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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12554

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:29): I am sorry that the Treasurer has not deemed it fit to debate the economy in this place. We warned that this would happen; we have been saying it for months and years. When the government brought forward the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook to October, for only the third time in the history of MYEFO, we smelt a rat. The two previous occasions on which MYEFO has been released in October, barely five months into the financial year, were with the announcement of an election pending in November. Those were the only two times. And noting that MYEFO is a document produced by the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance, rather than the Treasury and the Department of Finance, we were highly sceptical and we were understandably cautious. MYEFO has been released in November on seven occasions, five times in December and only twice previously in October—and now they bring it forward.

And then we worked it out. Oh, what a coincidence! We discovered that the mining tax receipts were going to be lodged with the Australian Taxation Office, on the other side of Canberra, at exactly the same time as the government was publishing this document. What a coincidence! Get out of here! How did that happen? The government said it had revised the mining tax number from $3 billion down to $2 billion. Old Swannie knew the questions were coming but he still did not get the numbers right. But we will let him off the hook for a brief moment because there are much bigger fish to put on our hook.

The government said it was going to get to a surplus of $1.1 billion. How? By fiddling the books. Labor is great at fiddling the books. The Health Services Union was good at fiddling the books. Charges have been laid against a former president of the Labor Party, suggesting that there may have been some fiddling of the books. And now we have got the Treasurer of the Labor Party fiddling the books. He is doing that by moving money between years—that is the time honoured trick. Of course, if you are a director of an Australian company you would probably go to jail for that. But, never mind, he is the Treasurer of Australia. Then he brings $2 billion of the Future Fund into the budget to deliver him over $417 million this financial year. And then he goes and raids the superannuation accounts of everyday Australians to get another $500 million. He does a fiddle here and a fiddle there and, hocus-pocus, we have got 'a promised surplus'. It is now 'a plan to have a surplus', according to the Prime Minister. It was 'a 'commitment, it was 'a promise' and it was 'a guarantee'. And then we had a little charade with the government saying it was 'a determination'. 'Maybe we'll get there; we hope to get there; goodness knows, we might get there; no, we're going to get there.'

Mr Baldwin: Thomas the Tank Engine!

Mr HOCKEY: It is a scene out of Thomas the Tank Engine—something that I, with young children, am all too familiar with. But the evidence of this government's incompetence knows no bounds. We have heard it all before. They promised they would have computers in schools for $1 billion. Well, that was $2.2 billion and the dollars have not finished. They said they were going to have a green car fund, and they did not have a green car fund. They said they were going to send $900 cheques out to people—and they sent over 18,000 cheques to dead people to stimulate the economy! They put pink batts in people's homes. Homes burnt down and there were tragic deaths associated with it, and then they had to spend billions of dollars trying to fix the problem. They had $500 digital set-top boxes put into pensioners homes—when Gerry Harvey said he would personally do it for $199. We have had it all before. Nothing stretches the imagination with this government. As one of their own members said to me last night, this government will go down in the annals of history as a memorable government. And I said, 'Amen, it will be memorable.' The only problem is that the Australian people are paying a price for a government that is deceiving them with words, misleading them with actions and, at the end of the day, undermining consumer and business confidence with their own incompetence.

Remember the mining tax? We will never let Labor forget the mining tax. This tax was originally going to raise over $11 billion in two years; in fact, at one stage it was meant to be $23 billion over four years. And then it was reduced. 'Sorry, Kevin lost his way. We're going to have to get rid of Kevin.' 'I will negotiate a new mining tax,' the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said. 'Put down your weapons; stop your advertising; come to the table where we can negotiate.' I would love to negotiate with Julia Gillard; I would love it. The Malaysians negotiated with Julia Gillard. They ended up sending 3,000 people here and, in return, got 600 people and over $300 million. How good is that for negotiating with the Prime Minister of Australia! But then along came the three most significant iron ore and coal companies in Australia, two of whom are among the most significant mining companies in the world—they negotiate with China and throughout the region with the most aggressive negotiators in the world—and the Prime Minister says: 'I'm going to take Wayne Swan into these negotiations. I'm going to take old Swannie in. There's no negotiator like Wayne Swan. He's the best. He deserves a gold medal in the negotiation Olympics.' So in goes the Prime Minister, to negotiate with the three toughest negotiators in the commercial world, with Wayne Swan by her side and Martin Ferguson on the other side. When they came out they said, 'We've done a great deal.' When the miners came out they said, 'We can live with this tax.' All of a sudden the alarm bells went off. The miners said it was a pretty good deal. I thought, 'Hang on, what's "a pretty good deal"?' Do you know what a pretty good deal is? Zero tax. That is a pretty good deal!

I have heard of all those stories about expenditure blow-outs, about promises made and not delivered, but I have never heard of a tax that does not raise money. Not even the Greek government has heard of a tax that does not raise money. This government has set a new public policy benchmark right across the world: a tax with no money. But it gets better.

If the tax has no money then everyone is asking the question, 'Well, what happened to the rebate for the royalties paid to the states?' And we hear from the mining companies and we hear from everyone else that in fact the royalties are rebatable. So not only is this tax so far, to the best of our knowledge, not delivering a dollar; the government has a liability to pay the miners money. This is a tax where the government pays money rather than receives money. Now that is a second-year benchmark in public policy that this government has delivered and it is writ large.

I go back to the words of the original architect of the reform. Dr Ken Henry, who is a decent man, said along the way that the mining tax would be important for helping to redistribute the wealth. But Dr Henry on 16 July this year said:

And the obvious question it—

the mining tax—

raises is one that I dare not ask, really—

and then he asks—

which is whether it's worth bothering at all.

Just in case anyone thought they understood the mining tax, he went on to say:

… there's no way the public could possibly understand what has actually been legislated either—

with the mining tax. The problem is that the government does not understand what has been legislated with the mining tax. We understand it. We understand that the mining tax was a false dawn. The problem is that this government committed over $15 billion of expenditure against a tax that does not exist—$15 billion in schoolkids bonuses, regional infrastructure funds, superannuation increases, concessions to small business. They are running around the country talking about redistributing the wealth of the mining boom, but there ain't no wealth.

And why? Because of the sheer incompetence of this government and the deliberate deceit in their words and their sneaky little actions in bringing forward a document to avoid telling the truth to the Australian people about the state of the budget. It is consistent with all of their actions, consistent with all of their words—the Labor Party does not tell the truth. They come in here and cry crocodile tears about budget cuts and job losses in Queensland and then they cut the education budget. They say that they are going to provide billions of dollars to the Gonski reforms. Not a dollar exists. In fact, they are cutting education.

They cry crocodile tears about the funding of health in Australia, which in the last year alone for everyday Australians has gone up over seven per cent. The ABS identified on Thursday that one of the key reasons for the increase in the cost of health was in fact the government's own previous actions to try and close down private health insurance support in the budget. The ABS, the most unpolitical of organisations, is there saying government policy has caused the cost of health in Australia to rise by over seven per cent and in the last quarter to rise significantly, and that is because of the government's policy changes on private health insurance. Not to be outdone, this government then goes and takes a further $1.1 billion out of private health insurance.

Did you notice that before MYEFO they had all of this feigned concern for low-income Australians? One million Australians earning less than $24,000 a year are private health insurance policy holders, and this government has now announced a further new policy that is forevermore going to continue to increase private health insurance. Their complete contempt for private health insurance is best displayed by the way they treat their own private health insurer, Medibank Private. They have taken out $800 million in special dividends over the last three years, including this year alone—$250 per policy holder out of Medibank Private to try and shore up their fake surplus.

This is a government that will reach into any pocket. Previously, we know, they have raised taxes with complete indifference to the impact on prices and the costs of goods, complete indifference to the welfare of the nation—carbon tax, flood levy, alcopops tax, changes in so many areas. There have been 27, in fact, new or increased taxes. They do not care. They see your money as their money. But, what is worse, just a few months ago the Labor Party introduced over $5 billion of retrospective taxes. So, not sick of hitting people with new taxes now, they go back and hit people with yesterday's taxes, where they lawfully pay the taxes because the Labor Party has run out of money. Then they borrowed money, which is future taxes. They borrowed from the Australian people. They give us this line about how the Labor Party collects less as a percentage of GDP in tax than the previous coalition. We did not borrow money, because borrowing money is future taxes. If the Labor Party do not understand it then their ignorance shows no bounds.

The problem is the total lack of honesty, the total deceit from this mob, the contempt they hold everyday Australians in. Because Labor has no core principles. They do not understand that every dollar borrowed is a dollar that has to be paid back with interest. And they do not understand that when they increase taxes they hit everyday Australians. Labor, at some point, sometime in the future, must tell the truth, because ultimately bad Labor governments are going to be caught out.