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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4503


Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (18:56): Here we are: another year, another Labor budget. From my perspective it has been another example of more of the same. Unfortunately we know that when it comes to Labor Party budgets, it is a case of looking what Labor does not look at what Labor is going to do. Who would forget that it was not that long ago that Kevin Rudd was elected at the end of the coalition's period of office in 2007 promising to be a fiscal conservative. The Labor Party held themselves out to the electorate and said, 'We learned the lessons of the past. The Labor Party is not going to be a tax-and-spend government anymore. You can trust us to steer the Australian economy. You can trust the Labor Party to deliver surpluses and to make the big calls correctly to ensure ongoing prosperity for the Australian people.'

Here we are six years later and what do we know? We know the track record of the Australian Labor Party, true to form, has been a continuation of the exact same profligacy we saw when Labor was last in office. We have seen the Labor Party engage in a process of taxing and spending. We saw the hard work of the coalition that for 12 years committed itself to making the tough calls, committed itself to saying no to people when we had to say no because we knew it was not in Australia's long-term financial interests and also to providing tax relief where we could afford to do so. After a period of abolishing wholesale sales tax and introducing the GST to make sure that Australia was on a sustainable fiscal platform, the coalition saw the economic opportunity squandered.

If the Labor Party were elected in 2007 and in a matter of about six months later they delivered—I would use the word 'delivered' in quotation marks—a budget surplus of around $20 billion to $22 billion, from memory, built off the back of the hard work and the decisions that had been taken by the coalition in, at the very least, the 12 months prior but perhaps more accurately over the 12 years prior.

We note the Labor Party got a firm grip on the levers controlling the Australian economy and made decisions about what they believed to be the priorities for our nation. Lo and behold, what we saw was the massive erosion of Australia's competitive standing and of Australia's fiscal position. Over the past six years of Labor Party government and incumbency we have seen Australia's financial position move from having $70 billion worth of assets—the Future Fund, the Higher Education Fund, Medicare Fund—and $20 billion plus surpluses to deficits of $44 billion, $58 billion and, who could forget, this year a guaranteed, you-can-bet-your-life-on-it surplus of a billion dollars that has turned out to be $19.4 billion deficit. What is more, after the Treasurer stood up and said in the budget speech last year, 'This is the first surplus with years of surplus to follow', we now find—oops, typical Labor—a $19.4 billion deficit and a deficit of $18 billion over the next financial year to be followed by a $17 billion deficit the year after that.

The Labor Party, again true to form, says: 'But this isn’t our fault. It's all a consequence of international circumstances. If only we hadn't been in the wrong place at the wrong time, we could have governed effectively and we could have made sure the Australian people weren't up to their eyeballs in debt.' If only it was not for the GFC the Labor Party would have continued getting the big calls right and we would have seen the Australian people continue to enjoy strong economic growth. If only the Labor Party had not been the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then it would not have allowed a situation to arise where Australia moved from $70 billion of net assets to now gross debt approaching $400 billion in six years.

The problem with that approach is that is just not supported by the facts. There are inescapable facts about Australia's economic performance. Granted, the GFC was particularly pronounced in Europe and we have seen fiscal problems of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression throughout Europe. But that is not the story in our part of the world. That is not the story with respect to our major trading partners. That is not the story with respect to the United States. The simple reality is that in our region the countries with which Australia does the bulk of its trade and to which we export there was significant economic tumult about three or five years ago, but since then there has been a sustained pathway of strong economic growth. China has seen growth remain above seven per cent for years. The United States is currently seeing a strong economic recovery take hold. And we see throughout the bulk of our Asian neighbours continuing economic resilience.

When you look at the economic profile of other countries—for example, Canada or other mid-range economies similar to Australia—the story could not be more different to the Australian experience. Those countries are once again back into positions of surplus; once again paying down debt; once again provisioning for the future. That is in remarkable and strong contrast to the Labor Party, which continues to say, 'It's not us; it's everybody else that is the problem.' My constituents on the Gold Coast know what the problem is. They know that the problem is that this is a Labor government that, true to form, is big taxing and big spending. There has never been a spending initiative that the Labor Party does not like and there has never been a tax that the Labor party does not like. What constituents talk to me about on a regular basis is their sense of betrayal by this Labor Prime Minister, who, we all know, stabbed the former Prime Minister in the back and said, 'I was forced to do it because we were making some major policy errors.' To name two that immediately spring to mind: the mining tax and border protection. These were issues that needed to be addressed. That was the excuse used by the current Labor Prime Minister to stab in the back Kevin Rudd, the member for Griffith and Australia's elected Prime Minister prior to that.

What do we discover? The Prime Minister, only six days out from the last federal election, had looked down the barrel of TV cameras and said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' The current Treasurer had said claims that the coalition was making at that stage that Labor had plans to introduce a carbon tax were 'hysterical'. And what has come to pass? We now know that those claims were not hysterical, they were exceptionally accurate. We know that the Prime Minister who said, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' introduced a carbon tax. And the Prime Minister who said, 'I had to stab the member for Griffith in the back because we got it wrong on border protection,' has now seen effectively an armada of boats coming not only to the islands around Australia but to Australia's very mainland, with about 40,000 asylum seekers coming to Australia since Labor changed the laws.

The falseness with which Labor goes about its budget process that concerns me as well. We know that the Labor Party needs to fudge the figures, frankly, when they are trying to make out that they have got everything under control when it comes to the nation's finances. That is the reason we have seen the Labor Party claim, for example, that the costs of border protection were going to reduce. At the very time we are getting record numbers of asylum seekers coming to Australia, because our borders are effectively nonexistent, we have a situation where the Labor Party says: 'No, sure, there's been a $6½ billion blow-out when it comes to the cost of dealing with the problem we created when we changed the laws, but you know what? Trust us, in the next 12 months the costs are going to go down. It's all right, we've got it under control.' No change to policy and, lo and behold, what we saw was that the costs went up, just as the coalition predicted they would.

Likewise, when the coalition effectively openly laughed at Labor's projected $1 billion surplus, and then this year the Treasurer says: 'Well, these events were unpredictable. How were we to know we would have revenue write-downs of the magnitude that we have had?' Once again, we saw Labor playing the victim card. The problem was that, after the budget last year, the shadow Treasurer and member for North Sydney stated in his address to the National Press Club that we simply could not rely on Labor's forecasts because they were built off an expected increase in revenue of $39 billion. The shadow Treasurer mocked the fact that Labor said there would be a miraculous $39 billion recovery in revenue and that is what would deliver a $1 billion surplus this year. Lo and behold, he was right. There was no miraculous $39 billion recovery. It was all just spin put in place by the Labor Party to attempt to hoodwink the Australian people.

I know that in my electorate on the Gold Coast people are sick and tired of this Labor government. They do not believe a word that comes from the lips of the Prime Minister. They certainly do not believe the fiscal strategy of this Labor Party, because it is bereft of any relevance and it is absolutely bereft of any credibility. Australians are ready to say to this government: 'We reject you and we reject the approach of the Labor Party.' They reject 40 new or increased taxes since Labor were elected. They reject the world's biggest carbon tax. They reject a mining tax that raises $125 million when Labor projected that it was actually going to raise over $2 billion. Australians are not mugs. They recognise a foul stench when they smell one and they know that this government has a foul stench about it.

For that reason I am certainly pleased to be part of a coalition that has a proud track record of delivering not only for the people of Australia but for my city of the Gold Coast. Local media and constituents were concerned that in this year's budget papers there was one solitary mention of the Gold Coast, Australia's sixth largest city. In some 4,800 pages there was one solitary mention. I am not surprised because the Labor Party has not been seen anywhere near the Gold Coast for years.

The Prime Minister physically set foot in the city twice over the last term, both times to address the AWU conference and cloistered within the confines of an AWU conference, but the reality is that the Labor Party has no form when it comes to understanding the Gold Coast. The Labor Party does not understand the Gold Coast because fundamentally, if there is one trait that is consistent with all my constituents across the city, it is a belief in small business and entrepreneurship. The reality is that that is foreign to Labor. It is foreign to Labor because it is not about unionised workforces, it is not about their approach to industrial relations and it is not about Labor's tax and spend approach to running government. That is the reason the Labor Party has been missing in action on the Gold Coast for years.

I recommit myself and say to all Gold Coasters that tomorrow can be better than today. The coalition has positive plans that we will put in place to get Australia back on track. The coalition has in place a strong track record that demonstrates not only that we are committed to getting our economy back on track but also that we are committed to tourism and construction industries, the two single biggest employers across the city. We get small business; we get tourism; we get the construction and property industries. That is the reason we delivered historically; that is the reason the coalition got unemployment down to a record low, the lowest in 33 years; that is the reason we will resolve to recommit ourselves to paying off the nearly $400 billion of debt that Labor has racked up in getting Australia's economy back on track—because the next generation of Gold Coasters deserve it.