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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5132


Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (16:50): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2012-2013 and associated bills—and how can one not comment on the previous contribution? It is pitifully embarrassing in some ways when we hear members on the other side talk about standing for jobs. There is only one job they are standing for and that is saving Julia Gillard's at any cost—whether it is at the economy's cost, whether it is at Australian workers' cost, it is to save that job. The previous speaker went on to talk about talking down the economy and criticised us for not being egalitarian. Well, while he is over there bagging the opposition for supposedly not being egalitarian, perhaps instead of just receiving the votes of the members of the Isaacs electorate, he might decide not to live more than 26 kilometres away and join them. Aren't they good enough to live amongst? It is not as if there has been a redistribution and his house is slightly outside the electorate. But that is the typical patrician arrogance of some members opposite, who talk about egalitarianism, who talk about the worker, but God forbid they live amongst them: 'We couldn't have that! We couldn't have leaving the leafy suburbs of East Malvern to live amongst the workers in Isaacs! But they can vote for me, they can put me in parliament—that's my entitlement, I suppose.' It is not just former union officials in this place who are used to an entitlement culture, it is also the patricians on the other side. So perhaps if he wants to be egalitarian, to live amongst your own people would be a good start, or even a little closer than more than 26 kilometres.

What do we see in this budget? The same deception, the same fraud, the same pretence to care about the Australian people and Australian workers as we have seen from the contribution from the member for Isaacs. We see a really amateurish attempt to con the media and Australian voters that somehow this government has all of a sudden become responsible. All of a sudden they are going to deliver a wafer-thin $1.5 billion surplus for the 2012-13 year. This is despite the fact that they have not produced a single surplus. This is despite the fact that they get all their figures wrong at every single stage of the prediction. And how have they achieved these cooked books of a budget surplus? It has something to do with raising this year's deficit from $23 billion to $44 billion by bringing forward spending and with having money for projects like the NBN off the budget.

When you do all those tricky measurements and manoeuvres of moving money into one year and pushing it out to forward years, of course you are going to get some pathetic wafer-thin margin. In fact, just by bringing forward two programs, the back-to-school payments and the local government grants, the government are artificially saving $1.5 billion. But what is the point when they are still borrowing $100 million a day? What is the point when the government are saying they have to increase the debt ceiling by $50 billion? If they were going to achieve a surplus, or if anyone believed they were going to achieve a surplus, they would not need to increase the debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 billion. The reality is they do not believe it either. And when you do not believe what you are prosecuting, it makes it very difficult for anyone else to believe it. It is interesting that when the Treasurer—sometimes you have got to remember that Wayne Swan is the Treasurer; woe, what depths we have sunk to as a nation—was asked about why he would need to raise the debt limit if he, supposedly, is going to deliver a surplus, he said, 'Well, very simply, this is no big deal.' I have news for you, Mr Swan: $50 billion is a very big deal. The net debt, which is rising to $145 billion, is a very big deal. Your reckless spending is an enormous deal. Whether this Labor government is led by Julia Gillard or Wayne Swan or Bill Shorten or Mr Smith or Mr Combet or Mr Crean does not matter; it does not matter who leads the Labor Party to the next election. There is one fact for certain: they will not be the ones paying back the enormous debt they have amassed and squandered through their gross and base mismanagement. We have seen in 18 months this government's estimated deficit for this year blow out by $12 billion. Just like that, $12 billion. If $50 billion is no big deal, what is $12 billion to this government? In the last four years their cumulative record deficits have reached $174 billion. This is a government of records—record lows when it comes to accountability, record lows when it comes to good policy but record highs when it comes to absolute front and absolute mismanagement of taxpayers' dollars and borrowed funds.

We keep on getting told this is a great Labor budget. What is this great Labor budget doing? It is delivering the world's biggest carbon tax, rendering our manufacturers even less competitive against imports that will not have a carbon tax imposed upon them, and it is stifling confidence like you would not believe, at a time when companies should be taking advantage of the high dollar to bring in machinery that will set them up to be that bit more productive, that bit more competitive, at the next upswing in the economy. They are not doing that, because they just do not have any confidence to go out there and borrow money—let alone what this government's budget and its carbon tax are doing to confidence in the consumer market.

The Labor Party talks about scare campaigns. The opposition does not need to run any scare campaigns, because this Labor government is scaring the hell out of voters as it is. They look at you; they look at your record. They do not look at what you say. They look at what you do because you say there will be no carbon tax under a Labor government, yet there is; you say there will be a deal with Mr Wilkie on pokies, and there is not; and you say there are going to be budget surpluses, and everyone knows that is an absolute farce. The more this government neglects the wishes of mainstream Australia purely to stitch up yet another day, yet another week, yet another month, yet another 18 months in government, the more it will stand condemned. There must be some good people on the other side who know all of this. Where are they? It is their responsibility to stand up for good government because by their silence they too risk being condemned by the utterly unworthy incompetence that has debased the Australian parliament like never before.

As a member representing a rural and regional area, it pains me to see what this budget has done to rural and regional areas. We have seen the deferral of almost $1 billion for water savings infrastructure that would have meant farmers could upgrade, irrigators could upgrade and local businesses could have some confidence that there is this investment in important infrastructure. But that has been deferred. What this actually tells us about the government is that it does not really care about efficient and effective use of our scarce resources like water; it does not care about even more delays in dealing with the issues in the Murray-Darling Basin. It just shows you that the care factor is nil. And why wouldn't it be, when the Murray-Darling Basin is dominated by coalition electorates? It does not really care about the people who live there or the businesses—otherwise, the funding for this priority issue would not have been pushed to outward years.

We have also seen that this budget has the lowest road funding in a decade. Country people know that there are significant fatalities and that they, proportionally, suffer more from road fatalities. Safety on roads is a basic, fundamental expenditure that is required, not just for people to be safe but for them to move around and for commerce to operate. But this budget contains zero new spending on roads or rail in the 2012-13 year and, overall, expenditure on roads plummets from $6.2 billion in the 2011-12 year to $2.6 billion in the 2012-13 year, with at least $2.3 billion brought forward or deferred from 2012-13. That is a great disappointment to the people of my electorate. That is a great disappointment to rural people across the country—and to those living in our capital cities, particularly in the developing outer suburbs.

Where have the government cut money? Let us have a look. What is one of the basic responsibilities of a national government? One would have thought that having a functioning, viable defence force would be a basic primary responsibility of a national government. But what have we seen? Their waste and mismanagement, throwing billions down the drain, has meant that they have got to cut defence by $5.5 billion. That is a 10 per cent reduction in overall investment, and the biggest single reduction in defence spending since the Korean War.

We know that this government is going to cut 1,000 defence jobs, and it is up to this government to explain where those jobs will be, right across the country, and also to give a guarantee to the serving men and women of this country and their families that soldiers will not face increased risks from lower investment in the things that keep them safe, in soldier survivability and relevant equipment. You give that commitment, Prime Minister, because that is the least that our serving men and women and their families deserve.

But, then again, this is probably like other groups in the community that the Prime Minister does not like—she thinks: 'Oh well, predominantly they probably don't vote for the Labor Party, so who cares? We can cut money from defence.' That may be a bit of a cynical approach, but you know what? That is what people out there in the electorate of Indi tell me. That is what people out there in the electorates in the west of Sydney tell me. That is what people on the main streets of our capital cities tell me, because they cannot trust, they cannot have faith, and they are extraordinarily cynical about such a transparently Machiavellian government.

What else does this government do? It does actually harm an area that is extraordinarily significant to country areas: the health workforce program. Sixty-seven point nine million dollars has been torn out of the Rural Education Infrastructure Development Pool, Health Workforce Australia programs and the health workforce flexible fund. And why? Why have these programs been cut? No explanation has been given and, when we have the issue of an increasing, ageing population and when we have great demand for health services and health professionals, now is the time we can least afford to cut back on these programs. Country people need to travel. Country businesses need to use transport services and freight services. They are also going to be slugged disproportionately because the government has budgeted to increase heavy vehicle user charges by $160 million next year.

With all of the promises this government have made, with all of the money they are giving out, do you know what people are saying? They are saying, 'Please, get rid of this mob as soon as possible. We will take the money they give us, but we are not going to vote for them. What do they think we are—stupid?'