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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5138


Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (17:19): I too rise to talk on the Appropriation Bills 2012-13. It is no secret from the rhetoric used by the Treasurer and other members of the government that this is a budget that seeks not to unite but to tear apart. It does not seek to do anything to create wealth but just distribute wealth. As the Treasurer has admitted, this is a typical Labor budget. It is full of the usual Labor tricks, using smoke and mirrors that one has come to expect from this government. Labor has massaged the numbers to create the illusion of this microscopic surplus, pushing critical expenditure out into other financial years. What has become apparent is that Labor has unquestionably delivered another budget failure.

I wanted to concentrate on a number of areas but I wanted to start on my home state in Western Australia and the negative effects of this budget for Western Australia. Western Australia has all but been ignored by the Gillard Labor government in this budget, especially when it comes to the distribution of the GST. The Labor government is set to slash $11 million from the national GST pool over the next four years, including all federal payments. Western Australia will receive just 88c in the dollar on a per capita basis which is the lowest in the nation. Despite the fact that Western Australia has the fastest growing economy in the country and has created 50,000 new jobs in the last 12 months alone, anyone with an understanding about what is going on in the Australian economy will know that it is the strength of the Western Australian economy that is actually masking the weakness of the Australian economy in general. In comparison, New South Wales will receive 94c in the dollar, Victoria 93c and Queensland 98c in the dollar. Under this Labor government Western Australia faces its share of the GST plummeting to a measly 29c in the dollar within two years—a situation that the Western Australian government and all Western Australians do not believe is feasible to continue.

The larger than expected GST cut will have an acute effect on the state's economy, with only $656 million allocated for the next financial year. Labor are taking the benefits of Western Australia's mining boom away from the local community and local businesses, and are instead spreading it amongst a range of projects on the east coast. Tasmania and the territories are set to receive about $660 million worth of Western Australia's GST revenue this coming financial year—a figure that is likely to only increase in the following years. When asked by the West Australian why Western Australia had received such a small part of GST distribution, Treasurer Wayne Swan replied that he had 'spread the benefits of the boom to the sort of people who are actually under costs of living pressure'. I would like to say to the Treasurer on behalf of my electorate of Stirling, and the local families and local businesses that I represent, that they will be offended that he does not think that they are under costs of living pressure. It just strikes me as breathtaking arrogance to say that about these hardworking Australians.

Labor claim that this budget is about helping hardworking families, yet in the same breath this government are set to launch the world's biggest carbon tax, with dire consequences for local businesses and the families whom they support. Electricity prices are set to soar by 10 per cent and gas by nine per cent in the first year of this tax alone, a rate that many Australian households will not be able to afford. The Western Australian government have tried very hard to help Western Australian families as best they can by only increasing electricity prices by 3½ per cent, at a cost to them which was revealed in the recent state budget of $300 million.

The budget papers confirm that despite falling international prices, Labor's toxic tax will go up to $29 a tonne in just three years. At a time when families require all the assistance possible to deal with these sharp rises in daily living pressure, this government can justify spending an extra $36 million on taxpayer funded carbon tax advertising over the next two years. Of course, although it is carbon tax advertising, it does not once mention the carbon tax. I think most Australians would believe that this is $36 million that could certainly be better spent.

Predictably, Labor have stopped funding vital local programs in my electorate of Stirling. The award-winning Real Connections program was a great example of a local community working together to engage Stirling's young people and in return create a safer and more secure future for our neighbourhoods. Yet the Gillard Labor government have ceased to fund this great local program, knowing full well that this is a program that cannot continue without that funding. This is just another example of the Gillard Labor government's inability to understand what is important to my constituents. Another funding opportunity that the government never bothered to follow through on was the Reid Highway/Mirrabooka Avenue overpass, which this year was completed solely by funding from the West Australian Liberal government. Hundreds of local families in Stirling have raised this black spot with me and the need to improve it, and it was at one stage the worst black spot in Western Australia.

This year's budget demonstrates no plan the build a stronger economy, repay debt or create secure jobs. One of my biggest concerns for Stirling residents is that the budget papers forecast a rise in unemployment to 5.5 per cent. Last year's budget promised half a million new jobs over two years, but the government now expects that that target will be missed by 200,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the government is cutting $200 million out of the Job Services program.

My constituents in Stirling are under real cost-of-living pressures, even though the federal Treasurer does not understand or realise that—indeed, he has contemptuously said that it is appropriate for him to take money away from them to fund people who are apparently under real cost-of-living pressures elsewhere. Clearly the carbon tax, once it is introduced in the next 40 days, is going to contribute to that cost-of-living pressure. I am greatly concerned about what that might do, particularly for some of the vulnerable suburbs in my electorate—suburbs that have traditionally voted Labor, by the way. I am greatly concerned about what that might do because these are suburbs that have traditionally had entrenched disadvantage within them and contain many vulnerable communities, including many new arrivals to Australia, who have arrived under our very generous humanitarian program—the legal way—so I am very concerned about what this cost-of-living pressure is going to mean for those communities.

I wanted to say a few words about my portfolio responsibilities of Justice, Customs and Border Protection, particularly about Labor's gross mismanagement of these particular responsibilities. Australia's border protection and national security agencies have been systematically targeted by the Labor Party since the Labor government came to office. They are agencies that are already under unprecedented strain, and they are being asked to perform miracles with the resources at their disposal and the pressures that they are under because of the complete collapse of any semblance of an orderly border protection system in Australia. It is very difficult for me to understand why these agencies have been so systematically attacked by Labor at a time when those border protection pressures are so obvious for anyone to see. Yesterday we had two boats arrive here illegally. A day before that we had a record-breaking arrival of 175 people, yet Customs has had a cumulative budget cut by the Labor Party, since the government changed, of $750 million. It has also had significant personnel cuts. So their responsibilities are increasing dramatically, yet their budget and personnel are decreasing dramatically. Clearly that is going to make it impossible for them to do the job that is expected of them, which is to protect Australia's borders.

I am at a loss to understand why every Labor budget has done the same thing to this agency. As a result of the latest cuts that Customs and Border Protection will be subjected to under this budget, we are going to have fewer sets of eyes and ears checking for drugs and weapons at Australia's international airports and ports. There will be less cargo inspected and there will be fewer staff to patrol our borders. This of course is a great leg-up for criminals who want to bring contraband into Australia, such as illegal guns, drugs and precursors to drugs. It is one of the reasons we have seen such an enormous up-tick in illegal guns coming through our borders—because of the difficulty that Customs has in actually doing its job. Labor are failing to do what I consider to be a basic job for a federal government, which is to protect our borders from outside threats.

In this budget alone Labor are cutting another 190 staff from Customs. As I said, the cumulative total of these cuts, including that 190 personnel, is a whopping 750 staff since the government changed in 2007. With 314 illegal boat arrivals having come since the government changed in 2007, carrying over 18,000 people, it is really no wonder that Customs are struggling to do the job that is expected of them.

Customs are suffering from these budget cuts in their border protection responsibilities, but also money has been cut from passenger facilitation—which means that, when you are queuing up at an international airport in Australia you can blame the excessive queues and the difficulty that you are having in getting processed on these very significant budget cuts. A further $10.4 million was taken from passenger facilitation in this budget, at a time when passenger arrivals are to increase from 32 million to 38 million within the next four years. The $34 million hit that Customs has already taken has had the effect of reducing staff across primary Customs sites at eight major international airports, and the further funding cuts that have occurred in this budget are clearly going to make that worse. At a point when Customs continues to struggle, Labor have decided to take the scalpel to Customs in this budget. Due to the fact that I am running short of time, I will highlight some of the further cuts that have been made to this agency: $25.9 million cut from their overall budget; $8.7 million slashed from Customs and Border Protection enforcement programs; $2.5 million cut from trade facilitation; $7.2 million axed from the civil maritime surveillance response; and $3 million cut from Customs and given to ACLEI, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. I am deeply worried about the state of Customs under the Labor Party. You cannot keep increasing their responsibilities in this way by failing to control illegal arrivals into Australia and then savaging their personnel and budget and expect that they are going to be able to do the job to the standard that is expected of them by the Australian people.

Sadly, it is not just Customs that has been hit systematically by the Labor Party since they came to office. The Australian Federal Police, an agency that is also at the front line of dealing with Labor's border protection crisis, has also suffered both budget and personnel cuts under the Labor Party. Labor have cut AFP staff numbers at a time when the AFP is stretched beyond capacity and is dealing with unprecedented pressure to respond to the chaos on our borders and the chaos that is being created within Australia's immigration network, and to respond to the unfolding gang crisis we see on our streets, which has been facilitated in part by Labor's failure to manage our borders. Labor's response to this chaos is to cut a further $139 million from the AFP. In the last two budgets, Labor have cut 95 staff from the AFP and stripped a massive $264.5 million worth of funding, making it incredibly difficult for the AFP to do its job of enforcing national security. Labor have again broken their promise to create 500 sworn police officers, a promise which was made by Kevin Rudd in 2007 and which Labor keep on putting off in every budget cycle. Again, it has been put off in this budget; indeed, this year $25.9 million has been deferred from that recruitment of 500 police, and that money has gone straight into propping up Labor's dodgy surplus figures. In its prebudget submission the Australian Federal Police Association rightly prioritised the fulfilling of these 500 sworn police officers, and I am sure it will express its disappointment to the government about what their failure to fulfil this commitment will mean.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing the government have done in this budget within the policing portfolio is that they have seen fit to take $58.3 million away from proceeds-of-crime funding. As members will know, this funding is used. It is taken from criminals when they commit crimes under Commonwealth law and it is used for crime prevention programs, as a general rule, or in other ways that might help us prevent crime. Labor are taking that money and using it to prop up their surplus. They are taking directly from criminals in order to come up with a measly surplus that nobody believes they will actually hit anyway.

In view of the time, I will not go on about the other cuts that have been made within my portfolio area. But all Australians should be aware that this Labor government has systematically targeted national security agencies and our law enforcement agencies. This budget and these personnel cuts are going to have enormous negative consequences for those agencies in doing their jobs. This has been a terrible budget for my portfolio, and I commit the coalition government to having a look at doing what we can to reverse the damage when it happens— (Time expired)