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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 1539


Senator MASON (Queensland) (16:08): We now know that after 4½ years of Labor government the principal problem for the Australian Labor Party and our country is not that the government breaks its promises but that it tries to keep them. The genesis of Labor's failure is not only the make-up of its policies but that Labor has been totally ineffective in implementing them. You see, what always happens in the Labor Party is that some prepubescent adviser in the Prime Minister's office gets an idea, a brain-snap. Their main consideration is never good public policy, such as: will the idea work; is it in the national interest? No, it is all about: will this be a good six-second grab on Channel 9 or Channel 7, or will it make a good headline? That is what they are about. There is no cost-benefit analysis. There never is. There is no budgeting. And there is never a workable timetable. That has been the story of the Labor Party for 4½ years. Ideas are pushed off to departments and never seen again. Implementation is a shambles. And then the government is onto the next good thing. That has been its story for 4½ years.

Of course, just like prepubescent children, the government does not know and, indeed, does not care where the money comes from. Daddy will pay. In this case the 'daddy' is the taxpayer. Senator Thistlethwaite mentioned something very interesting before. He used the phrase 'the great daddy of them all'. The greatest shambles this government has been responsible for thus far—I think there are more coming—is the Building the Education Revolution program, the school halls debacle. It is one of the greatest public policy failures in Australian federal history. It is certainly one of the most expensive failures. I well remember the Labor Party handing over the task of analysing the success of the program to poor old Mr Brad Orgill. When he finally reported back he found that government schools, state schools, cost nearly twice as much per square metre as independent and Catholic schools did. That is a disgrace. It meant that kids attending state schools received half as much as kids attending non-government schools. I was once one of those kids and I would not have been terribly impressed. Why? Because the state schools missed out.

The government's greatest failure did not receive a lot of publicity, and it is this: the Auditor-General's office said that the Commonwealth department of education was culpable for this failure because it did not have in place the oversight mechanisms to determine whether in fact state governments were securing value for money for state government school halls. That is the greatest failure of this government thus far. Can you imagine spending $14 billion—$14 thousand million—and not having a Commonwealth department sufficiently up to speed, with sufficient oversight mechanisms, so that it could be sure that state governments were getting value for money? That is the greatest failure of this government's 4½ year tenure. It got the Public Service to do something it did not even know how to do. How much money was it? It was $14 thousand million. That is what the Auditor-General's office found. The government has spent all that money—$14 billion.

You might think with the government spending $14 billion on this program that somehow our school children would be getting better test results. You would think that, after the government has spent $14 billion on this program, comparative school testing across the world would show Australian schoolchildren going forward. What in fact have the international test results showed? They have shown Australia going backwards not only relatively but absolutely in this area. That is an absolute indictment. We are moving backwards absolutely and relatively against all our major competitors. You spend $14 billion and what is the outcome? Kids do less well in international comparative examinations. It is nearly unbelievable but that is a fact. This government can spend $14 billion and our schoolkids are actually worse off. It is nearly unbelievable but that is the outcome of its policies. And it does not stop there.

It is nearly a debacle a day with this lot. There is the great new carbon tax, the centrepiece of their economic reform. I read today that Australia faces a $30 billion hit to growth by 2018. Why? Because the price of carbon is too high? We learnt that today. And this lot is the only political party—sorry, not the only political party, there is that lot too: the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party are the only political parties on earth that believe that in an energy-rich, trade-exposed nation it is a good idea to act unilaterally; that irrespective of whether any other nation does anything, they believe that we should have a carbon tax.

Let me say that again, slowly, because it is nearly unbelievable. They believe—the government of this country believe—that even if no other nation on earth has a carbon tax we should have one. It is nearly unbelievable. We are in an energy-rich, trade-exposed nation. Do you think that comparable countries will do anything like that? Do you think that the Canadians are about to do that? Or the Brazilians? Or the Russians? No. This lot believe that. When you compare us with similar nations—not countries like Luxembourg that do not export energy but energy-rich, trade-exposed nations like Australia—we are the only one. And, even worse, they believe we should do it even if no nation on earth does it as well. It is nearly unbelievable!

But what do we know now about the Australian Labor Party? We know this: every time the Labor Party are forced from office they always leave Australia further in debt. I have mentioned this many times before in this place: every time since 1901 when the Labor Party are forced from office the nation is further in debt. It has been so since 1901. The Labor Party always talk about social justice—they always do. Is it socially equitable to leave a nation further in debt on every occasion since 1901 that they have lost office? Is it socially just to make intergenerational debt—to lump our kids and our grandkids with debt? Because that is what they have done whenever in government since 1901.

The heads always go down now, and do you know why? Because it is true. Every time they leave office Australia is further in debt. It has been so since 1901—through wars, through peace, through good times and bad times—always further in debt every time the Labor Party lose office. Every single time! There has never, ever been, I might add, an exception. Most Australians believe they want to build wealth for their kids and leave a bequest, don't they? They want to build up property and leave a bequest to their children. What does Labor leave Australia's children? Debt. They leave our children debt. That is Labor's family values.

They talk about working families. What does Labor leave working families? Debt. It always has been and it always will be. The Labor Party will never change their spots and they never have since 1901. The one thing that runs through Labor DNA is that four-letter word: debt. Always has been, always will be.