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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8171


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:39): There was a time when the role of the opposition was to present itself as an alternative government. That time is in the long distant past. We have not seen that under the current Leader of the Opposition and those who follow him. They revel in the Leader of the Opposition as the champion of doom and gloom. We saw at the end of the last parliamentary session the Leader of the Opposition declare war on science and scientists. He declared war on economics and economists. We see at the beginning of this parliamentary session the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy leader declare war on good news, because that is what this matter of public importance is today. They continually come into this place day after day talking down the country, talking down the economy and talking down the good news. In fact, they have not found a good news story that they would not be willing to go out there and bag. Far from being a group of people who like to present themselves to the Australian people as an alternative government, they come here as the champions of doom and gloom and engage in a relentless campaign of mindless negativity. They have nothing to offer.

Is it any wonder that the Australian people are not buying it? They know there are some things to be worried about in this current Australian political debate. One thing they could start with is the $70 billion black hole that the shadow cabinet is considering at the moment. How on earth are they going to fund the outlandish and outrageous series of promises and cuts they are proposing and do anything to bring the budget back into surplus? They know they cannot do it. They know there is a huge $70 billion black hole in their economic plan.

We already know that their economic plan starts with slashing 12,000 jobs from the Australian public sector. If they are elected to the treasury bench the first act by this group of people who claim to be concerned about job losses will be to slash 12,000 jobs from the Australian economy. We know there will be more to come. We just heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition express her concern about border protection. She might like to answer this question: how many of those 12,000 jobs are going to come from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service? We have heard a lot of talk and concern from members, particularly from those who represent rural seats and are members of the National Party, about biosecurity, particularly in relation to fire blight and the importation of apples, which I know is an issue that is very dear to your heart, Mr Deputy Speaker. Members opposite might ask themselves: how many of those 12,000 jobs are going to be ripped from our biosecurity agencies and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry?

It is very easy to talk about 12,000 jobs, but when you have to identify those people and the programs and agencies they are going to come from it is a little more difficult. The Department of Defence, Centrelink, the court workers, the immigration workers and the people working tirelessly at this time of year to ensure that taxpayers get their tax returns paid on time are amongst the 12,000 as well.

We know that you will not find $70 billion just by slashing public servants. You would have to close down more than an entire department to do it. We know that, if they are going to meet the $70 billion black hole in their budget, they are going to have to do a bit more. Here are some other questions they might have to answer in this place and ask their constituents. What are they going to do to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme? How much are they going to pull out of the PBS? How many drugs will not get listed? They currently come to this place and say they are backing those consumer advocacy groups. They say, 'We will get your drugs listed if you just vote for us.' How many of those drugs and much needed services will not make it to the scheme? How much is going to be pulled from the PBS? If you are going to save big money, these are the places you have to go to, and those opposite know it.

What are they going to be doing about Medicare payments? What are they going to do about health and hospital funding?

Are they going to slash the record increases that we have seen under this government to health and hospital funding? It is very easy to get out there as the shadow treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition do and say, 'It's pretty easy for us to find savings.' The hard yards are to go line by line through the budget and find the savings. That is what this government have been doing. We have seen the greatest fiscal consolidation over the last 12 months and we will continue to see the greatest fiscal consolidation in our budget than has been seen in any country anywhere around the world and those opposite know it.

There are many things to be concerned about. Another thing that members of the public will be concerned about is when they look under the bonnet of the opposition's climate change policy. We have learnt today that this climate change policy is, in fact, a subsidy to polluters policy, because what they are proposing to do is to go household by household and say, 'You must pay for our policy which won't work.' In the last session of parliament we knew that the cost was $720 per household. Since the knee-jerk policy reaction of the Leader of the Opposition—this is policy brought to you by One Nation and talkback radio—we know that the blow-out in their climate change policy now brings the bill to $1,300 per household. What we are seeing from those opposite is all slogan and no content.

There are serious issues that we might consider in a matter of public importance debate. After the events of the last month you might think that those opposite might bring in here a matter for debate around the downgrading of the US credit rating over the last fortnight. You might think that we might have a debate in this place about the implications in this country of the riots that we have recently seen in London. They are serious issues worthy of debate. You might think that the upheavals in the Middle East, particularly in countries like Syria and Libya, are matters worthy of debate. You might think the European financial crisis is something that we might have a debate about in a matter of public importance. Instead what we see from the champions of doom and gloom is that they come in here day after day trawling for disappointment—they have never met a good news story that they would not like to bag—trying to drag down confidence in the Australian economy and in our Australian institutions.

The opposition are far from recognising that in this country we are actually in one of the best positions of any country in our region and any country around the world. These are not our words. These are the words of the Reserve Bank Governor, because he has said on more than one occasion that when he travels the world, as he does regularly, and talks to other central bankers, he has not yet met a central banker whose place he would like to trade with.

Let us have a look at the ultimate test of the world's measure of the Australian economy, and that is the Australian dollar. That is where the institutions of the world get to put their money where their mouths are and make an assessment about the strength of the Australian economy compared to every other country around the world. We will not have the doom and gloom scenario proffered by those opposite. They ignore the fact that we have the lowest unemployment rate in decades and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD. They ignore the fact that we are filling the huge black hole that they left behind in infrastructure investments. We have record spending in rail, ports and roads. They ignore the fact that business is actually backing the strength of the Australian economy and we have the capacity to really boom over the coming years with a record pipeline of investment—$400 billion. They bag the NBN; they bag health and hospital reform.

They seem to overlook the fact that we have delivered tax cuts for three years in a row, which means that the average wage earner on $68,000 a year is now paying $1,000 less in tax than when the opposition were sitting on this side of the House. They overlook that and that there are more tax cuts to come. We have a plan to spread the benefits of the mining boom through the minerals resource rent tax. Their plan is to whack households $1,300 per annum and give the money to the big polluters, hand back the money to the big miners and then run round the country and sack public servants and others. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The discussion is now concluded.