Bills: Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012; Second Reading
I am pleased to rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and its cognate bills. I am pleased to give my electorate of Bonner a voice on this budget. This is a government that expects everyone else to pay for its mistakes, and that message is clear in this budget. The first budget of the Gillard government is no different to any other Labor budget-more borrowing, more taxes and yet another big deficit. On behalf of the overwhelming number of families in my electorate, I can tell you that they summarise this Labor budget in one word: disappointing. They summarise this budget as disappointing because, despite all of the pre-budget talk about this being a tough budget, this government has been tough on no-one but families. These are families who are working hard to meet the increasing cost of living. Many of them are struggling, and this budget seems to have ignored that fact.
The response from my constituents in Bonner since the delivery of this budget, only a couple of weeks ago, is that the government is out of touch with everyday people. My constituents tell me that they are struggling to tighten the family purse strings and that it is especially disheartening that the government is clearly not tightening the budget purse strings, because it is continuing with its wasteful spending. Families are paying for Labor’s failed border protection policies through cuts to family payments. My office has been inundated by families who are desperate to understand what the freezing of the indexation of family tax payment supplements will mean for them. It is incomprehensible that the government would gouge $2 billion from families at this time. Not only that-this budget has revealed that Labor has not been able to keep control of the deficit and debt, and both of these have increased even further. The government continues to borrow $135 million a day, and interest on Labor’s debt will be an incredible $7 billion a year. The government’s reckless spending and borrowing have seen interest rates rise higher than they would otherwise be, and this just compounds the pressure on the overall cost of living.
As I mentioned in my first speech to this parliament, Bonner is, not surprisingly, attractive to a higher than average number of retired or semiretired people, given the relaxed and tranquil paradise along our beautiful bay side. Just as this budget is out of touch with the realities for families, this budget is out of control with the reality faced by many seniors and the semiretired. This government does not understand the cost-of-living pressures that pensioners, the semiretired and self-funded retirees are facing. It is not about the need for set-top boxes; it is about being able to manage the increasing costs of petrol, electricity, groceries, health and home repayments. A post-budget survey revealed that 60 per cent of pensioners do not even want set-top boxes, and we know that Gerry Harvey said that he could provide and install them for $168, compared to Labor’s budgeted cost of $350. This government’s record of delivery is certainly not one to be proud of, given the debacle seen with the Home Insulation Program, computers in schools and Building the Education Revolution. Australians should be genuinely outraged that the government has not learned any lessons and is again proposing another incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.
I also want to talk about another group of Australians that this government is out of touch with. A number of my constituents have highlighted to me the situation of self-funded retirees. They have reminded me that self-funded retirees have been the hardest hit by the global financial crisis but have never received anything from this government. Most self-funded retirees have been able to be self-funded because they have been extremely conscientious in investing for their old age. However, the income for self-funded retirees has been hit in several ways. Their superannuation funds went into a downward spiral, dividend income went down, the value of their share portfolios went down and interest on their savings went down. At the same time as their income went down, the cost of living has soared in the opposite direction.
They are faced not only with another budget that will put further pressure on the cost of living but also with another tax-a carbon tax. There is no doubt the carbon tax will push the cost of living even higher. While this is true, the government has made no mention of the carbon tax and its implications in this budget. This is another tax that Labor should be ashamed of. Worse than that, this is a budget they should be ashamed of for the financial negligence of not including the carbon tax revenue and associated spending, estimated to be in the order of $11.5 billion, in this budget.
The carbon tax will destroy jobs and increase the cost of virtually everything. Overwhelmingly, residents of Bonner do not support it. What they do support is access to fast, affordable broadband now. I note that Labor plans to borrow $18.2 billion for the NBN over the forward estimates. Given that my constituents in Bonner will not have access to the NBN for at least another eight years, the potential for waste in this project is frightening. Again, the government’s financial negligence is astounding when the borrowings for the NBN are shown in this budget but the money does not hit the bottom line because Labor says it is an investment. When I was running my own small business, and as any business in my electorate would agree, I would never make such a huge investment without a cost-benefit analysis. But, astoundingly, this is exactly what this government has done. The coalition has a clear alternative plan for the delivery of high-speed broadband that will be much cheaper than the government’s monopoly that it tenuously hopes will one day be an investment.
Finally, I acknowledge the disappointment of many in my electorate about the government’s mental health package in this budget. While creating the illusion that the government was outspending the coalition’s election promise in this most important area, the detail reveals that there is only $1.5 million in new money over five years. The coalition remains committed to its mental health policy that will deliver $2 billion over four years. Again, we have seen a typical old-fashioned Labor budget that is big on taxes and big on spending but fails to help households battling a high cost of living with petrol, electricity, gas, grocery and health costs and home repayments. It is a budget balancing on a knife edge.
The most salient point about Labor’s budgets was made by my colleague the member for Longman, Wyatt Roy. In his lifetime Labor has not delivered a budget surplus and, unfortunately for my electorate of Bonner and for all Australians, I am certain that when we are celebrating the member for Longman’s 30th birthday this statistic will remain unchanged.