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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 9717

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (15:15): I also seek to take note of answers given by Senators Lundy and Wong to questions asked by Senators Cash and Cormann today. I am not sure if I am in a parallel universe, but I have an uncomfortable feeling I just heard Senator Gavin Marshall quoting John Howard. That is a slightly confusing experience for those of us who know the contempt that those opposite, and Senator Marshall in particular, would usually use for that sort of an analogy, but there we are.

The thing that I think was missing from Senator Marshall's speech, and it is enormously disappointing to see him leave the chamber, was a bit of enthusiasm, a bit of oomph, a bit of spirit in apparently celebrating his government's fifth anniversary. After Senator Mason's fantastic oration, everyone over here was put to sleep by Senator Marshall, who could not even bring a smile to his face to celebrate this fifth anniversary. It must be pretty sombre in the government party room at the moment. Those caucus meetings must be pretty dull. The answers we received this afternoon are a great illustration of why, after five years of Labor, Australia is, quite frankly, fed up. There is plenty of spin, there is plenty of obfuscation, but there is not a lot of substance.

It was pretty apparent early on that this federal Labor government in both of its iterations would be much like its state counterparts, which we have dismissed in a number of jurisdictions in Australia, including in New South Wales, my own state. Labor is always big on announcements, but pretty poor on delivery. So after 11½ years of stability and responsible economic management by the Howard government, which I will quote with affirmation and enthusiasm, and a positive approach, the people decided that they might take Kevin Rudd and Labor at their word. It was a big mistake. It was not long before their hopes were dashed that the Australia that Mr Rudd had built up in their minds was ever going to exist.

Mr Rudd made announcement after announcement. He spent money with reckless abandon, and generally acted like a federal Premier, as one journalist whose name escapes me put it at the time. And then in June 2010 came the assassination and Ms Gillard took office and things have only become worse. It is a lamentable record for the past five years. We have seen the Australian people completely misled by the introduction of the world's biggest carbon tax. We have seen this government preside over a massive increase in people's living costs. Senator Mason referred to price rises in electricity costs of 89 per cent. What do you think the real people are doing with that? How do you think the real people feel about the government based on that sort of performance?

The government have actually managed to turn $70 billion in net assets into more than $150 billion in net debt. That is a class act. That takes a real effort, but they have managed it. They have run up the four biggest deficits in Australia's history following on from the Howard government's four biggest surpluses. And as we were remarking on during question time today, the debt of this government is just an inconvenient truth—it did not make an appearance in Senator Marshall's remarks, did it?—and one they are serially incapable of facing up to. We have watched their extraordinary, unprecedented waste from overpriced school halls to dangerous roof insulation to an overpriced and underdelivered NBN. And it does not matter how many times Senator Conroy pretends that a take-up rate of less than 50 per cent is a fantastic thing, it simply is not.

They have, as Senator Cash has said time and time again in this chamber, weakened our borders. We have more than 500 boats arriving, carrying a total of 30,000 illegal arrivals. They make policy changes in an area as important as immigration policy to this country on almost a half-daily basis. It is beyond description. It is beyond understanding that they are the government of a nation that was in such a good position, as Australia found itself, at the end of 2007.

In immigration a knee-jerk response is the best way towards a disaster, and this government is presiding over exactly that. But even more disappointingly, it is failing on things that should be beyond politics, things I have brought up in this chamber before: programs for the creation of jobs and economic development for Indigenous Australians; the positions of homeless people in Australia, where funding in these areas is up in the air—

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator PAYNE: seventeen per cent rise in the ABS statistics is nothing to brag about—and organisations that do not know whether they will be properly funded into the future are disappointed. (Time expired)