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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4322


Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (12:49 PM) —I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2010-2011 and the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011. Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 is for the purpose of appropriating about $72 billion for the ordinary annual services of government. Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2010-2011 appropriates approximately $9.5 billion for the non-ordinary other annual services of government. The Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 appropriates $222 million out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the expenditure in relation to the parliamentary departments.

This is the third budget that this government has delivered and they are zero from three: they have never delivered a surplus and they never will. Of the three budgets delivered by the Rudd government—as it was—this is the most political, the least believable and the most damaging to Australia’s long-term future. This is a budget that trashes, through a combination of negligent mismanagement and unprecedented waste, the legacy of good financial management left by the coalition. This is a budget built on a foundation of accounting tricks and diversions. This is a budget built on a desperate tax grab—an attempt to hoodwink the public into believing that the Labor Party will actually deliver a surplus. The last coalition government delivered 10 surpluses in 12 years. The last coalition government left a legacy of sensible economic management—a $20 billion budget surplus and $60 million in the bank. The Labor government did not take long to trash this legacy. Their first budget delivered a $27 billion deficit, their second budget delivered a $57 billion deficit and for their final act they forecast a $40 billion deficit in 2010-11. These are three of the largest deficits in our history. They completed the trifecta and it only took them one term to do it. This financial year’s deficit is the largest, as a percentage of GDP, since before the Whitlam government.

And what have the Australian people got for all this spending? We can see the results around us. In our homes we have spent a billion dollars on insulation. The results have caused over 180 fires and four tragic deaths. We are now spending a billion dollars to fix the mess. In our schools we are spending $16.2 billion on the Building the Education Revolution. We should note here that the grand architect of that complete fiasco is now going to be the Prime Minister of Australia after a very nefarious backroom deal from the faceless people in Sussex Street and the Labor Party. This is where our nation has got to. We put aside the votes of the Australian people and we handed over to Senator Mark Arbib, to Eddie Obeid and to Joe Tripodi, who are now apparently running the nation.

Recently I visited the Manilla Central School, where two demountables—dongas as we call them in Queensland—were there at a cost of $1.807 million. I imagine most Australians would expect a pretty fancy sort of house for that sort of money. In fact, Senator Williams said he could build three bedrooms, brick veneer and tiles for that sort of money. What are we talking about? What did we get? Pools? No; we got demountables—demountables bolted together, made in a factory and delivered to a schoolyard in north-west New South Wales. On our borders we are spending an extra billion in response to the Labor government’s—it is no longer the Rudd government—complete loss of control of the flow of asylum seekers. This government unwound the solutions the Howard government left them in August 2008, and since then over 130 boats have arrived carrying over 6,000 asylum seekers. This year alone 70 boats have arrived.

But it is what we cannot see that is perhaps the greatest legacy of waste left by this government. I do not see an inland rail network driving a corridor of commerce through regional towns, connecting Melbourne to the ports of Queensland. I do not see the duplication of the Pacific Highway, which Labor promised by 2016 but for which they now do not have the funds. I do not see the new water storages to underpin the future economic development of growing areas of Australia. I do not see the vital infrastructure. We did have $90 billion spent on stimulus, but only 14 per cent of the stimulus went to economic infrastructure. The Labor Party are the grand architects of kitsch trinkets to adorn certain sections of our nation, the bill to be left to our children and our grandchildren. They have no idea how to pay off the debt; they only know how to continually go to the international credit card and hock Australia even further up.

We have pink batts. They put ceiling insulation in. We have dongas. We are heading towards $150 billion in gross debt, noting that Labor state governments are in excess of $160 billion in gross debt. These bills appropriate funds for the 2010-11 financial year, but the government wants us to focus on the promised land where in three years time we will apparently have a surplus because the Labor Party promises to fix its addiction to unsustainable spending. The impending surplus that they tell us about is about as believable as everything else the Labor Party says, and right now, if they open negotiations, we know that the surplus will not be there and that this miraculous $1 billion figure that has been delivered by the so-called economic cycle angel which will descend from heaven and make the deficit better is completely and utterly unbelievable. It is quite evident that we are now in a twilight zone where we are once more sucked into believing the Labor Party, who told us merely a couple of years ago that we today would be experiencing a $17 billion surplus. We now have a $57.1 billion deficit. We never had a deficit bigger in raw terms than that number.

The Labor Party promised to keep spending below two per cent in real terms. One way they achieve this is by a little accountancy trick. They keep moving $1.5 billion of spending from future years into this financial year. This is a ponzi scheme of a budget. They cannot keep this trick up in the future. A reckoning will eventually come for the Labor Party. We know what the Labor Party plan is for that reckoning. They will not cut spending. They will not suddenly become more disciplined. Instead they will raise taxes. In the budget overview the Labor Party produces a table trumpeting that they will make $30 billion in savings over the forward estimates. Over $16 billion of these savings—that is, over half—are higher taxes. The Labor Party are introducing a new tax on smoking to discourage smoking. That will raise about $5 billion. The Labor Party will introduce a new tax on mining to encourage mining. We are supposed to believe that this will raise $12 billion.

But it is not just tax. It is part of a nationalisation of the mining industry, bringing about immense sovereign risk to our nation, taking our nation to a peculiar corner which they have never been in before, putting the hearts and minds of people in regional Australia at complete unease because of what is happening to the structure of our economy. Where do these ideas come from? They came from the ‘kitchen cabinet’, the so-called gang of four, of which a member is going, by reason of backroom deals, to become the Prime Minister of our nation without ever going to an election. We are now basically going to have a 40 per cent ownership of the mining industry taking up 40 per cent of the revenues and accepting 40 per cent of the costs—or so we are led to believe. Who knows? Things change here overnight.

Do you think for one moment that if you now have a 58 per cent tax on mining companies you might have a slight problem with vertically integrated companies that work across nations’ boundaries? Do you think that a fully state owned enterprise from overseas is not going to move its profits, even though it might operate here, back to a more sensible and favourable tax regime? The RSPT is a bad tax. It is not elegant; it is just a blatant tax grab. It is premised on completely insubstantial foundations. There are statements that even if we raised the tax up to 60, 70 or 80 per cent it would make no difference to the desire of people to work in the mining industry and that profits will not move. Of course this is obviously and absurdly not the case. It is completely ridiculous. The government would have us believe that it is going to lead us to higher investment in the mining sector; however, the RSPT is creating many more problems. Xstrata has announced that two projects which would have employed over 3,000 workers in Queensland have been scrapped because they are no longer viable: the $6 billion Wandoan coal project and the $600 million Ernest Henry copper mine underground shaft project will not go ahead.

What the people of Australia do understand is that when these companies make profits they can afford to embark on costly exercises to create more mining wealth—wealth that Mr Rudd and now you, Ms Gillard, and your colleagues were lauding for helping Australia to weather the GFC. The Prime Minister knows that this is a bad tax. The Labor Party is desperately trying to sell this tax by spending $38 million on a blatant political advertising campaign.

This endeavour comes from a former Prime Minister—it changes so quickly round here—who at the last election said that political advertising was a ‘sick cancer within our system’ and ‘a cancer on democracy’, and I did not hear Ms Gillard contradict him on that. He went on to give an ‘absolute commitment’ to have the Auditor-General evaluate government advertising campaigns. Even today we heard Ms Gillard say that she will remove the campaign as long as the mining sector remove theirs. That is hardly an overwhelming endorsement of the philosophies and values that are now part of this new regime.

We should not be surprised that this government’s words do not match its actions. This is truly an Orwellian government. It is Building the Education Revolution by placing dongas at the back of school halls. It has a Nation Building Plan that allocates only 14 per cent of the stimulus spending on economic infrastructure . Where has the rest of it gone? And their Minister for Finance and Deregulation stated, ‘Government, after all, exists to regulate.’ I will take one quote from Orwell’s timeless essay The Politics of the English Language:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

The Labor Party dealt with this in their backroom deals by faceless people last night and this morning. Is there a better modern description of the walking PowerPoint slide that we had for a Prime Minister? Now we have the new office holder intending to, in some cathartic way, remove herself from decisions in which she was a partner in the disaster.

The coalition notes Senator Fielding’s proposed amendment to stop the government from spending this money on blatant political advertising. We certainly support the intent of this amendment, which is to make the government honour its election commitments. However, there is a very good historical reason why interference with appropriation bills is not condoned. There was an example in 1975 which is well known. There are many on the other side of the chamber who would understand that.

More importantly, if the government did want to advertise on public policy issues, other areas are certainly more deserving. Why isn’t the government warning the public on the risks of poorly installed insulation? Why isn’t the government informing the residents of the Murray-Darling Basin of the impending draft Basin Plan and the ways in which they can respond to it? Why isn’t the government informing the people of the Murray-Darling Basin that soon the sustainable diversion limits will nationalise the irrigation industry in the same way they nationalised the mining industry?

The government’s proposals to raise taxes are all just a direct consequence of the Labor Party’s addiction to spending and debt. Eventually the hangover comes and eventually the Australian people are presented with the bill for the Labor Party’s reckless and wasteful behaviour—or, as the finance minister put it, ‘The Labor Party’s failure to dot its i’s and cross its t’s’. That was an incredible statement when he was trying to explain how they got into this position with ceiling insulation.

Now they tell us that, as we go forward, we are to be impressed by the fact that we will be borrowing in excess of $700 million a week, putting upward pressures on interest rates and the cost of living for all Australians. That is supposed to be a good outcome. It cannot be a good outcome for the people of Western Sydney, it is not a good outcome for the people of regional Queensland and it is not a good outcome for business. Australia’s pressure on interest rates has come from Labor Party mismanagement, from a Labor Party that appears to have resigned this parliament to becoming a pandemonium palace.

The coalition delivered 10 surpluses in 12 years. An accountant judging this would say: ‘This is the sort of client that I want to run the books. That is the sort of client that has a real understanding of the worth of money.’ The Australian people are coming to terms with the fact that the Labor Party do not understand or value money.

This is a reckless government and quite obviously out of control. The government by their own actions have removed their leader. What an endorsement that is of the way they believe they are going! They eat their own. They know that they are a complete and utter botch job. There is not a hard decision in this budget to cut the reckless and wasteful government spending. In sum, this government are not fit to govern. The only way to turn around our great debt and deficit is to change the government, not its leader. These bills simply confirm what we all know. No matter how hard they try, this government do not know how to be responsible. They do not know how to act in such a way as to bring real change. They are ephemeral, they change leaders, there is pandemonium. They are a complete anachronism of what responsible government should be.