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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8415


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:19): I am following on from my colleague Senator Brandis, who put his argument so well about this proposed budget surplus in the future.

It was an honour just a couple of hours ago to have a chat to former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, at the front of Parliament House, in relation to the men's sheds and the great work that he does with mental health. I said to Mr Kennett, 'I remember the days when you won government in Victoria, when the Labor Party under the Kirner-Cain government left the state broke'. There was a $60 billion debt, and Mr Kennett had to sell off electricity; $19 billion worth, and every cent used to retire debt.

At the same time, of course, the South Australian government went broke under Labor. So did the Western Australian government and the Tasmanian government. In the meantime, Canberra in those days—the late eighties and early nineties—was under the so-called careful financial watch of one Mr Paul Keating, who was borrowing around $10 billion a year. The legacy of Labor is to empty the bank account, and the amazing thing about it all was that a couple of years ago here was a government borrowing and spending and stimulating the economy while the Reserve Bank was doing what, Senator Bushby? Raising interest rates to slow the economy! That is like driving your car with your foot on the accelerator and pulling the handbrake on at the same time! We have a government borrowing money to a massive $256 billion of gross debt last Friday while the Reserve Bank is putting the brakes on the economy. How foolish is that? There would not be one economist in the world who would agree that that is good economic policy.

Following on from Senator Brandis, let me quote from Prime Minister Gillard in Hansard 11 May 2011:

As promised, we will return the budget to surplus in 2012-13.

On 11 May, again in Hansard, she said:

This budget is bringing the budget back into surplus in 2012-13—

There are some 30 quotes here from Prime Minister Gillard saying that there will be a budget surplus this year.

There is one thing you can rest assured of and that is that the election will be before mid-September next year, because in mid-September the true figures of this financial year's budget will be released. There will be no surplus. Even fudging the books, bringing $5 billion PAYG payments into this financial year will not save them. They will put on new taxes. We can go back through the luxury car tax, the alcopops tax, the cigarette tax, the flood tax, the carbon tax, the mineral resource rent tax—and it has been an absolute farce the way they have managed their budget with regards to that—there will be no budget surplus, and fudging the books will not fool the Australian people.

This is the point—the Australian people do not trust this government. They do not trust this government to manage money. They do not trust this government to spend taxpayers' money and, sadly, borrowed money, wisely. So much has been wasted in stupid stimulus programs on school buildings and pink batts and in the meantime, when we really need some money for essential programs, the debt is so great now that money has been spent. There will be no budget surplus—

Senator Fifield: Under a government I lead!

Senator WILLIAMS: and I will take the interjection from my colleague Senator Fifield. There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead!

Senator Fifield: She got her lines mixed up!

Senator WILLIAMS: There will be no budget surplus under a government I lead! I can go back through my life from leaving school at the end of 1972 in Adelaide. Every state government led by Labor and every federal government led by Labor could not manage money. Every time the coalition was elected after a state or federal government changeover, what do they have: debt, debt, and more debt!

Look at Queensland. The $70-odd billion of debt is going be $85 billion by 2015 and $100 billion before 2020. There are 4½ million people in Queensland and they wonder why Premier Campbell Newman is making cuts. He has to make cuts or let his state go down the road of Greece, Portugal or Spain. You cannot do that. Likewise in New South Wales, Barry O'Farrell inherited a mess, a $5 billion black hole and a huge debt. This government will keep wasting, they will keep borrowing, and we will never see black print at the end of a budget. That is why we will have an election before mid-September next year, to save the embarrassment of more debt.