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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4177


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (18:46): I rise to speak on these appropriation bills. It can only be hoped that it is the last act of chaotic, divided, dysfunctional government that has no plans for Australia's future. But we are not without hope. As my parliamentary colleague and leader of the coalition, Tony Abbott, said in his budget reply speech:

While it is easy, and understandable, that you should be pessimistic about this government, everyone should be optimistic about our country.

There is an end in sight to this very bad government. This is a government that gave us pink batts, overpriced school halls and cash for clunkers—all failed programs. As of tonight there are 109 days until a federal election, when the people of my electorate in Brisbane and the people of Australia have the opportunity of bringing this bad government to an end.

There is no better way of highlighting the contrast between where we are now under Labor and where the coalition was when it delivered government and what we saw in the federal budget just a few weeks ago. What we saw was a clear contrast between Labor with its debt, deficit, broken promises, new taxes and no plan for Australia's future, and the coalition with its plan to build a strong, prosperous country, more jobs, higher wages and better services for all Australians.

The budget papers reveal that Australia's gross debt will breach Labor's $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates. In a space of less than two weeks, that $300 million ceiling is already forecast to beyond $400 billion. Since coming to office in 2007, the first five Labor budgets have resulted in $192 billion in deficits. There is one thing we can be certain of: Labor will never deliver a surplus. The Treasurer has now delivered Labor's 12th deficit from the last 12 budgets. Disturbingly, the last surplus delivered by a Labor government was in 1989—almost 2½ decades ago.

Last year Treasurer Wayne Swan promised a surplus of $1.5 billion but instead he delivered a deficit more than 12 times as big at $19.4 billion. He did not just miss the target by a little tiny bit—this is really taking the adage 'If you miss by an inch you might as well miss by a mile' to a whole new depth. It must be remembered that this towering achievement of budgetary incompetence came after the government promised on more than 500 occasions that they were delivering a surplus for 2012-13, with the Prime Minister even boasting that the surplus had already been achieved. All of this from a bunch that have the audacity to call themselves fiscal conservatives. The delusion is truly spectacular.

Fiscal conservative was one of the many meaningless Kevin Rudd slogans adopted by the Treasurer and then recycled by the Prime Minister. It must go down as one of the most cynical, political cons of all time—right up there with: 'There will not be a carbon tax under a government I lead.' Both unbelievable; both false.

The electorate of Brisbane has to deal with significant cost-of-living pressures, and under Labor the price of essentials such as electricity, education, child care and health services continues to go up and up. Labor's reckless policy making plays a significant part in these price rises. Labor cannot claim to care about the cost of living while imposing policies that add to those pressures. For example, increases in electricity prices are Labor's carbon tax at work and increases in medical and hospital services are in part because of Labor's chopping and changing of the private health insurance rebate. With child care, for example, on 1 July 2012 the government cut and capped the childcare rebate to a maximum of $7,500. If the childcare rebate was still being indexed parents in my electorate would be receiving $700 a year more in assistance. Since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister, childcare costs have increased by 26 per cent. In the 2013-14 budget, the government extended its freeze on the childcare rebate for another three years. The rebate was capped at $7,500 two years ago and will now remain capped until 30 June 2017. While the government has capped the rebate, it is also spending $8 million advertising what government assistance is available to families to help meet childcare costs, confirming that Labor is more about spin than they are about substance.

With private health insurance the government imposed a means test on 1 July 2012. It placed a 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance. This will mean that some families in my electorate will be paying up to 43 per cent more for their insurance while everyone else will pay an additional 10 per cent on top of the existing cost of their policy. This measure will impact very hard on the electorate of Brisbane: 79 per cent of people in my electorate have private health insurance. In the 2012-13 MYEFO the government announced that from 1 July 2013 it would no longer provide a rebate for the lifetime health cover component of one's private health insurance premium. The lifetime health cover component is an additional two per cent charge on a person's premium for every year that they have not taken out private health insurance after turning 31 years of age. This represents a $386 million cut to private health insurance. In the 2012-13 MYEFO the government announced that from1 April 2014 funding for private health insurance rebate would be linked to the CPI rather than keeping it linked to the average industry premium increase that is set each year at around four per cent. This represents a $700 million cut to the rebate over four years.

In the 2013-14 budget the government has cut more $1.8 billion from Medicare rebates, the extended Medicare Safety Net and the Net Medical Expenses Tax Offset, while incredibly still managing to deliver more debt, more deficits and taxes. These cuts from the health budget, which follow years of waste and mismanagement across all areas of government, will hit the sickest and the most vulnerable the hardest. There will be no increase to the Medicare rebates between November 2012 and July 2014, despite continued growth in the cost of delivering health care. This means the costs are likely to be passed on to patients directly, particularly in general practice where there is a high volume of pensioners and concession cared holders.

Deputy Speaker, as you can see, Labor cuts will force up out-of-pocket costs for families in my electorate as they are already struggling with the cost-of-living pressures and all of this on top of the increased costs that came in on 1 July 2012, when the dreaded carbon tax started. On the government's own figures, under a carbon tax there will be an immediate 10 per cent in electricity prices, a nine per cent increase in gas bills. The increase in electricity in the September quarter of 2012 was 15.3 per cent—the largest quarterly increase since ABS electronic records began. The rise since Labor came to power has been 94 per cent.

In education, the Gonski numbers change from day-to-day. When the Prime Minister announced her school funding a few weeks ago she said it would result in an extra $14.5 billion over six years, with her government contributing $9.4 billion. This week the Prime Minister said it would be $16.2 billion and the Commonwealth would contribute $9.8 billion over six years, but the actual budget papers show that the Commonwealth has only put aside $2.8 billion over the next four years for school funding, leaving a shortfall of $7 billion to be delivered in just two years—that is, two elections from now. Labor is cutting more than $300 million out of school funding over the next four years.

The forward estimates show that under this government funding for schools is going down, not up, and that is very bad news for schools, for parents and for students in my electorate. This government is not giving schools more money; it is giving schools less money and that is on top of cuts to university to pay for the so-called Gonski changes. Labor's funding continues with them ripping funds out of education and cutting the indexation at three per cent. Labor is fiddling the figures yet again. Thankfully, the coalition offers a clear choice which guarantees that no school will be worse off because we will keep the existing system at least until such time as we have a consensus on the need for change.

One of the precious few pieces of good news in this budget relates to the announcement of a new headspace in Brisbane. As the federal member for Brisbane, for some time I have been calling for a headspace facility to be based in central Brisbane. I am advised that one of the 15 centres being funded in 2013-14 will be based in Brisbane and headspace advise that the new facility will be up and running by January 2014. That is great news for Brisbane residents. My only reservation regarding this announcement relates to the need for the government to resist any temptation to hijack the original headspace charter set up under the Howard government, which ensured the locations of these facilities were determined on a needs basis and not as part of some desperate political pork barrelling campaign to try to save failed Labor MPs.

I wish to turn to DisabilityCare and the funding in the budget for disability. In a parliament under this government which has been rife with incompetence, mismanagement, dysfunction and scandal, the NDIS maybe the best thing to come out of the 43rd parliament. As we know, both sides of politics support the NDIS. The Labor Party desperately wanted to use it as a political football. Labor's rhetoric was always designed to wedge the coalition on the NDIS. Then came the classic move, after sending the budget further into the red, with Labor's proposal to have an increase to the Medicare levy of 0.5 per cent to partially fund the NDIS. However the coalition will be supporting this increase, even though this government has completely and irresponsibly managed the budget. The increase in the Medicare levy should not have been necessary, had the budget been balanced.

As elected representatives, we are always reluctant to increase taxes imposed on those we represent. However, as a Liberal I believe one of the core roles of government is to help those who cannot help themselves. There is no one in this House who would argue that those who suffer from a disability and their families have the same opportunity and freedom in life as those without a disability. We obviously still have a lot of detail to work through regarding DisabilityCare and how it will work but on behalf of those in my electorate with a disability, their friends and their families, I welcome the commitment by state and federal governments to a national disability insurance scheme. As federal members, on a daily basis we hear the heartbreaking stories of those with disabilities. Hopefully, this will be one decision which we have made together as a parliament to provide them with some help and relief.

When you look at the gross failures of this government to provide basic services, you have to ask yourself: Where has all the money gone? What did they spend it on?

In consideration of these questions, a sobering and disturbing fact is that the cost to Australians of Labor's waste and budgetary mismanagement is a net interest bill of $7.8 billion a year. Add to that annual interest bill the cost of some items from the greatest hit list of Labor's waste such as the $10 billion blow-out in the immigration portfolio—thanks to Labor's failed border protection policies—and the $3.2 billion blow-out in the NBN rollout, and you get the picture. These policy failures alone add up to more than $13 billion and when you add that to the annual interest rate bill, you are looking at nearly $21 billion. This could have provided a lot of infrastructure.

This is the cost of Labor's abysmal fiscal management—and an appalling waste on things that we did not need to have, like pink batts, and it has ensured that there is no money for things that we do need. We need 21st century infrastructure. Let us consider the amount of money that could have been spent on this wonderful infrastructure had this government not misspent. It could have been spent on projects that are sorely needed in the electorate of Brisbane and in the state of Queensland. It could have been spent on things like the Cross River Rail project and the upgrade of the Kingsford Smith Drive—all very worthwhile projects.