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Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Page: 1330

Mr HAASE (6:14 PM) —I rise this evening to address the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2010-2011 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2010-2011. It gives me little pleasure to deliver this speech. It appals me, in fact, that I stand here in the House as a representative of the people of Australia, my particular patch Durack, with the knowledge that Australia is being bled dry by this Labor government. With an estimated $10 billion in outright waste and mismanagement, this government should be charged with negligence—negligence towards Australian tax-earned dollars and, more importantly, negligence towards the very constituents who gave it the authority to act on their behalf.

The bleak state of affairs Australia suffers at the moment could be likened to the evil stepmother being left the inheritance and the children having to contest the will. If this were a fairy story—and, God help me, I wish it were—the story would have a happy ending. Alas, the story that the purse strings are being held by and the money is being wasted by a Labor government is in fact a true story. Until this government is voted out—or abdicates, as it should do out of goodwill to the Australian people—it will never have a happy ending.

We have seen $2.4 billion mismanaged and wasted in the Home Insulation Program. What did Australian taxpayers get for their money? A hundred and ninety-one house fires and the creation of a quarter of a million dodgy roofs—not value for money in anyone’s eyes—and there is still the cost of thousands of inspections to ensure roof spaces are safe.

We have watched Labor spend over $1 billion on consultants since coming to government, breaking a 2007 election promise to rein in $395 million of spending by 2009-10—consultants who would have had a hand in overseeing the cancelled Fuelwatch program and the abandoned GROCERYchoice scheme (after it had cost us at least $7 million); consultants who watched as the solar homes program blew out by $850 million and was then cancelled; consultants who nonchalantly administered $300 million into the Green Loans scheme, which was subsequently cancelled.

Colleagues, to coin an old phrase, this government have more front than Myer. They come today to ask for more money—

Mr Melham —Myer is doing pretty well.

Mr HAASE —more of my constituents’ money, more of my money. Surely if they had not splashed around the money they inherited as if there were no tomorrow they would not be here today asking for more. Before the 2010 federal election, national mayhem erupted with the talk of slugging the resource sector with a big new mining tax. This tax was to be implemented to finance the promised return to budget surplus by 2013. Now we know there will be a $60 billion budget black hole over 10 years even with the introduction of this great big new tax.

The proposal to introduce the new tax created confusion and doubt in the international capital markets, with rumours abounding that Australia would rate as a high-risk investment destination, putting at risk future jobs—

Mr Melham interjecting

Mr HAASE —future state royalties, tax revenue and the standard of living of all Australians, including that of the member for Banks. This tax has always been about bailing the Labor government out of the massive debt it has accumulated. Now it is obvious that even this great big new tax will not result in a budget surplus. This great big new tax will not clear the debt, will not get us out of the red and will not ease interest rates.

Pandemonium seems to be the order of business for this government, creating hysteria and fear amongst both national and international investors in our resources sector and ruining our international reputation. All for what? To try to cover the continuing waste of Australian taxpayers’ money. It seems that chaos abounds everywhere we look with this Labor government.

This government has ignored concerns raised by a Reserve Bank board member regarding the impact on interest rates of Labor’s uncontrolled spending. Surely concerns such as this must be listened to by the government. Economic mismanagement is leading to fiscal policies that work directly against the Reserve Bank’s efforts to rein in and stabilise inflation. The everyday impact of high government deficit is higher interest rates. Small businesses and homeowners are doing it tough enough. Increased interest rates on working capital and mortgages are the last thing we need.

I reiterate the reason I am standing before you today: this Labor government have come asking for more money—the gall of them! First they blew the $23 billion left to them by the Howard government, then they taxed us some more. They blew that, then they taxed us some more. They blew that and now they want to tax us some more—only this time they are getting a little more devious. They have named one of the new taxes a ‘levy’. Somewhere in the Labor den is a little Laborite dreaming up new names for taxes. I can just see him dressed in red, green and white, with a big red nose and huge black shoes, tapping a pencil on his forehead as he checks the thesaurus for tax synonyms. You do not need to be a Rhodes scholar to see a pattern emerging here: more taxes; more money to waste.

If Prime Minister Gillard and her band of tax grabbers have their way, 2011 will not be known as the year of decision and delivery but will be noted in history as the year of great big new taxes. So far we are looking at a carbon tax, a petrol tax, a flood tax and a mining tax—and we are only in February!

I read with interest the summary of appropriations for these bills and noted the request for more money for the Immigration and Citizenship portfolio. In particular, there is ‘supplementary funding of $290 million for operational costs associated with the management of offshore asylum seekers’. I also noted funding requests under the Attorney-General’s Department to the tune of $17.6 million to reimburse state and territory legal aid commissioners for providing legal assistance in national security, people-smuggling and drug related matters. I read a little further and, lo and behold, there is the Federal Police wanting $24.8 million to increase its own technical and operational capabilities, especially for people-smuggling activities.

I can think of a much cheaper way of handling asylum seekers and people smugglers—reintroduce the Liberal Party’s policies in full. In 2010-11 the government will spend more than $760 million on people arriving illegally in Australia. This compares to less than $100 million in annual expenditure when the Howard government left office in 2007.

Mr Melham —They didn’t want to come to Australia—there was a Liberal government.

Mr HAASE —It was for good reasons. The extra $290 million being asked for as supplementary funding for operational costs associated with the management of offshore asylum seekers represents a budget blow-out of more than 60 per cent on the $470 million already budgeted for in the current year and more than double the amount spent in 2009-10. The last boat to arrive, on 19 February, had 46 people on board and, with a recently reported average cost of $150,000 for everyone who arrives by boat, this latest arrival will cost Australian taxpayers $6.9 million.

When framing their budget for 2010-11 this Labor government assumed 2,000 people would arrive illegally by boat. More than 3,600 people have arrived this financial year, with four months to go. Since the softening of border policies in August 2008 we have seen 10,250 people arrive on 208 boats and since Prime Minister Gillard took over we have seen 67 boats with 3,698 people on board. Apparently a bill of almost $2.5 million a month is being racked up by this Labor government to house some 500 asylum seekers outside detention centres as it struggles to find a solution to the record number of boat arrivals.

One interesting statistic I point out to show the difference with a government that had strong border policies and was careful with taxpayers’ money, as opposed to the current Labor government, is that this budget blow-out for one year of $290 million is greater than the total cost of running the Howard government’s Pacific Solution over almost six years.

Mr Melham —That’s not right.

Mr HAASE —It is dead right and, yes, you heard me correctly—this year’s budget blow-out is more than the Howard government spent on the Pacific Solution over almost six years. There is something in that for all of us to think about. As I said before, I can think of a much more financially viable option for Australia when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers—stop encouraging these people to come here with weak border policies.

Waste, waste and more waste. This government should be ashamed, or at least embarrassed, but do we see even a hint of remorse? No, all we see is a government with a rhinoceros hide asking for more money. In recent times we have seen an estimated $8 billion wasted in the Building the Education Revolution school halls program. We observed a promised $4.7 billion broadband network replaced with a $43 billion scheme, which still does not have a business plan and now looks like being superseded by advances in wireless technology. We witnessed $50 million wasted in advertising on the stimulus package, and then they wasted $46 million of the stimulus package by sending money to people overseas, criminals and the deceased. The apathy on the opposite side of the House is truly pathetic. This is real money we are talking about, real money earned the hard way by constituents, and the government’s apathy displays the contempt with which they treat both the money and the people.

As you are all aware, I represent the electorate of Durack, the largest electorate in Australia. It is the largest by land mass and the largest by rating the optimism of the people. For the people of Durack the glass is always half full. Just recently when talking to a constituent about the Labor government’s waste, a cocky said: ‘Well we can’t complain about waste in this neck of the woods. They haven’t spent any dollars to waste.’ And that, colleagues, is the plain and simple truth. I do not need to dress it up, put quite plainly this government has not wasted money specifically in regional Australia, disregarding of course the city-centric policies that overlapped into regional Australia. They have not wasted regional spending; they have instead cut it. Either this government is wasting billions of dollars on schemes that are irrelevant to the people of Australia or it bungles and fails. Either way it is a waste of taxpayers’ money of the highest order.

In the first months of this financial year, this Labor government racked up a deficit of $21.7 billion. Net debt increased from $42.3 billion to $62 billion. Labor continues to borrow well in excess of $100 million each and every day to fund its continued spending. Net interest payments will peak at $6.5 billion per year in 2012-13. This $6.5 billion could be better spent investing in regional Australia.

They do not mind taking the tax dollars from the bush but they sure as hell do not like spending any money in return. Labor’s first budget stripped $1 billion out of regional programs. The second budget stripped out even more and included an emissions trading tax. The third recommends a big new mining tax, a carbon tax, and probably a tax on petrol as well. What can we expect in their fourth budget?

In a statement by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government on Regional Development Australia made on 20 March 2008, he said amongst other things that he would support regional Australia, he would drive economic prosperity, he would deliver on pre-election promises—that was a big call—and he would build partnerships in the bush and be responsive to local priorities. These partnerships were going to improve with new investment in infrastructure, health, housing, water innovation, education and skills development. I am yet to find evidence of delivery that makes any of these statements truthful.

Labor has broken its promise to expand the role of what used to be the area consultative committees. Instead, their replacement, Regional Development Australia, has no programs to administer because in the first three years it had no dollars to allocate. A whole network of regional people were selected and then given nothing to do. In the transition more than 500 voluntary committee positions were terminated and 150 jobs lost. That was in spite of repeated assurances from the Labor minister that the jobs were secure. Regional development is no longer funded direct to community organisations or to the private sector. This has added another layer of bureaucracy. Apparently this government believes that Canberra knows best, and it has instructed that all future funding decisions will be made in Canberra.

Amongst other things the Labor government abolished Land and Water Australia and cut $63 million in CSIRO agricultural research. A $12 million cut has also been made in funding to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and in the 2009-10 budget Labor cut cargo-screening resources at ports and airports by $58.1 million. This has made it much easier and more likely for animal and plant disease to enter Australia, putting our agricultural sector at risk. There is no excuse or pardon for a government that is incompetent when managing taxpayers’ funds. I do not accept it and neither should the people of Australia.