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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 535

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (13:20): It is a privilege today to speak on the address-in-reply to the Governor-General's speech. It did not take long for the member for Blair to dump bipartisanship in relation to Indigenous affairs policy in Australia and to bring forward the divisive points that he just made. It is an area that should be the subject of bipartisan concern and pursuit, and the Prime Minister has extended his willingness to make it an area of bipartisan concern and pursuit. If the people of Blair want to know what is hurting people, and the member for Blair commented on this, it is the reckless spending of the previous government that has damaged the underlying state of the budget in Australia today. We have $123 billion in cumulative deficits and gross debt is now projected to be $667 billion. I know it will be hard for a lot of people to fathom how much money that is, but that is an enormous amount of money for any government or any set of taxpayers to have to pay back. The member for Blair says, 'Why are we cutting the schoolkids bonus?' I can answer that: we have a $127 billion deficit. We have up to $667 billion of gross debt that was accumulated by the previous government. In that context and in this economic environment that we now live, no government can afford to borrow money to make cash handouts for anything. The member for Blair and the people of Blair should understand that it is because of their member's behaviour in the last government that we cannot afford to do many of the things that the government would like to do from now on.

For my own part, I am very grateful to my electorate of Mitchell for the privilege of representing them in a third term in this parliament. The last election was one of the most important that I have seen in my lifetime and I know it will be one of the most important for many, many years to come. We had possibly the worst government in Australian history—in fact, I would say, as a student of politics at university and high school and a lifelong adherent to political studies, it probably was the worst government in Australian political history. The government was marked by chaos and confusion. It lost control of the very basics of governance. I was pleased to receive from the people of Mitchell support to become the member for what they tell me is the safest Liberal seat in Australia. I put it this way: there are more sensible people in my electorate than in any other electorate in Australia, because they understood that the last government was the worst government in Australian history.

We all know about the chaos of the previous government's policy, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd approach and the deal with the Australian Greens, but I want to talk about their approach to legislation. Perhaps this marks them out as clearly the worst government in Australian history. More than any other area, it is why it is so important to have the new coalition government with a positive agenda in relation to legislation and deregulation. In the last government there were several ministers for finance and deregulation. We had Lindsay Tanner, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation; Craig Emerson, the Minister assisting the Minister for Deregulation; Wayne Swan, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation; Penny Wong, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation; Nick Sherry, the Minister assisting the Minister for Deregulation; and David Bradbury, the Minister assisting the Minister for Deregulation. That was a lot of deregulation and a lot of ministers responsible for deregulation.

What was this army of ministers deregulating? What did they do in six years? In fact, the record shows that the Rudd-Gillard government added 800 pieces of legislation to the books, something they describe as a grand achievement. That legislation includes nearly 21,000 new regulations and those seven or eight ministers for deregulation repealed just 104, despite whole units of government working on the deregulation agenda. When you hear businesses—small, large, medium—saying they are caught up in red tape, green tape and government bureaucracy and waste, you can think of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments and the 21,000 new regulations and 800 pieces of legislation. All this added to the burden of doing business with so little benefit. It affected our ability to cooperate, work and prosper.

One of the greatest things about the new coalition government led by Tony Abbott is that we will have a strong deregulation agenda. Not only are we going to have whole days in this parliament where we do nothing but deregulate—that is, remove obsolete instruments and obsolete pieces of legislation and give this parliament the opportunity to look at obsolete and ineffective pieces of legislation and remove them—but we are going to get rid of whole acts that have no relevance or have long become problematic for people to follow. I welcome this and look forward to 1 March. I am grateful that the Prime Minister has appointed a Parliamentary Secretary for Deregulation in his own portfolio. The member for Kooyong will be pursuing a strong deregulation agenda.

What does this mean? It means that we can allow businesses to get on with the things they should be doing. In Australia it is too hard to do business in the current era. I know businesses in my electorate that manufacture here and export globally. They are tied up in red tape, and now we have come to government we are fighting agencies to reduce this. These companies can produce their products overseas much more easily and at much lower cost for much greater profit. Making ourselves much more internationally competitive is the key goal of this government. One way to do that is to remove shackles applying to so many businesses. It was one of the key things missing under the previous government.

The previous government not only over-legislated, having hundreds of pages of regulations where they needed a few pages and putting in so many bills that did nothing, but introduced the lowest quality legislation seen in this country's history and when compared with that of other countries. I was a staff member of previous governments, state and federal, and I have observed legislation for decades but this legislation was badly drafted and some of the worst produced legislation in scope, size and scale. It does not matter what sector you talk about—and insulation is a prime example—the previous government's legislation was poorly drafted. When it was received by parliament it looked as if it was still a first draft. It was riddled with errors and often did not make sense. The sectors affected by legislation were not consulted properly. Often we would go to representatives of the sectors and ask if they had heard about the legislation. Nine times out of 10 they would reply that they did not know that legislation was coming. They asked the opposition for advice because the government would not speak to them.

There was a breakdown in fundamental processes between government and non-government sectors, between business and government, between the not-for-profit sector and government. Not only were they not involved in the drafting; they were not involved in the production of the legislation or the first draft, the second draft or the third draft. I do not believe there were second or third drafts of much of the legislation. The rush to produce legislation produced perhaps the worst quality legislation the parliament has passed. In summary, the previous government added not only thousands of regulations and hundreds of new pieces of legislation but also legislation that made no sense, was badly drafted and produced abhorrent outcomes.

That is why the results of the last election needed to be so emphatic with that government being consigned to the dustbin of history. In New South Wales, there was a very strong result. I was very pleased to see the results in my electorate, thanks to the work of my community, sending a signal to the previous government. There were also strong results in Western Sydney, in places like Lindsay, Dobell, Robertson, Banks and Reid. In these electorates, in our biggest city, people spoke out against the complete failure of the last government. It was also great to see that nationally a strong result was sent. Whole sectors turned on the government, the small business sector in particular which had been ignored for so long. This sector had seven small business ministers in six years. It was an untenable situation for hardworking small businesses, who found it impossible to be heard by government. They constantly had to rebuild relationships with new ministers in a chaotic, divided and dysfunctional government.

This government's agenda will be very different. I understand this government is strongly pursuing a small business reform agenda. The Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, is to be commended. It is long overdue not just to reform competition—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The honourable member will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed.