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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3302


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (16:22): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance in relation to the 2013-14 budget announced by the Treasurer last night. This is a budget that does nothing for regional Australia. What last night's budget speech confirmed to all Australians is that this government is in chaos. It has no credibility and it has no plan for the future of Australia. Despite all the government finger-pointing and spin about why their budget is in tatters, the reality is the responsibility for the chaos which has engulfed this government rests with the government itself.

Over the past five years federal Labor have borrowed more than $260 billion and saddled future generations with a mountain of debt. They have lost control of our borders which is costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars each and every year. They have wasted billions on school halls, pink batts and the rollout of broadband infrastructure. As a result of this waste and mismanagement, last year we saw the Treasurer desperately attempt to lay out the government's plan for a future return to surplus. Indeed it was a very wafer thin surplus. The plan was based on assumptions that no credible commentator accepted and that most Australians just did not believe.

As the member for North Sydney highlighted this time last year, the federal Labor government will never deliver a budget surplus because what we know about federal Labor governments is that they have no respect for taxpayers' money and they do not know how to manage programs. It therefore came as no surprise when, less than six months into the current financial year, the Treasurer broke another promise and dropped the government's commitment to return to surplus. Since then the forecast deficit has continued to rise as cost blow-outs and further economic mismanagement paralyse the government's leadership. Any inkling of credibility that remained soon evaporated as the government's deficit forecasts continued to rise in the lead-up to last night's government Swan song.

Despite manipulating the figures and using every trick in the budget book last night, the government confirmed that the $1.5 billion surplus was now a $19.4 billion deficit—a $21 billion turnaround which came on the back of deficits under this government of $27 billion in 2008-09, $54 billion in 2009-10, $47.5 billion in 2010-11 and $43.4 billion in 2011-12. Yet, despite this, the Treasurer last night stood up in this place for the second consecutive year and claimed the government had a new road map of how to return to surplus. It will not happen this financial year. It will not happen next year. This financial year we have an $18 billion deficit forecast. But apparently through the magic of manipulation the Treasurer wants the Australian people to believe that a small surplus of $800 million will be delivered in 2015-16. The truth is that no-one honestly believes this government and no-one honestly believes the assumptions that this government has based its claim on that the budget will eventually return to surplus in 2015-16.

The majority of Australians know they simply cannot trust this government, and today I would like to demonstrate how last night's budget confirms why. Last night we again saw the government making all sorts of wild claims about funding for the Pacific Highway. Minister Albanese distributed a media release claiming that over the next 12 months work would commence on at least five new projects on the Pacific Highway. These five projects were in addition to existing projects. The new projects had a cumulative cost of more than $3 billion. Such a substantial commitment would be very welcome, if only it could be believed. Despite Minister Albanese's media release, when you go through last night's budget papers there is not one mention of the Pacific Highway and not one extra dollar of funding detailed in the 2013-14 budget papers. There is not one mention of the Pacific Highway in the budget papers, yet there is a media release from the minister claiming that more than $3 3 billion in projects is set to commence.

The government is treating North Coast residents as mugs. They are playing with people's lives, all for the sake of a headline. This is symbolic of what is wrong with this government and why they are in such a mess. Their addiction to policy by press release has got them into all sorts of trouble and this is just another example. The truth is that funding for future projects on the highway is in limbo because of a stand-off between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales government. When the O'Farrell government was elected to office, the federal minister, Minister Albanese, immediately tore up the 80:20 Pacific Highway funding model which had previously existed between federal Labor and the state Labor government. Instead the minister began insisting on fifty:fifty funding and as a result there is a $4 billion funding black hole which has to be filled if the road's duplication is to be completed.

Since changing the funding arrangements we have seen the federal government concoct all sorts of excuses for changing the funding model. The most recent came from the federal member for Page, who was put on the spot after the Gillard government announced that it would fund upgrades to the Bruce Highway based on the 80:20 model with the Queensland government. When the member for Page was asked why the same funding formula did not apply in New South Wales, this is what she told Prime Television News on 30 April:

It is not part of the Australian National Network, that the Bruce Highway is, and to those highways the contribution (from the State) is 20 per cent, but it is 50/50 for the Pacific Highway.

The member for Page either does not understand the existing classification of the Pacific Highway or she is deliberately misleading her constituents because the Pacific Highway has been included in the National Transport Network since 2005. This map here in my hand clearly illustrates that fact. I would like to table that document in due course. As the map shows, the National Land Transport Corridor clearly does include the Pacific Highway, as it does the New England Highway.

As a result of the 2005 determination by the Howard government to include the Pacific Highway on the national network, billions of dollars in federal funding have been invested in the duplication of that road. So the member for Page needs to explain to North Coast residents why she is not being honest about the status of the highway. The extent that the government is going to in order to mislead North Coast residents is a clear concern. When you look at the member for Page's lame excuse, then you witness the spin and deception which has emanated from this government, North Coast residents have every right to be concerned about the Gillard government's commitment to completing the highway upgrade. The real fear here is that behind all the spin the government actually intends to either cut funding for the highway or defer the funding for the highway. The member for Page and the member for Lyne, who have been conspicuous with their silence about the absence of any mention of the highway in the 2013-14 budget papers, must give North Coast residents a guarantee that funding for the highway will not be cut or deferred. They should explain how each project, which the minister claims are set to commence, will be funded in the next financial year.

Despite the chaos from the government, I am pleased to say that there is a better way. The coalition, if elected, will provide the strong economic management that the residents on the North Coast of New South Wales are seeking and we will also deliver the funding required to complete the duplication of the highway. We have announced and are committed to $5.6 billion. When combined with the New South Wales government's commitment of $1.5 billion that will deliver the funding necessary to complete the duplication of the road. That is $4 billion more than could possibly be delivered under the current funding arrangements.

Australians know they simply cannot trust anything this government says. They clearly understand, as businesses clearly understand, that they expect governments to live within their means. Last night's speech by the Treasurer was essentially a summary of all of the government's broken promises and a display of all of the incompetence involved in getting from the position that this government inherited—a budget surplus, money in the bank—to a situation where a budget is being delivered that provides deficits as far as the eye can see.

The 2013-14 budget papers show that this government has failed to detail a credible plan for our nation's future, and they really clearly show why this government is regarded widely as the worst government in this nation's history. Whether it is cost of living, border protection or the Pacific Highway, this government has simply run out of ideas and excuses as to how to address its policy failings. The sad reality is that all Australians are paying the price for this government's incompetence.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): As there are no further speakers, the discussion has concluded.