing the boom' do not appear anywhere in the budget this time around. The Labor government has killed the boom with its taxes and its IR changes, and with its red and its green tape, all sending a message to the world that Australia is closed for business. As a result of the collapse of the mining tax, the Regional Infrastructure Fund has been largely abandoned. Many projects will have to be abandoned because the revenue stream does not exist.

What other projects is Labor lining up to announce before election day? Does Labor intend to borrow more money to fund them or are they just an empty mirage? The budget was honest enough to strip $2 billion from future projects which were supposed to go to regional Australia. Minister Crean has gone but so has the money. The Independents from northern New South Wales agreed to back the mining tax because it was going to do great things for regional Australia. In reality, most of the money has been spent in the city, and for most regional communities these promises have been only a mirage.

Another area where the budget collapsed is obviously the carbon tax, set at $23 this year, $24 in a couple of months and $27 next year. But the carbon price has collapsed, and the revenue from the tax is simply not there. The tax has destroyed jobs, has done nothing for the environment and now the promised revenue is not there either.

In this budget, the government talks about making $43 billion in savings, but they use the word 'savings' very broadly. Of the $43 billion, $25 billion will come from new or higher taxes, with more taxes on superannuation, self-education, 457 visa fees, Medicare offset changes, cuts to R&D concessions, monthly reporting for smaller companies and increased Medicare levy. This government's expenditure is simply out of control and Australians are being forced to pick up the bill. Is it any wonder voters are looking forward to 14 September, just like kids look forward to Christmas Day, 25 December?