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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5611


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (12:20): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and cognate bills. As I have said before, while I am in this place I will do whatever is possible to ensure that my electorate of Solomon—and, indeed, the Northern Territory—receive their fair share of funding from the Commonwealth government. Once again, despite the endless rhetoric from Labor in the lead-up to the budget, this was not a tough budget. There was more borrowing, more debt and more taxes and then a sugar-hit cash giveaway to offset the carbon tax.

The government have resorted to accounting tricks and money shuffling to manufacture the appearance of a wafer-thin budget surplus of $1.5 billion in the 2012-13 financial year. If the Gillard Labor government really believe they can deliver a surplus, why are they moving to increase the Commonwealth debt limit from $250 billion to $300 billion? They are increasing the government's credit card limit, and we all know that we cannot trust Labor with credit cards. They have tried to hide the fact that they need to increase the credit card limit by having the proposal buried in the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) in order to avoid proper scrutiny and a specific vote on the debt limit. This government are embarrassed that government debt levels are at absolutely unprecedented levels. They do not want Australians to know that they have maxed out the credit card again.

The Treasurer did not even mention the plan to raise the debt limit in his budget night speech, and, when he was asked later why he needed to lift the debt limit if he was returning the budget to surplus, he responded, 'Well, very simply, this is no big deal.' Net debt is rising to $145 billion. This dwarfs the previous record of $96 billion left by Paul Keating—and this is no big deal? That is not what my constituents tell me; they tell me it is a big deal.

This government tell us about restraint, but they are now spending $100 million more per year than they were when they came to office. This represents an almost 40 per cent increase over a time when inflation has risen to 13.2 per cent. Look at what Labor do; do not listen to what they say. They are continuing to borrow $100 million per day. That is $100 million for every day that this Labor government are in power. In 18 months, the government's estimated deficit on the 2012-13 financial year has blown out from $12 billion to $44 billion—and it may blow out even further, because the year is not over. In the last four years Labor have delivered record cumulative deficits of $174 billion. The interest payments on Labor's debt alone are set to reach an alarming $8 billion per year.

What this budget did was very simple: it confirmed to every Australian that this government are not fit to lead. The government are so swept up in holding onto power and improving the polls that they have forgotten their core responsibility to the Australian people. To a nation that is facing high costs of living, and dealing with a failed immigration policy, the Gillard Labor government give the following: the world's biggest carbon tax; cynical bribes to soften the impact of the carbon tax; broken promises on corporate tax cuts; higher unemployment; blowouts in the cost of border protection; an underfunded NDIS, which is nothing more than a cruel hoax; and equity funding for the NBN which is being kept off-budget. That is what this Labor government give us.

Despite Julia Gillard saying five days before the last election, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead', budget 2012 is Australia's first carbon-tax budget. The world's biggest carbon tax is about to hit families, jobs and investment at the world's worst time. The budget papers confirm that despite falling international prices Labor's toxic tax will go up to $29 a tonne in just three years and that an additional $36 million will be spent on taxpayer-funded carbon tax advertising over the next two years. The advertisements, as we know, do not even mention the carbon tax. They mention that cash bribes, but they do not mention the phrase 'carbon tax'. The carbon tax will cascade through the economy. Despite Labor's lie that only the big emitters will pay the price, the cost of virtually everything will go up, up and up. Small businesses, which are the engine room of the economy, will receive no compensation for the carbon tax.

We have had four deficits in four years. The overall budget for 2012 delivers a deterioration of $26 billion in the cumulative Commonwealth budget position over the forward estimates since last year's budget. The blow-out in this year's deficit from $23 billion to $44 billion means more borrowing and more debt, which future generations will have to repay. All of this is despite the fact that in real terms the government is experiencing the fastest growth in revenue since the mid-1980s. This is the fourth Labor deficit in four years, and together they total $174 billion.

Treasurer Swan has never managed to get his figures right. The 2011-12 budget deficit has now blown out, as I said, three times, from $12 billion to $23 billion to $37 billion to $44 billion, and this year has not even finished. This year's budget, as I have said, was all about cooking the books. In headline cash terms, the Gillard Labor government will spend $8.7 billion more than it earns in the 2012-13 financial year, because the government continues to spend on projects such as the NBN, which have been taken off budget. If the government were honest and included the NBN expenditure, the budget would show deficits over the next three years. To put it simply, there would be no surplus if the NBN were on the books. In fact, by bringing forward just two programs, the back to school payment and the Commonwealth grants to local government, the government artificially saves more than $1.5 billion in the 2012-13 financial year. Honest budget treatment of these two programs alone would wipe our Treasurer Swan's wafer-thin surplus.

We now have record debt. As I have already said, this government seeks to increase Australia's debt ceiling to a record $300 billion, which is four times higher than it was in 2008. Australians are right to be concerned about Treasurer Swan, with yet another increase in our nation's credit card limit. Net government debt will climb to a record $144.9 billion in 2013-14. That is an increase of almost $40 billion since last year's budget. By 2015-16, the government will be spending over $8 billion a year, or around $22 million a day, on interest payments alone. This is the price tag of Labor's legacy of waste and reckless spending.

With the higher unemployment, last year's budget promised 500,000 new jobs over two years, but the government now expects to miss its target by 300,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is forecast to increase to 5.5 per cent, while the government is cutting $200 million out of job service programs. This government is all about high taxes. The budget includes another six new tax hikes, including through heavy vehicle road user charges and reduced tax offsets for families with higher medical bills. This brings to 26 the number of new or increased taxes the Rudd/Gillard Labor governments have delivered since 2007.

Let us get to the broken promises. The Gillard Labor government has dumped the Prime Minister's promise about company tax cuts. Less than two months ago in the House of Reps on 14 March, she said:

If you are against cutting company tax, you are against economic growth┬╗. If you are against economic growth, then you are against jobs.

The Prime Minister has also broken her solemn promise set out in the 2009 defence white paper to increase defence spending by three per cent in real terms until the 2017-18 financial year. In this budget, the Prime Minister and Treasurer Swan cut a further $5.5 billion out of Australia's defence budget, on top of the $2.5 billion they cut out of the defence budget last year. As a percentage of GDP, defence spending is now at historically low levels. While defence continues to be cut, Prime Minister Gillard's broken border protection and onshore processing policy has delivered another $1.4 billion blowout in asylum seeker management. Yet, despite the Gillard Labor government's big talk, the $1 billion committed over the forward estimates to the National Disability Insurance Scheme is almost $3 billion less than the Productivity Commission recommended. Australians with disabilities will be forgiven for feeling short-changed by the Gillard Labor government's budget. The budget also set aside just $5 billion towards the Gonski review. The $5-billion-a-year price tag means Labor's independent schools hit list is not far away.

Australians want a government which can deliver an economic strategy to build a strong Australia, reduce the cost-of-living pressures and create secure jobs. Instead, they have a government mired in chaos and a Prime Minister with no judgment. My electorate of Solomon is in desperate need of infrastructure to make its economy more productive. In Solomon, we are also in desperate need of health infrastructure to give our people better access to health services. There are more disappointing elements in the budget: in particular that families have been targeted and the perception of a wealthy family is now a family on $150,000. With the higher cost of living continuing to apply pressure on families' budgets and interest rates, we all know that a family on $150,000 is far from being wealthy, especially in regional Australia, where the cost of living in high.

Many people in my electorate and my family and friends across Australia have raised with me their concerns regarding the significant expenditure on housing associated with asylum seekers in the Territory. The general view is that this money could be better spent on infrastructure to build on the Territory's potential and on funding longer term projects within my electorate. This Labor government's short-sighted measures and poor fiscal management are set to continue to the pain for families within my electorate of Solomon. Despite Labor talking down the impact of the these changes, the truth is that, at a time when families are struggling with costs of living pressures, the carbon tax will hurt families. I remind the House again of the pink batts fiasco, which resulted in the deaths of Australians. I remind the house of the Building the Education Revolution scheme, which directed funds to building halls at schools already scheduled for closure. I remind the House of the hard-earned taxpayers' money spent on an inefficient solar rebate program—a program that not only was economically inefficient but did almost nothing for environmental outcomes. How can we forget the exorbitant and unnecessary cost of giving set-top boxes to pensioners at a cost higher than that of a whole new television? Nor have we forgotten the $900 of stimulus payments that were sent to people living overseas and to people who were in fact dead.

On another note, after the 2010 federal election the Prime Minister was asked by the member for Denison what Labor would do with the promises made by Labor candidates in seats where Labor did not win. The Prime Minister stood at the dispatch box, hand on heart and said, 'Our promises were fully costed—every single one of them. Of course they will be delivered. Of course they will. We don't go around making promises that we won't fulfil.

Following on from that passionate statement of commitment in the chamber, I wrote letters to the Prime Minister on behalf of the electorate asking for clarification as to when the pre-election commitments made by Labor would be delivered in my electorate of Solomon. One promise I would like to touch on quickly was the promise of 1,200 new affordable rental homes in the Northern Territory, priced at at least 20 per cent below market rates under the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This promise was rebadged from the previous election. Now, according to a recent National Rental Affordability Scheme monthly performance report dated 30 April 2012, out of the 1,696 NRAS incentives, the Northern Territory has currently a grand total of—wait for it—14 allocated incentives. That was 14 out of 1,696 in the Northern Territory. As I have said many times in this place, the Northern Territory and indeed my electorate of Solomon is experiencing a housing crisis, and the best number this government can come up with is 14. Mind you, this comes at the same time this Labor government is introducing its toxic carbon tax. This Labor government is definitely toxic and cannot go through with its plans. It really is a mess. At the same time, this government is demolishing houses in my electorate. The RAAF base is fantastic, with really good houses, but this government is knocking them down. It just beggars belief. It is just a disgrace. The coalition government said that it would save those houses, and I am here again today to say that it should.

I would like to end by reminding the House that the carbon tax will hurt families, small businesses and all the people in the Northern Territory, and they are very clear that they do not want a carbon tax. This budget was all about the carbon tax.

Debate adjourned.