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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1375

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (19:23): The great Baroness Thatcher once said, 'The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.' With four consecutive record deficits totalling a cumulative value of $172 billion net government debt hitting unprecedented levels in excess of $147 billion and a $120-billion budget black hole, the economic mismanagement of the Gillard Labor government is beyond anything ever seen before. Frivolously, they are spending the hard earned money of Australian taxpayers—the mums and dads of Darwin and Palmerston— squandering the future and racking up debt that will have to be payed back by our kids' kids.

Only the coalition can build a powerhouse economy through lower taxes, more efficient government and more productive businesses. On this side of the House we are ready to restore hope, reward and opportunity and we have a plan that will deliver real solutions for all Australians. This is in contrast to the Gillard Labor government, which is plagued with instability, uncertainty and policy on the run. This government's pathetic inability to govern would almost be pitiful if they were not gambling with the future of our kids.

On 20 December last year as people were preparing for annual leave, children were finishing school for the year and families were being reunited, Treasurer Swan announced on the quiet that he could not deliver his promised surplus. This is the same surplus that was promised over 500 times by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. As if this was not bad enough, the members on the government benches went out and put out taxpayer funded newsletters across Australia saying, 'We delivered a surplus.' Can you believe it? 'We have already delivered a surplus.' What a joke. How naive does this Labor government think the Australian people really are?

On 28 April 2011 Treasurer Swan said on the 7.30 program with Chris Uhlmann: 'We see the surplus in 2012-13 as being absolutely fundamental.' On 11 May 2011 on the ABC AM program Prime Minister Gillard said, 'It is vital to get the budget back into surplus. That is the best thing that we can do to help families with cost of living pressures.' What an absolute joke. How misleading, how despicable and how deceitful. To use a term that is used quite frequently by those on the other side, how mendacious. The Treasurer and Prime Minister have deserted their ironclad guarantee to return the budget to surplus. Constituents in my electorate tell me they are not surprised that the Gillard Labor government is reneging on its promise to deliver a surplus. They say that this is the same government that would not cut the private health insurance rebate and would not introduce a carbon tax. My constituents say that with the Labor government having these broken promises under their belt, why wouldn't they break their budget surplus promise too? I have to agree.

We know that Labor and the Prime Minister just cannot be trusted. How can my electorate trust the Prime Minister when one of my constituents who is a member of the Gillard Labor government and a staunch Labor supporter, Senator Trish Crossin, cannot even trust the Prime Minister? The question remains, is the Prime Minister so afraid of another leadership challenge that she chose to ignore Territorians, chose to ignore her own rank-and-file members and shafted a senator who was dedicated to the Labor cause but she was also dedicated to the member for Griffith. Poor Senator Crossin. There has been a lot of comment across the territory about the Prime Minister's captain's pick saying that it would not have happened in any other jurisdiction in Australia. So why does the Prime Minister thinks that she knows better than Territorians? Ted Dunstan of Karama said about the Gillard Labor government in a letter to the editor in the Northern Territory News today: 'We have been badly mistreated by the Federals in Canberra, neglected, dictated to and overridden. We can and should do something about this. This time we can send four representatives to Canberra, all CLP, no Labor, to express our disgust and outrage over the treatment handed out at the hands of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her dysfunctional anti-Territory government.' Ted's sentiment is being replicated across my community. My electorate is fed up with the Gillard Labor government, which is neglecting Territorians, and a Gillard Labor government that thinks it knows better than all of us.

Further proof that the Gillard Labor government is out of touch with Territorians was their response last week to the leaked discussion paper on developing Northern Australia. Straightaway the government attacked the plan. They labelled it wacky and ridiculed the coalition for a lack of detail. However, if they had paid any attention to local media commentary on the discussion paper, they would have seen that there was a positive and constructive response to the paper. On 7 February the NT News labelled the plan a 'Boom with a view', and on 8 February its editorial said that 'Coalition leader Tony Abbott 's vision for northern Australia is exciting'. But instead of responding in a practical way and taking on the broad ideas of the discussion paper to develop Northern Australia, the Gillard Labor government played politics, slammed the coalition and, once again, neglected Territorians. It is no wonder that the Territory is struggling, with government treating them with such contempt. According to recent figures, confidence is down and only further proof of this comes from the latest retail figures from the ABS: in the lead-up to Christmas we saw clothing sales down by 0.7 per cent in the Territory, in November retail spending fell by 0.9 per cent, and in the September quarter retail fell by 0.3 per cent.

Nothing is exempt from this bad Labor government. Small business is being strangled. Since 2000, over 20,000 new regulations have been placed on business and only 104 have been removed by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. This is particularly interesting because it was supposed to be one-in one-out and obviously they are quite behind—I think there are about 19,900 that need to be taken out.

An honourable member: That many!

Mrs GRIGGS: Yes—if it was the one-for-one rule. Businesses across the Top End are also feeling the widespread effects of the Labor Gillard government's appalling knee-jerk reaction to the live export ban in 2011. We on this side fully support the $1 billion live export industry and we welcome today the first shipment of live buffalo to leave Darwin since the introduction of the new animal welfare regulations.

Now let us look at Labor's record on border security and defence spending. Since Labor came into power in 2007 over 30,000 people have arrived illegally by boat. Over $6.6 billion has been spent by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments on the asylum-seeker debacle, all of their own making.—and yet in MYEFO they announced $1.66 billion worth of defence cuts. This is on top of the $5.5 billion already outlined in the budget. In the past four years, $25 billion has been cut from the defence budget—even though the Gillard Labor government has cumulatively spent $172 billion more than they have earned during the same period. The total cuts amount to about 10.5 per cent of the total defence budget. We have not seen this level of cuts since the Korean War. Australia's spending on defence as a percentage of GDP ranks about 65th in the world. The United States currently spends around 4.7 per cent of GDP, and the United Kingdom spends around 2.6 per cent of GDP in defence. However, the Gillard government this year will spend a mere 1.49 per cent of GDP on defence, the lowest ever level since 1937.

Defence personnel make up a high proportion of my electorate, with just under 10 per cent of the electorate being defence people. Many of these are young, single ADF members aged in their early 20s. I am so proud to have been part of the campaign that the coalition successfully mounted last year with widespread community support, which forced the Gillard Labor government to backflip on its disgraceful cuts that would have otherwise seen around 22,000 single ADF members aged 21 and over denied the entitlement to travel home to see their families at Christmas time.

An honourable member: Hear, hear! Well done, Natasha.

Mrs GRIGGS: Only a coalition government will stand up for our most valuable defence assets, and they are our defence personnel. That is why the coalition has committed—if we are fortunate enough to form government later this year—to restoring defence funding at three per cent real growth out to 2017-18 as soon as we can afford it. The cuts cannot go on any longer. Our national security is being put at risk. In a rare public warning, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, cautioned the Gillard Labor government, saying that 'the current straitened fiscal climate poses a risk to the Army’s approved plan for development out to 2030'. It is not only Defence that is suffering the MYEFO cuts. The Gillard Labor government announced $3.9 billion in education cuts, which Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed as being responsible. This is not responsible; this is reckless. In the past five years literacy and numeracy results around Australia have been going backwards. Sadly, in every single category of reading, persuasive writing, grammar, punctuation, spelling and numeracy, the Territory is the worst-performing jurisdiction in Australia, with around 30 per cent fewer Territory students than students elsewhere in the country achieving the national minimum standard.

In 2012 only 62.3 per cent of year 3 students in the Territory reached the minimum standard for grammar and punctuation. Nationally, that figure was 92.9 per cent of students. In 2012 only 55 per cent of year 9 students in the Territory reached the minimum standard for persuasive writing. Nationally, the figure was 81.7 per cent. This is just not good enough. It is not acceptable that Territory students are allowed to be so far behind students in the rest of Australia. The Gillard Labor government’s actions to cut $3.9 billion from education in MYEFO is not responsible, as the Treasurer claims; it is completely and utterly irresponsible, and I am sure every single Territorian will agree with me.

The NAPLAN results for Territory students are going backwards. Of the students who were in year 3 in 2009, 68.5 per cent met the minimum standard for reading. When they completed NAPLAN again in 2011 this number had dropped to 61.8 per cent. In 2008, 75.9 per cent of year 7 Territory students reached the national minimum in numeracy. In 2010 when this group was tested again, the figure had fallen to 70.5 per cent.

In January, Kormilda College, a fantastic private school in my electorate, the largest boarding school for Indigenous students in the Territory, announced they were considering closing their boarding house because funding cuts by the Gillard Labor government were making it unsustainable for the school to continue providing boarding facilities for Indigenous students. If this occurs, 220 students from outback communities across the Territory will be forced to leave Kormilda, and where will they go?

Just last week the Prime Minister spoke about educational opportunities for everyone in her Closing the Gap speech, yet it is her cuts that are stripping a chance to be educated from Territory kids from remote communities. Kormilda is currently running at a shortfall of $500,000 thanks to Labor’s cuts. In a bid to reduce the impact of this and maintain the Indigenous program, since 2009 the school has reduced enrolment numbers and cut around a quarter of their staff. I have raised this before in this place, yet the cuts have still occurred. Kormilda's principal, David Shinkfield, has said, 'We are in financial difficulties based on the change in funding that is taking place.'

I am fed up and my electorate is fed up with the way in which the Gillard Labor government trivialises the lives of Territorians. Only the coalition has a plan for Australia. Only the coalition can restore hope, reward and opportunity for the people of Solomon, for the people of Australia.