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Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Page: 5636

Mr SLIPPER (FisherDeputy Speaker) (10:31): I am particularly pleased to be able to join the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills. The budget from this government, once again, fails my constituents on the Sunshine Coast. Families are worse off, and the budget indicates that the government is simply out of touch with families on the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere. Unfortunately, there is very little in the budget for families, and the budget does not contain the prescription needed to restore the situation in this country. Unfortunately, through the government's failed border protection policies millions and millions of dollars are being spent. However, if the policies of the former Howard government were adopted that would not be necessary and those funds would be available to provide very necessary infrastructure for the Sunshine Coast and, indeed, for other growth areas of Australia.

The deficit of the budget this year has soared to almost $50 billion and is forecast to be in this situation for some time. In fact, the budget deficit forecast for 2011-2012 has blown out by $9.6 billion to $22.6 billion. That is a matter of grave concern. The Treasurer tells us that the government will be returning the budget to surplus within a very finite period. I hope that the Treasurer's predictions are correct. However, on the indications, and on the performance of this government in the past, one cannot be optimistic that this will occur. Net government debt has climbed to a record $107 billion in 2011-12 and is forecast to remain above $100 billion across the forward estimates. This amounts to more than $4,700 debt for every Australian.

This is another typical old-fashioned Labor budget that is big on taxes and big on spending but fails to help households battling higher costs of living on items such as petrol, electricity, gas, groceries, health costs and home repayments. We also find that the government is launching a $2 billion assault on families by freezing the indexation of key family tax payments and income thresholds for three years. This is the first budget in eight years that has not provided tax cuts for everyday Australians. This government is being tough on Australian families because it has failed to be tough on itself. I mentioned before the money which has to be spent because Labor has lost control of Australia's borders. Offshore unauthorised arrival management has blown out by a record $1.75 billion since last year's budget. The current approach by the government is in complete disarray. The new arrangements for taxing company cars will slug small business operators, tradesmen, farmers and the taxi and hire car industry with increased costs at a time when they are already doing it tough. Regional Australia has again been short-changed by a citycentric government that has cut $500 million in regional funding. There is not a single new cent in this budget for road or rail projects across Australia. Since coming to power in 2007, the government has employed 24,000 additional public servants and the government is asking people on the Sunshine Coast to tighten their belts but is refusing to do the same to itself. Australians are looking for stability and certainty from their government and most Australians would be sorely disappointed, firstly, by what is in this budget and, secondly, by what is not in this budget.

The Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest growing areas of Australia. Because we are a fast-growing area, we never seem to have the infrastructure we require to meet the needs of our growing population. We need to upgrade the Bruce Highway to six lanes all the way from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. The former Howard government invested money to upgrade the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Caboolture and, at the time, that removed the worst bottleneck between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. But as road traffic continues to grow, delays seem to be inevitable. The existing four-lane highway—that is, two lanes in each direction—desperately needs upgrading to six lanes. Not to do so is completely unacceptable.

On the Sunshine Coast we have a wonderful lifestyle, we have a very hospitable population but what we do need on the Sunshine Coast are more jobs, particularly jobs for young people. We need clean and green industries and we need government policies which will encourage the development of job opportunities so that young people are not forced to leave the Sunshine Coast to seek employment. The University of the Sunshine Coast is doing a wonderful job. It is giving large numbers of students in our community the opportunity to study in an increasing range of disciplines. We hope that many of those graduates will find work on the Sunshine Coast.

Not only is the Sunshine Coast a rapidly growing area; it is a very interesting area because demographically it is one of the oldest parts of Australia. Lots of people retire to the Sunshine Coast from around the country, and that is entirely understandable because it is a wonderful place to live. But we also have lots of young families and those young families are extremely concerned about the employment opportunities for their children. Part of our unemployment problem on the Sunshine Coast is imported, I suppose. Compare being unemployed in some of the southern parts of Australia and being unemployed in a place that has wonderful beaches and a wonderful lifestyle and it is hardly surprising that people often choose to move to an area where there is less employment but a better lifestyle. That is why quite often our unemployment rate is higher than one would normally expect, because lots of people who would be unemployed elsewhere choose to move to the Sunshine Coast.

It is a pity that the Liberal-National Party coalition was not elected at the last election because we were able to promise a range of infrastructure projects for the Sunshine Coast which would have provided incredible benefits for our local community. I have also spoken in the parliament and I have written to the government to seek to have these infrastructure projects implemented, despite the fact that the Labor Party was elected to office and the Liberal-National Party coalition is still in opposition. We would like to see the Bruce Highway upgraded, we would like to see $2.5 million given to upgrade the Caloundra Aquatic Lifestyle Centre and we would like to see $700,000 for a viewing platform for Maleny's Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. The latter would enable people to view the Glass House Mountains in a safe way. At present, the view, which is spectacular, often entices people to wander across the road, placing their safety at risk.

It is also important to recognise that the government needs to invest more in tourism, particularly on the Sunshine Coast. People on the Sunshine Coast are particularly concerned over the fact that the government said prior to the election that it would not introduce a carbon tax and yet a carbon tax is now on the government's agenda and could well be legislated for by the parliament. It is important that, when you stand up prior to an election and say that you are going to pursue a certain policy, once you have received the support of the Australian people, you seek to carry out the pledge that you made.

Very few people on the Sunshine Coast support a carbon tax. Most people, if given the choice between a clean environment and a less clean environment would certainly choose the former. However, given that Australia is a relatively low emitter, if the carbon tax is brought in—and we have heard of the range of charges which will be imposed on Australian families, from $300 to $1,000, depending on the rate at which the carbon tax is struck—Australian families will be slugged, our businesses will be less competitive and our exporters will not be able to compete in world markets as they are currently able to. And, if the rest of the world does not follow a similar policy, there will be no improvement in the world environment. So, on the one hand, our own industry will be committing a form of economic suicide, costing jobs and so on, and, sadly, on the other hand, the world environment will be no better as a result of that action.

I would ask the government to consider a world solution rather than seeking to move unilaterally. I think Australia is a good international citizen. I think we have proven over the years that we are prepared to work with other countries to improve the environment. But to move forward unilaterally is not in our interests and would do very little at all for the environment. That is absolutely unacceptable.

I would also like to talk about the need for safety throughout the Sunshine Coast. We have a very good area; however, it would be very useful if we were able to get CCTV surveillance cameras to boost public safety in key parts of our community. Prior to the last election, we were able to pledge $300,000 for CCTV surveillance cameras and extra lighting in the central business district of Caloundra, $100,000 for CCTV surveillance cameras at the Mooloolaba shopping and tourism precinct and $100,000 for CCTV surveillance cameras in the Kawana Waters community. This commitment was also made prior to the election in 2007. Unfortunately, with the election of the current government, we have not yet been able to get that funding.

The funding would mean that we could better showcase our community as one which people could visit as tourists or move to to become residents. These surveillance cameras would improve the safety of people who are out having a good time. The Sunshine Coast is a relatively safe and law-abiding destination, but I think these cameras would provide a lot of reassurance and would help to boost our tourism numbers. For a relatively small investment, half a million dollars, public safety would be boosted, and that would be a very positive thing. It is important, I believe, to protect our environment. The environment is not the possession of any particular side of politics and I believe that, particularly with the Green Corps, the Howard government will go down on the record as one of the greenest governments in Australia's history, but it will never be given credit for that. But I think it is important to recognise that we do hold our environment in trust for future generations and that it would be wonderful if we were able to leave the environment of Australia in a much better situation when we depart this world than it was in when we arrived. So it is important that all of us, regardless of where we stand politically, focus on the need to make sure that appropriate funding is made available to protect and enhance our environment. We had, prior to the election, promised certain funding for a range of environmental groups on the Sunshine Coast, and I call on the current government to accept that they are very worthy causes and that our environment will be enhanced if those funding announcements prior to the election are implemented by this current government.

This budget does fail the Australian people. It is not a prescription that our country needs at this time, and I would ask the Treasurer to reconsider the budget with a view to bringing in something more appropriate. I thank the House.