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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1372


Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (19:08): It is my privilege to stand before this chamber today and speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4), which seek to appropriate $1.27 billion from consolidated revenue for government departments and agencies. What the bills before the chamber today confirm is that you cannot take the government at its word. Back in 2007, when the member for Griffith was seeking to become Prime Minister, he said to the Australian people that he would be an 'economic conservative with a capital c'. He tried to put to rest the Australian public's concerns that they have with Labor governments: easy come, easy go, with no understanding of what it means to get deeper and deeper into debt, no understanding of what it means to have interest payments that cripple future generations, no understanding of what it means to see waste and mismanagement on a grand scale that has probably never been seen before in Australia. But that is what we have seen since Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007 and handed the baton reluctantly to the member for Lalor, who put the knife into his back to become Prime Minister of Australia. But that is what we have seen since Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007 and handed the baton reluctantly to the member for Lalor, who put the knife into his back to become Prime Minister of Australia. Do not look at what this government says; look at what this government does.

Since 2010 they have promised the Australian people that they will bring this budget into surplus—that has come from the Prime Minister's mouth alone on more than 165 occasions. 'Failure is not an option,' is what the Prime Minister said. The Treasurer said a surplus would be coming Australia's way on more than 360 occasions. He said it would come 'hell or high water'. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation said on more than 140 occasions that a surplus was 'non-negotiable'. This so-called rolled gold guarantee became a commitment, which then became an objective, then became a guiding principle, then was an expectation and now, we know, will never, ever be delivered.

This is just not good enough. The Howard-Costello government bequeathed a golden legacy to the Labor Party and to all Australians in 2007: a $20 billion surplus, more than $70 billion in the bank, zero government debt—let me say that again: zero government debt—a more than 20 per cent increase in real wages, more than two million new jobs and the lowest unemployment and inflation in three decades. Not a bad record for a government of nearly 12 years. That is what we left you, but what we have seen in its place is the four largest budget deficits in the history of the Commonwealth, spending which is nearly $100 billion a year higher now than it was under the last year of the Howard government and, as I said, record and graphic waste and mismanagement. In fact, the interest bill alone is more than $20 million a day. The debt ceiling has been increased to $300 billion and Australians know that, if we did not have any debt repayments, we could build a major teaching hospital in every state capital of this country every year. Think about that—a new teaching hospital in every capital city every year, from the interest payments alone. Forget about paying back your $145 billion of net debt; I am talking about the interest payments. That is what is crippling the next generation.

So I have no confidence that the Labor Party will be able to get government spending down from where it is today at 23.8 per cent of GDP. In the last year of the Howard-Costello government it was 23.1 per cent. You will not get that spending down.

This Labor government has no plan to create jobs. When John Howard and Peter Costello came to office in March 1996, the unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent. When they left office in November 2007, the rate of unemployment was 4.5 per cent. Under this Gillard government, the unemployment rate has increased by one per cent to 5.4 per cent. Worse still, youth unemployment is reaching very, very disturbingly high levels: almost 14 per cent compared to the 9.8 per cent it was in November 2007. In fact, the unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is even higher, rising to 18.1 per cent in 2010, from 13.8 per cent in 2007. Interestingly, the Labor Party does not believe in the Work for the Dole scheme. This was one of the great initiatives of the Howard government that Tony Abbott pushed so hard. In fact, the number of people on Work for the Dole has gone down from 22,362 in April 2005 to 12,789 as of 31 August 2012. When Wayne Swan, the Treasurer of this country, says to the Australian people, 'I will create 500,000 new jobs,' he has to explain why he has only created 186,000. Wayne, where are the 320,000 extra new jobs you promised? In fact, we the coalition, based on our record of economic success, will create one million new jobs over the next five years and two million jobs over the next decade. One of the great punishments for Australian businesses is the rising tax burden under this government—27 new taxes. We know about the daddy of them all, the carbon tax, and we know about the great mining tax, which not only produced a risk to investment in this country but was so well-designed by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that it produced $126 million of revenue—one tenth of what was promised—and they spent $50 million on its implementation. And they have promised $15 billion in expenditure for revenue that has not actually transpired.

I can tell you about some other taxes that this government has overseen: the alcopops tax, a new tax on Australians working overseas, cuts to superannuation and increased taxes there, restrictions on business losses, changes to the employee share scheme, which is extremely regrettable because it acts a handbrake on innovation. The LPG excise increase, a cigarette tax increase, a luxury car tax increase, and, of course, do not forget the private health insurance rebate, which is now means tested. Let's not forget Nicola Roxon, the member for Gellibrand, and the Prime Minister promised on consecutive occasions that they would not touch private health insurance. They said to nearly half the country with private health insurance, 'We will not touch it.' But in the same way as the carbon tax was implemented without promising that at the last election—in fact, promising that we would never have one—so too with private health insurance. You promised you wouldn't touch it and you put a means test on the rebate. I could go on—duty free tobacco, mature age worker offset, heavy vehicle user charge increases. It goes on and on. That is what this government has overseen.

What it means is that you are taxing the Australian public—the businesses and families and individuals more. You would think you would have this ballooning revenue, but because you are stamping out innovation and industry and entrepreneurship, it means there is now a smaller economy than there should be. It means that you do not have the money to spend on important things like defence. Defence spending under this government has fallen to its lowest level since 1938—1.56 per cent of GDP. This is despite the fact that under the Howard government we kept defence spending at around two per cent of GDP, even when we had to pay back your $96 billion of debt in 1996. If you look around our region, it is not so quiet, is it? Today there is the fallout from the nuclear test in North Korea. We see an increase in tension between Japan and China and we know there are other obvious tensions in the area related to the Islamic terrorist threat.

What has this government done in light of this growing need for a national security policy with conviction and with funding? It has cut defence spending. The Singaporeans are spending more than 3½ per cent of GDP on defence; the Indians more than two per cent; the South Koreans more than 2½ per cent; the Americans a whopping 4.7 per cent; and we are down to1.56 per cent. Madam Deputy Speaker, how do you explain that poor performance by this government? Our local defence industry has lost more than 5,000 jobs under the Labor government's term in office. It is just not good enough.

When we focus on aspirational Australians, we are trying to encourage them to save. We are thinking about how can we get them to save for their retirement through superannuation, but you have reduced the concessional contribution tax, you have cut the government's super co-contribution—which under the Howard government was $1,500—and you have cut it down to $500. You have basically put another $8 billion of taxes on the superannuation industry. Small business is doing it really tough under the tens and tens of thousands of new regulations that you have imposed. Red tape, green tape, whatever colour tape you want a name it, you have introduced more of that.

There was the $1.4 billion blow out in the computers in schools program. There is a hidden hit list that the minister for education has got in his bottom drawer ready to pull out at a politically opportune time. The so-called Gonski proposal, which is completely unfunded, is part of your $120-billion black hole that this Labor government has when it comes to its finances.

Industrial regulation is a particular interest of mine because I feel that under this Labor government we have a minister for the unions in the member for Maribyrnong. In fact he was called by Kathy Jackson of the HSU 'Dracula in charge of the blood bank'. That is what she called a fellow unionist in the member for Maribyrnong: Dracula in charge of the blood bank. You got rid of the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, for an industry which employs 10 per cent of all Victorians, which has done so much to put a cop on the beat, to stamp out lawlessness in this important sector, and you allowed the Greens to come onto the floor of the chamber and propose even more radical amendments.

Jac Nasser, the chairman of BHP, one of Australia's most notable largest companies, used BHP's Queensland coal business as an example of the increase in strikes and industrial disputation. He said there were 3,200 incidents of industrial action last year alone. And that there was an additional 500 notices withdrawing that action given on less than 24 hours notice. In fact the Fair Work Act has seen union power increase in more than 120 areas. This lack of flexibility, this lack of productivity, this increase in militancy is all a result of the increased regulation that the government has overseen in industrial relations.

One of the other big problems of this government is scandals: the Craig Thomson scandal, the AWU scandal, the Peter Slipper scandal. They have reduced the public's confidence in our system. It has been unfortunately a plague on both houses but responsibility has not been on our side of the chamber; it has been on the other side of the chamber. I look at scandals related to the Australian network tender, the pink batts, the set-top boxes, the carbon tax advertising scheme, the border protection failures—more than 30,000 unauthorised arrivals and more than 500 boats. I tell you what is more rehearsed than a kabuki actor: it is not James Ashby, as was referred to by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs; it is this government and its very per poor performance because we all saw it coming.