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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 210


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:10): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

If we ever needed to be reminded it was confirmed again today from the answers that Senator Abetz provided to the opposition in question time: the government are not the government they said they would be. We saw a very clear set of examples in question time today of that fact. First, in relation to health and education, which the Prime Minister assured Australians were definitively absolutely ruled out for cuts, when the Leader of the Government in the Senate was asked to rule out again here in this chamber as a minister he declined to do so. He hid behind the weasel words of 'intention' and 'we will keep our commitments', but he declined to rule out the most important issue on which he was asked: 'Will you rule out any cuts to health and education programs during the term of this government?' The answer was that he could not.

The facts are that, as we know from the Treasurer's own mouth, as we know from the terms of reference to the Commission of Audit, as we know from the answer given today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, it is absolutely and patently clear that the government have no intention whatsoever of delivering on their commitment not to cut programs in health and education.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate was also asked a question about the 3.6 million Australians earning up to $37,000 a year that this government is imposing a tax grab on. This is at the same time as they are giving a tax break to some 16,000 Australians with around $2 million in their superannuation balances. Remember, this was the Prime Minister who said that he would not leave anyone behind. Clearly there are 3.6 million Australians for whom that does not apply. It seems that people who will not get left behind are those with a couple of million dollars in their superannuation balances, but 3.6 million Australians—hardworking Australians—who earn up to $37,000 a year are expected to front up and pay more tax. What sorts of priorities do the government have? More importantly, this is not the sort of Prime Minister that the Prime Minister told Australians he would be.

Then, of course, we come to debt and deficit. You couldn't move before the election without bumping into images of Mr Hockey—and you do tend to bump into images of Mr Hockey—going on about budget emergencies and drowning in debt; telling everybody that the sky was falling in; failing to recall that in fact under Labor we had a AAA credit rating from all three credit-rating agencies, something even Peter Costello never managed. Then, after the election, all of a sudden the man who said that we were in a debt crisis and we had to manage debt bowls up to the parliament and says: 'By the way, I want a couple of hundred billion dollars more on the debt limit.' It is the largest low-doc loan application in history! He rocks up to the parliament and says: 'We want a couple of hundred billion dollars more on the debt cap, and—you know what?—we are not even going to put before the parliament what the current budget numbers are. We are not even going to tell you what the budget numbers are.'

This is not the government they said they would be. They told Australians that they were going to reduce debt, they were going to get the budget under control. Yet the first act as Treasurer that he engages in in the new sitting of the parliament—from the bloke who was going to get the budget under control and debt and deficit under control—is an application for a $200-billion increase to Australia's debt ceiling.

In the short time since this government was elected we are already seeing that they are not the government they told Australians they would be. I predict that that will get worse. I predict that after the Commission of Audit, which is able to look at everything—including cuts to health, education and co-payments—it will be even worse. (Time expired)