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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 163


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (15:21): Australians, over the last eight weeks, have become very aware that the government they thought they were voting for, the one that was promised, is not materialising into the one that they have. To support this submission, I would put forward to the House and to those listening that this is a government which Australians are getting to learn about. It is a government of broken promises. It is a government that implements cuts that will hurt Australian families. It has divisions in its cabinet and it has unprecedented levels of secrecy.

Before the election, the now Prime Minister said, 'I will keep my commitments. We will do exactly what we say we will do.' But, less than eight weeks since the election, we are seeing the exact opposite. This is not the government that Australians were told they would be getting.

Let me talk about the challenge in the economy. Before the election, the Treasurer said, 'If debt is the problem, more debt is not the answer.' What do they do when they get into government? They run crazy on the government taxpayer credit card and are now seeking to almost double the debt levels. Before the election, the Prime Minister said that governments should be forced to specifically justify raising the debt ceiling and not just sweep it under the carpet. That was the coalition standard in opposition. It is a different and lower standard in government. Instead, they want to raise our debt to a historic level—$200 billion extra, the fastest and largest increase and the highest level of government debt in the history of federation. To be fair, this is not just secretive; it is sloppy.

Before the election, the coalition famously said that they would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. They said that they wanted to return to surplus as quickly as possible. But why on earth do they need to raise the debt level to $500 billion if they are planning to get into surplus by 2016-17? There is simply no case to raise the debt cap to $500 billion if you intend to get into surplus by 2016-17. If they have no plan to get into surplus, that is a different argument. But they cannot have both.

Instead of paying back the debt, they are inflating our deficit. And where do we start with their rash decisions? They have given a nearly $9 billion handout to the Reserve Bank of Australia, despite Treasury advice that it would be counterproductive. But, not content to increase the deficit by $9 billion, what do they do when they look at people with superannuation accounts of over $2 million? They give them extra tax breaks. If you are one of the 16,000 Australians who has an account of over $2 million, this government is on your side. But, if you are one of the 3.6 million Australians who earn less than $37,000, this is not the government for you.

The government want to give tax breaks to multinational companies. Indeed, they want to provide tax breaks for companies that seek to borrow to invest not—as you would think—in Australia but overseas. There we have it: in coalition-land, Australian taxpayers give tax breaks to those who do not need them, to multinationals and to companies to invest overseas. Why on earth didn't we think of that?

I will now talk about the priorities of the government. They made some simple promises before the election, ones that you would not have thought would be too hard to meet. The Prime Minister said that he would visit Indonesia in his first week. Bad luck, Indonesia: no Tony Abbott. He said that he would visit Arnhem Land in the first week. Bad luck, Arnhem Land: no Tony Abbott. Minister Ley promised to commence a Productivity Commission inquiry into child care in the first week. The poor little kids of Australia in child care have waited for eight weeks, and no Productivity Commission inquiry has started.

These serial repeat offenders in breaking promises famously said—and I like this one—that they would not have a Geneva focused foreign policy but a Jakarta focused foreign policy. I am sure that the Swiss are happy that there has been no focus on them, because what do a coalition frontbench do when they focus on you? They start abusing you. I love it: the coalition, fresh from being elected to government in Australia, have decided to try and run Indonesia. Why didn't we think of that?

Even more seriously, we have seen small businesses devastated by the bushfires. I ask the government—even if nothing I say convinces them—to please reconsider their approach to bushfire assistance to small businesses.

Whatever the problem, the Prime Minister says, 'Neck a public servant; get rid of a public servant.' But he says—and this comes from the lovely bubble-world that the coalition live in when it comes to industrial relations—that they can get rid of 20,000 public servants through natural attrition. They are going to wait for them to retire, supposedly. But instead what we are actually seeing is that they are not even keeping to that strategy. We are now seeing redundancies being offered.

And we have the famous boats promises. They were going to stop boats. Then they were going to buy boats. I bet that we never hear about the 'buy a tinny' strategy again. Now they are simply hiding the boats.

This is not the worst of it. Before the election, the coalition accused Labor of running a massive scare campaign when we said that the coalition would attack families in Australia. After eight weeks, we are seeing our claims coming true. These cuts are occurring. We know the list. Australians are learning about that list, to their disappointment. When you are in the coalition, why not cut the schoolkid's bonus? Why not take money off 1.3 million families? For a typical family, over the course of their children's schooling the coalition have put their hand in your pocket for $15,000. Only the coalition could dream of that.

Fresh from robbing the money from the kids, they moved on to people's superannuation. The government famously said that they would do nothing adverse to superannuation. Then they froze the superannuation increase. If you do not think that is adverse, go out into the real world. The coalition policy of keeping the superannuation guarantee at 9.25 per cent means that working Australians will have tens of thousands of dollars less. That is not the right way to ensure that Australians have decent retirements.

And 3.2 million small businesses get tax hikes worth $4.6 billion. Just because you say that you are the friend of small business does not make you the friend of small business. It is deeds, not words. The AI Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said this about the Prime Minister's tax hikes on small business: 'They will add complexity and compliance costs for eligible small businesses. It will subtract from their cash flow over the next few years at a time when many small businesses are struggling.' Do not just take our word for it; take the word of the Australian Industry Group.

We also understand that the Prime Minister's commission of audit is really a commission for cuts in drag. If we needed to be reminded or convinced of this, the chair of the Prime Minister's business advisory council went rogue on Monday—they let him out; I am sure that in the Prime Minister's office the red alarm lights went off. He is another very well off businessman proposing more crazy ideas that the coalition secretly love. Do you know what he said? He said that the minimum wage is too high. Do those opposite think that the minimum wage is too high? In fact, do those opposite even know what the minimum wage is?

They said that the NDIS is 'reckless'—thank you, very much, Maurice Newman! And we have seen the reports that the commission and the government are considering. We could not even dream up this list of scare campaigns in the election, because even we thought it was being unfair to the coalition. Why didn't we think of telling Australians that those opposite, looking to privatise HECS debt, were going to privatise Australia Post? They are going to outsource Centrelink and Medicare—and why not outsource the National Disability Insurance Scheme? So much for commitments about no surprises, so much for commitments about no honesty, so much for this government's priorities.

And we have seen the attack on experts. When you have a problem, why not blame an expert? The Prime Minister has never seen an expert that he did not want to sack. And we have seen disagreements within the government—not a promising sign. You have poor old Minister Macfarlane trying to stand up for the car industry. I love getting a lecture from the other side about the car industry! They want to rush down and just close the whole game down. What Mr Macfarlane said in the Financial Review is that if you do not subsidise the industry it will not be there. He then says, 'I accept that argument'—I am sure the Nats do, as frustrated agrarian socialists—'but I'm not sure that my colleagues do.'

Now we have seen the Treasurer, and we have seen the remarkable saga which is the difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister on GrainCorp. How good is it? We have an independent Foreign Investment Review Board, but we have those in the coalition feuding like cats and dogs about the future of GrainCorp. That is not business certainty. Indeed, the communications and finance ministers—this was a classic one— (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to respond to the statement when I say that your time has expired, and not go over time.