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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5165


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (19:19): This is the fifth time we have had this Treasurer walk into the chamber and deliver a budget speech and this will be the fifth time the figures do not add up. They have never added up before and they will not at the time of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in December, and they will not any time between now and September 2013, when the final figures for the financial year ahead come in. To arrive at the $1.5 billion surplus claimed by this Treasurer, we have seen trickery with the movement of expenditure forward into this financial year or delayed to a following financial year. I will speak of those matters later in my contribution; however, I will take the opportunity to deal with the Treasurer's constant smokescreen and the facade he puts up about the reasons why he has inflicted upon this nation the four biggest deficits in history. He says it is the GFC and the reduction in revenue receipts. Strangely, he never talks about the waste that he has allowed, so let us go through how badly this government have stuffed up and inflicted generational debt on this nation. Speaker after speaker on the government side can announce how proud they are of the government's record, so I will talk about the highlights of the Rudd-Gillard government because they have had some truly magic moments since late 2007. These great efforts have, of course, created a projected net debt of some $147 billion, which will take some two generations of the Treasurer's projected surpluses to pay off—two generations where our children and our grandchildren will live under the handbrake that this government have installed on our economic vehicle.

Before speaking of these specific matters I would like to cover an example of the Treasurer's lack of credibility to set the scene. It stems from his pathetic failure in question time today after being asked on two occasions about the Labor government's border protection policy, which is defined by 314 boats and over 18,000 people arriving. He called our policy a failure, and what a joke that was. During the Pacific Solution, from September 2001 to June 2007, 1,637 were detained at Nauru or Manus Island. The former Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Evans, said in a media release on 8 February 2008 that 705 of those detained came to Australia. That represents 43 per cent of the total of those detained. In those years we averaged less than three boats a year. When later asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the second question what sort of failure the Treasurer was talking about given that we had averaged three boats a year compared to the Labor government's two a week, the Treasurer said, 'I can certainly confirm that virtually all those people they sent to Nauru came to Australia.' So, according to the Treasurer, 43 per cent, which is what the former minister said, is virtually all. No wonder every budget prediction he has uttered has been completely inaccurate. Today the Treasurer misled the House. Today he specifically said words that are not true. It is consistent with all his past work.

On the government's mismanagement of our borders this has resulted in cost blow-outs beyond even this government's pathetic forecast of almost $4 billion, and no doubt that figure will rise. If the Labor government had left a working policy alone then the NDIS could have been paid for and 400,000 Australians with profound disabilities would have been assisted instead of just 20,000 over two years. Then there was the $1.7 billion in blow-out costs and billions of dollars wasted when value for money was not achieved due to the lack of administration of the BER program. The set-top box program cost taxpayers $308 million and there are estimates that the same result could be achieved for just $50 million—another wasteful fiasco from this government. Then there was $1.7 billion wasted in the Labor government's home insulation scheme, which was linked to four deaths and 200 fires. And what about a billion dollars in consultancies since 2007—a record to be proud of, to be sure! $300 million was wasted on the Green Loans fiasco, and they should stand up for that one too. And the school computer program blew out by $1.2 billion. Then there is the waste associated with the failed GroceryWatch, cash for clunkers, Fuelwatch, the stimulus cheques to dead people and pets and other such wasteful efforts. These examples show that this is a government that, despite having the entire public service at their beck and call, cannot administer and implement programs. It is not a record to be proud of, particularly when we must remember that every dollar that is generated in taxes comes from the productive people, businesses and areas of this nation and its economy.

My point is that this government has had challenges and the Howard government also had challenges. The difference is how you meet the challenges and also provide what the people of the nation need. The reality is that if a government makes hard decisions and manages the nation's finances carefully then maybe you cannot afford to do everything you would like to. I recall on several occasions the member for Blair speaking about what I believe was the Ipswich Motorway and how the Howard government never spent the money but the current government has. Clearly, if you are not afraid to borrow $100 million per day, as Labor does, you can do such things. If you are prepared to saddle debt on our children and grandchildren then you can do it all, but it is not right to do so. The Treasurer and the Labor government have shovelled money out the door, living beyond the means of this country, and will impose generational debt as a result. Having spoken about this government's disgraceful effort in waste and mismanagement, I will now turn to this budget. It comes as no surprise to those on this side of the House that the government has been asking itself many questions in question time as a method of promoting their pretend surplus. The government members we have heard from have been trying to create the view that the government will be returning the budget to surplus and that this somehow means it now has some credibility in economic management. But we all know that this year's budget, like all Labor budgets, will be full of smoke, mirrors and spin. There are three main things that the government has tried pathetically to advance in the budget—the urgency of returning the budget to surplus, boosting productivity and the transparency of costings—which are all problems and mistakes that have been created by this government due to its actions of reckless spending, broken promises and policy backflips.

This Labor government desperately needs to return the budget to surplus to try to stop it losing face even more. As the previous coalition speakers have stated, this government has lost the respect of the Australian public. It is no longer trusted to run the country in a competent manner. This government has no economic plan. It is driven by self-interest. The government is willing to say and do anything, including deals with the Independents, simply to remain in power. But what the government does not understand is that the Australian public are smart people and can see straight through the smoke and mirrors. They can see through this government's actions of artificially moving spending out of next year and into this year and the year after. The government is trying to deceive the Australian public, shuffling money and taking spending forward or back, out of 2012-13. For instance, it is spending over $1 billion each year on the Energy Security Fund, except in 2012-13, when the government is spending less than $1 million. The government is hiding other items, such as the bulk of the NBN Co. expenditure, a real $100 billion black hole.

It is well understood in the Australian community that, despite claiming a surplus, the government still does not have a plan to repay the debt, build a stronger economy or protect jobs. The Treasurer's mixed messages regarding the budget show that Labor's No. 1 priority is to create the illusion that it can be trusted, when really all it is doing is reinforcing the confusion and the crisis of confidence throughout the community. The fiddling of the figures and the methods such as the raising of the debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 million are further proof that this government cannot be taken seriously. To further emphasise that point, this government expects Australians to believe that it can turn around a 2011-12 budget blow-out of $44 billion to a $1.5 billion surplus. It blew out to double what the government told us, yet now the government expects the citizens of this nation to believe its $1.5 billion claim.

I question whether the government believe it themselves. They obviously do not, because of the increase of $50 billion in the government's credit card limit, to $300 billion. This historic deception, this generational illusion makes no sense and is without logic. The Treasurer says that, despite allegedly reducing expenditure by more than $45 billion from this current financial year to the next, he still needs an extra $50 billion on the credit card. No-one is buying the fiction, Treasurer.

Regardless, the government has no credibility, and history has told us that what it says and does are more often than not two completely different things. So it will come as no surprise to anyone on this side if in another 15 months from today it is revealed that this budget has not actually achieved a surplus. It will come as no surprise because there has been a $20 billion deterioration in the budget this year and the government is expecting that by September 2013 it will have delivered a surplus of $1.5 billion. It does not make sense. It has created this position through active and popular spending habits, and anyone with the slightest understanding of economics can see that it clearly does not add up—not to mention the fact that Labor has not delivered a surplus since 1989-90.

The government's lack of credibility also relates to the problems with productivity. While in opposition they were very happy to sit back and criticise the Howard government over productivity figures and then make bold claims about how they would increase productivity if in government. However, this is just more Labor spin, as figures released by the ABS have revealed that Australia is now less productive than it was 10 years ago. According to the ABS, productivity has regressed by 2.1 per cent in the last 10 years. An article titled 'Productivity takes Swan dive' published in the Australian in December last year says:

This situation is in stark contrast with the preceding 12 years under the Howard government, when labour productivity rose at the average annual rate of 2.9 per cent.

As usual, the Treasurer tried to come out and reassure the public:

You can't read too much into productivity figures for a single quarter or even a couple of quarters.

The average Labor productivity growth across the full Rudd-Gillard term has slumped dramatically compared to when we were last in government. So Labor were happy to criticise the Howard government on productivity figures for a quarter or even a couple of quarters and claimed that they could do things so much better, but that is at odds with the current situation—declining productivity, a pretend surplus and a government that has lost the trust of the public through saying one thing and then doing another. Labor inherited a $20 billion surplus and $70 billion of net worth, and have run up deficits of $167 billion since being elected in 2007. This equates to $4,878 of debt per taxpayer, and to pay for this debt Labor are still borrowing $100 million every day. The interest payments on their debt will be running in excess of $20 million a day by 2014-15. And yet the Prime Minister cannot understand why the Australian public have lost faith in this government, a government so out of touch with the views of Australian residents.

Residents in my electorate of Cowan are sick of this government introducing new taxes in a bid to get more money to make up for their waste and mismanagement. They are sick of their hard-earned money being collected by a government whose mentality is to tax and spend. Labor's solution to every problem is to tax it and increase the cost for Australians. Since 2007 this government has announced over 20 new or increased tax grabs, including the carbon tax and the mining tax, which were both huge hits to Western Australia. How can introducing the mining tax, which is aimed at making Australian businesses and industries less productive and less competitive in global markets, help increase productivity? Or how can an economy-wide carbon tax, the biggest carbon tax in the world—which will not result in changes to world temperatures—increase productivity? As Winston Churchill said, a nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

Labor has an appalling record in forecasting its budget and economic numbers, and an equally poor record in forecasting its economic growth figures. I believe Australians will remember this government for massive debt and deficits, unrestrained borrowings, new tax grabs, mismanaged programs and, above all, pure incompetence. The coalition is an alternative government for the Australian people. We have policies and economic management strategies that will provide hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians. We will not take the easy path, trying to buy people with cash giveaways and cutting key programs and funding sources to create a budget surplus. We have a strong economic record and the knowledge and ability to get this country back on track. We will also not have a record which takes growth in defence spending back to the levels of the 1930s. There can be no doubt that the Treasurer delivered not a surplus on budget night but just the hope for a surplus. The Australian people know that this Treasurer has never come close to delivering what he predicted on each of the four budget speeches so far.

On Monday night, the government backbencher, the member for Fowler, categorically declared that a surplus had been delivered by the government. He said 'we have delivered a surplus budget'. The reality is that this government has nothing but red ink against its name and to claim otherwise is untrue. In September 2013 the final figures for the 2012-13 financial year will be in and only then will the final truth be known. I do wonder, however, what the MYEFO will reveal. I suspect the government will be in a lot of trouble in seven months time and the attempted spin will be fascinating. Perhaps when the government realise their failure to control their spending again, what we will see is the change of Prime Minister that everyone knows is coming, and a quick election before the deception is obvious.

The government claims that this budget is about a surplus, support for families, productivity and transparency but in reality it was only ever about smoke, mirrors, spin and politics. Unfortunately for you, the Labor government, the people of this great nation know that, too.