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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3867


Mr BILLSON (Dunkley) (15:59): It was interesting that the member for Fowler did not manage to spend the full amount of time available but the vast bulk of the time he did use he simply trash talked the coalition. How remarkable. It is supposed to be a budget born out of Labor values, that he struggled to articulate, and somehow it was economically responsible—and he could not point to any real examples of that. And then he went on to talk about how helpful it would be for people in our community and he struggled to identify who those people would be. Instead we got a dissertation of trash talk and assertion, setting up to the coalition all sorts of mischief which does not reflect the coalition's position at all.

And this is where we have got to these days. This government is so dysfunctional, so tired of itself that it cannot even defend its own budget. It is supposed to be the high watermark for government and government members to advocate all the virtue that is in the budget as some kind of fiscal plan to support an economic strategy to strengthen our country. What is missing is that there is no fiscal plan here. There is no clear economic strategy to restore the prospects of a nation, and there is certainly no national interest guiding that just day-to-day survival talk in an attempt to preserve their own positions in parliament rather than look after a plan for the country.

It was interesting to hear that this job was badged as one about jobs and growth. This budget was supposed to be about jobs and growth. Yet remarkably, this budget forecast a reduction in the rates of economic growth in the country and an increase in the unemployment rate—so much for it being about jobs and growth.

But it does put it on par with the last budget. Who can forget the opening remarks of the Treasurer when he said—and this was last year's budget:

This Budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, strengthening over time.

He went on to promise:

The deficit years of the global recession are behind us. The surplus years are here.

That is what the Treasurer said. That is what has been found to be so empty and vacuous by the numbers that are in this budget. Yet. Yet here you have Labor members harking back to their bad luck, to how everything has been cruelled by circumstances and they are really much better than the facts present. They are really very competent if only these areas of bad luck would not here. Isn't it incredible though? How come that every year Labor is in government there is bad luck? In the community where I was raised, hard work meant you were luckier—you had created your own luck—and it was remarkable how those who worked hard and applied themselves most diligently seemed to be the most lucky. That simple life lesson seems to be lost on this government.

In fact rather than the four year of surplus, this budget heralds not only the most extraordinary budget broken promise about the surplus that we are supposed to have where we are now greeted with figures pointing to a $19 billion deficit, it then forecasts deficits for years to come. Nineteen billion dollars, the fifth biggest deficit in our nation's history, which next financial year will be $18 billion, the sixth biggest in our nation's history, and the year after that $11 billion. Now that is not the seventh, it is actually the eighth. Labor delivered the seventh largest budget deficit back in 1995-96.

What we are expected to believe from this government is that if you elect Labor for a fourth time you will get a budget surplus. A fourth election win will enable the Australian public to get a budget surplus. We have not had one since their initial election in 2007, and none since 2010. There is not going to be any before 2013 election and Labor hopes that if they are re-elected after the 2016 election you might get a budget surplus. That is an awful lot to ask the Australian public: that after four elections Labor promises they may deliver a budget surplus—and a wafer-thin one at that.

I think I share the views of many in the community that I represent and many that I speak with as I travel around representing the small business community. This crowd, Labor, just cannot be believed. There is no economic strategy to guide the nation's economic future after they have squandered and overspent the rivers of gold coming from the mining boom. There is no clear strategy to get the budget back into surplus even though we were promised that the job would not only be done this year, it would be done for evermore. There is no coherent strategy around what those sensible and prudent budget cuts will be. There is no evidence in here that the government has learnt at all from the mistake it has made over and over again—taking Herculean optimistic revenue forecasts, claiming them as locked in, spending the money like a Christmas bonus that you spend back in June, July, August, September, October and November, and then it might arrive in December, and even if it does, it looks nothing like all the money you have spent—and somehow we are supposed to take these guys for real.

I am reminded of that great statement that John McEnroe made after a bad line call, 'You can't be serious!'

We cannot treat this government with seriousness and these numbers certainly are not serious. They are dodgy. They are rubbery. They are indefensible and that is why you just heard the member for Fowler not even use his time available to explain the virtue of the budget so lacking is it in virtue. He could not even spend the whole amount of time trash talking the coalition. That is what is wrong with this government: they just do not have a plan. They have nothing positive to say. They have no strategy to steer the country out of the hole that they have driven this nation into because of their spending problem. And it is a spending problem. This is a spending problem this government has, not a revenue problem.

The 2013-14 budget sees this government $80 billion in front of the revenue that was available when the Howard government was last in office. This government has $80 billion more but it still cannot balance the books. We are still seeing debt and deficit as far as the eye can see. Rather than have revenues savaged, what is being savaged is the nonsense Herculeanly optimistic, fantasy forecasts of revenue that the Treasurer relies upon time and time again to try and suggest he has got some capacity to balance the budget. What has been savaged is the Treasurer's credibility. That is what has been savaged, not the revenue. The revenue is growing substantially.

As I travel around Australia I know small business owners would love to have their revenue growing at over seven per cent. They would love that. They wish they could have that but they do not because the economy is tough out there. There are no sloppy profits anywhere. There are no easy margins. A lot of businesses are just running to stand still in this economy Labor has created. They would love that growth in revenue the government has got.

Not only has the government spent all of that but they have spent more and driven us into this extraordinary point where Labor has now spent $192 billion more than it has raised over the last five years. We have seen expenditure as a percentage of GDP higher every year under Labor than the last years under the Howard government. They all say 'but look at revenue'. Yeah, that is a cute tactic. When you are not paying your bills, your revenues are down from where they should be. Have a look at the expenditure. Have a look at what is in this budget about some kind of credible path back to surplus.

Here is a graph about the reality of the mining boom revenues. See how it is going down? But in alpine proportions the government expects that it will have this ski jump coming up the other end that will somehow salvage it from its arrangements on revenue. These are the carbon tax numbers. These are the realities of what is going on.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask the member for Dunkley to refrain from using props.

Mr BILLSON: There must be some kind of frozen fingeritis as the Treasurer counts his money. He must have chilblains to try and have people believe that these alpine ski jumps are anything like reality.

The one I think is extraordinary is apparently the boats are going to stop. They are not going to change any policy setting. They are not going to reinstate the Howard government policies that actually worked. But the boats are going to stop. The member for McEwen—I will forgive him for being a bit of a rookie—do you know how many people were in detention who had arrived illegally by boats when the Howard government left office? Four people. Labor used to go around saying that every boat that arrived was a policy failure. They were getting stuck into the coalition because we kept Manus Island open and there was only one person in there. What a nice problem to have. Now there are tens of thousands of people. There is no change in policy but again this budget relies on the assumption that everything is going to be back under control. We will be able to strengthen and protect our borders yet there is no evidence of that.

Our VISA card limit as a nation is $300 million and is under pressure again. It has already been lifted five times by Labor as they fund their spending binge. The budget papers reveal that it will peak again at $370.3 billion in 2016-17 yet there is no provision in here for raising that VISA card limit because the government knows it cannot face its own failure again after assuring the parliament over and over again that it would never be need to be corrected again.

Then there is the Parliamentary Budget Office account of the structural deficits and surpluses. Again, another kind of ski jump—the ones that are above the line are the structural surpluses under the coalition and the ones below the line are the structural deficits under Labor. Even in here there is a very concerning warning drawn to the parliament's attention. It talks about what the government calls its signature programs. Its school improvement program actually saw $325 million pulled out of schools over the life of this government. Again, you are expected to vote for Labor four times before you see any upside. That is a lot to ask of people I would submit to you. It also talks about disability care. It says that it is nice that the structural deficits are made a little bit less worse by the government's approach to these two signature projects. Why is it saying that? It is saying that because, in here, the Parliamentary Budget Office knows that there is less money being spent on schools in the forward years of the estimates. That takes the pressure off the structural deficit Labor has created. They give the government an implied 'thank you' for taking some pressure off the budget structural deficit. But then they say, 'What happens after those years?' There is the ski jump again; the expenditure is supposed to go up. Vote for Labor four times and you might see some upside. Here is the warning saying that that will add to the structural deficit that Labor has created and inculcated into our financial system. It makes the same point about the disability program and the increase in the Medicare levy. It is making the point that more money is being raised to pay for the trials than is needed at the moment, but when the scheme is fully rolled out there is nowhere near enough money. So, even on these signature programs, the Parliamentary Budget Office is belling the cat again that Labor is incapable of managing finances, and that is causing great concern through the Australian community.

We have heard some people say, 'Well, what will the coalition do?' Did you see that fantastic budget address-in-reply by the Leader of the Opposition? What a remarkably good speech. It is probably the best I have seen. I am told by people who have been involved in public life for decades longer than me that it was the best they have seen as well. It was clear and coherent. It was a plan with more fiscal detail than Labor or any opposition leader in the last 30 years has provided. It showed how you could keep what was supposed to be the compensation for the harm of the carbon tax without the hurt of the carbon tax and how that would be funded. With the budget emergency that the government has created we will all have to, as a parliament, face up to some difficult financial decisions. Whatever side of politics is elected, all will need to face up to that economic reality. Even Labor, if they are re-elected, will have to face up to the economic reality. That is why when they are making promises about spending you just have to remember all the promises that have been made already. They have less of a shelf-life than a loaf of bread; it goes off after about a week. This is the problem that we have with this government.

Don Argus has warned people about the concerns and has pointed to the need for consolidation. But I am worried about what it is doing to young people who talk to me about their concerns. They do all we ask of them as a society to train, to prepare, to study to tool-up and to nurture their capacity to make a contribution, and they are wondering where that start will be. Where will that start be? There is nothing in this budget that builds confidence in the economy. There is nothing in this budget that gives some support or a game-changer to small business. There is nothing in this budget that takes the pressure off household budgets. There is nothing in this budget that gives encouragement to courageous men and women who take risks to create opportunities for themselves and their communities. There is nothing of that kind in this budget whatsoever.

What is in this budget is a whole lot of short-term fixes that do not stand the test of analysis. What is in this budget is the longest confession note that they are trying to make life difficult for whomever forms government after the next election. What is in this budget is a testimonial to all the mismanagement, the waste, the debt and deficit of years of Labor, which this nation cannot afford to keep, and the people in this nation cannot bear having it hung over them as a disadvantage for their future prospects and future opportunities. I will give you an example. The debt—$7.8 billion a year will be the interest charged on Labor's debt alone. Imagine what you could do with that. Imagine what you could do with all of the spending that has gone onto non-productive and useless activities that have not improved our capacity as a nation and our prospects for the future. It is quite the opposite.

For the small business men and women who are looking for a sign that Labor had the vaguest interest in their success, there have been five small-business ministers in 15 months. There is no interest in the quarter of a million jobs that have been lost in small business as a result of this government's mismanagement. Even the things they were promising such as the lost carryback, which was a proposition the coalition advocated in response to the GFC, has gone as well. The tax office is saying, 'Don't use it. Do the right thing by the nation.' (Time expired)