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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1387

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (18:53): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2013- 2014. Representing the electors of Hasluck, I feel it is important to talk about the appropriation bills and the importance of these for my electorate and our country.

I was listening to the member for Shortland. One of the challenges and part of the issue that we have to seriously consider is that we cannot live beyond our means; we cannot continue to increase government debt. Significant items proposed for appropriation in the bills include: just over $8.8 billion to the Department of the Treasury, for a one-off grant to the Reserve Bank of Australia to meet its request to strengthen its financial position; just over $2.5 billion for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, re-appropriating amounts previously provided to AusAID, that are required this financial year for expenditure by DFAT; just over $1.1 billion for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, particularly including amounts for offshore asylum seeker processing; and just over $540 million for the Department of Defence for overseas operations, to supplement foreign exchange movements and for the re-appropriation of amounts between the appropriation acts aligning with Defence's current work programs.

The bills include significant appropriations for Defence to deal with priority pressures that were recognised by the former Labor government in their August 2013 economic statement. This includes consolidation of Defence warehousing and fuel storage remediation by Defence to secure future efficiencies. This will have an immediate positive impact on jobs and economic activity in affected regional locations.

For six years under the Labor government, voters experienced broken promises and the infliction of unnecessary financial pain on families and businesses. I see that frequently in the electorate when I am out doorknocking or meeting with small businesses that have experienced the downturn in the economy and the lack of confidence and of spending by families, who small businesses have come to rely on as a core customer focus.

These bills will enable the Abbott government to get on with the job we promised we would do—deliver strong, stable and responsible government. The appropriation bill includes funding to enable the Department of the Treasury to make an $8.8 billion one-off grant to the Reserve Bank of Australia. In the minister's second reading speech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, the Hon. Michael McCormack said:

First, the bill includes funding to enable the Department of the Treasury to make an $8.8 billion one-off grant to the Reserve Bank of Australia. The grant will strengthen the Reserve Bank's financial position to the level considered appropriate by the board of the Reserve Bank. This will ensure that the Reserve Bank is adequately resourced to conduct its monetary policy and foreign exchange operations in an environment of financial market volatility.

Financial stability for the Reserve Bank is important for the economic confidence of the country. Australian voters were left with years of broken promises under the Labor government of budget surpluses and failed policies. One of them was the way financial commitments were made and then altered, or the way two pieces of legislation did not realise the level of revenue stated by the Treasurer at the time. After six years of chaos, the Labor Party left the coalition and the Australian public with record debt through their financial recklessness.

I listened with great interest to the speech by the Treasurer, the Hon. Joe Hockey, on the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013-14 at the National Press Club on 17 December 2013. It was a revealing speech in respect to the challenges we face and the fiscal legacy of increasing debt left by the Gillard-Rudd government. I want to quote from his address:

The Coalition went to the Australian people with a plan to get the economy and budget back on track. That is what we will do and today is the first step.

… … …

Today we reveal the full impact on the Budget and the economy of six years of Labor Government.

… … …

We have inherited from the Labor Party Budget deficits totalling $123 billion over the next four years and unless we take action the Budget will be in deficit for at least a decade.

And we have inherited from Labor gross debt that will reach $460 billion within the next four years. Unless we take very substantial budget reform, it will rise to $667 billion over the next decade.

This document also forecasts economic growth to remain below trend of 3% for the next two years as the unemployment rate continues to rise to 6¼%.

… … …

Based on new more realistic assumptions and, our determination to bring hidden budget problems out in to the open, the cumulative underlying cash balance has deteriorated by $68 billion in just four months.

Those figures are staggering when you consider the quality of life that we as Australians have become used to; we have adjusted our thinking and our planning, for our future for our children too. If those trends continued, then—as a former Labor Treasurer said because of his concern about the growing debt and challenges of the Australian economic situation—we could become a banana republic. I hope that we never head down that path. That is why the coalition are making the tough decisions required—so that we live within our means and so that what we provide for the future will be less debt, better services and better opportunities.

Many businesses in my electorate continue to feel the flow-on effects of the carbon and mining taxes. After the September election, when Australian voters emphatically rejected the Labor Party and their carbon and mining taxes, I find it inconceivable that those opposite refuse to accept the message sent at that election. It is time Labor stopped holding this government and this country back as we deliver what we said we would do—that is, that we would repeal these two taxes which are hurting families and businesses. I note the comments by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Greg Hunt, that the carbon tax was a $7 billion hit on the economy every year and, more recently:

… the Clean Energy Regulator has released figures detailing the carbon tax bills for all liable entities for the 2012-13 financial year.

In its first year of operation, the carbon tax was a $7.6 billion hit on the Australian economy and a direct hit on around 75,000 businesses.

He said:

16 of the 20 largest carbon tax bills have gone to electricity companies. The power sector is being hit with $4.1 billion in additional costs …

Manufacturing has been slugged $1.1 billion—and that's putting pressure on jobs …

Regional and rural Australia is being hit with dairy and meat processors, and sugar refineries copping carbon tax bills.

He continued:

Despite a $7.6 billion tax, emissions for the first 12 months barely changed by 0.1%.

It is time that the Labor Party and the Greens accepted the message from voters and the statistics in front of us and allow the government to get on with the job we were elected to do—that is, to remove these taxes.

I am looking forward to the rollout of the coalition's Green Army projects because three of these are in my electorate of Hasluck: Mary Carroll Park, Tom Bateman Reserve and Robinson Park. These three sites are an integral part of my electorate's local heritage and are significant environmental landmarks. Through the creation of the Green Army that will gradually build to a 15,000-strong environmental workforce, the coalition will create Australia's largest ever environmental deployment. It will mark the first time that Australia has approached environmental remediation with the same seriousness and level of organisation that we have long brought to bushfire preparedness and other local and regional priorities. Australia's unique landscape instils in us a deep appreciation of the fragility of the natural environment and the requirement to protect it. The Green Army complements our Direct Action approach to climate change, and Direct Action provides Australians with the opportunities for individuals, communities, organisations and companies to help address our environmental challenges. Our policy will ensure reductions in carbon emissions will take place within Australia without slugging families, businesses and the economy with a great big carbon tax.

In addition, the following funds have been provided to organisations within my electorate. Under the Community Development Grants Program, there is $8,500 to the Abruzzo Molise Italian Club. Under the Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations, there is $4,950 to the Darling Range Wildlife Shelter, the Trustee for Save the Black Cockatoo Trust Fund. Under Home and Community Care, funding was split between federal and state governments 60-40 and totalled $847,769; Gosnells Community Support Services Inc., Silver Chain Group Limited, People Who Care, Chung Wah Association and the City of Swan were all recipients and will provide tremendous local services.

I also welcome the second appropriation bill, which provides the Department of Immigration and Border Protection with almost $750 million, which includes over $400 million for the offshore processing of illegal maritime arrivals and $220 million to address the backlog of maritime arrivals. Updates by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, show that the coalition's policy of a comprehensive regional deterrence framework with our neighbours to prevent asylum seekers transiting through our region in an attempt to bypass our entry processes is working. I note comments by the minister on 21 February about Operation Sovereign Borders in which he said:

Operation Sovereign Borders is making progress. The boats have not yet stopped but they are stopping under the Abbott Government with people smugglers on the back foot and arrivals down to levels not experienced since the days of the Howard Government.

…   …   …

The full suite of measures the Coalition is implementing, including operations at sea, are combining to prevent people smugglers from sending people on the dangerous boat journey to Australia. These are policies the previous government never had the resolve, will or interest in implementing.

Preventing people who arrived in Australia illegally by boat from being resettled in Australia is one thing but preventing successful people smuggling ventures to Australia entirely is another.

The commitment of $400 million for offshore processing is significant, following the issues relating to the Yongah Hill facility in Northam. Since August, there have been at least three groups who have escaped from the immigration detention centre facility. In just five months, this government has established a proven record in border protection, and the funding for offshore processing will ensure we continue the work we are doing in this important policy area.

The appropriation bills provide the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with almost $335 million. Further, the bills propose appropriations for the Department of Industry—instead of the former Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. This is a significant move as part of the government's commitment to cut red tape and simplify the public sector.

I support the appropriation bills. The previous, Labor government had a shopping list of disasters: debt escalation; wasted money through GroceryWatch, pink batts; and broken promises like the carbon tax and the mining tax. The people of Hasluck never expected carbon and mining taxes that would impact on the quality of their lives. Now the Labor Party is standing in the way of people who are saying, 'We do not want a carbon tax.' The appropriation bills will allow the government to continue the work we have started and the job ahead of us to restore confidence in the economy and provide security for families.

Labor trashed the economy while in government, and scrapping the carbon tax is one way Labor can undo some of the damage. It is time for Labor to get out of the way and allow the passage of the bill to repeal the carbon tax and, more importantly, ensure that, through the appropriation bills and other measures that are brought before this parliament, we give financial stability and create the opportunities and the employment pathways that will be available—as opposed to those businesses feeling the pressure of the carbon tax, with jobs being lost and jobs going offshore. I want a country that looks to the future, that values our youth and provides them with real opportunities and, equally, that allows for businesses to flourish in an economy that encourages growth and the opportunities to develop manufacturing, provides the range of services and leads to innovation, research and opportunities that realise new products, new services and new opportunities for the young people in this country.