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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12570

WYATT ROY (Longman) (16:40): Last year, and again this year, I rose in this place to put a very simple question to the Treasurer. I wanted to know when the Treasurer would bring the budget back into surplus and when this federal Labor government would be able to pay off the massive debt that it has accumulated in just four short years.

After the Treasurer used his time to call me a dole bludger, and whatever other personal insults that he could come up with to dodge answering the question, the Treasurer revealed that he did not have an answer for the Australian people. He could not say what this government's plans were to bring the budget back into surplus. Given that, in my lifetime, the Labor Party has never delivered a budget surplus in this place, it would seem to me that the Labor Party's addiction to wasteful spending and mismanagement is no way to manage our nation's finances.

It did not take long for the Treasurer came back to his talking points. In the budget the Treasurer handed down in May he made an unequivocal promise to the Australian people: he promised that the government would deliver a budget surplus in 2012-13. His words were: 'This budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that'. Well, based on past experience, with school-hall rip offs, Pink Batts and set-top boxes, we on this side of the House were a little sceptical that the Labor Party could deliver a budget surplus. Our suspicions have continued to grow with each new project blow-out and new promise adding to the Labor Party's $120-plus billion budget black hole, not to mention the numerous changes to the carbon tax—and, most remarkably of all, a tax that does not even raise revenue: the mining tax.

But, despite our suspicions on this side of the House, we were prepared to wait and see what this Labor government came up with in its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. We were prepared to be surprised, but instead have been disappointed. The Treasurer has delivered exactly what we have come to expect from the Labor Party in the MYEFO. The Treasurer's adamant promises from last year, 'We'll be back in the black by 2012-13' mean little.

Last week we saw the release of MYEFO, and with it we saw a complete failure of the government to deliver an economic and fiscal plan to return the budget to surplus. The Treasurer revealed that this Labor government have no plan for the future, and it is clear that they are making up the rules as they go along, cooking the books to hide the true state of the budget. MYEFO revealed that the only certainty with this Labor government is more waste, more mismanagement, more debt and more taxes. If you too have wondered, like me, why the Labor government seemed to rush to deliver a MYEFO last week, you only had to wait a few days to hear the Treasurer announce to the Australian people that the mining tax that he and the Prime Minister personally negotiated had raised not one cent. Let me make this point very clear: the Treasurer told the Australian people in his budget update that he expected to collect $2 billion from the mining tax this financial year. And then a few days later we find out that this tax has raised not one cent.

This Labor government is unique. Only this Labor government could introduce a tax that raises no money yet increases Australia's sovereign risk profile, adds a record level of red tape for business and still hangs as a threat over successful mining companies. This is the stuff of fiction. In Yes Minister, we saw a hospital that did not have patients. Here in Canberra we have our very own version of this drama. We now have a tax that does not raise revenue.

This Labor government had me a little confused, like so many Australians. I had to go back to my office and pick up a copy of the Macquarie Dictionary, a dictionary that is often spoken about in this place, to try and find some answers. According to the Macquarie Dictionary, a tax is a 'compulsory monetary contribution demanded by a government'. It would seem to me that the Treasurer has a bit of a dilemma. He can come clean with the Australian people and admit his complete inability to manage the nation's finances and resign in the most honourable way, or he can pick up the phone and give those pesky academic types at the Macquarie Dictionary a hard time about their definition of a tax. Only this Labor government could introduce a tax that raises no money but increases Australia's sovereign risk and adds to the pile of red tape facing businesses. Only this Labor government could design a tax that not only fails to raise revenue but adds an additional $120 billion-plus to the government's great big budget black hole.

When this Labor government was elected, it inherited a $20 billion surplus and $70 billion worth of net Commonwealth assets. Now we see that in 2011-12, under this Labor government, net debt reached a staggering $147 billion, and the government's own modelling indicates that this figure will remain virtually unchanged for years to come. The answer to this challenge is not new taxes. It is not more wasteful spending. I would like to take this opportunity to share with the House a quote from a pamphlet from 1916 that was passed on to me by a local small business owner:

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.

You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.

You cannot build character and courage by destroying man's initiative and independence.

And finally, you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

The coalition has a better way. As a nation, our path to greater prosperity is greater economic growth, the restoration of sound public finances, lower taxation with less government intervention, increasing productivity and closer engagement with Asia. We in the Liberal Party already have a strong record on fiscal management. We have done it before and we can do it again. A re-elected coalition government will restore hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians.

The answer to the problems facing our nation is not to make unfunded promises to the people of Australia. In its MYEFO, the government has ripped $1.6 billion out of health and $3.9 billion out of education—failing to fund Gonski reforms or fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The answer is not to gouge private health insurance holders either. In a last ditch effort, the government is ripping $1.1 billion of out of private health insurance measures, with $700 million coming out of private health insurance rebates. The answer is not to lose control of our borders, at a cost of more than $1.2 billion this year alone.

The coalition has a real plan that will bring the budget back into surplus. We will cut the waste and the mismanagement that has become endemic in this government. We will abolish the carbon tax and the mining tax. We will put our nation on a path to greater prosperity by encouraging greater economic growth, restoring sound public finances, lowering taxation with less government intervention, increasing productivity and closer engagement with Asia. We will once again restore hope, reward and opportunity to all Australians.

This Labor government fails to see the truth. The solution to this budget crisis is to eliminate government waste and mismanagement. As soon as those opposite come to terms with this fact, they will have some chance of doing the right thing by the country's taxpayers. Until this Labor government comes to realise this, Australian taxpayers will fund inefficient, wasteful government programs and their cost blow-outs. The fact is: under this Labor government, I will be a very old man by the time I see a Labor government budget surplus!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Symon ): There being no further speakers, the discussion is concluded.