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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3681


Mr RUDDOCK (Berowra) (13:32): I rise to speak to the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and cognate bills. I do not always speak on budgets, and I do not always speak in the House on budgets, but I have witnessed many over my near 40 years in public life. I have to say that few have disappointed me as much as this budget has. I want to talk about it in context, because I think it is a budget of enormous lost opportunity. If you listen to the arguments from the Treasurer you would believe that this is a difficult environment in which to budget and a difficult environment in which to meet all of your expectations, and that the government should be excused for not being able to meet realistic expectations of what government should be able to achieve.

In my youth I used to sit at the feet of my late father. He was an economist. He had a master's degree in economics. He was employed by Labor governments up until 1949, implementing rather oppressive policies in relation to price control. It convinced him that governments intervening in relation to budgetary issues really do not have very much idea about what should be done and how it should be achieved. He used to talk to me, and to a lot of others, about how he believed that there were different approaches to budgeting. He used to speak of the Liberal Party and its philosophy in terms of creating wealth and generating opportunities for people to be able to use their full potential. He used to say that the coalition were experts in baking a bigger cake. He used to say of our political opponents that their only expertise in relation to the cake was the way in which they could cut it up.

This budget says much of that. I was here with the Whitlam government. They were full of good intentions. They wanted to deliver more for people, for families. They wanted to deal with a lot of issues in relation to infrastructure, and sewerage was one of the major issues which was pushed. Neither of these ideas were what one would regard as inappropriate, but the government did not have the money to pay for them. They were not thinking about how to generate the money in order to pay for them. It may be forgotten that they went out and borrowed more money in order to pay for them. They went to Mr Khemlani to get help in borrowing the money from Iraq, as I recall. It is very interesting to me, as one who watches these matters, that over time some members of the Labor Party who witnessed what they did in those early seventies came to a view that it was a mistake: their names were Hawke and Keating. They set about to reform budgetary processes to help make Australia more productive. They even instituted some changes to industrial relations to make business more productive. They did not do all that was necessary—and I am glad of that, because they left something for John Howard to do—but they recognised that they had made a major error of judgement. What I would have to say about this government is that they have forgotten all that Keating and Hawke had learnt. This is evident in the budget that is before us.

I have talked to people about visions. This is a government that would like you to think that they are visionary, but I suspect that they are more a government that is having visions—and you understand what I mean when I say that. When you do not know how you are going to pay for it, when you do not know how you are going to implement it, it is fine to have a vision but you do not get a great deal from it. I think about the visions. We have a vision in relation to a very fast train—I think this is the best example. It is a vision in which the government said: 'We're in government for another six months, but we can deliver a very fast train. It might take 40 years and $120 billion, but we have a vision. Give us credit for having a vision.'

We have a plan in relation to education. I walk around the corridors and I see it: we are going to have a Gonski. I do not think anybody knows what a Gonski is, but we do know and understand that a Gonski is really about spending more money on education. It is not necessarily about getting better outcomes in education—I have not heard as much emphasis on improving standards and outcomes, but I have heard about spending money. We have a budget which is about implementing a Gonski. As I understand it, the budget is in fact ripping more money out of education than it is putting in. It is certainly taking it away from higher education, ostensibly on the basis that schools will get more. In fact, when you study the budget itself there is no immediate appropriation, no real increase for schools now. There is a vision, and it is sometimes forward. The vision is outside the period of what we call the forward estimates.

We all have a vision about what we would like to do to help people with disabilities. When you ask us, 'Do you want to help people with disabilities?' I want to help people with disabilities and their carers. Tony Abbott wants to help them. He is even prepared to raise money personally to help them, something in the order of $700,000 or $800,000 through his Pollie Pedal. This is real and substantial effort, but when it comes to the proposals we have a vision to implement a new regime, recommended by the Productivity Commission, which we are going to implement in some regions. If you are lucky enough to live within a particular region, you will get to try it. We are prepared to raise extra tax money by way of a levy. That is fine, but we are only prepared to raise half of what it will cost to implement it. This is another vision. If you get the impression that I am unimpressed with a budget that does not outline how the money is going to be raised to implement the measures that the government wants to take credit for, you are right. I am extremely disappointed as a result of that.

I am a member who has an electorate with some very significant needs. I am fascinated that the visions now have extended to my electorate. Over a long period of time there have been proposals for governments to address the major infrastructure need for Sydney, and that is to move traffic, particularly heavy transport traffic, around Sydney. At the moment there are roads like the M7, which was built by the Howard government, and earlier roads like the Cumberland Highway, Villawood Road and Silverwater Road, and they all direct traffic to one point on one community road through northern Sydney: it is called Pennant Hills Road. I knew Pennant Hills Road when it was two lanes, one in each direction. This is the major infrastructure route to get traffic around Sydney. People have talked about it for a long time, but we had Labor governments in New South Wales for some 16 years who were not prepared to address it. We have a federal Labor government that now finds that when its seats on the Central Coast are at risk and residents are held up, it may be time to look at it.

The Prime Minister even went to the Central Coast last week and with Mr Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and Deb O'Neill—I notice they left out the other member, Mr Thomson, but maybe that is understandable—was there to affirm the federal Labor government's $600 million plan to ease congestion and to cut travel times on the M3:

That's real money for real projects that will make a real difference.

Yes, real. This is to take some 700 trucks a day and 75,000 cars off Pennant Hills Road. The centrepiece of their plan is $405 million to bring forward construction of a much-needed, long-talked-about missing link. Gee, I was glad! This is something of substance. I started going through the budget documents to try and find out what the substance was, but I could not find any money appropriated in the immediate forward estimates. In fact, what I find when I start reading the budget documents are statements that tell me that there will be 'mega transport projects' that have a 'dedicated private finance component' and 'We will leverage the private sector for a mega infrastructure project such as the M2 to F3 link.' When I go over the page and start to look for some further information it tells me that the government is investing $400 million to allow a missing link to go to market and be constructed, and the project will be delivered in consultation with the New South Wales government. But I cannot find any money. When I look for the money I find that it is in 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19—not even in these immediate forward estimates. I say to myself, 'Here are my people again having to worry—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member for Berowra will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.