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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4287


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (12:41): It is a pleasure to rise and speak against the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012 as the member for Macarthur did so well just now. It was an excellent contribution on behalf of his constituents, who he understands very well. He also understands that this sugar-hit bill for the carbon tax that is about to hit Australian families will not work because Australian families no longer trust the government, which told them that there would be no carbon tax in the first place.

Directly before the last election, members of this House will know, the Prime Minister said on Channel 10 that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. Of course, we are now just days and hours away from that carbon tax coming into place. So this bill that we are debating today, which is being rushed on by the government, has had no government speakers on it because it is so hard to justify, even from the government's perspective. Government members do not want to be on the record justifying what is an attempt to provide a sugar hit.

Ms King: The member for Deakin just spoke on this bill.

Mr BRIGGS: Minister, you are entitled to speak on the bill. Your name is not on the list. There are no Labor members' names on the list. There is a good reason for it. You are ashamed of what you have done to Australian families and what you are about to do to Australian families with your world's biggest carbon tax—a carbon tax you promised would not be implemented. I say to the minister, if she wants to speak on this bill, she should stand up after I finish my contribution and speak on this bill, represent those people from Ballarat, tell them why she supports this carbon tax, tell them why she wants this carbon tax to increase their costs and tell them why this is just an attempt by this government to try and sugar coat what is the nastiest pill that Australian families have faced in a very long time.

Last night we saw the Treasurer's fifth budget delivered. Each budget in this place has some sort of narrative to it and it tells a story about the government's direction. Last night what we saw was a budget which was about trying to enhance the electoral stocks of this Prime Minister and this government. It was a last-gasp effort to try and get a boost in the polls, to hold back the movement of MPs on the government benches. The member for Griffith may be their last salvation—the person who they so abused not too long ago and who they will no doubt, in just a little while, turn to when this sugar hit of the electoral prospects also fails. Last night we saw a budget which was built on a house of cards. I suspect the Treasurer does not think he will ever have to implement it, because the forecasts in it are so unbelievable—you would have fairies at the bottom of the garden to expect that the expectations in that budget of revenue increases, for instance, will be met.

I note that the Australian journalist Adam Crichton, who understands this far better than most, has written an article today about the biggest increase in tax receipts in three decades; that the expectation in the budget is that somehow, while growth will be a trend, there is going to be an enormous growth of 12 per cent in the next financial year of receipts—government receipts, taxation receipts—to create this falsehood of a surplus.

We know that last year the government forecast there would be a deficit in last year's budget of $22 billion. If we refer to the budget papers, which were tabled last night, we see that that blew out to $44 billion. We are now expected to believe that this government can manage the budget back from a $44 billion deficit—which followed on from a $47 billion deficit which followed on from a $54 billion deficit which followed on from a $27 billion deficit—and that somehow it is going to turn around some $45 billion in one financial year, no doubt through a whole lot of trickery in the budget papers, and it is going to stop wasting Australian taxpayers' money when all it has done in its five years of government is just that.

We see it again with this piece of legislation, one which is trying to overturn the whole intent of the original education tax refund; a proposal, as the member for Macarthur put so well, that the opposition sought to improve at the last election. In fact, at the last election the government opposed what we were trying to do because it would not address the educational needs of Australian children. Now people will be handed cash with no expectation at all that they will spend it on education expenses. Indeed, what this cash bonus is all about is for people to be able to pay their soaring electricity bills. The government knows that it has to bribe and compensate people for the pain that it is about to inflict.

This is no longer about assisting educational outcomes for Australian families or schoolchildren, which the opposition's policy sought to improve at the last election by expanding the number of items that this could be spent on by keeping receipts and claiming it through the taxation system, which has been a long-practised way of focusing the money. This, instead, through this piece of legislation, is attempting to—and I hope this legislation does not pass; I hope the Independents see that this cash hit, like the cash hit during the stimulus package back in 2008-09, will be ineffective and wasted. That is why we see a debt soaring up to $240 billion. Last night the credit card was extended: it has gone from $250 billion to $300 billion, and we know that the Labor Party will make the most of its extension, as it has each time it has extended its credit card.

This bill does no more than try to find a way of compensating people for a carbon tax which is about to hit them. If this bill is seriously about education expenses, why is it being pulled forward to be delivered in June this year? Why are payments all of a sudden expected to be made in the next financial year being brought forward and why is this bill being rushed through the parliament so that money is spent in this financial year? It beggars belief. It does not require any proof that it is being used for educational purposes at all. It is an attempt to put money in people's bank accounts and hope and pray that they do not take out their anger, as we know they are, on Labor's members of parliament when we inevitably go to the next election.

We know—and, thankfully, a backbench MP on the government side helpfully told a journalist off the record just two days ago—that you cannot go doorknocking at the moment without being beaten up about the carbon tax. We all know: when we are in public at the moment, every time we go to a function, all people want to talk to us about is the carbon tax, the incompetence of the government, the government's judgment in backing people like the member for Dobell and standing by the member for Dobell and his use of credit cards. What is it with this party and the use of credit cards? What is it with this party and extending cards and using other people's money? What is it with this party?

Mr Katter: Be very careful: it's the pot calling the kettle black.

Mr BRIGGS: It is interesting that this party does not mind wasting other people's money on all sorts of questionable expenses.

I repeat: this is a bad piece of legislation because it is not following through with the original intention of the education rebate. The education rebate was to assist Australian people with educational expenses. This is an attempt to bribe and compensate people for the impact of the carbon tax, which is about to hit them, in a budget which is built on a house of cards, a budget that the Treasurer does not expect to implement because the numbers and the forecasts are so ambitious as to be unbelievable. It has been interesting to note and watch as the Treasurer has failed fundamentally to explain how it is that the ambitious forecasts in his own budget papers, which get to this pretend surplus, will somehow be delivered.

We just have to look at the record. I refer again to the budget papers, which show that in every budget delivered by this Treasurer the result of the budgets have been deficits: $27 billion, $54 billion, $47 billion, $44 billion. Next year the government expects us to believe that somehow there will be a $1.5 billion surplus, a rounding error in the Commonwealth budget purposes. Just look, for instance, at the increase in spending since this government came to power: in 2007-08, the last Costello budget, the spending was $271 billion; this year it is expected to be $364 billion—near enough to a $100 billion increase in just five budgets. It is an extraordinary increase in government spending. It is an extraordinary increase in the power of the state. It is an extraordinary increase in the take from the Australian people. This is what this government does: it taxes big and it spends big. It spends more than it taxes each year. We have seen that; that is the evidence. This bill is another example of this government spending more money than it takes. It does not have an economic plan to make our country stronger and to take advantages of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we have. Its economic plan is to tax more and spend more—to waste more. We have seen how much money has been wasted. I referred earlier to the one-off payments as part of the stimulus package. We know, for instance, how many dead people, people living overseas and people in jail received those one-off payments.

During that period we also saw the money that was wasted on the pink batts scheme. We know it cost twice as much—it cost $2 billion to take out the $1 billion that the government spent. Why would this bill be any different? Why would this spend be any different? Changing the purpose of the education tax rebate in the first place to make it a cash payment is purely to try to compensate Australian families for the impact of the biggest lie that this Prime Minister has made to the Australian people. This carbon tax is the dagger at the heart of Australian families. This is an attempt to sugar-coat that pill, and it will not work. It will not work, just as this house of cards budget will not work, because we all know in this parliament that this expectation that somehow there is going to be a $45 billion turnaround from this year's deficit into a surplus next year is a flight of fancy. It is built on an extraordinarily ambitious forecast which cannot be met. It is built on the record of a government that has spent more than it has earned every year it has been in power. For five long years the Australian people have had to suffer under this Treasurer.

We should never forget that when this Treasurer took the Treasury off Peter Costello, Peter Costello left this country with money in the bank, a $20 billion surplus. Surpluses of $20 billion are shown in budget papers 2006-07, 2007-08—money going into the Future Fund to plan for the future. A future fund was established so we could meet contingent liabilities as our country gets older and more people retire. All these plans and all these long-term hard decisions that were pursued by the former government and the Treasurer were undone in what seemed like a matter of weeks—in fact, it has been five long years. To expect that that is somehow going to turn around this year, to expect that somehow we are going to have these ambitious forecasts met, and that the government is going to turn it into a surplus budget, is to be ambitious at best.

This bill is a bad bill. It is a bad decision to change the education tax rebate in the first place. It has been rushed because the government knows it needs to change its numbers in a hurry before the Labor Party members change their Prime Minister. We just hope that the Independent members of this hung parliament—a situation we hope never to see in this country again—decide in the best interests of our country—

Mr Katter: It's real bad having this democracy, isn't it.

Mr BRIGGS: It is not working very well. It is a terrifically stable arrangement, member for Kennedy! There is no doubt about that. The country is certainly going down beautifully at the moment!

We just hope that these Independent members finally wake up to themselves and decide that this government should end. This government was based on a falsehood in the first place. This carbon tax—which the Independent members of parliament helped get through this place—will do so much damage to Australian families. We hope those members finally wake up and end it before this continues; before too much more money is wasted and before future generations are damaged more than they are today. It is a bad bill. It just continues. It is a bad government. It was a bad budget last night. It is built on a house of cards that is, hopefully, going to collapse as soon as it possibly can.