MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE: Budget
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (16:08): I am very proud to represent the Riverina. Far from the hazy lights of Canberra lies the Riverina. I am not saying that people in Canberra do not work hard but it is the Riverina where a lot of this country's wealth and a lot of the food which Canberrans eat is produced. The Riverina needs to be preserved and protected but it is not being preserved and protected by some of the policies, many of the policies, most of the policies—indeed, all of the policies from those opposite.
We heard a lot about the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly elections on October 20. The member for Fraser quite correctly pointed out that voters will have their say. Indeed, they will because hopefully they will see the good sense to reject what Labor and the Greens have to offer, which has been rejected in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory. All over Australia we are seeing the rejection of stupid, ill-thought-out, ill-conceived Labor policies.
The member for Fraser went on about hospital beds in the ACT. No-one denies that hospital beds are important. Certainly the member for Dawson here knows how important hospital beds are in Mackay. I am sure the member for Fraser knows how important hospital beds are in Canberra. But he also might like to know that this Labor government, of which he is a member, has put in more detention centre beds than hospital beds throughout Australia and that is a disgrace.
There is an urgent need for the government to provide accurate information on Australia's current budgetary situation. In the past 15 or so sitting hours of this House, much of the time has been preoccupied with controversy about the Speaker and that position. It was a necessary issue to be discussed and decided. Now it is back to business. The most pressing business at hand is this Labor government's debt and deficit. The spending is out of control, with unfunded promises totalling $120 billion and increasing.
Labor talks up a National Disability Insurance Scheme and funding it but the government, as with so many other policy areas, has adopted an adversarial approach to the NDIS—and shame on it for doing so. If ever something required bipartisan support, the NDIS is it and it has it. This is something marked by cooperation. The Prime Minister told a Perth audience just last month that she would fight for the NDIS but no fight is necessary, none whatsoever. Our nation wants this; the people need it; and it must and will be done. The coalition stands ready to work with the government to implement the Productivity Commission's NDIS recommendations as soon as possible. This should not be about getting credit. It should be about doing something which is just, proper and right for the good of disabled persons, adults and children, who are desperately seeking help. The coalition's disability spokesperson, Senator Mitch Fifield, was correct when he said an NDIS will not happen without a deep and enduring cross-party consensus. It will also take money.
I see an NDIS as an investment in our future and certainly in the lives of those who will depend upon it. I know how desperately hard the member for Dawson has worked to ensure that this happens. But there has to be money available to finance the NDIS. A government which cannot rein in its expenses, which cannot stop borrowing and which cannot balance the books without cooking them cannot hope ever to sufficiently resource an NDIS the way it ought to be. It should stop lecturing this side and giving false hope to those counting upon it. It is a similar situation with the national curriculum and the Gonski education report: lots of words, reviews and analysis but a delay in real action. I say to the Prime Minister and to her government: stop trying to pick fights; stop spending money you do not have; stop making promises you cannot and will not keep; and start delivering.
The Treasurer needs to come clean on where the nation's finances are up to. That is what this matter of public importance is all about. Instead of using question time to score cheap political points and to twist and turn his responses into attacks on the opposition, the Treasurer would do well to simply answer the questions asked. His relentless and reckless negativity is boring and is unhelpful. What would assist the Australian public, the people who give us the privilege to serve them in this place, would be for the Treasurer to be transparent just for once. I call on him to come to this chamber and fess up to the real situation. Tell us how much Australia owes and how he and his government plan to pay it back. Do not hold your breath. We will all be blue in the face or well and truly expired before this Treasurer—supposedly the world's greatest; I would hate to see the worst—was straightforward with this parliament and through it the people of Australia.
Given the fact that the Treasurer will not be bursting through the door any time soon, I outline for the record the parlous state of things. When the Liberal-National coalition left government in 2007—what a sad day that was—there was $70 billion in the bank for Labor to inherit. Think about that. It is a lot of money. We are now $246 billion in gross debt and our gross debt went up by another $2 billion in just the past week. In the past month we have borrowed an extra $10 billion. What does $10 billion look like? Senator Barnaby Joyce gave this correlation at the recent Nationals' federal conference:
Now I just want to show you what $10 billion looks like. If we say that the average price for a house in regional areas is $300,000, the ABS tells us that there are 2.2 people in a house on average, well that would be a city of 73,000 people, in a month. That is what we are borrowing, and we just think that we can miraculously pay this back, that it will just happen. Somehow the guardian angel of the credit card will descend from the heavens and pay all the money back. Well, it won't.
The member for Fraser knows it, the Prime Minister knows it and the Treasurer knows it. How very right Senator Joyce was.
I will now go to more on where Labor has taken us. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the government borrowed $15 billion in the first three months of this financial year. That is despite promising a $1.5 billion surplus this financial year. It has a lot of catching up to do. Perhaps the most damning of statistics—and they are accurate because they come from advice researched by the Parliamentary Library—are the following. Everybody should really take note of this. This government has borrowed $173 billion in four budgets. All Australian governments before this government, back to Federation, borrowed a total of $123.7 billion over 108 years.
Dr Leigh interjecting—
Mr McCORMACK: Member for Fraser, I would really like you to listen to this. In four years, this government has borrowed more than the previous 108 years of Australian federal governments. It has borrowed more in four years than all governments have in the 108 years prior. What a disgrace. Can you believe that?
When the coalition was last in office—
Dr Leigh interjecting—
Mr McCORMACK: Listen to this. This is really important and you need to listen. I know you are an economist and I know you are a really smart fellow, but you really need to listen closely to this. When the coalition was last in office, it borrowed a total of $18 billion over 11 budgets, including during the East Asian financial crisis, the dotcom bust and September 11 and the war on terror. Just remember, Commonwealth governments in the 108 years prior to the Rudd-Gillard government taking over had two world wars, a number of other military conflicts and the Great Depression. Yet, still, your government has borrowed more than all those other governments put together—do you believe it? It is just really remarkable. It is correct. The Treasurer goes on about accuracy; that is an amazing statistic.
The Treasurer today in question time said the opposition leader was not entitled to make up the facts, but there are the facts. He urged Australia to walk tall in the world. He said we are walking tall in the world and that no-one should talk down the economy. I am not talking down the economy; I am simply presenting the facts. The Treasurer should know that we are not talking down the economy when we are presenting a few figures—real figures, not the rubbery ones he spouts.
Over the last four years, the Labor government has increased our debt by $173 billion. Our net debt now is $147 billion and our gross debt is going up by the minute. Goodness knows how many millions of dollars it has gone up by in the 10 minutes I have been talking.
Mr Ripoll: Stop talking then.
Mr McCORMACK: Well, you stop governing. You stop governing and we will get this economy back on track. Rest assured, I will stop talking when you call an election. That will be great, everyone will be happy and the Australian people will be able to eject this government. They will be able to reject it and throw it where it needs to be thrown. Also, to the voters in the ACT, if you are out there listening, on 20 October I urge you to vote Liberal because, I tell you what, you will not get anything from Labor— (Time expired)