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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3522


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (15:16): Three years ago in his 2010 budget night address, the Treasurer announced:

A strategy that will see the budget return to surplus in three years' time, three years ahead of schedule …

Two years ago the budget speech insisted:

We will be back in the black by 2012-13, on time, as promised. The alternative—meandering back to surplus—would compound the pressures in our economy and push up the cost of living for pensioners and working people.

One year ago he announced:

The four years of surpluses I announce tonight are a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy …'

On Tuesday this week, in this year's budget, he says:

We have taken the responsible course to delay the return to surplus.

'Delay the return to surplus'! Under Labor there will never be a surplus. In spite of promising 500 times, going way back to 2010, that there would be a surplus in 2012-13, there is no surplus and there is, frankly, no surplus in sight. Five record budget deficits and two more at least yet to come. But no-one really believes that Labor has a plan in place which could actually deliver a surplus. The current Treasurer is pathologically incapable of doing it. The government is incapable of managing its finances to deliver a surplus. The government is so wasteful, so imprudent, so unable to manage its own affairs that there will always be deficits.

What alarms me about this government is that they do not even seem to care anymore about the deficits. We keep getting excuses: 'It doesn't really matter. There are other people with bigger deficits than us, so it doesn't really matter anymore.' What this government with its cavalier approach is doing is sentencing future generations of Australians to paying for their inability to manage their affairs. They are relying on an incoming government sometime in the future to pick up the bills for promises made but not funded in this budget—for the failure to be able to deliver a balanced budget over so many years.

The government has been incapable of balancing this budget, even though it collects $80 billion more in revenue than the last budget of the Howard government. The Treasurer keeps giving us excuses about the global financial crisis, coolness in the resource sector or a range of other excuses. But whatever his excuses are, the facts are he has at his disposal in this budget $80 billion more than the Howard government had in its last budget. That budget produced a surplus. Labor cannot produce a surplus, even with $80 billion worth of extra revenue. The reason for that, fundamentally, is that it is spending $120 billion more than the last Howard government.

People might not mind so much if it were not wasted or if in fact there were genuine measures put in place to ensure that that amount could be paid for. But, in reality, the money has been wasted. Labor is spending its way into deficit. There has been no loss of revenue; there have been increases in revenue. What there has been is an extravagance of expenditure: on pink batts, on overpriced school halls, on all sorts of other wasteful programs—things that in actual fact have not delivered a more productive society.

Today we see complaints again about a loss of revenue. There has been one phrase missing in Labor's rhetoric during this budget—one we heard a lot during the last budget—and that was the phrase that Labor was 'spreading the proceeds of the boom'. Today, the bad news is: there isn't any boom. This government has destroyed it. This government has driven away the incentive to invest. It has taxed away the capacity for people to want to actually invest in this country and deliver the boom. Labor has destroyed the boom. There are no proceeds left to distribute.

You just have to look at the mining tax. When it was originally proposed, Labor said it would collect $4 billion this year. Later they had to revise it downward to $3 billion and then $2.2 billion. But how much are they actually collecting? Two hundred million dollars. That is the proceeds of the boom: $200 million.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TRUSS: Lucky they are not in business—absolutely. And the prospects are not too much better for the future. The promised $22 billion is now down to $3.3 billion. As a result, they have had to go in and axe programs like the regional investment fund—$2 billion gone from the promises made to regional Australia. I wonder where the member for Lyne and the member for New England are. These are the people who backed the mining tax because they were given a promise that there would be investments in regional Australia. That promise was broken this week in this budget. The $2 billion promised is gone—the spreading of the proceeds of the boom that no longer exists. The government often talk about the extra tax that they would receive if they collected the same share of GDP as the Howard government collected. Well, if they spent the same share of GDP as the Howard government did, they would be in surplus.

Families have nothing to show for this government and its expenditure. What we got on Tuesday night was more debt, more deficits and more deceit. The Prime Minister's 'we will all share in the gain' mantra has now turned into 'we will all share in the pain'. Australian families are to be slugged with $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years. There are more taxes on super, the higher Medicare levy, the removal of promised cuts to family tax, and a range of other tax increases. Labor like to say that they have made $43 billion worth of savings in this budget, but of that $43 billion worth of savings $25 billion is actually new taxes. It is not savings at all; it is taking more off Australian families and businesses for Labor's spending program.

The Treasurer has now confirmed that the gross government debt will not just exceed the $300 billion debt ceiling but bust it wide open at $370 billion. Yesterday in question time, when asked about this matter, the Treasurer said that gross debt in 2012-13 is $292.8 million; in 2013-14, it will be $321.3 million; in 2014-15 it will be $345 million; and the peak is $356 million. Putting aside the fact that he got his millions and billions mixed up—not altogether surprising for this Treasurer, particularly when he is drawing up his expenses and his receipts—he actually stopped the answer because, if he had read one more year, he would have got a peak of $370 billion. When they legislate to increase the credit card limit, which is what will have to be done for the fourth time, they will need a minimum of about $400 billion to keep up with their runaway expenditure—the debt that Australians have to pay back. The government cannot make light of it; it all has to be paid back.

It is even worse when you consider that they inherited, in the bank, $70 billion. They have squandered the inheritance, and the money that was put aside to help future generations pay for the extra health and welfare costs of an ageing society has all been spent and wasted rather than being a legacy that could be used when it is going to be needed to meet the extra costs of an ageing society.

When the previous Labor government left office, they had a $96 billion mess of net debt to be cleaned up. Paying that back took the coalition government the best part of a decade. It required prudent and responsible economic management by the Howard government and a really mature and patient understanding from the Australian people. There are 16 of us in the coalition who were ministers through those years, and we know the discipline that was required. It is staggering to think that paying back Labor's debt over the same period would require a $30 billion surplus every year. This government has never produced a surplus. The next government is going to have to find a surplus of $30 billion a year just to remove the debt, let alone starting to rebuild the nest egg that is going to be necessary to meet the cost as our society ages and to meet the costs that will be required to manage our economy and our society in the way we would wish.

Labor's idea of prudent financial management, at a time when cost-of-living pressures are skyrocketing, is adding more baggage to families and to businesses to further constrain the economy. The Treasurer keeps saying that, no matter who is in government, they will have the same challenge of falling tax receipts, which would have to be confronted in a tough budget. Well, the basic premise that receipts would have fallen even under a coalition government is wrong. Falling revenues directly correlate to the crisis of business and consumer confidence that has been created by this government. Hopefully, we will do things better, take advantage of the global situation and be able to build on Australia's natural strength. We have seen failed policies that impinge on investment—like the mining tax, the carbon tax and the chopping and changing in superannuation taxes that undermines people's retirement savings. Families are frightened about what is going to happen next under Labor. They are fearful that, if they stick their heads up and make a go of something, this government will come down on them like a tonne of bricks. Business investment is being deferred, and big-ticket consumer spending is also being deferred.

The government is always desperate for excuses, but each one of these excuses is hollow. The Treasurer said again today that the high value of the dollar was the reason why the government was in financial crisis. Well, the reality is that the government does not get many figures right in its budget—some say it gets none—but, in the 2012-13 budget, the government predicted that the average value of the Australian dollar would be US$1.03. And guess what it was: US$1.03. That was the only figure the government got right. It budgeted on it being US$1.03, and now it wants to make an excuse because it got its budget right on one number.

They said, 'The trade weighted index has moved against us.' They got that right. They predicted it would be 77 in the last budget, and that is exactly what it has turned out to be. Now they want to use that as an excuse. This government has placed intolerable pressures on Australian families. Since Labor was elected, electricity has gone up by 93.8 per cent, water and sewage by 63.1 per cent, utilities by 79 per cent, gas by 61.8 per cent, insurance by 45.4 per cent, education by 38.7 per cent, rents by 30.2 per cent and housing by 29.6 per cent. Labor has imposed all of these additional burdens on families at a tough time. Yet through this budget they have means-tested family tax benefits. They have got rid of the baby bonus. They have frozen family tax benefits A and B. They introduced a flood tax in a previous budget and now there is a levy on Medicare. The government has cut and capped the childcare rebate. They have means-tested the 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance. They have means-tested the medical expenses tax offset and now require an extra amount before anyone can claim it.

There are dozens of these additional tax burdens that Labor has imposed on Australian families. This is a government that has lost its way. It cannot balance a budget. It has no idea how it can turn our nation to prosperity to pay off its own debts. It has no plan for the future. The only way Australia will ever get its budgets balanced and be able to work with families to achieve a better life style for themselves and for their communities is for there to be a change of government. May the next budget be delivered by a different Treasurer and a different government which will be competent and manage our economy properly.