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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4779

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (16:47): Labor has unquestionably delivered another budget failure. It has a fudged surplus, more broken promises—and there is no plan to drive productivity growth, to repay debt or to secure jobs. It does nothing for aspirational Australians—remember them? These are the people who believe in hard work and that you should be rewarded for your labour, your enterprise and your innovation. These are the people who are the drivers of our nation's economic growth and prosperity. From their efforts, we all benefit. It is not just a case of job creation—though this government could do with a policy on that front as well, remembering no new jobs were created at all in Australia last year, for the first time in decades—but it is also about the prospect of getting a better job, or career development.

This budget talks about 'sharing the benefits of the boom', but most of the sharing of benefits is simply paying more compensation for the carbon tax. The carbon tax is the unmentioned centrepiece of this budget—it begins, after all, in only 40 days. The budget is a precursor to the carbon tax. And that tax itself threatens the very future of the boom that is supposed to be paying for the handouts announced in this budget.

But what is of particular concern under this government is that they have created an economy which has become increasingly internationally uncompetitive. There is low productivity. They are consuming the benefits of the boom with waste and mismanagement. They have seemingly no understanding that even large corporations or large projects need a supportive government if they are to proceed. We cannot afford to continue to impose upon projects, manufacturing industries and small business in this country taxes that no-one else in the world will pay. We cannot have special burdens that make it unattractive to invest in this country. You cannot have an industrial relations climate where people believe they have a right to simply walk away from their jobs, that they actually believe that somehow or another the country is better off when they punish their own employer and make it more difficult for them to pay their wages.

I was appalled when Jacques Nasser reported to a luncheon last week that BHP had 3,200 industrial incidents in its Bowen Basin coalfields last year alone. That is almost 10 industrial incidents a day! Sometimes unions simply notify that they are going to have stop work action, and then they call it off. There were in fact 500 instances where the union announced it was going to have action and called it off at the last minute—designed to inflict the maximum pain and discomfort and reduced productivity to their employer while at the same time collecting all their wages as though nothing had happened.

You cannot have a country that is going to be prosperous and able to provide support for those in need in our community if our industry is not encouraged and rewarded for its effort. Instead of building a boom this budget has come with cheap bribes—the vain hope that people who are going to be slugged week in, week out, year after year by a carbon tax, whose name this government dare not mention, will think Labor is doing them a favour. We should be concentrating not on handing out the benefits of the boom but on nurturing it—making sure it actually happens and making sure it continues to sustain growth and to provide a future for our nation, and not just a future for the Labor government.

This unmentionable tax is now the subject of a $70 million advertising blitz, but neither the words 'carbon' nor 'tax' get used in this advertising campaign. It is simply laughable that such a wilfully deceptive campaign could ever meet the advertising standards required for 'informing the public' on government programs. They are simply taxpayer paid political ads. The government cannot sell its own budget so now it is trying to pay an advertising agency to do the job.

The 'fudge-it budget' has been concocted to provide additional compensation for lower-income people so that they can deal with the carbon tax fallout. But would it not be better to get rid of the tax altogether? Then you would not need to pay the compensation. You would not penalise Australian industry. You would not need to put them in a position where they cannot compete with imported products or cannot, in fact, maintain their own export markets. It makes far more sense to get rid of the tax itself than to use its revenue to pay compensation. This is a tax that is full of flaws and inequities and, frankly, nothing can fix it. The government are imposing a penalty on everything we do in this country, and in so doing they are placing a burden on us that is not matched anywhere else in the world.

As we look at this tax, every day new anomalies come to our attention. I was called only this morning by the operator of a small supermarket, who has been told that the cost of recharging the refrigerators in her supermarket is going to increase from $46 to $167 per refrigerator as a result of the carbon tax. And I heard a similar story—in fact, a worse story—when I visited the trucking convention last week. Truck drivers told me that the carbon tax equivalent on the refrigerant used in refrigerated trucks will not have an increase of $23 per tonne; because the government uses a global-warming potential index to multiply the cost for its calculation of the global-warming impact, the actual tax on the refrigerant used in a truck will be over $70,000 a tonne. Not $23 a tonne, over $70,000 a tonne! There are these kinds of anomalies. I do not know whether the government even knows that it is doing this sort of thing. It certainly has no plan and it has no way of helping these people to cope with that sort of cost.

You heard today in question time about the $2 million cost that the Cassowary Coast Regional Council is going to have to pay to get rid of the rubbish that was created by Cyclone Yasi. These people, who not only have the burden of having to clean up their properties, now are going to have to pay a $2 million carbon tax to get rid of the rubbish. Now, if they left it all to rot out in the field there would be no carbon tax imposed. But if they clean it up and put it in the council tip then the reward for that is a $2 million tax from this government.

And what about the example I heard about when I visited a manufacturing facility just recently? They work their boilers et cetera at night to take advantage of night rate electricity. That is an environmentally friendly and sensible thing to do. But because the carbon tax is a flat rate, they will pay double the electricity prices for their night rate even though the day rate may only go up by 10 or 20 per cent. Did the government intend to do such an illogical thing? Are they crazy? Or do they just not know what they are doing? I fear that it is a little of both.

If you believe that you need to address climate change as a global problem. Even if you believe that Australia can or should take the lead you would not set a price that is five times higher than is being paid anywhere else in the world, or a tax that is so comprehensive across the economy that no other country will collect even a fraction of what this carbon tax will raise. This is a penalty on Australians, and on Australians only, and it will do nothing—nothing whatever—to change the temperature of the globe.

Australians are sick of the mentality which drives a budget which seems to be all about class warfare. They do not want their governments to waste their money, be it on pink batts, or overpriced school halls or on handouts. And they certainly do not want governments that do not tell the truth. When it comes to this budget, the feeble $1.5 billion surplus that is supposed to be the central triumph of this budget fails to inspire or to encourage struggling communities and families right across the nation.

When you bring spending forward and push expenditure backwards into outyears you do not make any more money: you just shuffle it around. This year's surplus is largely there because we are having a bigger debt this year and a bigger debt the following year. It is a slippery surplus. If the government had not brought forward into this financial year $1.1 billion of the money to be paid to local government in 2012-13, the $1.4 billion payment to Queensland for disaster relief, $1.8 billion in infrastructure payments to the states and $1.5 billion in compensation payments to pensioners and welfare beneficiaries for the carbon tax then the budget surplus would be well and truly wiped out. But that is not all: Labor's energy security scheme is a $1 billion-a-year program, except for next financial year when the expenditure will only be $800,000. Labor's coal sector jobs package is a $220 to $250 million program, but next year there is only $10 million.

If we look at Labor's record, this is not the first time they have proposed a budget surplus. That happened in their very first budget, when we were told the budget surplus was $22 billion. Of course, it ended up as a $27 billion deficit. Our Treasurer was out by $49 billion on that occasion, and he has now produced $174 billion worth of budget deficits. The cumulative errors on his estimates for the budget surpluses or deficits amount to over $80 billion. In four budgets he has been out by $80 billion! And this time we are expected to believe that there is going to be a $1.5 billion surplus.

But if we are going to have a surplus and if we are going to run at a profit for the year, why is our net debt forecast to go up by $40 billion? Why are the government bringing in legislation to increase Australia's credit card limit from $250 billion to $300 billion? They say they only need it for temporary purposes, but you do not need legislation to temporarily increase the limit. This, like all the other increases in our national borrowing limit under Labor will unquestionably end up being permanent, and our debt will just grow and grow. Unemployment is predicted to be 5.5 per cent for the year ahead. That is up on the current figure. CPI is also expected to rise. So what hope is there for people in this budget?

It is full also of broken promises. The company tax cut that was supposed to be the compensation for the mining tax has been axed, saving the government $4.7 billion. After deferral after deferral, the proposal for the standard $500 deduction ramping up to $1,000 is gone also, saving $2 billion. The tax concession they promised on 50 per cent of people's interest earnings has been axed. The $500 mature age worker tax offset has been axed, saving another $250 million. The super tax has been doubled to 30 per cent for those people with incomes above $300,000, earning the government another $1 billion. They have deferred the higher contributions cap on superannuation yet again, saving another $1.5 billion.

This is a government that has introduced—again, as usual for a Labor government—stacks of new taxes, perhaps none less heartless than the new tax on the tourism industry, the increase in the passenger movement charge. That passenger movement charge was established to cover the cost of border processing. Now it is just a milking cow for this government. The government expects to raise an extra $610 million from the struggling tourist industry over the next four years from this tax. Of course, the airports are now also going to have to pay for the police who are doing their job on airport property.

The government's budget is a serious disappointment for people in regional Australia in particular. Some $941 million for infrastructure works to improve water efficiency in the Murray-Darling Basin has been deferred to 2015-16. That is the very last year of the forward estimates, and it is clear that it is also heading for the axe. This is the lazy way that this government has approached water reform. They are happy to waste money on buyouts, but they will not do the hard work of fixing the system so that there is water available there for our environmental needs without having to take it away from country towns and from irrigators.

Another major disappointment is the $1 billion for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Productivity Commission had recommended a $3.9 billion outlay over the next four years to set this scheme up, but the government has provided only $1 billion. It is going to cost $7 billion-plus a year to run this scheme. If we as a nation were not paying $8 billion a year on interest on Labor's debt, we could afford the National Disability Insurance Scheme now. Of course, there is $350 million for a dental waiting list program, so long as the states cooperate, but they are abolishing the Medicare dental program and the teen dental program. Sixty-eight million dollars has been cut from rural health workforce programs and $75 million from the Indigenous health infrastructure program. The Gonski review of education will require billions of dollars, but there is only $5.8 million over four years in the budget.

So this has been a budget of great disappointment. It is an endless round of more of the same: debt, spending and broken promises. The budget may spend the boom; it certainly does not nurture it.