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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3677


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (13:17): I rise to follow my good friend the member for Mackellar after her terrific remarks on the budget bills that are before the parliament, which are consistent with the previous budgets that the Treasurer of this government has handed down because they are built on debt, deficit and deceit. There is a consistent approach from this Treasurer, which is to spend more money than he receives every year. There is another consistent approach of this Treasurer, which is to claim that it is always somebody else's fault.

This year we saw the shenanigans in the lead-up to the budget with the predictions by the finance minister, Senator Wong, who was sent onto Sky AM Agenda on the Monday morning to explain that there was a $7 billion budget revenue write-down. Just a couple of days later the Treasurer was out there saying it was a $13 billion budget revenue write-down. A couple of days later Senator Wong was back on Sky AM Agenda saying that actually no, it was a $17 billion budget revenue write-down. This was all within the space of a week!

The truth is, as has been so well articulated by the Leader of the Opposition in his budget in-reply speech and by the shadow Treasurer at the National Press Club last week, that revenue in Australia has grown in fact in the last 12 months. We saw the lecture from the Prime Minister in the lead-up to the budget on what we can only describe as 'Johnanomics'. The average wage earner, John, as she described him, expected his income to grow by 12 per cent in a calendar year and, low and behold, it only grew by 7½ per cent and the advice that the Prime Minister gave John—through her Johnanomics lesson—was to borrow for the gap 'because your income will come back, the expected income will return, so don't worry about it and just keep borrowing until it does'. I think the shadow Treasurer summed it up nicely later that day when he said the best advice he could give to John was not to trust the Prime Minister and to vote Liberal. I think on 14 September that is advice that the Australian people should take heed of.

With this budget we have seen a debate about the forecasts that the Treasurer and the minister for finance have signed off in their budget bills. They are responsible for the budget. Of course they are as their names are on the front page of the budget papers—documents that Treasury and Finance are obviously heavily involved with, as are all government departments, but in the end the content of the budget is a matter for decision by the Treasurer, by the Prime Minister and by the minister for finance. So the claim that somehow they have no influence, and that it is all about independent forecasting in the budget papers, does not pass the sniff test and certainly was not the history under the Howard and Costello government. You are right, as a government, to take the best advice available, and we say the Treasury offers that advice, but it is also within the realm of the Treasurer to give indications to the Treasury about what he would like the forecasts to come out with, depending on the decisions that the government wanted to make.

If you go back to the Howard and Costello government, you saw year after year budgets which underestimated revenue. They took a cautious approach to their estimations and when there was additional money that came through the door—through taxation revenue because the economy had performed better than expected or because China had grown more quickly and our terms of trade had improved better than what we had expected—you had a situation where for budget after budget in the 2000s there were tax cuts which were paid for out of budget surpluses. The Labor government likes now to make all these grand claims that somehow the Howard and Costello government were responsible for the fact that we are now in deficit and that they spent too much during the so-called boom years, although even at their highest peak the terms of trade were some 14 per cent lower than what they are under this government.

The truth is, as Peter Costello said on the 7:30 program just recently, even before the boom years began he had delivered five surplus budgets. He delivered five budgets under which he was able to live within his means—a government living within its means. Then, during the times when there was additional revenue because the government was prudent and conservative in its forecasts, it had additional money to be able to allow some extra headroom for tax cuts to make the cost-of-living pressures on Australians that little bit easier. The government was able to ensure that businesses could get on and create opportunities, knowing that ultimately it is business and the entrepreneurial desires of our countrymen and women that grow our economy and make us a better country—not government, as those on the other side would have you believe.

Contrast that with the last 5½ years of the Rudd and Gillard governments and you see just what a difference there has been. Of course there were revenue reductions during the GFC; no-one has ever argued the point. The Treasurer would have you believe that the coalition did not support action at the time; we did. But on the second stimulus package we said it was too much, and we were proven right. It was too much. The then Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, was the first off the blocks to say that we needed a banking guarantee. The Treasurer, appropriately, followed suit. We supported the first stimulus package when it was announced.

But we did not support the breadth of the second stimulus package—that is the truth and the history. The Labor Party will try to reinvent the history and try to have you believe that we did not support any action; we did. We said the second amount was too much because the second stimulus package had programs such as overpriced school halls, and pink batts in people's roofs which burnt people's houses down and cost double to take out as they did to install—without any ministerial responsibility for that, I might add. We were proven right.

What has been a bigger issue for this government in its budget management has been that it never underestimates what revenue will come through the door. Take the mining tax, which Senator Mathias Cormann has done such a terrific job at exposing what a fraud it has been. It has increased the sovereign risk for companies making investment decisions in Australia—companies such as BHP Billiton with its Olympic Dam decision, which has had such a devastating impact on my home state of South Australia. It is a tax which was estimated to raise some $4 billion this financial year. It was a deal that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister did with the big miners, days after the now Prime Minister knifed the former Prime Minister, and as one of the things she had to fix because the government 'had lost its way'.

This tax in this financial year has raised some five per cent of expected revenue. Interestingly, 100 per cent of expected revenue that the government banked on has been spent. So they have spent more money than they have received; spent it before they got it; and spent it from what they themselves described as a volatile tax. They sell this tax as being virtuous because it will move with the movement in the commodity price. They say this with a straight face. They put in place a payment to families off the back of this mining tax's so-called 'expected revenue', which does not exist. So they have to borrow money from our children's future to hand it to their parents. They do not even have the grace to send the bill to the children when, ultimately, that is what they are doing.

We have a responsibility here for those who are living and for those who are yet to join us. If we leave a massive debt we will have an intergenerational debt issue, which we already have, which the next generation—the schoolchildren in the gallery today—will have to deal with when they enter the workforce. They will have to pay more tax than need be because this government cannot find a way to live within its means. It is always someone else's fault. They have never taken responsibility for the utter failure of their forecasting; their utter failure to be a government that does not waste taxpayers' money; and their utter failure as a government that cannot live within its means.

The other example in the budget papers that highlights the inability of the government to manage this budget is the expected revenue over coming years from the carbon tax. The so-called price on carbon apparently is a market based mechanism that just happens to move in a linear fashion between 2015-16 and 2020 to reach the price the government needs in 2020 to achieve its target. It moves up by a perfect increment each year in a so-called floating market price—what a joke! That is what the so-called road to surplus is based on. We all know that that is a fiction, as it was a fiction the 500-odd times previously when this Prime Minister and Treasurer had said that they would deliver it.

In South Australia we are seeing the diabolical double of a bad federal Labor government and a really bad state Labor government. Business confidence is at a real low. Investment in South Australia is at a real low. The impact of the Olympic Dam decision—the much hyped, much promised 10-year expansion of the Olympic Dam project—is still flowing through and having consequences.

We do not see any relief for South Australia in the budget papers and in these bills. The only relief we can see for South Australian people is that in September they will have an opportunity to change the government, and I urge them to do that. We have a plan—a real solutions plan—which will help to encourage business again. It is a plan to take the red and green tape burden off Australian businesses to allow them to get on and create opportunities.

In South Australia—as the member for Boothby, at the table, knows—we are a small business state. We need small business to be successful. We do not need the retailer in the main street of Mount Barker to continually tell me how difficult it is now to run his business. We do not need the combination of federal and state governments creating additional half-day public holidays, making it impossible for restaurants to open on New Year's Eve. Talk about a decision that has had an absolute impact on the cultural and economic opportunities in our state!

That half-day public holiday decision, supported all the way by this federal Labor government, had a massive impact on our restaurateurs, our bars and our pubs over the last Christmas season. It was so badly thought through and had such an impact that it will take time, and should be repealed as soon as it possibly can be.

We have a plan in South Australia to upgrade the Darlington interchange, something the member for Boothby has fought for passionately for years—you can barely have a conversation with him without him raising the prospect of this being upgraded and all the benefits it will have for people coming in from parts of my electorate in the beautiful McLaren Vale and Happy Valley, bordering on the Boothby electorate. It will make the lives of those people so much easier if a coalition government is elected. It was disappointing in this budget not to see an announcement from the minister for infrastructure for the second interchange on Bald Hills Road in Mount Barker. This is something I have been fighting for in my community for some time. It is my No. 1 priority. I took a plan to the last election for half funding of that, with the state government to commit the other half. The state government has opened up a lot of areas for development around Mount Barker, and it is only right that those people get the opportunity to improve the infrastructure to make their lives easier. It is something I will continue to fight for.

What I will fight for every day between now and the next election is to give Australian businesses the confidence of a government that knows what it is doing; that does not change its mind every couple of days; that does not tell the electorate it will not have a carbon tax and then inflict a carbon tax on them, lifting their cost of energy and their cost of doing business; that does not regulate their workplaces to such an extent that people cannot have the flexibility required to ensure they can create jobs; that encourages entrepreneurs and small business people to grow; and that does not attach people for success. This government refuses to support its small business community. This is why I was also pleased at the Leader of the Opposition's announcement to put off the increase in superannuation for a couple of years to give small businesses that extra bit of time to adjust in a difficult economic environment. The coalition has a real solutions plan and a five-pillar approach to our economy to ensure that jobs can be created, that real wages will be lifted and that we will return to an era where government will once again live within its means and create a better and stronger economy for all Australians and for future generations.