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Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Page: 885

Senator NASH (9:31 AM) —I rise this morning to continue my contribution to the debate on the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood and Cyclone Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood and Cyclone Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011.

Senator Parry —And a fine contribution it was.

Senator NASH —When I left off I was, I believe, talking about the government’s complete inability to manage the economy and about the waste and mismanagement that we have seen from this government since they came to office. I was discussing the different points of view of the two sides of the chamber. Obviously the government think that there should be a whacking great new tax on the Australian people to pay for assistance to the flood victims. We on this side do not. We believe that, with a budget of over $350 billion, this government are surely able to find savings measures to allow them to pay for the flood reconstruction. That would seem a fairly simple equation.

People out in the community certainly believe that the government should have gone down the road of finding those savings. When they look at the wasted money, the waste and mismanagement from this government, people quite rightly say, ‘Why can’t the government find some avenue other than whacking a great tax on us?’ Let us just have a look at a few of the cost blow-outs that we have seen from this government. Remember, colleagues and those who are listening out there across this beautiful land, that this is the reason the government do not have the money to help the flood victims. The reason the government do not have the money to help the flood victims is that they have wasted so many Australian taxpayers’ dollars already that there is simply no money left.

Let us have a look at a couple of those blow-outs. Everybody would be very well aware of the Building the Education Revolution, BER, program. There was a $1.7 billion blow-out on those school halls. That figure of $1.7 billion sounds a little familiar, does it not, colleagues? It sounds familiar because it is awfully close to the $1.8 billion that the government are trying to tax out of the Australian people. Logically, if the government had not wasted that $1.7 billion, they would have the money to assist the flood victims. Those on the other side will, I am sure, have a million excuses for that, but it is not good enough—the Australian people deserve to be treated fairly and they do not deserve to be whacked with another great tax.

Then there was the pink batts disaster. I think the amount that was wasted or mismanaged in that program was around $2.4 billion. It is no surprise that now, when the government is trying to put another great tax on them, the Australian people are saying, ‘We are not in the slightest bit impressed, Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, that you are going to tax us.’ They understand that this government has simply wasted billions and billions of dollars and that that money could have gone to help the flood victims.

The list of ALP cost blow-outs, waste and mismanagement is endless. I am sure, Senator Parry, that we all remember the computers in schools program. That one blew out by $1.2 billion.

Senator Parry —Unbelievable.

Senator NASH —It is true—$1.2 billion.

Government senators interjecting—

Senator NASH —I see my colleagues on the other side of the chamber have woken up. The reason they are interjecting is that they do not like hearing this. They do not like it being on the record—billions after billions wasted and mismanaged. Then, colleagues, we had GroceryWatch. Was that not an absolute stunner of a program? Labor promised ‘practical measures to increase competition and empower consumers’. It was a complete failure and it was abandoned—$7 million was wasted on a completely misguided idea, all part of this government’s grand plan to make groceries cheaper.

The government are hopeless and it is because they are hopeless that they need to tax the Australian people to help the flood victims. The list goes on—the solar homes program had an $850 million blow-out and the Green Loans program wasted $300 million. They have spent over a billion dollars on consultants since coming to government, probably because they do not have a single decent substantive idea of their own.

Senator Parry —They need consultants on how to break promises.

Senator NASH —They manage to break promises on their own very easily, Senator Parry. Still the list goes on—stimulus advertising, $50 million wasted; climate change advertising, $14 million wasted. This next one I am particularly interested in: 150 public servants to administer the emissions trading scheme. Last time I looked, we did not have an emissions trading scheme. The Australian taxpayer paid $81.9 million to implement an emissions trading scheme which we do not have. That, to me, should ring alarm bells right across this country—$80 million to administer a program which does not even exist. It is things like this which rile people in the Australian community who are so furious that this government is about to put yet another tax on them to help flood victims. There is not a person across this country who does not want to help flood victims and their communities—not one. Australians object to this government putting another tax on them when their history and track record of waste and mismanagement is there for all to see. If this Labor government had any idea how to manage an economy, they simply would have the money to help flood victims and their communities without putting a massive new tax on the Australian people.

It is interesting to hear the arguments from the other side. It is obvious, from what we have heard so far, that the government do not have any arguments that stack up. Yesterday, I happened to be in the chamber to hear Senator Bilyk’s contribution. She pointed out that the levy will be in place for only 12 months. Please! Who believes the government on that one? With their history of broken promises and Senator Bilyk saying, ‘The levy’s going to be in place for only 12 months,’ who can believe that? You cannot believe this government. A very good example of why you cannot believe this government is the Prime Minister’s backflip on the carbon tax.

Senator Bilyk raised the carbon tax yesterday, so I am really only responding to what she said. Before the last election, this Prime Minister said to the Australian people, ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.’ What do we have this week? We have the Prime Minister saying to the Australian people, ‘I’m going to give you a carbon tax.’ You do not have to be a rocket scientist to realise that that is a complete backflip. The Prime Minister lied to the Australian people. If the Prime Minister wants to give the Australian people a carbon tax, having told them before the last election that there would not be a carbon tax—and many people based their vote on the fact that the Prime Minister said before the last election that there would not be a carbon tax—then Prime Minister Julia Gillard should take that carbon tax to the people at an election before implementing such a tax. That is the only right, proper and fair thing for this Prime Minister to do because so many believed her when she said that there was not going to be a carbon tax.

Treasurer Wayne Swan even said that the coalition saying there was going to be carbon tax was a ‘hysterical allegation’. Remember that? The coalition were correct. We were absolutely dead right in questioning the Prime Minister. We were absolutely dead right in saying that she would bring in a carbon tax. Look at what she is trying to do now. She is trying to give this country a carbon tax.

A carbon tax will increase the cost of groceries, for families by around $300 a year. It will increase the price of fuel by 6½c a litre and will lead to losses of jobs, sending jobs offshore. The government loves talking about the ‘clean energy economy’—the phrase of the moment. We had ‘decisive action’ last year. I doubt many in the government would be able to explain what they mean by the clean energy economy. They keep talking about jobs from the clean energy economy, but there is no detail. They are not talking about what those jobs will be or where they will be. They are not saying, ‘Farmer Joe from over here will have to go over there to do something in IT. That’s a clean energy job. That’s good.’ They simply have not thought it through. Companies like BlueScope Steel have been talking about the enormous impact that a carbon tax will have on their company. We will see entire businesses forced offshore and Australian jobs will be lost. If we let our industries collapse and rely on imports for things like steel—and that could happen—we will be at the mercy of the countries selling us their product. Guess what will happen then? The price will go through the roof.

While this legislation is about the flood levy, I feel it is appropriate to respond to Senator Bilyk’s comments yesterday about the carbon tax. You cannot trust this government. When they say that this flood levy will be in place for only 12 months, you simply cannot believe them. I know my good colleague Senator Mason would agree with me entirely.

Senator Mason —I always do.

Senator NASH —Thank you, Senator Mason—I am not sure that is entirely correct, but close. We simply cannot trust this government. It has lied to the Australian people. It said that we are not going to have a carbon tax. How on earth can we believe them when they say that the flood levy will be in place for only 12 months?

Senator McLucas —Because it is in the legislation.

Senator NASH —Ah, because it is in the legislation! The wonderful thing about this place is that we are masters of our own destiny and legislation can be changed. Legislation is often changed, legislation is often amended. While I appreciate your contribution, Senator McLucas, I do not think anyone falls for that furphy either because amending legislation is what we do. I do not think people across the country are going to be comforted by the fact that it says in the legislation that the levy will be in place for only 12 months.

People simply have stopped trusting the Prime Minister and this government—if they ever did—because they know that this government says one thing and does another. They know that the words that come from this government do not translate into action. This government has absolutely no vision for the future. There are no substantive policies, and people out there in the Australian community are waking up to that big time. This assistance for flood victims is a tax that should not be placed on the Australian people—it is as simple as that. The one key thought that the Australian people need to keep in mind is that the only reason this flood tax is even being debated, the only reason that we are discussing it as a mechanism to fund assistance to flood victims, is that this Labor government under Julia Gillard and under Kevin Rudd before her—and who knows who is coming next, maybe Bill Shorten or Greg Combet, maybe Stephen Smith; it could be anyone—has no ability whatsoever to manage the economy. It has no ability to make sure that its finances are in order so that when things like the terrible disasters in Queensland happen they can be funded.

The best way to fund assistance for those people is through a surplus. The best way to fund assistance for those people is to have a government that can manage money, and in this Gillard Labor government the Australian people certainly do not have one of those governments. There is waste, mismanagement of money, broken promises—as we saw from the Prime Minister on the carbon tax—and the Australian people can expect a lot more of those things because leopards do not change their spots and this government is not going to change the fact that it is unable to manage the economy and steer this country to any kind of sustainable future.