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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4115


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (12:45): Listening to those opposite, I am reminded of the truism that strategy without resources is illusion. I can remember when then Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan stood up in the chamber and falsely claimed to deliver surpluses. We all remember those famous words, 'the four surpluses I deliver tonight.' What he actually delivered were record deficits, deficit after deficit, and debt on a trajectory to two-thirds of a billion dollars. That is $667 billion.

Ms Claydon interjecting

Mr NIKOLIC: Members opposite interject, but obviously they forget that when Prime Minister Howard left office our debt was zero in this country and they took it to a trajectory of $667 billion. The awful and appalling deception they perpetrate on our schools with these sorts of motions should be a cause of shame for those opposite, because as they are talking about more and more billions of dollars we are paying over $1 billion each month just to service the interest on our debt—over $15 billion in debt repayments every year. Imagine the opportunity cost and extra policy outcomes that we could deliver for our community if we were not paying $15,000 million every year to service the debt that the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments created from 2008 to 2013? Since the 2007 election Australia's debt repayments have climbed 266 per cent as a result of the profligate spending of those opposite. So they sit here today talking about not only the promises they have made and the debts they have incurred but also another $100 billion of expenditure—$1 billion here, $1 billion there and pretty soon you are talking about serious money.

You cannot trust Labor to put the national interest, to put the school interest or to put the hospital interest above the interests of their union mates because, as they have demonstrated, they will put the CFMEU's interests over the national interest when it comes to the ABCC, they will put the TWU's interests over owner-driver truckies when it comes to the RSRT and they will put the MUA's interests over an efficient coastal shipping fleet when the crunch comes. That is what those opposite do.

On schools: state and territory governments, as the member for Lyons quite rightly pointed out, are the majority funders of government schools, providing around 87 per cent of total public funding. They decide what funding goes to each school and how it is spent. But let us look at what some people have said about the year 5 and 6 Gonski promises that those opposite are falsely claiming that they will deliver. Former Labor minister Gary Johns said this about the Commonwealth's decision not to adopt the Gillard government's extravagant promises beyond the forward estimates:

These are not cuts; these are a correction to false promises.

More recently, South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill said on ABC radio on 29 January 2016:

… the federal Labor Party is saying some very good things … about maintaining its commitment to Gonski and providing support for the healthcare system, but we haven't seen any coherent or sustainable way in which that is going to be funded.

The ABC's Fact Check program confirmed in the last fortnight:

… it is far from certain that the Gillard promises would have ever been fulfilled: they were looking far into the future and the increases were never budgeted for. History shows that budgets can change dramatically from year to year and something cannot be taken away if it was never given in the first place.

And they never gave it in the first place. Swannie was wrong; there were no four surpluses! Swannie lied to the Australian people in claiming he was delivering surpluses. What he delivered was the most profligate period of spending in Australia's economic history. How do we trust Labor on schools when they ripped $1.2 billion out of the Gonski education funding in the 2013 economic statement? Yet they stand here and lecture us about funding schools. In Tasmania, Commonwealth school funding is increasing by $62 million, or 16.8 per cent, from 2014-15 to 2018-19. As my amigo from Lyons said, it is rising every year from record levels. So spare us your lectures. Spare us your lectures about Gonski funding. Start thinking about putting the national interest—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr NIKOLIC: ahead of the union interest—Deputy Speaker, I would invite the member to sit while I am speaking, thank you—and start telling the Australian people the truth about education funding.

Debate adjourned.