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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4182

Senator BERNARDI (4:15 PM) —May I start my contribution by offering my congratulations to you, Madam Acting Deputy President Brown, for staying awake during what was a less than spirited defence of this government’s terrible, terrible spending pattern. The matter of public importance we are discussing is:

The inability of the Rudd Government to control spending and manage debt.

When I read that, I wondered if it was worthy of debate, because it is so obvious to the Australian people—the men and women, the parents and the children—that this country is being mismanaged and is sinking into a quagmire of debt. But then it occurred to me that there is no need to reinforce the message, because the message is already resonating with the good people of Australia; it is already sinking in. However, we do need to awaken the slumbering, former economic conservatives on the other side of the chamber who refuse to see the peril into which they are placing this country. The peril is stark. We cannot dismiss the facts. The government are already getting into debt of $315 billion. At least they acknowledge that. We also know that they are all about smokescreens. We know they are full of hyperbole, and so we suspect the ultimate debt will be much larger than that, but we will have to leave that to posterity.

Our nation is facing a record deficit of $58 billion. The Rudd Labor government are spending $58 billion more than they take from the people. What do they have to show for it? Not much thus far, let me tell you. They have sent out $900 cheques right across Australia to people who are alive or dead, to pets, to people who are in Australia or have departed Australia. That is a shameful act. Senator O’Brien was earlier boasting about his horses. I suspect they might have got a $900 cheque if other pets have been getting them. They would probably earn you more money that way than if you had a bet on them. But that is another thing altogether.

What we have here is a government that is plunging Australia into record levels of debt. Frankly, I was quite happy to oppose the $42 billion cash splash because it is misspent money. It is misallocated money. Fourteen million dollars went to 15,934 deceased people and their pets. Nearly 16,000 people who are no longer alive, or their pets, got $900 from the Rudd government. That does not seem a very good way to spend money to me. But what about the $25 million of taxpayers’ money—dollars that children and their parents such as those in the gallery are going to have to pay back—that went to 27,000 people who live overseas? Hardly stimulating the Australian economy, is it? There is not much defence of that. The lukewarm contribution from Senator O’Brien was less than spectacular, less than inspiring. We can only hope that the great firecrackers, the firebrands of the Senate—Senator Sterle and Senator Cameron—will not disappoint us. But I suspect, once again, there will be more fire and very little cracker when we hear from them.

The Rudd government are accumulating $300 billion-plus in debt—and they tried to average it away by saying it is net debt. All these technical things aside, let me put some facts on the table. The 10-year bond rate is 5.7 per cent or thereabouts. If the government can be believed—and it is a big if—they are going to have all this debt repaid by 2022. At a rate of 5.7 per cent, principal and interest repayments will result in an interest bill of $83.6 billion over the next 13 years—$83.6 billion will be taken from the taxpayer just so the government can try and guarantee their re-election. I hope that does not work, because the Australian people are actually waking up to the sham that is the government’s economic management.

To pay back this debt, every single Australian taxpayer will have to pay $1,569 every year for the next 13 years because of this government’s spendthrift ways. Yet the government is trumpeting that it has taken some principled action. Let me tell you this: anyone can borrow more money than they can afford to repay if they are not prepared to accept the consequences. Every man, woman and child in this country, whether or not they are a taxpayer—such as the children in the gallery—are going to have to pay $1,000 a year over the next 13 years to pay back the government’s debt. By the time those children finish university, they will still be paying back the government’s debt. It is that debt that will keep them paying into the government’s coffers. It is the wrong move. The government has sacrificed the future of the Australian economy for immediate gratification. Anyone with an ounce of common sense, anyone who has an understanding of economics or household budgeting, knows that you have to delay gratification in order to build a solid base and provide for the future. Unfortunately, the government is not prepared to do that.

What else are the government doing? Not only are they throwing money around that they do not have to people who will have to repay it three or fourfold—

Senator Williams —Or who live overseas.

Senator BERNARDI —Yes, to people who live overseas and who cannot spend it here. The government are also cutting the opportunities for young people. They are cutting opportunities with the youth allowance changes. They are making it much more difficult for people to pursue their education or to enjoy a gap year. Why is it that the government are happy to send money to people who do not even live in this country, but those who take a gap year and want to work in this country before they go to university are no longer worthy of receiving the government largess? My goodness, the government’s priorities are all wrong. Their priorities are all wrong, and they know it. I can see those on the other side skulking and squirming. Senator Sterle, you put on a brave face but we know you are not happy about disadvantaging country people.

The government are also spending millions of dollars to boost Mr Rudd’s ego by sending envoys around the world to try and obtain him a seat on the United Nations Security Council. He is obviously planning his departure—as are some others in the Labor Party, I might add. The Gillard forces are also planning Mr Rudd’s departure. The government are wasting millions of Australian dollars on fuelling one man’s ego so that he can travel around the world, complaining about meals, complaining that his hair dryer is not ready and talking about how he is the most important person.

Government senators interjecting—

Senator BERNARDI —Madam Acting Deputy President, I know that you, like me, must be disappointed by the quality of the interjections—because they have not really got much substance to them. We are going to hear enormous rhetoric, we are going to hear confected outrage, but the facts are absolutely clear: this government is all about spin. It is a government that is not concerned with the balance sheet of the Australian people. It is concerned about its own balance sheet: how many it has on the front bench and how many can take on ministerial office. Let me tell you, the Australian people are not concerned about that. They are concerned about what the government is doing to unemployment in this country. They are concerned about the fact that they are going to be fuelling inflation. They are concerned that, after 18 months, this government is so arrogant, so conceited and so formulaic in its self-defence that it has completely lost touch with reality. It is a very disappointing thing for the Australian people.

One of the great challenges, of course, will be for the government to detail to the Australian people what will happen when the immediate stimulus has worn off, the government and the Australian people are mired in debt and the government have run out of options. It will not have any more triggers to pull, because the Australian economy will be bubbling along the bottom. Do not take my word for it; I am referring to a number of prominent economists who recognise and identify that the Treasury growth forecasts are based on some mythological nirvana and on unprecedented recovery that is unlikely to happen. We know that because eminent people talk about it. When there is a problem in the future and there is no option for this government—nowhere to go—we will be left with its poisonous legacy for decades to come. It took us 10 years of good financial management to pay back only $96 billion of Labor’s terrible debt. There was a $10 billion black hole. And what have we got now? We are sentenced to another ‘intergenerational debt’. The government has sentenced every man, woman and child in this country to a debt burden they do not deserve. It has placed a yoke around their necks and asked them to pull a plough behind them for decades—to salvage its own conscience and to fuel one man’s ego and desire to be an international statesman. It is a fraud. It is a sham and members of the government should be ashamed. (Time expired)