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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12390


Mr TRUSS (Leader of the Nationals) (4:17 PM) —At the end of the Prime Minister’s first year in office when called upon to defend his record and to tell the Australian people what he has achieved all we get is the man down in the gutter—political name-calling; all talk no action. The simple question we asked today was: after 12 months in office who in this country is better off for having a Labor government? Who in this country is better off for what the government has achieved in the past 12 months? The reality is no-one. No-one is putting up their hand to say, ‘I am better off; my country is better off because of this government’s performance.’

Paul Keating is a man I do not often quote, but once he said that governments start dying the day they are elected, and that is so true of the Rudd Labor government and their first year in office. We have bumbling ministers with no vision and no leadership from the top. We have a government more interested in travelling the world than talking to Australians about our problems, a government that made scores of promises but has in fact delivered nothing of note.

Yes, we have seen the symbolism of the ratification of the Kyoto accord but is there one less tonne of CO2 gas in the atmosphere as a result? It was symbolism—a stunt with no results. Yes, we have seen an apology to the nation’s Indigenous people but where is the Aboriginal Australian who is better off as a result? It was a stunt that delivered no action and no results. There has been the 2020 Summit, a thousand people of goodwill getting together to commit their ideas, but where is the vision for a bigger and stronger Australia arising from the summit? Indeed the government promised that they would respond to the ideas put forward at the 2020 Summit before the end of this year. They have 28 days to do it and that includes Christmas—another broken promise. There has been no government response; not one of the ideas has been acted upon—another stunt with no results for the people of Australia.

There have been 170 or 180 reviews and task forces announced, but how many of them have delivered results? Just yesterday, we had the latest green paper on aviation and now that is to be followed a year later by another policy document. What about the poor people in general aviation who had their action agenda delivered to them only months after the new government came to office? They were told that the results would be left until the green paper. Now they might well have to wait another year before the policy might be developed. In the meantime, that industry, like so many others, goes backwards.

We have been promised an emissions trading scheme. The targets and the details were to be announced before Christmas—again another target that simply has not been met. We have had plenty of rhetoric, wars on drugs, wars on inflation, wars on whalers, wars on disadvantage, wars on doping in sport, wars on bankers’ salaries, wars on obesity and wars on skinny models—plenty of wars have been declared, but where are the results; where are the actions?

The government came into office promising that they would fight inflation, but inflation is actually at the highest level it has been for 17 years. They said that they would cut taxes, but this budget was the biggest taxing budget in our nation’s history with $19 billion of new taxes from a government that said they would lower taxes. They said they were the party for the environment, but the new Caring for our Country program actually spends $1 billion less on environmental programs than the previous government’s Natural Heritage Trust and national action plan. They said they were going to save the whales, but they have wimped out on the promised legal action. They said they supported alternative energy, but they axed a whole range of renewable energy programs, solar panels and the like.

They said they would be open and transparent, but they slashed the Auditor-General’s budget and scrutiny of billions of dollars of government expenditure is covered up by the excuse that they were simply Labor election promises and therefore they will be delivered whether they are good or bad. They said they would give every student a computer, but we know how this program has hit the rocks, tragically underfunded. Yes, you can have a computer, but you will have to share it with two or three others and only if parents are prepared to pay for the electricity or the state government is prepared to connect the fast broadband or make the commitments for air conditioning and all the other add-on expenses that will be required. Another promise made but simply not delivered.

They said they would protect workers, but strikes are up by over 800 per cent since the election of this government. The stock market has plummeted. The people smugglers are back in business because the government have gone soft on border control. The budget says unemployment will rise by 134,000, but we all know that that figure is only half what will in fact happen. Consumer confidence has fallen to a level not seen since the recession of the early nineties, the recession that Prime Minister Keating said we had to have. They said they would end the blame game, but in three-quarters of all the answers to questions they blame somebody else; it is always somebody else’s fault. Now they are blaming the Senate for blocking some of their initiatives. We are not allowed to have any scrutiny of what is being proposed. We are all expected to blindly accept whatever rubbish the government turn up.

The reality is that this government has failed to deliver on its election commitments. It has failed to deliver for the people of Australia. Clear evidence of that was present again today when the national accounts figure was released: 0.1 per cent growth. You cannot get much lower growth than 0.1 per cent, I can tell you. The Treasurer told us it was a positive outcome. Well, he is not telling a lie—it was marginally positive but only just. There will probably be worse news ahead under his economic management. The growth genie seems firmly back in the bottle. He let out the inflation genie by his outrageous comments but the growth genie is well and truly back in the bottle.

I know Australia is being buffeted by the worldwide financial situation. We have had those sorts of situations before; indeed, our government faced them on a number of occasions. But we did not buckle over; we knuckled down. We got on with the job. We dealt with the global pressures, and our nation emerged much stronger and prouder as we came out on the other side. Indeed, we delivered to this government a legacy of a $20 billion surplus and $60 billion in the Future Fund. The $20 billion surplus is already gone and we are probably already in deficit, but none of the problems have been fixed. Everybody is going to get these nice cheques next week, but the pension is still too low. They have not fixed the pension problem. They have done nothing for carers. They have not resolved the issues. A bit of guilt money this week is not going to make any difference to the long-term crisis confronted by these people—people who were told their grocery prices would go down and that GroceryWatch would protect them from the evils of the big multinational food companies. GroceryWatch has been a failure, like this government has been a failure.

They started right early to try and talk down the economic achievements of the previous government because they want to diminish the contrast between the failures of their government and the successes of their predecessor. We built for the future. We repaid Labor’s $96 billion debt. We put aside $60 billion for the future and we committed money for roads and rail. Labor, for all of their talk about an infrastructure-led recovery, have slashed funding available for roads and rail. They are actually going to spend less than the previous government had committed—and this is their way to try and beat inflation! Labor are in fact trying to spend their way through, but the reality is they have no plan and no vision for the future. They have already spent the whole of the surplus in a Whitlamesque spending spree. They have all the fiscal discipline in Treasury of Jim Cairns. And next thing we will have the Prime Minister going over to the Middle East to try and borrow some money from Khemlani to fund his new bank—a new bank to make up for the growing budget deficit; the ‘Kevlani’ bank that Labor are about to set up to try and save themselves from their own fiscal ineptitude.

The reality is this is a lost opportunity. Labor came into office with the resources at their fingertips to make a difference, if they had the courage, the will, the wit or the brains to be able to deliver. They have failed in their first year. The Prime Minister has given a dismal performance today in trying to defend his record for the past 12 months. They cannot deliver. They have no idea how to manage an economy and, sadly, all Australians are suffering today. Where is the Australian who is better off as a result of the election of the Labor government? I fear that next year may be even worse. (Time expired)