Warren Truss (Wide Bay, National Party, Leader of the Nationals)
Just 88 days to go. Just 88 days for the people to decide whether this government deserves another term or whether they have had enough. It seems to me, as I walk around Australia and talk to voters, they are looking forward to 14 September just like children are looking forward to Christmas. They have had enough. For almost three years this government has fallen further and further into the mire and the moral abyss. The Prime Minister drank the Kool-Aid that the Greens had served up, and she accepted the poisoned chalice of the new paradigm from the members for New England and Lyne, and set about establishing this government. These colleagues, the Greens and the Independents, have been with Labor through every stumble, through every misstep along the way over the past three years. As this incompetent government lurched from one disaster to another, the Greens and the Independents were there with them, propping them up. Their full-throated support for the carbon tax and all of Labor’s legacy fiascos has reduced them to an echo of this Prime Minister and the people have stopped listening to all of them.
At what point during these three years did it first occur to the Prime Minister to go back on her solemn promise to the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led? Was it seconds or just milliseconds? Was it even a consideration? Did her word ever matter to her? She lost the trust of the people of Australia in her very first days after the last election. Did she ever give a thought to the rank betrayal that she was inflicting on the entire nation? No, her political survival was always at the top. Honour and integrity have had no role in the life of this government and the Australian people have endured an endless chain of bungles, scandals, backroom deals and lost opportunities.
The national accounts show that this government has squandered the resources boom. Labor headlined its previous two budgets as spreading the proceeds of the boom and then set about spending the money that it expected to be raised over the years ahead. But in fact the boom has not come. Labor busted the boom before it even existed with its ill-considered new taxes and incompetent policies. This budget was something different. It forgot about sharing the proceeds of the boom. We were told it was a budget that was about growth and jobs, except it was predicted to have lower growth than the previous year and higher unemployment. So the very objectives that the Labor Party set for itself in its budget were in fact shattered by its own predictions for the year ahead. The truth is businesses are cutting investment, and that means lost opportunity. Consumers are not spending, and that means fewer jobs.
Our domestic economy is going backwards with just paper thin growth, just over 0.6 per cent—and, frankly, we would not have had that if confidence was not so low that imports have been declining. At the heart of what is afflicting our nation is a debilitating case of despair. I think of the words of Cameron Clyne, chief executive of the National Australia Bank, when he said that there is a ‘bias towards pessimism’ among the business community. He said:
We have a national mood of gloom …
Well, if the head of a bank thinks things are gloomy, what do their customers think? If the banks are worried, how can small businesses ever hope to succeed? We could call the Treasurer’s Fix-o-Gram to find a solution. You will not find any fixes in the budget; you just have to subscribe to his app Fix-o-Gram. Unfortunately, this government has been too much about fixes over the years—deals, fixes—but no solutions to the issues confronting the Australian people.
The lack of confidence that this government inspires spreads throughout the business community and households really like a cancer. Their record is of failure and of ineptitude, of a people incapable of governing let alone in the national interest. They are unable to govern themselves. Here we are, only 88 days away from an election, and we still do not know who the Prime Minister is going to be on that day. Is it going to be the Rudd-Gillard government or is it going to be the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government? We have another few days and so it might be the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Gillard government. This is because Labor cannot even make up their own minds about who should be their leader. How can the public have any confidence in that kind of rabble?
Is it former Prime Minister Rudd who failed on border protection or is it Prime Minister Gillard, who on election promised to fix it? Should we be holding former Prime Minister Rudd to account for the failed mining tax or should we be holding to account Prime Minister Gillard, who promised to fix it and did not do it? Should we be holding the Prime Minister to account for the carbon tax that she promised to fix? Or do we hold the inventor of the tax, former Prime Minister Rudd, to blame for all of these debacles?
An opposition member: Both!
Yes, as I have just heard, they have both failed. They have both failed their party and, more importantly, they have both failed the Australian people. There are so many examples of failure: the carbon tax that the Prime Minister said in government she would not deliver; the supposed community consensus before any action would be taken on climate policy; a people’s assembly to build that consensus. These are all government election promises and they have just disappeared. There are the secret deals with the big three miners, who carved themselves out of the mining tax and left the small miners to carry the can; the roof batts program that burnt down people’s houses; the overpriced school halls; and GroceryWatch and Fuelwatch that never got off the ground. Now we have, of course, ‘asbestos watch’ while the NBN continues to squander the nation’s savings. The NBN itself is an example of a $90 billion white elephant which no-one is signing up to. Clearly, there are more years of costly delays ahead. They gave Telstra $11 billion to stop using their own perfectly functional network and they have got nothing much to replace it with.
Take the private health insurance rebates that Labor swore were part of the family budget and as such were guaranteed would remain untouched. In almost every budget Labor have sought to reduce the private health insurance rebates. They have offered to take five asylum seekers from Malaysia for every one person sent by them: ‘Hey, we’ve got 44,000! How many are you going to take?’
Opposition members interjecting—
Yes, this is a good deal for Tom Waterhouse! Of course, there was the mining tax that collected only 10 per cent of what was expected and the near destruction of Australia’s northern beef industry because of a panicked overreaction to a television program. On this government’s watch a manufacturing job in Australia has been axed every 20 minutes. How is that for the party for jobs? Now we have got Ford, after being given $34 million to save jobs, closing its plant down. What about the future of Simplot and SPC, the last of our major food-processing establishments in this country? Labor has no answer. It is doing nothing for employers and it is doing nothing for employees as factories close down one after the other.
There has to be a change. We do need to have a government that has actually got a plan, a vision, for our country. All this would be laughable if it were not so insulting to the people of Australia. In 88 days the people will decide whether they want this tragic soap opera as a rerun or they want a change, a coalition government that has a plan to bring the budget into balance and to start paying down Labor’s runaway debt. Abolishing the carbon tax is a positive action to reduce costs for families and businesses, as is abolishing the mining tax, cutting red tape by $1 billion a year to give small business the relief that they need, or creating two million new jobs. We will cut the green tape and will have a no-nonsense, one-stop shop to fast-track approvals. Our plan provides families with the surety that they need to be confident for their future. We have the experience. We have the record. We have done this before. We have created these jobs and we will make sure that Australia grows— (Time expired)
Graham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party)
I rise to speak on this MPI, having listened to the member for Wide Bay‘s contribution—and, unfortunately, it is a bit of my life that I will never get back—but I was looking for him to be a bit fair dinkum. As he is a Queenslander, I thought he might have touched on a couple of the significant things about stable government. I thought that, rather than talk about his dream of two million jobs, he would have spoken about the 960,000 jobs that have actually been created since he has been sitting on that side of the chamber. So I thought he would have spoken about that. I thought that perhaps he, as a world-travelling man—and I have travelled overseas with the member for Wide Bay—he might have touched on what conditions were like around Europe. We have 5.5 per cent unemployment—and it went down last month—but you can look at places in Europe where it is 11.9 per cent. There are places in Spain where one in two young people are unemployed. I thought he might have mentioned that because he does come from a part of Queensland that has higher unemployment. So I thought that as a Queenslander he might have mentioned that.
I thought he might have mentioned how proud he was to be in a nation that has a AAA credit rating from all three ratings agencies. I thought he would have been bipartisan enough to say that that is a good thing, but he forgot to mention it. Only eight countries of 200 particular countries around the world have this status. That is an empirical fact. That is not a press release; that is an empirical fact from the ratings agencies. Since he moved to that side of the chamber, how have we performed in terms of the size of our economy? He talks about doom and gloom and the need for stability. We have changed from being the 15th biggest economy in the world. We have moved up to being the 12th biggest economy in the world. I thought he would have said, from pure pride as an Australian, that he is proud—but no mention of that. And it has happened six times faster than those powerhouse countries like Germany or the megacountries like the United States.
He did not mention the global financial crisis. That two years has been taken out of the LNP history books. It is almost a Goebbels-type experiment in removing things from history: ‘This did not occur.’ The reality is we did have a global financial crisis. You look around the world and see the results of that and how they are still flowing through—how homes have been destroyed, how jobs have been destroyed, how whole communities have been destroyed by the impact of the global financial crisis. Under the Labor government, under Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard, we have steered through with a focus on jobs. That is the reality that I thought the member for Wide Bay would have touched on. That is the reality I thought the Leader of the Opposition would have touched on. The Leader of the Opposition understands these facts. I think he has a degree in economics. I thought he would have been aware of this.
The reality is the world has changed for those on that side of the chamber on two significant dates. Obviously, 24 November 2007 was a tough day for many of them when they got thrown out of government by the people of Australia. That was tough and some of them have never recovered. We churned through a couple of leaders—not deputy leaders, we still have a deputy leader who has loyally served three different leaders. We went through Brendan Nelson and the member for Wentworth and then moved on to the member for Warringah.
Then there was 1 December 2009—and didn’t the world change for that side of parliament from that day onwards? I have only been a member of parliament since 24 November 2007, so I can only see it through that prism. I have had two parliaments to see it through—the 42nd Parliament and the 43rd Parliament. That is what my observations are based on. Remember 1 December 2009, when the Leader of the Opposition was wholeheartedly endorsed by his party room by one vote, with one spoiled ballot and one absent vote? But for that moment in history, the history of Australia could have been changed perhaps.
Then we go through to the election day and those 17 days of desperate negotiations from the Leader of the Opposition, where he was prepared to do anything. He made that clear. He made the call to the member for New England, saying, ‘I will do anything.’ I think he made it very clear as to what he would do to grab power. He was happy to have power without glory. That has been the journey ever since.
Let us look at what has gone on in the 43rd Parliament in particular. As I said, I am comparing the 42nd and 43rd parliaments. Let us look at some of the little things that have happened around this place under the Leader of the Opposition. First a simple little thing. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition when he was in government used to play touch football every morning. The member for Rankin used to play—
Dr Emerson interjecting—
I think the member for Rankin might be misleading the parliament there!