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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 12948


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (11:13): I congratulate the member for Moreton, who managed to get at least most of the way through his speech. He only had 2½ minutes left of his speech to talk about workers rights, which he believes in so strongly. The member for Blair yesterday could only get about six minutes into his speech. The member for Throsby just read the wrong speech on workers rights yesterday. I am not sure what the member for Throsby is going to do for today's speech, because the speech he read yesterday on yesterday's IR bill was on the bill before the House today. So it could be a little confusing when the member for Throsby comes into the House.

The Fair Work Amendment (Transfer of Business) Bill 2012 is a bill which very much reflects what the modern Labor Party is all about—stunts and trickery. We had an attempt at a history lesson from the member for Moreton, but what he failed to mention in the history lesson was the situations that the state Liberal governments have inherited in each of those states. He mentioned Peter Costello on the way through. Long should we remember Peter Costello in this place, because it was Peter Costello who delivered nine out of 11 budget surpluses when he was the Treasurer of our country and he put the Australian budget situation into a position where, when he left government in 2007, there was $20 million in the bank, unlike the $258 billion of debt which has been built up by this government since.

That is only a very small part of the debt story in Australia. The debt story in Australia is far greater and the state Labor governments are wholly and solely to blame. The Treasurer of Australia, while his record is appalling and he is a spending profligate, is not anywhere near as bad as some of the state Labor governments—although he is getting worse.

Campbell Newman, let's not forget, won the biggest majority in the country's history at an election 18 months ago because the Queensland people worked out that under successive Labor governments they had been led up the garden path. There was no money left. So Campbell Newman and Treasurer Nicholls have to fix this budget situation before getting into genuine crises of public finances up in Queensland. I come from South Australia and I can tell you we still have a state Labor government spending its way into a fiscal crisis.

In 1992 the South Australian debt position was $11.5 billion. That was after the State Bank of South Australia collapsed. It was a huge issue for the state of South Australia and, in fact, still reflects on the confidence of our state as we debate this bill today. It was an enormous dent in the state's economic future and has had an impact for some time. The Liberal government, elected as a part of the resulting crisis from that State Bank collapse, reduced the debt in South Australia to nearly zero. There were a couple of billion dollars of debt left when they lost government in 2002. Today the South Australian budget papers predict that the public sector debt in South Australia will reach $13 billion. That is after the state Liberal government at that time privatised electricity assets, improved the efficiency of the Public Service and made all of the reforms necessary to ensure that the debt was brought back under control.

Reintroduce a state Labor government and back comes the debt, back comes the size of government and back comes the profligacy we have seen throughout the country in New South Wales, in Queensland and in the federal government. When a Liberal government is elected in March 2014 in South Australia it will have to make very difficult decisions to ensure that the budget is brought back under control. The services necessary to the people of Queensland, to the people of New South Wales and, hopefully, to the people of South Australia can still be delivered because ultimately government is about ensuring that those base services that are required to be delivered—what government is actually there for—can be delivered. Spending itself into a situation where it cannot afford to deliver the necessary services of health, education and child protection is a pretty dangerous situation for a state government to get itself into. That is exactly what the Anna Bligh government did in Queensland, it is exactly what the Peter Beattie government did in Queensland and it is exactly what Jay Weatherill is doing in South Australia.

Campbell Newman is making the right, tough decisions to ensure that Queensland public finances are put back in place. He is actually doing no more and no less than what the Treasurer in this place tells us he is doing, although we know it is not true. We know that the federal Treasurer continues to waste millions of dollars. We know that in the government's own budget papers they are cutting public servants. I predict we will not hear a word from the member for Blair about the federal government cutting public servants. We have not heard a word from the member from Moreton and I suspect we will not from the member for Blair on the South Australian government's budget papers, which say it is slashing 1,400 public servants this year. These are stunts and trickery.

The member for Blair, the great workers' representative, cannot get through a 15-minute speech defending the workers. It is all political puffery. Realistically what the government are doing is introducing a piece of legislation into this chamber which damages workers and their future. That is what this legislation actually does; it makes workers worse off. It provides no support. It provides political cover for a Labor Party that are desperately looking for a political narrative. That is all that this legislation is about. It is not about ensuring good governance in our country. It is not about ensuring that people can have more security at work, which is what they will try and have you believe.

Ultimately the nature of government does change. The nature of the services and what the community demands from time to time does change. Undoubtedly in the last 20 years there has been too much power given to the states. We regularly talk in this place about red tape. Red tape ultimately is regulated by bureaucrats. There is a need for government to deliver certain public services but, quite clearly, in the last 20 years it has been an over-reach. There will be need for efficiencies to be found as we can see from the Labor government at the federal level, which are outrageously slashing 4,200 public servants—to use their language. I hope they have a jobs expo in Canberra to help those public servants that they are slashing. Of course they will not because this is all about political trickery.

This bill is not about ensuring the public gets the services they need delivered to them that they want delivered to them and no more. This is about ensuring the government have a bill before the House so the member for Blair and the member for Moreton can get up and say 'Work Choices, Work Choices'. That is all we hear from those opposite. It is a mantra that has been drummed into them. They have been told by Bruce Hawker and by their national secretary: 'You just have to say it as much as you can.' It is a KPI every month. How many times can we say it? How many times can the member for Blair say it each month? Not enough yesterday. He had nine minutes left where he had all those opportunities to say the words 'Work Choices' but he just could not get them out. He could have sat there for nine minutes parroting it. He could not quite get there. At least he was better than the member for Throsby, though. At least he gave a speech on the bill. At least he grabbed the right talking points on the way through. It was a bad day for the member for Throsby yesterday. It was one of those days he will not put in the memory bank as a good one.

This is a further bad bill from a bad minister who is interested in looking after vested interests, looking after his mates, looking after those in the superannuation industry he wants to support, looking after those union friends he wants to ensure have a future career in a government funded position and looking after the political prospects of the Labor Party, not of the general economy, not ensuring that state governments can put back on a strong footing state budgets that have been so decimated by such bad Labor governments over so long. This bill is a debate about the consequences of state Labor paying too much for too long. And guess what is happening at the federal level? Exactly the same thing. The Labor Party are ashamed of their state friends and they are trying to create a counter-debate here to take away attention. They are trying to make a debate about something else so that people do not focus on the fact that Labor's record in state government is shameful. It is exactly the same with the federal budget, where a debt of $258 billion has recently been announced. That is what this bill is all about.