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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1906

WYATT ROY (Longman) (16:15): The Australian society that I believe in is a society that encourages its citizens to expand their horizons and to dream big—a society that instils in its citizens the ethos that, with hard work, your goals, your ambitions and your aspirations are always obtainable. So embedded are these aspirational values in our culture that our generation has grown up understanding that homeownership will be reality and employment in our dream job a probability. Our generation has grown up believing that all of our aspirations are possible, because we have grown up in a country that understands the importance of fiscal responsibility, a country that has a strong society and a strong economy.

But something is changing. In this country we have a Labor government that has walked away from the people it once claimed to represent. No longer can our generation afford to assume with careless confidence that our aspirations are understood and respected by the key decision makers in this country. This Labor government is betraying a generation of Australians by threatening our economic stability and way of life, and miserably failing to understand what this country needs. It is for this reason that I rise to speak today.

The aspirations and goals of so many Australians are under threat due to this Labor government's self-serving survivalist nature. Instead of a respect for the forgotten Australians, the very people this government should represent, this government has chosen to pursue its own agenda, to focus internally on its own political survival instead of listening to the forgotten Australians—those hardworking Australians simply trying to get ahead. This government spends most of its time listening to pollsters and spin doctors.

The point is this: since this Labor government took power in 2007 home affordability and real household wealth have declined. Australians are not working any less than they were four years ago—working to own their own homes and maintain their lifestyles, the very things that they aspire to—but this Labor government have continually taken moves that have put real pressure on Australians achieving their aspirations. They have consistently made the lives of hardworking Australians harder, not easier. If this Labor government were listening to those forgotten Australians, they would know that higher taxes and greater government intervention in our lives make it harder, not easier to get ahead.

Let me put this into context how this Labor government has lost its way. It has delivered the four biggest budget deficits in Australian history. This government has turned a $20 billion surplus into $167 billion of accumulated deficits, by taking government spending from 22.9 per cent of gross domestic product to 26.2 per cent of GDP. It has managed to stack up a massive $133 billion of debt, equating to $6,000 for every Australian man, woman and child—a debt burden that will be carried across generations. Australians have watched as this Labor government has turned a $20 billion surplus into $100 million a day in borrowings with a $20 million a day interest bill—a bill that is having lasting damage on our fiscal position. Labor's addiction to wasteful spending is having a broad implications for Australians and Australian business. It is adding pressure to interest rates, which have begun to rise independent of Reserve Bank decisions. Debt, deficits and borrowing are nothing new for the Labor Party. As I have said in this place before, in my lifetime there has not been a single Labor budget surplus handed down. The Labor Party is heading towards its 10th consecutive deficit. Compare this with the 10 coalition surpluses out of 12 budgets. The truth of these statistics is clear: the Labor Party is under the influence of a long-term addiction to wasteful government spending. It is this addiction that has caused the four biggest budget deficits in our country's history. It is in Labor's DNA to waste taxpayers' money and produce budget deficits just as much as it is in the coalition's DNA to be prudent when spending taxpayers' money.

Just like all addicts, this Labor government is making its best efforts to disguise its addiction. In a direct hit on the Australian people and the Australian way of life Labor is attempting to disguise its addiction by penalising the taxpayer. Over the past four years, Australians have been hit with 19 new and increased taxes. What that says to me is that this Labor government is making the aspirations of Australians less achievable in 19 ways. The costs of living are increasing for everyday Australians in 19 new ways. Home ownership is less affordable. Interest rates are going up. Real wages have declined. Real household wealth has declined. Net job availability has declined and productivity has stagnated. This does not paint a good picture for the future of Australia.

There is a better way. We once again need a government that will scrap unnecessary taxes, cut wasteful spending and reduce the tax burden on business. Once again we need a government that is guided by a belief that governments do not have any money of their own; they only have the people's money held in trust. If Australians are to have every opportunity to achieve their aspirations, we again need a government that understands that a hand-up is always better than a handout. We need a government that understands that opportunity is always better than subsidy. We need a government that understands that all Australians should have freedom of choice and we need a government that rewards hard work instead of penalising it. We need a government that recognises that it may not have a solution to every problem, that all too often it is the problem. We need a government that does fewer things but does them better.

These are the fundamental principles that will always guide us as Liberals. These are the principles that the Labor Party will never understand. While we will always believe that you know how to spend your money better than anyone else, the Labor Party will believe that the government know better than you. They will always be driven by a desire to spend more and more of your money. Let us look at Labor's record. We have seen a constant example of waste and mismanagement from a government that refuses to rein in its expenses on poorly planned and executed programs. Over the past four years, we have seen a program giving away set-top boxes at $700—something that could have been purchased and installed commercially for less than half the price. We have seen a billion dollars to install Pink Batts and then another billion dollars to pull them out again. We have seen school hall rip-offs, with a blatant disregard for taxpayers' money.

All of this waste and mismanagement leaves Australians asking what the future holds for our country. This government speculate that they will repay $1.5 billion off their debt next year. Even if we are to believe this speculation, which seems highly unlikely based on their past record, even if we could count on this repayment, at this rate it will take 89 years to pay off the debt. That is like having a $20,000 credit card bill and paying $223 off the credit card in a year. At that rate, by the time Australia is once again in the black, I will be, potentially, 110 years old. That will see Australians of our generation destined to spend their entire working lives repaying this Labor debt, which was incurred in just four years.

Australians are aware that we must take personal responsibility for our financial future, but Australians also rely on us as legislators to make this task as easy and as practical as possible. Australians do not expect or want governments to be acting in ways that will make this task more difficult. Yet this Labor government have left our generation to carry the burden of their reckless decisions and mismanagement across the course of our working lives.

It is clear that this Labor government is out of touch with the aspirations of the people that it once claimed to represent. The last thing that the people of my community expect is that their hard earned dollars will be used to fund the waste and mismanagement of an inefficient and overly bureaucratic government. The locals in my community have a fair expectation that their government takes pressure off budgets, that their government facilitates a prosperous economy that has increasing job opportunities, that their government lives within its means, as they have to, and that their government values their money and delivers better services and infrastructure. Our country will face challenges in the future. Our generation will carry the debt burden of Labor. Our generation will see the challenges of an ageing population whereby we will inevitably have a much greater burden on government, drawing from a smaller tax base. We will face the challenges of a post mining boom economy. We as a nation must meet these challenges from a position of strength. We must take advantage of the opportunities that we now have. To meet these challenges we need to grow the productive capacity of the economy and we need to see more Australians earning higher real wages. It is here that we see the fundamental philosophical divide in our nation. While Labor still believe that they can tax a nation into prosperity, we as Liberals know the exact opposite to be true. As the great forefather of the Liberal tradition in this country, Sir Robert Menzies, said, 'We are a tax reduction party.' Menzies understood then, as the coalition does today, that 'real tax reductions would be the best of all incentives to increase effort, earnings and production'.

As I said in my first speech in this place, it is the Liberal side of politics that is the side of opportunity. We are the party based on encouragement rather than on subsidy and on a hand up rather than on a hand down. It is because of these philosophical beliefs that we will always fight for lower taxes, smaller and more efficient government and the individual's right to choose. It is these principles and this core belief held by the coalition which underline the fundamental difference between the coalition and this Labor government. A coalition government will cut the waste and mismanagement; it will respect the money of the people of Australia.

Under a coalition government we will see high productivity, job growth, sustainable development and a modern enterprise economy that eradicates barriers to opportunity and engagement. Under a coalition government the $133 billion of Labor debt will be paid down and the country will stop borrowing $100 million every day. We will put downward pressure on interest rates, helping Australian small businesses and families, easing the cost of living and rising operating costs for businesses. We in the coalition believe that we need to maximise every available opportunity to plan for our future. We believe that the key to a strong prosperous economy is to get spending down so that we can get productivity up. That means less borrowing, lower pressure on interest rates and less tax.

The two sides of politics could not be further apart. Popular media all too often claim that the major political parties are moving closer together. This could not be further from the truth. There is only one side of politics with a strong plan for Australia's future. We believe in a nation of limitless opportunities, but we also understand that to achieve our aspirations we need to prepare for the future.

May I, once again, look to Menzies. When Menzies launched the first Liberal Party campaign, he said:

We need to return to politics as a clash of principles and to get away from the notion that it is a clash only of warring personalities.

The modern Labor Party is nothing more than a clash of personalities, a modern political party devoid of any principles, driven only by pollsters and spin doctors. We on this side of the chamber are prepared to debate principles. We on this side of the chamber, continuing in the Liberal tradition, stand for lower taxes, smaller government and an individual's choice.

Menzies was correct when he said 'We are a tax reduction party,' which stands in stark contrast to the 19 new or increased taxes of this Labor government. It is our commitment to these principles that saw the previous coalition government deliver a 20 per cent increase in real wages, a 100 per cent increase in the net wealth for each Australian and more than two million new jobs. Higher productivity cannot be mandated by government. It does not come from government interference. Higher productivity is born out of creativity and ingenuity of hardworking Australians. It occurs when businesses are part of a strong economy and are set free from red tape. The coalition will achieve higher productivity by cutting red tape for small businesses, helping small businesses with their books by putting downward pressure on interest rates and operating costs. A coalition government will save $1 billion a year in red-tape expenses by requiring government departments and agencies to set targets to reduce regulations and quantify the cost of their regulations. The coalition has a strong plan for Australia, a plan that will see a stronger economy by getting government spending down and productivity up. We will stop the borrowing and repay the debt, easing the pressure on Australians and allowing their aspirations to once again become tangible realities. As the elected representatives of the Australian people our greatest responsibility in this place is to make the lives of those we represent easier, not harder. The coalition will once again restore hope, reward and opportunity to Australian society.