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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3881


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (16:54): I am pleased to speak these 2013-14 appropriation bills today and am disappointed that I only have a short amount of time to do so. Exposing the failures of this government has sadly become far too easy and its incompetence continues to undermine people's faith in this parliament. Following the non-spill initiated by the member for Hotham, Simon Crean, in March, it is apparent that Australians will have to endure this shambolic Labor government until September, despite efforts on both sides of the parliament to bring about an early election because of its dysfunction.

Today I would like to discuss some of the implications of this budget on the people of Canning. Clearly, this budget has been compiled by spinmeisters rather than economists. It is a dishonest budget and I am sure the Treasury officials despair when they see this government make a mockery of our nation's most important fiscal document. Why do I say it is dishonest? It is because when the Treasurer delivered his speech he said, 'I now say this is a budget about jobs and growth'. The budget papers said growth would be less and jobs would decrease, so it just cannot be true. On that note, it has become increasingly difficult to determine if elements of the Australian Public Service have become politicised or incompetent, as Graham Richardson pointed out on his show recently. He said someone has to be blamed for these wildly incorrect predictions.

The Treasury head, Martin Parkinson, has tried to defend himself but he should learn that advice to your political masters should be frank and fearless. As we know, his predecessor, Ken Henry, not only involved himself in partisan views but also took a job in Prime Minister Gillard's office when he left. So it shows where he lined up.

Looking at some of the assumptions in this budget makes me wonder if Treasurer Wayne Swan believes Australians are fools. Wild assumptions paint a rosy picture of times ahead, despite it being clear that we are headed for tough times as a result of the mishandling of our public finances by this government. Firstly, let us look at the carbon price assumptions, which renowned economist Henry Ergas has described as garbage.

The budget contained a major backflip by Minister Combet—and indeed this government—by writing down the projected carbon price for 2015-16 to $12.10. The coalition said for many years that Treasury's original prediction of a European carbon price of $29 a tonne was fanciful. After defending the indefensible for far too long the government has backed down and more than halved this predicted price. The problem is that $12.10 is still far higher than what the EU carbon price is expected to be, which is currently $5 a tonne.

Most worrying is how the government has arrived at this figure of $12.10. Did they investigate the likely movements in the market based on expert advice, current trends or other meaningful analysis? No. Amazingly, the economists were apparently sent to the back of the room while the spin doctors crudely drew a straight line between where the carbon price is and where they need it to be in order to meet our emission reduction commitments. Maintaining a goal is one thing but to roll the dice with Australia's economy and base revenue forecasts on an aspiration is simply careless.

Herein lies evidence of the fundamental failing of this Labor government. Rather than take a prudent approach to public finances, they spend what they do not have—in other words, they have a spending problem not a revenue problem, based on shaky predictions and wildly optimistic assumptions that never eventuate. This is a terribly irresponsible way to run a government and simply would not be tolerated in the private sector.

Such foolish behaviour is not limited to the carbon tax revenue predictions. The mining tax projections have also been subjected to this government's overly optimistic manipulations. Raising just $200 million this year, the tax has raised 95 per cent less than the projected $4 billion that was originally forecast. Over the forward estimates, rather than raising the $26.5 billion that was originally forecast, the mining tax will only raise something like $5.5 billion. After this embarrassing write-down, did the government learn from its mistakes? Not likely.

Despite this enormous write-down, Australians are expected to believe that the MRRT revenue will increase from $200 million this year to $2.2 billion in 2016-17—in other words, a 10-fold increase that is not validated or justified in the budget papers. It is just a prediction. Treasurer Swan blamed the lower terms of trade on the high Australian dollar for the write-down in revenue. The budget papers point to slightly lower terms of trade in the years ahead and the Australian dollar is to remain high and yet somehow we will receive a thousand per cent increase in the MRRT revenue. How does that work? Australians have now witnessed what happens to a budget when it is delivered by a treasurer with no past experience in economics or public finances. Collecting union dues clearly does not prepare a treasurer to be a competent person to run a $1½ trillion economy.

I would like to take a moment to dispel a myth that has been peddled by Labor members and their apparatchiks, claiming the budget is now in structural deficit because of the policies of the Howard-Costello government. As Judith Sloan articulated in last week's Australian, the Parliamentary Budget Office report which initiated this falsehood is littered with errors and omissions. Take, for example, the fact that the stimulus spending was omitted from the calculations used to determine the structural balance—$67 billion of Commonwealth expenditure removed from the calculations was simply omitted. The PBO's report which attempted to argue that the Howard government was responsible for a structural deficit is just nonsense. The effort to try and shift the blame from the spendthrift government that has been office for almost six years and has delivered record deficits to a responsible government that delivered record surpluses is a sad and desperate ploy.

Any amendments that this government deemed necessary to fix perceived structural problems could have been implemented long ago—in fact when it first got in. Only the ABC and its commentators would like to peddle the myths contained in the PBO report. Viewers watching the Insiders program yesterday would have seen Niki Savva as the voice of reason among Labor apparatchiks. Mike Seccombe tried desperately to place the blame for the parlous state of our nation's finances on the Howard government. I suggest that Mike calls one of his Labor cronies and asks them what they have done to address the problem that he attributes to existing prior to the 2007 election. Alternatively, I suggest that Mike puts his bias to one side and subjects his beloved Labor Party to adequate scrutiny, as he should as a commentator. One would expect that from a professional commentator on such a show. Better still, he can fly back to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and continue writing for the Vineyard Gazette and allow the ABC an opportunity to adhere to its charter on providing a balanced program. Unlike many of those at the ABC, Australians have measured this government. I am not down on the ABC; I think it is a great broadcaster and I would like to see it never being subjected to privatisation. People like Chris Uhlmann, Leigh Sales and Latika Bourke report the news and give excellent commentary, unlike predecessors such as Kerry O'Brien. People used to bail me up on the street about his adequate and balanced reporting on the ABC.

We have heard that this Treasurer promised to deliver balanced budgets and we were told hundreds of times after last year's budget that he was actually going to deliver a surplus—a wafer-thin $1½ billion surplus. What Australians actually received in this budget was a $19.4 billion blow-out, larger than economists had predicted, yet Australians were not overly surprised as they have become accustomed to bad news from the Gillard government. I am told time and time again in travels across my electorate that they are simply waiting for September to let this government know what they think of their economic management. They manage their household bills and, when they see a government that cannot manage an economy, they are frightened and worried about it continuing. The old saying that they were waiting for Keating on their verandas with baseball bats has now gone in my opinion. They are now sitting with bazookas on their front verandas waiting to deal with this government.

We have demonstrated that this year's budget does not help Australian families deal with the rising cost-of-living pressures. Because Labor has failed to be fiscally responsible Australian families are now paying for Labor's waste and mismanagement. In fact, data released last week by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling underlines the fact that Australian families are paying for Labor's waste. The data shows that the cost of raising a child has risen 50 per cent in the six years of this government, while billions have been wasted on everything from pink batts, school halls and cash for clunkers to cost blowouts on border protection, the NBN and the set-top box programs. I could go on. It is Australian households that are bearing the brunt of this waste and mismanagement. Childcare fees have risen 22 per cent in just two years and our indexation of the childcare rebate is not recommended to be until 2014. Indexation of income thresholds for claiming family payments and FTB supplements are also on hold until 2017, after the next federal election, so two elections away. Increases to Family Tax Benefit Part A payments have been scrapped. This affects more than 11,000 families in the electorate of Canning. Family Tax Benefit Part A arrangements were set to increase up to $300 per eligible families with one child and $600 per families with two children and more. Slated increases to the tax-free threshold have been axed, affecting people earning up to $80,000 a year. The average income of a person living in the Canning electorate is $30,000 a year, based on the ABS figures. The abolition of the baby bonus is also going to hit expectant mothers.

This budget reveals that Labor's total investment in school funding for primary and secondary schools decreases—$325 million over the next four years. In fact the budget clearly shows that over the forward estimates period new or additional money for education will only come from state and territory governments who agree to these Labor proposals and not from the Commonwealth itself. It is a cruel hoax and those advocating give a Gonski are being misled on this issue. In terms of Western Australia, analysis reveals a $229.2 million reduction over three years for school education. Labor's model essentially penalises Western Australia for investing in education over the years. I say to my constituents, 'You deserve better.'

I just wish to talk about the effect of this budget on Western Australia. Many times in this chamber and the House of Representatives I have broached this subject. Anyone who spends any time in Western Australia understands the level of frustration that is felt among locals who can feel the wrath of Canberra pilfering the Western Australian wealth. Perhaps this anger would be lessened if taxpayers knew what the money is being spent on. However, six years of economic mismanagement spiralling debt and wasteful spending have eroded the faith of Western Australians in this government. Premier Barnett is often dismissed by his opponents, particularly the federal Labor Party, when he defends the right of Western Australia to receive its fair share of Commonwealth funding. I often think about the Labor Party room and the despair that they must feel and of the daylight robbery. I know how Mark McGowan must feel because he cannot wait to get out of Western Australia every time Julia Gillard comes to the state.

In an article in the West Australian by Gareth Parker on 23 May this year, he pointed out in a heading, 'WA taxes carry a nation', going on to say:

Almost $15 billion more in taxes leaves WA each year than flows back into the State in Commonwealth spending, a WA Treasury analysis shows.

The article points out that net contribution to the other states and territories is a staggering $6,447 for each resident from Western Australia, way beyond that of the other two donor states, New South Wales and Victoria. So WA gives $6,447 per capita, New South Wales gives $301 and Victoria $235. The takers are Northern Territory, $17,058; Tasmania, $6,706; South Australia, $3,087 and Queensland, $1,325. This is in face of the fact that WA's share of the GST is 45c in the dollar. Treasury estimates that Canberra took $42 billion in taxation from WA but only spent $27 billion in the state in 2010-11. That is the most recent data. Treasury sources say the prediction was unlikely to improve as the state budget is handed down.

This compares with the excessive spending on the electorates of the Independents in this House. The member for Lyne and the member for New England have been bathed in money since this government has been in place and we all know why. This government survives on their two votes. It is not fair that states like Western Australia are being milked of their resources when you have this government cravenly wasting money and then pork-barrelling their own electorates. For example, my electorate has received nothing to date from this government under the RDA. And this compares shabbily to the amount of contributions: I have the second-highest number of fly-in fly-out workers anywhere in Australia. They deserve some of their funds to be returned to them. (Time expired)