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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4034

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:04): I am very grateful to the member for Chifley for raising this matter of public importance in the parliament today because, after a very long parliamentary session, we have found it very difficult to find a matter of public importance raised by the other side. It falls to Labor and this side of the House to talk about the issues that are important to the Australian people, that should be debated in this parliament. The Leader of the House demonstrated forcefully today the number of hours that have been wasted by those opposite on spurious suspensions of standing orders so that the Leader of the Opposition could get up, day-in and day-out, and sometimes twice a day, to raise his stunts, to absolutely no effect—wasting the time of the parliament. If you want to talk about waste of taxpayers' dollars, just think about the amount of waste that has been caused by the Leader of the Opposition and the Manager of Opposition Business in the House coming in here day after day, wasting important parliamentary time, suspending standing orders and preventing us from talking about the issues that really are the matters of public importance in this House. So I am very grateful to my friend the member for Chifley for raising this matter of public importance—ensuring that we have fiscal responsibility as we approach the 2012-13 budget.

While the opposition is spending their time on stunts, the government is getting on with the important business of government. If there were a week in this parliamentary schedule when that could not have been more clear it is the week we have just gone through. The government has introduced and seen through this parliament some spectacularly important legislation, all of it opposed by those opposite because it is in their DNA is to say no to everything.

They said no to safe rates. They said no to ensuring that, when we and our families and friends get in our cars and share the roads with heavy vehicles, we have a safe motoring and a safe trucking industry. They say they cannot see the link between the number of hours a truck driver has to spend on the road and how safe the working conditions are for that truck driver. They beggar belief. That legislation was supported by this side of the House and all right-thinking Australians but was opposed by those opposite. We saw introduced into the House this week important maritime legislation. There, in the 11 years of government—

Mr Van Manen: I rise on a point of order. Looking at the wording of this matter of public importance—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Forde will resume his seat. Although the issue of relevance does apply, MPIs are always wide-ranging debates.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I am simply making the point that when we are discussing matters of public importance—the importance of ensuring that we have responsible fiscal management—it should be seen in the light of the broader of context of what we are trying to do on this side of the House and in the light of the frippery and the stunts which seem to dominate the obsession of those on the other side of the House.

It is seen in their attitude to the important maritime legislation, including the changes in taxation arrangements which will form part of the 2012-13 budget, which was introduced by the Leader of the House, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, this week. No doubt, that will be opposed by those on the other side of the House, because their idea of a maritime policy was to pull on a damaging one-month strike and confrontation with the maritime union. That strike had us in the High Court and had the nation's ports crammed up and jammed for several months. That is their idea of a maritime policy, while on this side of the House we believe that it is in the national interest to have a shipping line—to have Australian owned and operated ships—and that it is in the national interest that we have a trained domestic workforce that is able to work on those ships.

That is why in this budget and in the legislation before the House today we are putting in place tax incentives and other measures to ensure that we have an Australian shipping industry and that we have Australian workers working on those Australian ships. Those on the other side of the House put in place tax arrangements and other laws which encouraged foreign ships with foreign workers to ply the coastal trade around our great trading nation.

With regard to superannuation, we on this side of the House are introducing laws to ensure that workers get a real shift in their superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent. Those on the other side of the House are voting against that. They have form: in their 11 years in government the ordinary Australian men and women—wage and salary earners—never saw an increase in their superannuation as a result of any laws passed by those on the other side of the House, because they are opposed to dignity in retirement and retirement savings for ordinary Australian men and women.

I will move, now, to tax cuts. As a result of the legislation that we are moving in the House you will see 2.7 million small businesses in this country enjoying a tax cut—a tax cut opposed by those on the other side of the House. The reason that it is important that we have responsible fiscal management is that we can do things for pensioners. We have made historic reforms to the indexation of the pension system. That was something that was neglected by those on the other side of the House. In their 11 years in government they had a blind spot for the pensioners of this country.

When the economy was raining gold bars, do you think they could find it their dark hearts to properly index the pension systems in this country? It was beyond them. They opposed that. We on this side of the House are seeing through their stunts and their frippery and introducing important reforms, including the National Broadband Network. It is opposed by all of those members of the other side of the House when they are here in Canberra, but when they get back to their electorates they cannot love it enough. Liberal and National Party member after Liberal and National Party member are rushing back to their electorates and signing off letters to the minister. They are giving great speeches in their electorates about how they are working hard to ensure that they get the National Broadband Network in their electorates.

They talk a lot about deficits on that side of the House, but here is one deficit that you will not hear them talk about—that is, the $60 billion infrastructure deficit that we inherited when we came to government in 2007. You would think that the members opposite who represent rural and regional electorates would get this issue. You would think that in 11 years of government those National Party members would have found their voices and said, 'What are we doing while the economy is raining gold bars? Why aren't we spending money on the ports and on the rail and road networks of this country?' They could not find their voices. They were silenced in the coalition. They have found their voices now, but in the 11 years of government there was not a whisper, not a squeak, from the rural and regional members of the coalition parties.

We will bring the budget back into surplus. Labor will introduce a budget in May this year, which will be back in surplus. We will do that because we have put in place tight fiscal rules—tight fiscal discipline—in a way that was unknown to those on the other side of the House when they were in government. When it was raining gold bars they could not send the money out the door quickly enough. In fact, if you listen to those on the other side of the House, you hear that they say, 'We have a philosophy of introducing surpluses. Irrespective of the economic conditions, we will introduce surpluses.'

Pause for a moment and think about what that means. It means that the philosophy on that side of the House is that they are committed to taxing Australians more than the government actually needs to. That is what they are committed to doing. That is why the tax-to-GDP ratio while we have been in government has decreased from the high of 24.2 per cent when those opposite were in government to 21.2 per cent now that we are in government.

So I thank the member for Chifley for bringing this important matter of public importance before the House, because it is in stark contrast to what we have seen from them all week and all year.