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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4341


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (16:15): Wasn't that pathetic! This is the Assistant Treasurer of Australia. This is the deputy to the Treasurer in the construction and the implementation of this budget. On the afternoon after they presented a budget he had 15 minutes to speak and he spent no time defending the budget. The matter before the House is 'the failure of the government to properly manage the budget' and we have seen absolutely no time spent defending it. So you should walk out; that was a most pathetic performance. Go and read the budget papers and come back and tell us something about it.

The member for Lindsay also said that this government has presided over Australia being the leading country after the global financial crisis. We did get through the global financial crisis in much better shape than other countries because of the state of the economy when that crisis hit. There was no debt; in fact, there was $70 billion of net assets and the unemployment figure had a 4 in front of it. That is why we got through that crisis the way we did. By the time this government started to spend, spend, spend, the economy was already raging out of that crisis because of the exchange rate, which fell to 60c in the dollar and saw us with the biggest trade surplus in our history in that first quarter of 2009, and because the Reserve Bank of Australia lowered interest rates by over three per cent. Those factors are why we got out of that crisis. It had absolutely nothing to do with the stimulus spending which subsequently occurred and pushed up interest rates, costing Australian workers billions and billions of dollars since because of the way this government has run the economy.

The Assistant Treasurer, again, should be across these things, but the International Monetary Fund just a few days ago released the state of the books of countries around the world on a comparative basis. Of course, six developed countries are reported to have structural surpluses today. A structural surplus is something that the Treasurer would salivate over, but, of course, Australia still has a significant structural deficit. If the prices come off commodities anytime in the next year because of all sorts of things that might happen outside of our control, this government has left us deeply vulnerable. This budget has done nothing—it has provided no strategy to pay down the debt; it has provided no strategy to grow the economy, create and protect jobs, and restore confidence. Nothing in this budget will address those issues. That is why we still have a structural deficit, unlike six other developed countries that have structural surpluses today. We are not coming out of this global financial crisis better than the rest of the world; we are being led by others now that went into it with much bigger debt levels than we had.

Last night, the Treasurer said that this is a Labor budget 'to its bootstraps'. I do not know about old Labor, but this certainly is a new-Labor budget to its bootstraps. It is a budget you cannot trust. It is a budget riddled with deceit. It is a budget of deception by omission. It is a budget which cooks the books. It is a budget that increases debt. It is a budget where many of the so-called savings are in fact tax increases. Can you believe it? They are parading them as disciplined savings, but they are tax increases. It is a budget which resorted to bribes—grubby bribes to try and cover up the biggest carbon tax in the world. It is a budget with broken promises. It is a budget that makes many promises but at the same time breaks many promises. It is a budget which has the world's biggest carbon tax at its heart. It is a budget devoid of any strategy to pay down debt, to grow the economy, to create jobs and to restore confidence. It is a budget motivated by politics, not genuine economic principles. It is a budget motivated by political survival. That is all it is. It is a budget for this week and next week and the week after; it is not even a budget for the next six months. It is a budget to keep the Prime Minister in the job of Prime Minister while those behind her try and sort out who might replace her. It is nothing more and nothing less than a political document. This truly is a new-Labor budget: no trust, deceit, more spending, more taxing and more borrowing.

Let me explore a couple of those points a little more. It is a budget you cannot trust. Of course, my colleague pointed out the fact that there have been five different levels of deficit anticipated and forecast over the last 18 months, up from $12 billion to $44 billion—and, of course, the year has not even finished. I bet we will find by September that it is even bigger than $44 billion. How can people trust this government to get a $1.5 billion surplus after all of the fiddles that it has done and after all the moving of cash here, there and everywhere off budget? How can the community trust this government when the deficit this year has gone from $12 billion to $44 billion with five different estimates through the last 18 months and the government has gotten everyone of them wrong?

Also, how can Australians have any confidence in the revenue?

I say today, the total revenue could not possibly go up by 11.8 per cent. That is impossible yet they expect people to believe it. This whole budget depends on that 11.8 per cent growth estimate. Welfare will grow by more than 3.8 per cent because of this budget. The Australian dollar, coal prices and resource share prices are all forward indicators and they are all going down. Add to that two new socialist governments in Europe. Unemployment is tracking up again in the US and we have a totally dysfunctional government.

This is a government which is divided in so many respects. Everyone is reporting that the Prime Minister's office cannot talk to the Treasurer's office. You have this deep division. You have people grouping as possible pairs to run for the leadership in the next few months. This is a deeply divided government and it is why they are making so many errors of judgment. It is why they are so dysfunctional. There can be no trust. Just today we saw the consumer confidence figures released. Consumer confidence, despite the Reserve Bank reducing interest rates by half of one per cent—a very significant amount and more than what was anticipated by most commentators—today has dropped a further 2.1 points. What all this says is that people do not believe this government. They do not trust this government. It is why we have a crisis of confidence amongst households and why we have a crisis of confidence amongst businesses.

Now we turn to the debt situation, one of the most outrageous things. Australia has a high debt in terms of what is good for Australia. I am sick of people saying, 'Why don't you compare yourselves to basket cases in Europe?' What we need to do is apply a measure against Australian standards. We have a high debt in terms of what is good for Australia because we need in Australia—and always have needed—a debt relatively small compared with the rest of the world. We are a small, open economy which is influenced heavily by commodity price movements; not the US, not big companies in Europe—they have large domestic economies. We need a low relative debt.

We have seen in this budget an increase in the debt ceiling to $300 billion. This is a government which knows nothing but spending and borrowing and taxing. We have seen it again in this budget. The Office of Financial Management confirmed that it has lost confidence in the government because they have asked the Treasurer to increase the debt ceiling to $300 billion as a buffer.

This is truly a new-Labor budget to its bootstraps: no trust, deceit, more spending, more taxing and much more borrowing. (Time expired)