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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12837

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (16:05): I rise to speak on this very important matter of public importance: the adverse impact on the budget of the government's failure to control our borders. It is important because my constituents in Solomon, living in Darwin and Palmerston, are concerned about this government's inability to deal with both the Australian economy and Australia's borders. This terrible government is indeed a typical Labor government. It is addicted to spending, it has no self-control and it has failed the Australian people on so many important issues. It is a government full of hypocrisy and broken promises.

Since the Labor government reversed the Howard government's suite of Pacific solution policies, 480 boats have arrived illegally, carrying over 28,000 people. It is estimated that over 1,000 people have died taking the dangerous journey. We know that over 8,000 people have been denied protection visas. And why is this? Because this terrible Labor government decided to get rid of what was working. It got rid of proven policies that worked. This Labor government thought that implementing only some of the Howard government policies was going to work—despite the shadow minister, the Leader of the Opposition and many others on this side warning that the full suite of policies needed to be implemented by the Labor government in order to fix border protection. Implementing just bits and pieces of the policy was not going to work. Last financial year each illegal boat arrival cost an average of $12.8 million—that is, almost $13 million a boat. This is something that the government could have prevented, but instead it rolled out the red carpet and now Australians are paying the price. Labor gave the people smugglers a product to sell.

I am sure if you asked people in my electorate if they had an opportunity to spend just one allocation of $13 million in our electorate, they would probably want to spend the money on things like flood-proofing roads in the northern suburbs of Darwin, so that the CBD is not cut off from Royal Darwin Hospital during our monsoonal downpours. Or perhaps they would have put some of the money towards funding the NDIS.

In today's Northern Territory News the Northern Territory Minister for Health, Dave Tollner, is quoted as saying that the Northern Territory is billions of dollars in debt and hundreds of millions in deficit. This is courtesy of the former Northern Territory Labor government, who, like their federal Labor bosses opposite, seem to have no grasp of sound economic management. They also like to spend like a drunken sailor, with little care, making unfunded promises all over the country. It is because of this typical Labor government ineptitude that the promised new Palmerston hospital is now in doubt. In the same Northern Territory News article, shock jock Pete Davies says:

We've got the fastest growing jurisdiction in Palmerston and the rural area, we can't keep going backward … this thing needs to be built.

Pete Davies is 100 per cent right—the hospital does need to be built. I acknowledge that the federal Labor government pledged some funding for this much needed project, but just think how much more it could have contributed if it did not have a $1.3 billion budget blow-out courtesy of their appalling lack of responsibility in managing our borders.

The Labor government's record on hospitals in my electorate is quite shocking. I have said many times in this place that this federal Labor government has built more detention centre beds than hospital beds in my electorate. This is not just true in my electorate; in fact, it is true in many electorates around Australia. This government is more concerned about detention beds than hospital beds. My electorate is one of the most multicultural in Australia. We are proud of our multicultural community. What we are not proud of is how this Labor government and the former Territory Labor government spend money like drunken sailors, maxing out the public credit card. No-one trusts Labor with credit cards and no-one believes that this Labor government will deliver a surplus. As we know, my colleague the member for Longman has never seen Labor deliver a surplus, not in his lifetime.

There is no doubt this terrible Labor government has lost control of our borders and the budget and will not deliver a surplus. This Labor government has its priorities all wrong. It is using the Houston report to hide its fiscal and economic incompetence—an extra $1.3 billion in costs because of this Labor government's unprecedented and staggering border protection failure and budget blow-out.

It amazes me and many people in my electorate why this Labor government just cannot get a handle on border protection. I am often asked, 'Why don't they return to John Howard's policies? They worked. We all know they worked.' Others comment that federal Labor would rather spend money they do not have on detention centres than face up to their responsibilities to secure our borders. I am often asked, 'Why can't federal Labor spend more money providing houses?' There is a perception that this Labor government's priorities are illegal arrivals—a problem of their own making—rather than everyday Australians. I am often reminded that in the 2010 election the former Labor member for Solomon, with the support of the Territory Labor government, promised to build 1,200 homes to be used in its affordable housing scheme. It was bad enough that this was a rehash of a 2007 election promise, but it is worse when we see that to date fewer than 130 houses have been delivered. What a terrible track record. It is typical of Labor—overpromise and underdeliver.

The people of Solomon want to know why it is that this Labor government has delivered fewer than 130 affordable houses. Is this because of budget blow-outs? Don't people in my electorate deserve the houses Labor promised to build? Can't this government afford to follow through on its election promises to the people of Darwin and Palmerston? It is not only border protection and the budget that this Labor government has lost control of; it has lost control on building affordable houses. This government is only focused on delivering detention centre beds! Perhaps in 2013 the promise of more affordable houses will be another rehashed promise Labor will trot out in my electorate. Or will it be another broken Labor promise?

We recently saw at the Territory election Territory Labor promising to extend the Tiger Brennan highway with federal Labor government funding of $70 million, but so ashamed are they of the Labor brand that they did not want Territorians to know it was a promise from the Gillard Labor government. I suspect, now there is a $1.3 billion budget black hole, that the promised $70 million cheque from Julia Gillard will bounce—if written at all! Will it be another broken promise to Territorians, all because this terrible Labor government has lost control of its budget, lost control of its borders and lost control of its spending and promises?

Today is Halloween, the day people dress up in scary costumes, among other things. Normally I am not easy to scare, but this Labor government petrifies me. The absolute failure to execute one of its primary functions as a government—protecting our borders—really concerns me. It scares me because since this Labor government scrapped the Howard government policies, more than 1,000 people have died at sea, having taken the very risky and dangerous journey. Hundreds of boats have made the journey and this month alone 41 boats have arrived with 2,100 people on board. This makes an absolute mockery of the Labor government budget estimates of 450 people a month—a clear budget blow-out!

In conclusion I would like to say that this Labor government continues to make a raft of promises around the country, many of which appear to be unfunded. How can this be? This Labor government has an unprecedented blow-out because of its failed border protection policies. These failures impact not only my electorate but also all electorates across Australia. This government stands condemned for its fiscal and economic irresponsibility. If it cannot manage its borders, how can it manage the budget? How can the Australian people trust the government to do what is right?