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Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2446

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment) (16:49): I congratulate Senator Conroy and the Labor Party on their crystal ball. I congratulate him on his capacity to know what is in tonight's budget and to so roundly condemn it before he has even seen it. But I condemn rather than congratulate Senator Conroy and the Australian Labor Party for the mess they have left, for their management over the last six years and for the reality that the circumstances we seek to address in tonight's budget are largely of the Labor Party's making as a result of their own neglect, their own mismanagement, their own waste and their own failure to deal with the challenges Australia faces not just in the next couple of years but in the next 10, 20, 30 and 40 years, well into the future. Australians voted at the last election, having heard the now Prime Minister say on no fewer than 30 occasions that, as a government, we would end the waste, we would stop the boats, we would build the roads of the 21st century and we would get the budget back on track.

Senator Jacinta Collins: You missed a few, Simon.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Exactly those four commitments were given in exactly that way, Senator Collins, time and time again on no fewer than 30 occasions during the election campaign by the now Prime Minister. That is exactly what our government are seeking to do and that is exactly what tonight's budget will continue to do. We have already been working to end the waste and tonight's budget will provide further demonstration of a government committed to having a public service and a level of government expenditure that deliver what is required but does so as efficiently and effectively as possible.

We have implemented policies to stop the boats, and stop they have. We are building the roads of the 21st century, and we will see tonight more detail on those infrastructure promises, our delivery of those roads. In particular, in my home state—and our home state, Mr Acting Deputy President Fawcett—I warmly welcome the indication that we will proceed with two stages of upgrades over the next four years to the north-south connector to the South Road. And we will see delivery of the Darlington Upgrade Project and the Torrens to Torrens upgrade; vital infrastructure that will improve both the productivity and the lifestyle of so many people in South Australia.

Most significantly on this budget day, tonight Australians will see that we are honouring that commitment given to get the budget back on track. They will see that we are taking hard decisions; decisions that we take no pleasure in making but that we make because they are the right decisions for Australia's future and that we make because they honour our commitment to get the budget back on track. It will stand as a stark contrast to the six years of hollow rhetoric that we heard during the six Labor budgets are preceded this one.

Let us go back over that rhetoric and the associated outcome. In 2008-09 Treasurer Swan stood up and said in his budget speech:

… it is a surplus built on disciplined spending, …

The outcome was not a surplus but a $27 billion deficit.

The next year, in 2009-10, he said about their savings that:

They will put us on the path to surplus by 2015-16.

That year, he handed down a budget deficit of $54.5 billion.

The next year, in 2010, and again in his budget speech, Treasurer Swan said:

… a strategy that will see the budget return to surplus in three years time, …

That year, he delivered a $47.5 billion deficit.

The next year—the fourth of the Swan budgets—in 2011-12, he said:

We will be back in the black by 2012-13, on time, as promised.

That year he delivered a $43.4 billion deficit.

In the fifth of the Swan budgets, in 2012-13, he said:

This budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, …

It resulted in an $18.8 billion deficit for 2012-13, the year, of course, that he first promised that we would be back in surplus by.

And then, for the 2013-14 financial year, when Treasurer Swan handed down that budget—his last budget—he said:

This budget sets a sensible pathway to surplus, …

The projected outcome according to the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement is a $47 billion deficit.

In every single one of Wayne Swan's budget speeches he spoke about delivering a surplus or returning to surplus. And on every single occasion it was nothing more than hollow rhetoric. On every single occasion it resulted in more deficits, and deficits as far as the eye can see. The previous government delivered five record budget deficits. They turned a $20 billion surplus into $191 billion worth of cumulative deficits and, indeed, the projections under MYEFO are for a further $123 billion in deficits over the next four years. And without change to policy settings, Australia will see gross debt grow out to $667 billion. Of course, this is unacceptable; of course, things have to change and, of course, we have to take action to deliver on our commitment to get the budget back under control.

Tonight's budget will include a range of policy measures. There will be short-term measures that have an immediate impact to try to bring down the projected deficits over the next few years. There will be medium-term measures and there will be long-term structural measures that deal with the great challenges Australia faces in tackling an ageing population and a declining proportion of the population in the workforce—challenges that, if left untackled as they were by the previous government, will create significant problems for the next generation of taxpayers. They will find that there are around 30 per cent fewer taxpayers to support a greater number of non-working Australians.

We could, like the previous government, be driven by polls and driven by focus groups. We could do that, and not take the hard decisions, but we will not shirk those hard decisions. We will make sure that we take them so that future taxpayers do not have to take even harder decisions. Because that is what we have seen overseas: when you ignore tough decisions, let deficits blow out and continue to balloon into greater debt and even greater debt, eventually you do not get to take decisions that just change the way entitlements or policies work in a very graduated and careful way. You suddenly find you have to take hard, rash decisions—like cutting the actual level of pension entitlements instantly. That is not the circumstance that we want to see any future Australian government put in, and that is why we will take the difficult decisions now for the long-term future of Australia.

It is why we will get on with delivering a budget that is fair and that gets the budget back under control. I want to make this important point, because Senator Conroy spent some time on it: a budget that does reduce the tax burden for Australians. This budget will do that. This budget will ensure that there is less tax take than would otherwise have been the case. The reason for that is because we are fulfilling our commitments to get rid of bad taxes, like the carbon tax and the mining tax. The average Australian household will be better off as a result of the suite of budget measures that we are introducing. They will be better off to the tune of some $550 per annum as a result of the abolition of the carbon tax. These are meaningful changes that will make the cost of living better for Australians.

People will not always welcome every other measure that is in the budget, but taken in its totality—as people will be able to do after tonight, rather than act like Senator Conroy did on a whole lot of speculation—people will be able to see a plan for a stronger Australia; an Australia that delivers a fair outcome from this budget and sets it up for a prosperous economic future. (Time expired)