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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 2654


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (16:23): The budget delivered by the Treasurer, Mr Swan, last night is another deeply disappointing budget. It is a budget which delivers more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises, more uncertainty. It is yet another budget which does nothing to strengthen our economy, to make us more competitive internationally or to help families deal with rising cost-of-living pressures. There is no credible pathway back to surplus. Earlier today the Treasurer and Senator Wong were running the arguments that 'Yes, it is true that this time last year we really did plan, we really did have an intention, to bring the budget back to surplus this year.' What a completely dishonest attempt to rewrite history. There was not an intention, there was not a plan; there was an ironclad guarantee, a rock-solid commitment. There was a promise that, come hell or high water, the budget would be back in the black. That is what the Prime Minister said. The Assistant Treasurer, Mr Bradbury, was so convinced by the spin in Labor's budget last year that he went out to the constituents in his electorate with a flyer to say that Labor had delivered a surplus, which, of course, was not true, though Labor had promised a surplus—not that the Treasurer fessed up to it in his budget yesterday. What we now know is that the government, having promised a surplus this time last year of $1½ billion, is on track for a $19.4 billion budget deficit, the fifth budget deficit in a row under Wayne Swan's stewardship.

There are accumulated deficits of $191 billion under this government so far. In the first five years the government spent $191 billion more than it raised in revenue, even though this Treasurer had the benefit during the first four years of the best terms of trade in 140 years and even though this Treasurer introduced about 30 new or increased taxes in the first four budgets. As Senator Joyce accurately pointed out, this financial year is not over yet and we have not seen the final budget outcome yet. Conveniently, that will not happen until after the election. Do not tell me that the timing of the election has not got anything to do with that. Let me remind the chamber what the Treasurer said in last year's budget speech:

The deficit years of the global recession are behind us. The surplus years are here.

But we know that that was just a complete fabrication, a complete figment of the Treasurer's imagination. Given that people could not trust what Mr Swan predicted in his budget last year, why should anyone trust what he said in his budget this year? He is still making the same mistakes, either deliberately to mislead or incompetently.

Over the last couple of months we have had a plethora of extraordinarily dishonest spin from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation about the reasons behind the failure of the government to deliver a budget surplus this year. We predicted this last year. We predicted last year, when the Treasurer wanted to make people believe that government revenue would go up by 12 per cent, that it would not happen. The government wanted us to believe this time last year that government revenue would increase by 11.8 per cent, to be exact, at a time when Treasury was also predicting that the economy would grow more slowly, that our terms of trade would fall, that the Australian dollar would be high. That was all predicted, but the Treasurer, Mr Swan, wanted people across Australia to believe that government revenue would go up by 11.8 per cent. It was never believable; it was never going to happen. The only person in Australia who truly seemed to believe that it would happen was the Treasurer and when the inevitable happened—when he failed to meet his overly or aggressively or unrealistically optimistic revenue forecasts—he threw his hands in the air and said: 'Our revenue has collapsed.' In fact, they have a technical description where they talk about 'revenue write-downs' without giving you the fine print that revenue has only been written down against the overly optimistic and always unbelievable and dishonest predictions made by the Treasurer in the budget last year. But they do not give you that fine print.

Sometimes some of their own ministers get caught up in the spin. This morning at a budget breakfast with three accounting bodies, Mr Shorten had to correct himself. He started to say, 'Well, you know revenue has been falling'. Guess what, Mr Acting Deputy President? Government revenue in Australia is increasing and it is increasing strongly. Government revenue this financial year is up by more than six per cent, and next financial year it is expected to be up by more than seven per cent. That is nearly three times the rate of inflation. Just to pick up on the Prime Minister's example in recent weeks of average wage earner John, if any average wage earner across Australia were told: 'Guess what? You are going to get a seven per cent pay rise this year, on top of a six per cent pay rise last year' and if they were able to cover their expenses last year, they would say: 'That is great. Not only will I be able to cover my expenses next year, I will actually be able to put some money away for a rainy day.' But not this government. This government does not have a revenue problem; this government has a spending problem. This government is collecting $80 billion more revenue this year than in the last year of the previous coalition government. The problem is that this government is also spending $120 billion more this year than in the last year of the previous coalition government. That is how they turned a $20 billion surplus, which is what they inherited, into a $20 billion deficit—a $40 billion turnaround.

As I have said, Labor is still at it: the revenue forecasts in this budget are still dishonest. As much as the Treasurer is out there complaining about falling terms of trade, he is actually expecting the terms of trade over the next few years to essentially remain the same. His forecast for our terms of trade is to suggest that they will remain at least 15 per cent higher than their highest level under the previous government. Despite all of his bleating about the strength of the Australian dollar, and the impact that that has on the budget, he has not changed the exchange rate forecast—it was $1.03 in last year's budget; it is $1.03 in this year's budget. And you cannot blame the impact of the Australian dollar on government revenue for the failure by the government to raise the revenue it predicted, because last year $1.03 was predicted and that was essentially what happened throughout the year.

As for the mining tax, it has been a complete failure. It is a complex, distorting, inefficient tax that is costly to administer and costly to comply with. It will raise just $200 million this year, 95 per cent below the original forecast that Wayne Swan made when he announced the tax—yet he wants us to believe that it will increase by more than 10 times over the forward estimates. It is not going to happen. He wants us to believe that the carbon price is going to be double what any other expert thinks it will be in 2015-16. Then the government is drawing a line between its inaccurate assumption in 2015-16 and an imaginary objective of $38 a tonne in 2019-20, and it is saying that everything on the line is now its new estimate in the intervening years. This government could not be trusted last year; it cannot be trusted this year. It is time for this government to go. It is time for this government to be replaced with a government that can actually manage the books.