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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2748

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:20): I too rise to take note of answers in question time today, and I have to say that I do it with a very heavy heart. Having just returned from a week at Gallipoli with thousands of other Australians, where our spirit of national unity, patriotism and pride was almost overwhelming, I came back with a modicum of optimism that 12 months after the last budget and after 12 months of mindless obstructionism and blocking good government and budget measures to fix your mess—

Senator Conroy: You're going to cut the pension!

Senator REYNOLDS: With the interjections of Senator Conroy and the previous two Labor speakers, it is very clear that the optimism with which I returned is already very sadly shattered. It was supposed to be the year of big ideas—remember that: Bill Shorten and the 'year of big ideas'? Quite frankly, I do not seem to recall a single one, apart from some tax increases

Far from coming back to finding an opposition who is now willing to work with the government, there is still an absence of policy ideas on how to start living within our means and continuing to grow the economy—

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: Senator Conroy, you are just playing the man not the policy ideas. Let me remind you that when you came to government not only was the country living within its means but it had about $20 billion in the bank and no debt. You wasted that with pink batts, school halls, an NBN that did not deliver any broadband to the nation—a litany of wasted money. Consequently for taxpayers, and some are sitting in the gallery now, we are now borrowing $100 million a day. I bet you they did not know that. The government are borrowing $100 million a day to pay for your prolific expenditure. That is the situation we now find ourselves in.

Senator Cameron was right: it is a matter of choice. But it is a choice of how we start to find better ways to live within our means and to grow the economy. That is exactly what this budget will be about tomorrow. It is making choices on how to best spend our money. We spend $150 billion a year of taxpayers' money. In fact, nearly nine out of 10 income taxpayers in this country now pay for our welfare benefits. Welfare benefits are not entitlements; they are there as benefits for people who need the assistance. Government always has to make sure that the money of those people sitting in the gallery today is best spent for those who best need it.

It is also about a choice between infrastructure investment, encouraging small business and creating new jobs. You conveniently like to forget that we have now created something like 80,000 more jobs than when you left government.

Senator Conroy: Unemployment is going up.

Senator Lines interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: The truth hurts, doesn't it? By you very disappointedly playing the Treasurer and the Prime Minister and not talking about policy options—

Senator Conroy: It's you lot!

Senator REYNOLDS: If you do not like what we are coming up with, come up with other options of where we can find the savings for the new expenditures. If you want it, start stumping up and stop this ridiculous playing of individuals and start providing options. If you do not like what this side is coming up with, stop playing the individuals and come up with policy. We still have not heard a single thing. You know as well as I know that the budget, like the rest of government, is a team activity. It is not just about the Treasurer, the finance minister, the Prime Minister, the members of the Expenditure Review Committee of cabinet or about all government members; it is also about everybody in parliament. Every single one of us who were elected by the people of Australia have a role to play in the budget.

We have been doing our role, and it is time at this budget for the opposition to stump up. Instead of taking great pride in destroying the budget and not playing your part in the team, you have got to start playing your role as an opposition and as elected representatives of the people of Australia and of your states. You have just as much a role in passing a budget that is good for Australia and good for the economy. Instead, you pick off individuals because you have absolutely no policies with which to contribute. Taking pride in destroying the economy is nothing to be proud of, Senator Conroy. (Time expired)