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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4464


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (16:00): May I commend the member for O'Connor for his speech and for his contribution to this place. Last Saturday at the Nationals preselection, another very worthy candidate for the seat of O'Connor was preselected for the Nationals. His name is Chub Witham, and I look forward to him making a very worthwhile contribution to this place, as Tony Crook has done for the constituents of O'Connor, who have benefited greatly from having a Western Australian Nationals member representing their interests.

Just recently—in fact, it was on 29 April—the Prime Minister made a speech to the Per Capita Reform Agenda prior to the budget. She used a rather bizarre example, I thought, when she was trying to explain what the budget cuts which were approaching would mean to the average Australian person. She drew on the example of John: Imagine a wage earner, John, employed in the same job throughout the last 20 years.

We all know the speech. We all heard it. We all raised our eyebrows at it. Certainly John had to tighten his belt in the example that the Prime Minister used.

I would like to imagine an irrigator by the name of John. I might use the example of John Bisetto, who was the one who told the water minister when he went to Griffith that he was a disgrace, about the so-called water reform he was planning to implement. The irrigator John in my example might be John Bisetto; it might be any other one of those great family farmers at Griffith and in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area whose name might just happen to be John, but certainly their uncertainty has not been lifted by the water reform, by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan enacted by this government. Certainly I look forward to an Abbott-Truss led government, which will keep its word and cap buyback at 1,500 gigalitres, which means that only 249 gigalitres of water will then remain to be recovered. That will be a good outcome for the irrigators of my area and certainly a good outcome for all those irrigators by the name of John.

Also imagine a stay-at-home mum. Let us call her Jane. Jane is concerned that there is nothing for her. She is a stay-at home mum and she is choosing to look after her kids, but what is there on the table for poor Jane?

Indeed, we have a regional student. Let us just, for example, call her Jennie. Jennie is also affected because, as Senator Fiona Nash, the Nationals regional education spokeswoman, told Senate estimates yesterday, just 17 per cent of regional 25- to 34-year-olds had bachelor or postgraduate qualifications in 2011, compared with 36 per cent of those from the city. Residents of regional Australia, Senator Nash said, are only half as likely to have degrees as their metropolitan counterparts. That is really tough on them. It is really tough on the Jennies of the world, the Jennies who are trying to make a great contribution to this country, but because of Julia and her government they have not been able to do that.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: Oh, come on!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order!

Mr McCORMACK: Okay, the Prime Minister.

Mr Perrett: Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would ask the member to refer to the elected Prime Minister of this country by her correct title and not be so insulting.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member will refer to members by their correct title.

Mr McCORMACK: Sure, I take his interjection. The Prime Minister of this country and her government have overseen a situation where regional students were not provided with independent youth allowance, and that was just a shameful indictment on this government—a shameful indictment on the government and certainly on a Prime Minister who, when she was the Minister for Education, said that she was all about equity. The member for Moreton knows that that certainly was not the case for those regional students, whose name might have been Jennie, might have been Julia or might have been John, Jane or anything else. It certainly was not fair.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: I will take your interjections, but you know it was not fair. And it is certain that they have a tough enough time, member for Moreton, to actually get a tertiary education without being held back by your government.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: I do not have to give you the detail because it was already the fact that you would not provide. Your government would not provide equity in independent youth allowance. You know it and the members on your side though it. I certainly saw the minister for education, Peter Garrett—there you are, I have called him by his full name—come in and make this speech about, 'We are going to provide independent youth allowance equity just because the regional Independents and the regional members of my government—you were probably one of them!—have told me that this is so'. That came after months and months and months of the Nationals standing up for our people, who were not given tertiary independent youth allowance, and it was so unfair.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: You know it! Your members on your side knew it. You can complain and whinge all you like but that is the truth.—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will be heard without interjection.

Mr McCORMACK: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

This year's budget has confirmed what we have all known for a long, long time: Labor's financial and budget management is in complete chaos. The budget has done nothing to help Australian families deal with rising cost-of-living pressures, economic uncertainty and poor services. Instead, it has delivered more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and certainly more uncertainty from an incompetent government which cannot and has not been able to be trusted since it was elected in 2007. It has been six long years of chaos, debt and, unfortunately, spin. Everything is about spin and rhetoric that just does not add up. Just like the budget figures: they never add up.

Australians are sick to the back teeth of it. They are desperate for stable, competent economic fiscal managers. Australians deserve that; it is the least that this parliament can provide. After all, it is the taxpayers' money that this government is wasting—the taxpayers' money!

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: He can complain all he likes but he knows what I am saying is true. Yet again, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have failed to set out—

Mr Perrett interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!

Mr McCORMACK: You will get your turn. You have probably already had it and you probably do not want to take it because you are so ashamed of the government you represent and you are so ashamed of the fact that there has been, yet again, another budget deficit.

Yet again the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have failed to set out a credible economic strategy for the coming 12 months, let alone for the next decade. And that is what we want: we want long-term plans, not just plans brought in in indecent haste, not just plans brought in at the dead of night and made out on a beer coaster. We want good, stable credible government.

This year the government has delivered a total gross debt to breach the $300 billion debt ceiling within the forward estimates. Another record deficit with at least two more to come. That is shameful. We are maxing out our nation's credit card and we are maxing out our nation's potential savings. We are preventing nation-building infrastructure from being able to be rolled out: roads, hospitals—those important things that the people, certainly in regional areas and certainly in the Riverina, need and expect. But they are not getting them from this mob.

How can the government justify $100 million spending on government advertising and yet deliver $25 billion more in higher taxes over the next four years? It is a good question. We must remember: these are taxes which will not hit Australians' pockets until after the next election. Let me tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that election cannot come soon enough.

Families have been let down yet again. They can justify spending to promote their own schemes—this is Labor—coincidentally in an election year, but scrap tax cuts, family payments and all the rest. Families are struggling to make ends meet. They are struggling in Moreton, they are struggling in the Riverina and they are struggling right throughout Australia. But what is this government doing about it? Very, very little. They are just taking out of their back pockets like a thief in the night.

Reading the reaction to the budget in The Daily Advertiser, my local newspaper in Wagga Wagga, on 15 May, the only positive reaction I could find was from—surprise, surprise!—the Country Labor president. The only positive reaction!

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: Indeed! You might be interested to know—

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: Well, stay tuned on Adrian Piccoli and his comments about Gonski—stay tuned!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Moreton will desist from interjecting. He is certainly not assisting the chair—

Mr McCORMACK: And he is wasting my time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Riverina will withdraw that statement.

Mr McCORMACK: Well, I won't withdraw, because he is soaking up my time—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member will withdraw the statement.

Mr McCORMACK: For the sake of the House, I withdraw—but he is wasting my time. As far as Mr Piccoli is concerned, yes, the state education minister did come yesterday and he did speak to the Nationals about the Gonski plan.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: All I say is: hold fire on that criticism of me, because there are some aspects of the Gonski plan I actually agree with, Member for Moreton. There you go; that might surprise you. John Harding, the president of the Wagga Wagga branch of the Association of Independent Retirees, feels that they have been left in a state of uncertainty, and he is right. He said:

'If the rules keep changing, older people are disadvantaged because they aren't earning any more.

'If super is intended to do what it's supposed to, you need to be confident that the super as you know it will stay the same.'

Dom and Larissa Byrne of Wagga Wagga are about to welcome baby No. 6 in July—and congratulations and good luck to them on that. They are certainly doing their part for the nation. But they believe the government is 'making it more difficult for young couples to start a family'. Mr Byrne expressed his concern, saying:

'If the government wants a strong economy, the best way to achieve it is to provide as much support to families as possible.

'Strong families build a thriving economy.'

He is a good man, Dominic Byrne, and I agree with him wholeheartedly on that point. Despite claims from the government that it offers hope and assistance for families, the coalition know—and, more importantly, the taxpayers of Australia know—that this is far from the reality.

At the 2010 election, the Prime Minister promised Australia's net debt would peak at less than $90 billion. This year's budget revealed net debt will now peak at over $191 billion, which is more than double the Prime Minister's original promise. But the Australian public are used to this Prime Minister not exactly keeping all her promises. She promised that there would be no carbon tax, but there is. She guaranteed that there would be a surplus—in fact, she guaranteed there would be a surplus 165 times—but there is not and there never will be under the current Labor government. When was the last time a Labor government produced a surplus? It was in 1989. This budget is the 12th deficit from Labor's—wait for it—last 12 budgets. Last year, the Treasurer promised a surplus of $1½ billion a dozen times or more—instead he has developed a $19.4 billion deficit, a deficit as big as the surplus he originally promised.

Australian households are under pressure. University students of the Riverina are under pressure. The irrigators of the Riverina are under pressure. And they are under pressure because of this government. They are under pressure because this government delivers no hope, no certainty. I hope that, come election day, the government are sent packing, because that is what they deserve.

I am very, very concerned about this government's treatment of veterans and of the Defence Force more broadly. As members are well aware, Wagga Wagga in my electorate is a tri-service city. It has the Army, the Air Force and the Navy—

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr McCORMACK: Stop interjecting! Please stop interjecting and just hear me out, because you actually might learn something. Part of our defence strategy needs to be that we do not pare back defence, that we do not cut it to the bone like your mob has. Last year, $5½ billion was stripped out of the defence budget, and there was no confidence this year either—not only that but the DFRDB and DFRB entitlements of veterans are not being indexed as they should. Your government, despite the rhetoric we have heard from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, has not come good on any of its promises to properly and fairly index these payments—payments to people who put their lives on the line for our nation. And what is your side of politics doing for them? Nothing. Nothing at all. You just make it hard for them to make ends meet. The amount of correspondence I get from Bert Hovey and others—they are good people, they put their lives on the line for this nation, and what do they get in return? Absolutely nothing. It is shameful and you know it. The defence budget has been absolutely cut to the bone. It is an absolute disgrace.

As I said before, the spending on tertiary education is also shameful, with $20 million taken away from Charles Sturt University, an absolute leader in tertiary education. Don't raise your eyebrows at me; it is true. Its funding has been cut by $20 million. Charles Sturt University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Vann, said that the cuts were 'short-sighted and unwise', 'illogical' and 'undercutting our future prosperity'. We should be doing everything that we can in this place to better prepare our nation for the future, to better prepare for our future generation so that they have some prosperity. Your side is doing nothing about it, but we have a plan. We have a very good plan to put this nation back on track—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will refer to members by their titles.

Mr McCormack: What did I say?

Mr Perrett: 'You.'

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You were referring to the member for Moreton, Member for Riverina. You may wish to refer to the member by his title.

Mr McCORMACK: We have a plan. It is a good plan and certainly, after 14 September, I am sure that we will pay the debt back. It will take a long time but we will give this nation hope, reward and opportunity.