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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4822


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (19:49): In my speech on the appropriation bills at this time last year, I said that the Labor government has a tradition of big deficits, borrowing, debt and more taxes. Nothing has changed. This year Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and related bills bring no improvement—simply the addition of fake surpluses. This would have to be the most misrepresentative budget in living memory. The proposed surplus next year is a fraud perpetrated on the people through sleight-of-hand accounting. The shuffling of expenditure between financial years has allowed the Treasurer to shift his actual budget deficit next year into this financial year's $44 billion deficit, simply to hide it. It is deceitful accounting meant to present a misleading outcome to the Australian community.

In addition, the projection of surpluses in forward estimate years relies on extremely optimistic projections of world and Australian economic growth. I said a year ago that Australia would have its biggest debt ever, of $107 billion. Well, the government has piled more debt upon more debt, to a peak net debt of $145 billion in 2013-14. The gross debt, as measured by total interest-bearing liabilities, will reach $293 billion in the same year.

This debt binge—that is what it is—has meant that the government has tried for the second year in a row to sneak the lifting of its credit limit past the parliament. There was no mention of this in the Treasurer's budget address, no mention of the $300 billion—a deliberate omission. The rise from $250 billion to $300 billion will be needed to cover Labor's debt debacle, a legacy it is leaving for the next generation to pay off. At this government's current budget surplus projections, Australians will be paying off this debt for nearly a century, on the government's own projections. Effectively, as I see it, the Labor government has just taken out Australia's first national intergenerational loan, with taxpayers paying up to $8 billion a year in interest.

Every Australian should be thinking about what that $8 billion could fund instead of Labor's debt. It could have been invested in future-proofing the Australian economy through strategic infrastructure, but instead it will continue to be spent trying to future-proof Labor's election agenda. Investment in regional infrastructure could have allowed further growth and development in the mining and agricultural sectors—the sectors that underpin the existing and near-future Australian economies. Sadly, regional Australia is not merely the victim of government neglect; it seems to be the victim of an assault: the government's carbon tax—that is what it is—for regional Australia. The carbon tax is the tax that the government cannot even seem to mention any more. It will hit rural and regional Australians—like those in my electorate—the hardest.

This is a tax that will drive investment, industry and jobs offshore. It is meant to make doing business in Australia far less competitive than those we compete with. It is Labor's special tax, coming from every power point. If you are watching, Labor's carbon tax is coming at you, in every home and business in Australia. It is a tax that will see Australia's emissions rise, not fall. It is a tax that will hit struggling regional areas hardest because it will tax transport—rail, air and marine transport immediately, and road transport from 1 July 2014.

In 2014, when road freight operators lose 6.858c a litre from their diesel fuel rebate to pay for the carbon tax, the cost to transport almost everything in rural and regional Australia will go up, and regional people and businesses will carry a disproportionate cost as a result. It is a tax on rural and regional Australia. Have no doubt about it: transport costs equal a tax on rural and regional Australia. That tax is expected to cost the transport industry and its customers $510 million in 2014-15 alone—and that is on top of the recent 2.4c a litre rise in the diesel fuel excise. This just means higher costs and greater impacts in regional areas.

The government must also be held to account over its funding for aged care, specifically in regional and rural areas. It is too little, too late. We know that the government changes will not start until after July 2014. We know that as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement and then into care, the numbers and the sheer level of future need should cause us all concern.

It is a system already under stress. Aged-care providers are struggling to cope. This is evidenced by the thousands of beds made available by the government but not taken up by the industry. This is happening at a time when the demand for those beds has never been higher. But many providers would lose money on each and every bed, so they are not being taken up and are not being provided to the community. This was recognised in the Productivity Commission's report on aged care. The government response to this, in spite of its election promises, has been manifestly inadequate. The government is paying $8 billion a year in interest on debt rather than supporting aged care and the disability sector. Despite the glossy brochures and glib rhetoric, it is not a plan to manage the future aged-care demands in Australia. It is only a poorly crafted, stop-gap measure that alone will do little to fix the problem or address future needs.

The policy of keeping people in their own homes as long as possible is one that has been supported by the Liberal Party for decades, and was driven and delivered for us in government by, among others, the member for Mackellar. Despite the government grabbing hold of this and promoting a good Liberal policy, this alone is not enough. Many of those older Australians who remain in their homes with support services will eventually still need residential care. In many cases it becomes an issue of safety and security, with much greater monitoring required in order to ensure their welfare.

Under the current plan we will see older Australians entering into residential aged care, much frailer and requiring much higher levels of care. Clearly, the government has no real plan in place to manage the projected influx of more high-care patients. The Gillard government is simply doing what it has done in so many other areas; it has taken the easy option now and will leave future governments and future generations of Australians to deal with a problem they have created. This is the way of Labor. Aged-care providers and community members have not been fooled by the government's aged-care announcements.

As is also the way of Labor, those who have struggled to save and who have built assets to cover their own aged-care costs—self-funded retirees—have been the target of the government. Everyone except full-pay pensioners will now pay more for aged care. Once again, the Labor government will use means testing to punish those who have worked hard, taken personal responsibility and saved—in this case, for their own retirement.

The government has used a sleight of hand, announcing a $3.7 billion aged-care package, but hiding the truth that only 15 per cent of that is actually new funding. This is not a genuine aged-care plan for the future and certainly not what Labor promised at the election.

Another major failing of this budget is its abject failure to do anything to improve the nation's productivity. It is a budget focused on economic redistribution but not economic growth. Given the uncertainty in Europe, many of the world's economies are coming to a crossroads—some because of decisions to redistribute economic wealth instead of growing economic wealth. In Australia we must build our national economy instead of simply building Labor's national debt. This can only be achieved by improving our productivity, which has been undermined during the period of the Rudd and Gillard governments.

This government's failure to manage the economy is most damaging to the small business sector. The people who are struggling to get ahead are carrying a deadweight government. Small business in Australia is simply asking for the opportunity to succeed, free from excessive government red tape, burden and interference. Every small business will be hit by the carbon tax in one form or another. Some may be able to pass on this cost, but hundreds of businesses will not be able to pass on these costs. So this is a really serious issue in my electorate.

I noticed, in the government's liable entities list last week, that many of those who will pay the carbon tax are from my electorate—businesses such as the Water Corporation; the Griffin Coal Mining Company; Simcoa Operations; Millennium Inorganic Chemicals; Iluka; Synergy; Verve Energy; Yancoal, the new owners of Premier Coal; Dampier Bunbury Pipeline, Worsley Alumina, Alinta Energy; and, further in the south-west, Alcoa Australia. These are the companies that will have to pay the carbon tax directly, but every small business will pay it in one form or another. In talking about this, I would like to warn companies in my electorate—and I have done this previously—that the government is not going to advise you if you are liable to pay the carbon tax. The government has placed this responsibility and liability firmly on industry. So there are other businesses around the south-west—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting and the member for Forrest will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.