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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4735


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (13:40): Just as the government sought to shut down debate on the member for Dobell, they are also in the business of shutting down debate about increasing the debt limit of the Commonwealth. I rise to speak on this package of appropriation bills that underpin the 2012-13 budget. These are the standard supply bills which allow for the appropriation of funds from consolidated revenue to fund the services and programs of the government and its agencies. Appropriation Bill (No. 5) and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) are supplementary estimates bills to provide funds for changes in previous estimates of program expenditure, variations on the timing of payments, forecast increases in program take-up, classifications and from policy decisions taken by the government since the last budget.

The five bills are to be considered together as a whole and as a part of a cognate debate, and the terms of this were set by the government on budget night. I note the Leader of the House's comments in the media today that somehow this was a clever tactical move by the government to roll the debt bills into the appropriation bills and to have a procedural motion that the opposition did not vote against on budget night. Given this is the second time, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, we should have created mayhem on budget night instead of the Treasurer and I engaging in public debate about the merits of the budget and the contents of the budget. That is what he is inviting us to do—to become an opposition that does not facilitate the smooth working of the House at a time when the House is under such enormous scrutiny on budget night but rather to set off a series of divisions. This just illustrates what the Labor government is doing.

The most significant part of these bills is a bill that seeks to increase the limit of the Commonwealth's debt from $250 billion to $300 billion. Since Labor was elected, they have sought increases in the debt from zero to $75 billion then to $200 billion and then to $250 billion. Now they are saying they are living within their means but are also saying, 'Just in case, please give us an increase in the credit card limit to $300 billion.' It does not sound like a lot if you say it quickly but it is a hell of a lot of money that Australians have to repay. Enough is enough.

The coalition is going to keep them to their promises. I will be moving a second reading amendment which will require the government to vary the terms of the debate to allow substantive amendments to be moved and debated in regard to Appropriation Bill (No. 2). If this succeeds, the coalition will then move to remove the debt ceiling provision from the bill. The quest for a debt ceiling increase is also the clearest evidence that the claim of returning the budget to surplus is a hoax. The budget cannot be in surplus if you are in spending more than you are receiving yet, under Labor, Australia's net debt and gross debt just keep increasing.

The headline cash balance on page 36 of the budget overview shows exactly why debt keeps growing. It shows on the headline measure—and I am pleased Ross Gittins picked up on this point today—the only measure to include the NBN and CEFC, the budget would be in deficit every year until 2015-16 but it would be an $8.7 billion deficit for 2012-13, a point I have been making on numerous occasions since the budget was delivered. Further to this, we have a number of issues with this budget. The No. 1 issue in Australian politics today is trust. This budget lacks trust. It makes promises—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for North Sydney will have leave to continue his remarks at that time.