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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4507


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (19:11): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014. This Labor budget is more debt, more chaos and more spin from a desperate government reeling out of control. On 14 May the Treasurer announced that his much-promised surplus of $1.5 billion had not materialised. Surprise, surprise! On more than 500 occasions the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and others in this Labor government promised a budget surplus in this financial year. Indeed, many ALP members sent out newsletters to their electorate claiming that Labor had already delivered a surplus. But as a result of this government's incompetence, as a result of their addiction to spending, there is now a $19.4 billion deficit for 2012-13. For 2013-14, the budget deficit will be $18 billion. In total, all six of the Treasurer's budgets have been deficits. The last 12 Labor budgets have been deficits. In fact, this is the longest period of successive deficits by one government in more than a generation. Yet the Treasurer expects Australians to believe him when he says that, with Labor's fifth record deficit in five years, with two more deficits still to come, Australia will magically see a return to surplus in 2015-16 of $0.8 billion.

Five years of Labor deficits means $192 billion of debt, with gross debt expected to exceed the $300 billion limit in the forward estimates. This Labor government has already increased that debt ceiling on four occasions from $75 to $200 billion, then $250 billion and now it stands at $300 billion. After this year's budget, that debt ceiling will have to be increased for a fifth time when our gross debt exceeds $300 billion. That means Australian taxpayers are paying $35 million a day in interest—that is, $13 billion a year, which is more than enough to cover the full-year costs of the NDIS without a levy. The $192 billion of debt comes from this Labor government's addiction to spending taxpayers' money which it does not have. As Judith Sloan recently commented about the Parliamentary Budget Offices' publication on Australian government structural deficits, this has been a government prepared to run down the negative net debt position it inherited, to raid any trust funds hanging around and to borrow to spend even more money. Even if this government had received the extra receipts it had falsely predicted, I have no doubt that this Labor government would have spent those anyway because that is their nature—to spend, spend, spend. This government has forecast wildly increasing revenue and then subsequently downgraded the forecast, but in the meantime it has spent money it simply does not have.

We need to only look at the mining tax. Last year the government said that they would receive $3 billion. This year they have announced that net receipts from the mining tax are less than 10 per cent of that—only $200 million. In 2013-14, federal government revenue is more than $80 billion higher than in the last year of the coalition government, a government that was running a real, sizeable surplus at the time. The spending today by this Labor government is $120 billion higher than in the last year of the coalition government. As a result, in true Labor style the Treasurer announced more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years while also abandoning previous promises to cut taxes for both individuals and companies. This is on top of the carbon tax, the mining tax and more than $8 billion in new Labor super taxes.

Labor's failure to control our finances means that important programs and initiatives which do have the support of the vast majority of Australians have had their funding cut or remain underfunded, as is the case for the NDIS. While government is passing increases to the Medicare levy, it has failed to outline how the remaining 60 per cent funding shortfall will be provided. There are countless examples of where the government continue to break their promises and cut funding including for university research and foreign aid.

What Australians want and what Australians need is a government that lives within its means. If the coalition earns the privilege of government on 14 September, we will build a stronger, more productive and diverse economy with lower taxes, more efficient government and more productive businesses that will deliver more jobs, higher real income and better services. We will get the budget back under control, cut waste and start reducing debt. We will live within our means. Following the budget reply of the Leader of the Opposition, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has already revealed that at least 87 per cent of households will be better off under a coalition budget. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, Australian families will be better off because we will rescind the carbon tax while personal tax will not increase nor will benefits decrease.

One important area of policy that continues to be ignored by this Labor government is small business. From the most recent National Australia Bank small business survey we know that confidence, conditions, profitability, cash flows and employment are all in negative territory. This year's budget does nothing to address the concerns of small business. As the Australian Retailers Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said, the budget does not offer support for small business with the lack of tax relief, high personal income tax, Medicare levy, no capital gains tax relief, no cost offset to fund the hike in the superannuation levy and no reduction in tax compliance and red tape. Andrew Conway, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Accounts, went further, declaring that this year's budget is yet another budget that will do nothing to promote the small business sector.

Small businesses across my electorate are doing it tough. They are facing increasing electricity and refrigeration costs as a result of the carbon tax, increasingly complicated workplace relations laws and increasing red tape and bureaucracy across-the-board. Under this Labor government, small business has seen employment in the sector fall by 243,000 and, as a share of the private workforce employment, it has fallen from 51.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent.

Last week the shadow Treasurer announced that small businesses who deal with Commonwealth departments will either be paid on time or will automatically receive interest payments under a coalition government. If an account is not paid within 30 days, interest will be paid at the same rate as the Australian Taxation Office expects people to pay for their late tax payments. This policy announcement is not just good news for small business but also for consumers.

I have received a lot of feedback from businesses who have told me that they simply do not have the cash flow to cover the cost of providing a service and then waiting six months for a government bureaucrat to handle the payment. For example, I have heard from small business health providers in my electorate such as dentists and optometrists who are willing to assist Australian veterans for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Some have had to refuse patients because they simply cannot afford to take them on, given the huge lag time between providing a service and actually receiving payment. I will continue to listen to small businesses in my electorate on how best the coalition can provide real solutions to double the rate of small business growth, including conducting a root and branch review of competition laws and implementing our commitment to reducing regulatory costs by $1 billion per annum.

I note that in this year's budget Ryan continues to be ignored in the rollout of the National Broadband Network. Earlier this year, the NBN Co. announced that it would not meet its June 2013 rollout targets, down from an original target of 1.3 million premises seven months ago, then revised down again to 341,000. The figure now stands at anywhere between 190,000 and 220,000 premises. This is not good news for the people of Ryan, who have suffered under this government's poorly handled approach to broadband policy and have been regularly ignored by NBN Co. Indeed, if NBN Co. had not blocked the planned fibre-to-the-premises rollout by Brisbane City Council, residents would already be connected.

The Treasurer confirmed on 14 May that the government's planned investment in NBN Co. this year and over the next two years has been slashed by $3.5 billion. Less investment in NBN Co. means fewer households and businesses will actually receive access to the NBN. After almost six years of Labor, fewer than 20,000 households and businesses are actually connected to the fibre network, while two million are still unable to obtain fixed broadband to support viewing even a YouTube video. Quite simply, Labor's NBN is unaffordable within the currently claimed budget and undeliverable on the currently claimed schedule.

If elected, the coalition will complete an NBN sooner, more affordably and at less cost to Australian taxpayers. We will aim to ensure all households and businesses in Australia have access to broadband providing a download data rate of at least 25 megabits per second by 2016.

I receive a lot of feedback from my constituents who are concerned about this government's failure to control our borders. To date, over 42,000 people have made the perilous journey to come to Australia on boats—694 boats. No matter your perspective on this complicated issue, these arrivals have translated into a cost blow-out of at least $4.7 billion since last year's budget. The 2013-14 budget this year has confirmed that the Labor government is not seriously addressing the problem, as it continues to use out-of-date predictions and figures.

In Senate estimates this week, on Monday, the department of immigration confirmed that it was standing by its prediction of 13,200 irregular maritime arrivals next year, despite the fact that it is also predicting 25,000 arrivals for this year alone. As a result of these increases, the Labor government dealt a double blow to both asylum seekers and the assistance that Australia provides through our foreign aid budget. The Labor government has raided the foreign aid budget of some $375 million.

Constituents in my electorate consistently tell me that Australia must do more to support the countries in our region. Ultimately it is not merely a percentage figure or aggregate number of dollars that Australia should use to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of our overseas development assistance. At the end of the day, what matters is the outcomes on the ground. I have seen firsthand the great results our aid has produced in neighbouring countries, including Papua New Guinea. Just this week, Bill Gates has been in Australia and highlighted the fundamental importance of assisting developing countries. He said:

When adults are healthy, they can work. When children are healthy, they can develop fully. Health, productivity, and human potential: these are the basic elements of a thriving society. When poor countries become more prosperous, it's good not just for them but for the world at large and for Australia.

Eighteen of Australia's 20 closest neighbours are developing countries. It's plain to see that your own long-term prosperity and security depend on the progress of development in your region.

I strongly support these sentiments and have constantly advocated for supporting our nearest neighbours. However, Australia has a Labor government so incompetent, which has so disastrously managed our budget and continues to accrue deficits and debt, that it has once again deferred its promised increase to our foreign aid budget. It continues to break its promises to Australians and it continues to break its commitments to our region.

Further, one of the ways that the Australian government can support not just Australians but also our neighbours is to provide appropriate support for the technological innovations and medical advances that come through research undertaken at Australian universities. For years, this Labor government has attacked research funding, and it continues to do so in this year's budget, which is very disappointing for universities such as the University of Queensland, in my electorate.

Only the coalition has the plan, the experience and the discipline to return the budget to sustainable surpluses, reduce debt and provide real opportunities to Australian families to help them get ahead again—to provide a hand up, not a hand out; to get out of the way and provide an environment for businesses to prosper and grow. Only the coalition can build a strong, vibrant economy and a safe, secure Australia to restore the hope, reward and opportunity all Australians deserve.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Owens ): Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19 : 25 .