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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 288

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (17:56): I have to pick up where Senator McKenzie left off, in the sense that those in the Labor Party do not seem to care about the economic prosperity and welfare of Australia and the responsibility we have to future generations. If they did, they would support a sustainable budget, they would support prudent spending cuts and they would support the redirection of available to dollars to places where they are going to be the most productive. But, no, that is not the method the Labor Party have chosen. Picking up from where Mr Rudd, when he was Prime Minister, took off, they have spent and established programs that have basically robbed, from tomorrow, the generations post us so that we can enjoy some benefits today. That is a serious moral failing.

Until the Labor Party are prepared to acknowledge the path they have set this country on, the path that they insist will not be deviated from by this government, we are sentencing our nation to a massive economic issue in the years ahead. There are those in the Greens party and on the other side who say, 'If we only borrow more and spend more now, we will be better off in the future.' That is not the way works. As Senator McKenzie and others in this debate have highlighted, we were promised again and again and again that the borrowings were only temporary, that we were going to return to surplus, that we were going to get the economic dividend and that growth was going to come. All of that was nonsense, and they knew it was nonsense as they were peddling it. Mr Swan as Treasurer would get his Treasury figures up and he would pick one that suited his economic forecasts, and off we would go. He was going to deliver surplus after surplus after surplus.

Since they have lost office, they have stood in the way of budget reform. They have stood in the way of sustainable savings. Instead, they have adopted Orwell's newspeak, where they say that a tax increase is a saving. Well, a tax increase is not a saving. A tax increase is a new impost on the productive, working income generation of our country, because they are not prepared to do what is necessary. Well, if they are not prepared to do what is necessary, I would invite them, on behalf of the Australian people, to get out of the way of those of us who are committed to looking after our children and our children's children. It is incumbent upon us not just to be stewards of the environment, as I am sure Senator Whish-Wilson and others would like us to be, but to be good stewards of our economy. If you think that catastrophic debt levels do not start somewhere, go and have a look at nations all around the world, where politicians were kicking the can down the road and saying, 'It's okay; it's only temporary.' Then, later on, it became, 'It's okay; it's not going to be our problem.' And then, eventually, it becomes someone's problem, and we see the economic disasters that have happened in Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Ireland. We are going to see it in the emerging and developing markets as the US dollar rises and interest rates increase in the US. We are going to see a serious economic problem globally. And Australia hitherto was immune to it, effectively, because we ran budget surpluses, we had savings in the bank and we had no debt. That was all demolished by sending cheques to dead people and people overseas under the Rudd government, by the Pink Batts program, by the school hall building programs, which wasted tens of billions of dollars for next to no long-term benefit.

This is a shameful indictment. And, as I said, if the Labor Party, in their intransigence, are not prepared to be part of the solution, then get out of the way. Stop being so stubborn and bloody-minded about protecting the future of our children. That is what this government is seeking to do; it is seeking to restore the balance to the budget to get it back on the right track so that we can fulfil our moral obligations to our children and their children.