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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4208


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (21:44): The Labor government is making it more difficult for Australian labour to work. Just because the government is not working, either together or at all, should not mean that more ordinary Australians find themselves out of work.

The budget, as handed down by Treasurer Swan, is a fairy tale. It makes assumptions so sanguine as to be wilfully and recklessly optimistic. On every measure of revenue forecasting presented before the House, time and again the Treasurer has been not just wrong but hopelessly wrong.

Our country needs to get back to the sensible position of a Costello discount. Let's take the Treasury forecast and reduce the expected revenue by a certain amount and increase the outlays by a certain percentage, therefore building a more realistic margin for safety. Treasury may be wrong once—but six years in a row? And for Labor to countenance that exuberance is shameful.

Where good governments like those of Howard and Hawke found a way, the Gillard government finds an excuse. It is indicative of the government more generally that today one reads of how 25,000 refugees will be taken in—an overshoot five times that of the initial estimate.

Why budget for the most optimistic in the pricing of carbon, as is the case when pricing carbon at $25 a tonne, and compensate people for that amount? This is when the price for that same carbon in Europe—the only market where carbon is freely traded—is less than a quarter of the price that is banked on by the government. Moreover, it is doubly important to observe the carbon price in this market, because it is this market to which our futures are tied. Today the carbon price in Europe is, as I said, approximately one quarter that of what the government has estimated and has budgeted for—approximately 75 per cent out. That is a long way out!

Revenue inflows to the Labor government in the year to May 2013 have actually increased by 7.6 per cent—twice the rate of CPI, twice the rate that most people would fairly award themselves. Yet in spite of this generous increase Labor cannot balance the books. The notorious MRRT has to date raised $126 million gross—some 90 per cent below projected figures.

That tax is somehow, and quite miraculously, going to realise an 800 per cent increase in inflow in two years time. Perhaps this is overly optimistic, or perhaps the Treasurer knows something the rest of us do not, because for the majority of voters in my electorate the opinion is that these actions remind them of the actions of a troubled gambler—hoping that their luck will turn, and betting all on black.

One of the most significant problems I have with this budget is that it does not make any attempt to rectify the overwhelming time bomb that is rapidly increasing structural deficit. Think of a jug with a hole. Our economy has holes and we are leaking value. It is time—not to create new and bigger holes, but to start to repair those holes. That is what is needed. And the coalition is the only party with the vision and the intestinal fortitude to commission such a systemic structural performance evaluation and, critically, see those findings implemented.

When I speak of structural deficits I mean layers of spending and policy commitments that cannot be rolled back. And if they can be rolled back then they cannot be undone quickly. It is starting with negative numbers before the country even opens for business. I am deeply concerned because I see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to seize on unprecedented and unrepeatable economic advantages to lock in prosperity for our unborn generations. Instead of locking in prosperity on a sensible and sustained basis, this Labor government is spending everything, selling everything and borrowing to do it.

The mantra of the rich, as is decoded from books such as Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad, is to buy assets, not liabilities. Yet this Labor government is bent only on buying liabilities and is selling our national strategic assets to do such. That is the case in regard to ports and geographic strategic defence installations. But so too it extends to food production and the sustainability of access to fresh produce. Unfunded commitments are myopic and immoral. They are in essence Labor, pure Labor. That is what will pay for Gillard's gold: your labour.

Our people need and deserve a government that is willing and capable of implementing policy that has been benchmarked against the best in the world. Aspiration and ambition need to return to the heart of government following on such salutary examples as the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund highlight pathways for secure and sustained development in the interests of all citizens. It is time.

It is insulting and wrong that a government of the Australian people at this time in history tear up the rich tapestry of our national character, a fair go. Australia is by definition the place to have a go. This attack can be seen ever so clearly in the affairs of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship under Labor. How can one say it is fair or august or necessary that visa application fees increased by nearly 200 per cent in the space of 15 months? The obvious example being the much maligned 457 visa with the cost of applying having risen from $350 to $450 and now to $900 from 1 July—all in the space of 15 months.

Labor is unwilling to do the heavy lifting for the good of the country. Labor in power is the very worst of politics—that is, serving personal interest over national interest. It is not in Labor's interest to discuss the need to broaden the taxation base vis-a-vis the GST and conduct a review including all aspects of taxation but it is in the national interest. It is not in Labor's interest to discuss the low unit productivity of employed labour in Australia but it is in the national interest. The difference between the coalition and Labor is that Labor seeks to rule and the coalition offers service. It is the difference between self-interest and the national interest.

Labor prefers at all times to opt for good politics over good policy. Good policy and governance are about the right decision at the right time. But so is good governance marked by the ability to recognise better options and change as it is required. This is exactly the case when one thinks about the government's commitment to purchase up to 100 JSFs at a cost of $16 billion in this mega-spending environment where the cost and schedule of the JSF is out of control. All of this at a time when we are living in a budget emergency. Yes, it is an emergency.

When the gross debt that Labor intends to reach means that the credit card for every man, woman and child in Australia is loaded up at over $15,000 each or more than $60,000 for a family of four then we have an emergency. This is when Labor started from a position left to them by the previous coalition government of money in the bank. When the Reserve Bank interest rate years after the GFC are down below levels that the Treasurer himself described as emergency levels then we have a budget emergency. When the Treasurer assured us that the deficit was temporary yet all that we have seen under Labor are deficits and if, God forbid, they won the next election all of their budgets in the next term would be budget deficits by their own reckoning then we have a budget emergency. When the bill for the interest on the national debt is over $8 billion per annum then it is an emergency. There is a bill on each Australian of $350 per year on interest alone. Putting it another way, it would be $1,400 per family of four just on interest. Think how much more productive that money would be to your family. To put this in perspective, $8 billion would pay for four Fiona Stanley hospitals. It would fully fund the entire cost of Gonski school improvements, with over $1.5 billion to spare. It would fund the blow-out in border protection for the last three years, with $2 billion to spare.

In this budget, the Treasurer spoke a lot about jobs and growth, yet there was no real move to create jobs or maintain growth. The coalition is committed to lower taxes, less red tape and getting government out of your business. The world is a competitive place, and no-one owes us a living. Our place in the future is not secure. Labor wants to see Australia trundle along in the median line of the World Bank competitive index. Most shocking is our relative performance in terms of rates of rate of increase in spending, and the debt is astronomical. In fact, it is one of the highest in the world. The only way to describe this, apart from handicapping ourselves, is to describe it as antibusiness and antigrowth.

Dumb policy and practice are hindering the efficacy of our public servants. Efficiency dividends are a good idea in principle, but it is difficult to see how compounding efficiency dividends can be achieved. Indeed, efficiency dividends only make sense if there are indeed improvements in efficiency—in other words, in productivity. Labor simply uses efficiency dividends without the efficiency improvement as a means to try to save some of the money that it has so flagrantly wasted. Having Labor's version of an efficiency dividend will affect the quality or delivery of services. Most importantly, its model is not sustainable or responsible.

In conclusion, perhaps it is correct that the swan song budget from Labor is about jobs and growth. Getting rid of the Gillard government is good for growth and jobs: jobs in real business and the real growth of hope, reward and opportunity.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 21:57