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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1344


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (17:13): I do appreciate the opportunity to speak on these appropriation bills. I always say to our state candidates or to the school children who I speak to across Cowan that what we do here in the federal parliament is no game. It may appear to be a bit of a competition, a bit of a football match at times, but the reality is that the decisions that are made here actually impact out there on the ground on the lives of ordinary people. As members of parliament we should always remember that our job is not to be lord of the manor in our local areas but in fact to be the chief servant of those people in those areas. We are here to make the lives of ordinary Australians better. The reality of this is that we need to put in place measures that are going to have positive impacts across the whole broad spectrum of government. We are meant to be here to make sure people's lives are somehow better than they were before. In reference to that, I have heard on many occasions speeches by members of the current government about the terrible things the Howard government was responsible for—this is after the government last changed back to the coalition in 1996. I was in the Army at that stage, but when we look back on those times we must keep in mind that, if a mess is left, someone needs to clean it up. For those who leave the mess to then complain about the measures required to clean it up is pretty rich.

In this appropriations debate, we are talking about what is happening with the government's fiscal position right now, and it is a mess in every respect. A couple of us in the chamber have been here for the last five budgets, and on every occasion the figures in those budget speeches have proved to be wildly inaccurate. Excluding last year's budget, the other four budget speeches and positions that were outlined represent some $147 billion in collective deficits. As for the last one, at one point it was estimated to be a $22 billion deficit and then it turned out to be a $44 billion deficit. Now the government has clearly moved completely away from the promised, much-vaunted budget surplus and we can expect yet another budget in the red.

While some might say this is an economic problem, it is also obviously a political problem for the government. When the finance minister, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer say on 650 occasions that there is a cast-iron guarantee of a surplus—you make the big call and lift everything up to the highest levels, creating high expectations—and then that does not work out, you fall a lot further.

It is little wonder then that it was reported today, in the Financial Review, I believe, that the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2013—a survey of 31,000 people from around the world, across 26 countries, about trust and, in particular, trustworthiness in government—reveals that, of those 26 countries, in only one has the level of trust in the government fallen, and that is Australia. If we look at what has happened over the last three years, and even longer from a budget perspective, it is little wonder that confidence in this country is flailing.

As I have outlined, the budgets have been way off the mark, and I suspect that by the time we get to the final budget position—or the post-election budget position, anyway—we will find every budget and every MYEFO to be wildly inaccurate. So it is little wonder that the Australian people no longer have confidence in this government with regard to fiscal matters. The Prime Minister knows only too well that, when you promise things before an election, people do tend to remember them, particularly when it gets reported on the front pages of newspapers.

The government have a problem not only with fiscal issues and inaccurate budgets but also with their promises about things like 'no carbon tax'. I do not wish to labour this as it is certainly very clear in the minds of every person in this country, but what the Prime Minister promised and the Treasurer said before the election have been completely brushed aside. There has been plenty of spin, but the reality is that everybody remembers what was promised and what was delivered, and there is no correlation between the two.

Before I move on from the carbon tax being an issue of trust and a big problem for the government, it has also been reported that the falling carbon credit price across the world will account for another $4 billion of revenue that the government will not receive over the forward estimates. In fact the broken promise on the carbon tax is now having an impact upon the budget, so when the budget is being dragged down by the carbon tax as well that is another good reason that when Tony Abbott says there will be no carbon tax under a government he leads that is something the Australian people should well and truly welcome.

My next point is the mining tax. Again this was meant to be the great redistribution of wealth concept that the government likes to push. This was a big problem for the government before the 2010 election, but it did a few deals, worked a few things out and managed to quieten down the campaign against the mining tax. That deal was signed off by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and, as we know, the officials, the people who really knew what was going on, were left outside and the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister of this country, accepted full responsibility for this tax which the Treasurer stands behind still. They stuffed it up. They were more than happy to commit $15 billion of spending to this mining tax across the forward estimates. They believed that they were going to get $2 billion during this financial year alone, but as we know just $126 million of revenue has been accrued from the first six months of the tax. The costs of administering the tax will take away a fair bit of that as well. We will get to what that means for the Australian people soon, but I make the point again that this is the Prime Minister's and the Treasurer's tax, it did not work out, it stuffed up and we will see how accountable they are for their errors.

I also want to raise the matter of border security. I have spoken on this on many occasions since 2008, when the government changed the policy and suddenly boats started arriving. Ever since the current Prime Minister took over and ditched the former Prime Minister with the support Paul Howse and the union people, there has been something like $6.6 billion in blowouts to the budget. Across the forward estimates the government has estimated that some $5 billion would be saved because things would be so much better, but at the start of 2013 if anything the acceleration of their arrival of illegal immigrants by boat has been at record levels. There have been some 900 in just the last five or six weeks. The genie has not come out of the bottle, no-one has found the lamp to rub to try and find the answer, but fortunately we do have the answer because the answer worked last time. This government unwound it, but before it was unwound it was working. We do not need three wishes, we just need one election. The reality is that we have a government that suffers from a problem with regards to trust and that trust, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer and the 1,000 people in Australia who were surveyed, relates to poor performance and accountability. I know that this government tends to look at our questioning of them, our constructive criticism of them as being negative. It is easy to push that away, because if you talk about negativity then you do not have to accept accountability. Again, that is the problem that this country has at the moment with this government.

When we look through these matters—the budget and the failures over the five years of the budgets with all the figures; the carbon tax that was not meant to be but is and which makes the climate and this country no better, and in fact the budget worse off; a mining tax that has been a complete failure; and border security, which has also been an abject failure—we see that we have a situation where this government is borrowing a lot of money and that the debt this government is accruing will have to be paid for by the generations to come. It will have to be paid for by showing some restraint in spending in the future.

As I said at the start, when someone creates a mess it is rough for them, having created the mess, to then complain about measures used by the next person who has to clean up that mess. In amongst this, what we have is a situation where the government has built very high expectations with regard to education. According to Gonsky, billions of dollars a year will be required, and there is an expectation that that is all going to be paid for. But this government is bleeding cash at the moment and how they are going to plan to do this is not yet clear. At the same time, with regard to the interest payments that have been accrued through all these deficits—some $7 billion a year in interest payments alone—just counter that against how much the NDIS estimate cost. You can then see that maybe the downside for all this reckless spending, this inaccuracy in the budget figures, this inability to control borders, spending et cetera, is starting to have an impact upon real people. Those people who are in need of an NDIS, who have been promised it by this government, are going to be the ones who are going to be let down by the spending regime of this government and the failures of this government's policies.

I will go back to where I started, which was about our position. Our job as members of parliament, as members of a government or an opposition, is to make the people's lives in this country better. That is our duty, and that is why we are here. If we put things in place and make mistakes that are not going to make the people's lives in this country better, then we should step out of the way and give someone a go who will do a better job?