In the News
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2010-2011
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 2) 2010-2011
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (NO. 1) 2010-2011
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (10:01 AM) —I rise this morning to speak about a budget that is threatening the wellbeing of all Australians. The longer the Rudd government are in existence, the more it is apparent that the underpinning of their fiscal and economic strategy is that they are seeking to exploit a myth in Australian culture. This myth in Australian culture is built on the very popular myth of Robin Hood. At every budget opportunity since 2007 Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have cast themselves in the role of Robin Hood. I went and saw the movie the other week, and I want to speak about this myth and how it strongly affects ordinary Australians. That movie does a very good job of showing what is really going on with Robin Hood.
In 2007 we saw that it would be the big Robin Hood budget, that somehow we would take from the rich and give to the poor. This was the myth that was cast in modern day Australia. But what is really going on in the current budget is not that the Rudd government are seeking to take from the rich and give to the poor but that they are seeking to take from people who have earned their wealth in Australian society and to use what they take to pay off a mountain of debt, a debt that will peak at $90 billion, with reckless cash splashes, sometimes handed out on completely illogical bases. The Rudd government tell us that now we need to tax the most productive sector of our economy 40 per cent more than we currently do because they are not paying their fair share, that somehow the mining sector has gotten away with a massive rip-off of the Australian people over a long time.
In using this popular myth, Mr Rudd and Mr Swan are trying to cast themselves as heroes against the injustice of mining companies escaping fair rates of taxation. In Australia today, the mining sector is the most productive sector of our economy. It already pays substantial rates of taxation, as it should. It already pays good money for the right to prospect and mine minerals and to turn them into commodities. This is not a simple process. The process of production is always a difficult process. The process of successfully investing your capital and making a return on it—and, in the process, producing wealth, employment and growth in our society—is a difficult process, fraught with many dangers. So for the government to say that somehow the mining companies are simply pulling rocks out of the ground on our behalf is a complete and utter furphy. They are indeed producing wealth and it is a difficult process that we ought not to confuse with the days of Robin Hood.
Wealth in almost all cases in Australia today is earned. It is earned through hard work. The days of inherited wealth are largely long gone. In modern Australia individuals pay taxation and companies pay taxation. There are myriad laws, taxes, charges, red tape and bureaucracy throughout our state and federal governments that ensure that all the fair and just amounts of taxation are claimed from our corporations and from our individuals.
Indeed, many would argue that we have too-high rates of taxation, and it is something that I would endorse—that individual taxation is too high, that other levels of taxation on our corporations and other businesses are still too high today and we need to do more to rein in the level of taxation in Australia. One way that you do not do that is to continue to increase your spending as a government, especially on the basis that we have seen from this government.
The government promised a great deal before it came to office in 2007, and now we understand that there are at least 47 identifiable broken promises, including things like takeovers of public hospitals, GroceryWatch, Fuelwatch, the ETS, delivering no budget deficits, delivering GP superclinics—and the list goes on and on. The government is backflipping on the basis that, as it says, ‘The global financial crisis came along, therefore we had to change our entire outlook and of course the budget changed substantially.’ There was a global financial crisis, but as a defence of the government it is very odd. I listened to the appropriations debate yesterday, to Labor member after Labor member, and the member for Solomon said, ‘We are a lucky country; this is how we got through the global financial crisis.’ The member for Solomon says it is pure luck that we got through the global financial crisis. The reality is that we got through the global financial crisis in better shape than many others because of the hard work and preparation by the previous government in setting the fundamentals of the Australian economy in such a way that it prevented us from being sucked down. If members opposite are being honest, they will acknowledge that that was absolutely the case.
What is happening around the world right now? What is going on in all the major countries, including Greece and other troubled states of Europe, is that governments are desperately trying to cut spending and reduce deficits in a desperate attempt to claw back their positions. Yet what is the Australian government doing in this budget? They are trying to scramble back from the $315 billion debt they were going to send us into in the last budget; they are trying to desperately claw it back in. The answer that they perpetually get up in here to rant about is that debt and deficit are somehow our salvation, saying that, ‘If we did not spend, spend, spend as a government in the last year, we would be in a worse position.’
I saw a great graph from Treasury about the projected impact of the global financial crisis and the actual impact of the global financial crisis, and the impact of the stimulus spending in averting the global financial crisis. For the amount of money that we as a country and as a government spent on these handouts, it was not worth it for that small change that happened. Why was it not worth it? Because you do not govern from year to year. You do not govern for a political cycle. You govern for the long term; you govern for the future of Australia.
When this government came to office it inherited future funds, zero net debt and finances that were stable and secure and would allow for long-term planning and investment, including things like the funding of all Commonwealth superannuants. One of the great difficulties that the Howard government inherited when it came to office in 1996 was not just $96 billion of debt. It was not just a deficit budget; it was the fact that the unfunded liabilities of the Commonwealth were enormous, including Commonwealth superannuants. One of the little-understood achievements of the Howard and Costello years was the funding of the Commonwealth’s ongoing liabilities, and that is something that is now under threat from this government. Indeed, for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, it is as if profit, success and self-reliance have become part of the problem and not part of the solution to our economic woes. There is this hideous attack on profit.
Now, what is profit, Madam Deputy Speaker? I stand here in this House today and say that profit is a good thing for Australian businesses. Profit is a good and necessary function of our economy; it is something that allows for ongoing growth and investment. Would I rather that the mining companies made a substantial profit so that they can reinvest in their business and grow their enterprise, invest in new infrastructure, new mines and do the things they need to do, or would I rather that the government had the money? I am here today to say that a dollar in the hands of the private sector is a dollar that will be spent on growing the economy, on creating and building jobs, on establishing a livelihood for so many Australians. Taking a dollar from a company and giving it to the government is not a way of producing prosperity.
Governments often say that they are responsible for jobs growth in society. This is a complete and utter furphy. It is the corporations, it is the businesses—the small businesses, the medium enterprises and the large enterprises—that create jobs and wealth in our country, and they ought to be free to do so. If people do well, we ought not put a super tax on it.
Why do we have taxes in a society? One reason is to create a disincentive to do things. We quite often tax things to reduce that activity in our economy or society. We tax cigarettes on the false premise that that will reduce smoking—but, over time, rates of smoking have declined, because taxes continue to rise. Whenever you put a tax on something you create a disincentive to do things. One of the arguments from the last government about putting a tax on spending was to reduce spending and increase levels of income. One of the ongoing arguments about high rates of income tax is that it is a disincentive for people to earn money. In taxing profits over six per cent—and this is the government’s whole ethos and rationale for doing this—you create a disincentive to earn profits.
I want to quote the Premier of Western Australia on the super mining tax, because I think this is very important. In a speech that he gave on 21 May, he spoke about visiting New York with a whole bunch of mining and petroleum industry executives put together from some of the world’s leading companies. They passed around a list of about $170 billion of projects that were expected to proceed in Western Australia—$170 billion. The Premier of Western Australia made an excellent point, saying: ‘My guess is that we’ll probably lose 25 per cent of those $170 billion of projects. I’m not suggesting the mining or petroleum industry is going to collapse or even decline. It will continue to grow but it won’t grow at the pace it could have.’
Why is this important? It is important because the government is saying—even the member for Blaxland today was saying loudly on television—that we are running around saying the mining industry will collapse. We are not saying that at all. But, when you put a massive, major new tax on an industry, you will reduce its growth, you will stunt future opportunities and you will slow down wealth creation. This constant and ongoing process of the government to put higher taxes in place and slow down wealth creation will create a poorer society. It will create higher costs for goods and services, it will create fewer opportunities for investment, and 25 per cent of $170 billion in terms of new investment projects in Australia is a lot of money to be threatening.
I think this idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor is really kind of a furphy as well in modern-day Australia. It is the case in Australia today that the government collects in this budget $137 billion in individual income taxation. That is the biggest slice of incoming revenue for this year’s budget—$137 billion. I always ask members and people I meet in the street: what is the biggest item of expenditure in the federal budget? Most people do not know. Some people guess defence, some people guess health. Actually, the single biggest item in the federal budget is the $115 billion for welfare and social security. That is the biggest item. It is double the health budget. It is five times the defence budget. To put it another way, we collect $137 billion in individual income taxation and we have already spent $115 billion of that redistributing wealth—paying the pensions and other social security, sending it back to people who we think need a hand up. But that means almost every single dollar collected from individuals is returned to other individuals in the form of income redistribution.
But this government says that is not enough. This government says we have to redistribute wealth because people are unfairly being taxed or unfairly being charged or ripped off by companies who are earning and producing the wealth. It is true to say, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that the tax represents a dagger at the heart of the Australian economy. You do not put such a yoke on your most productive sector and you certainly do not perpetuate this myth that, in modern-day Australia, people who are wealthy, people who have produced, people who earn, and people who have grown a small business into a big business are somehow outside of legitimate and lawful processes.
It is the right of every citizen to work hard. It is the right of every citizen to earn money. It is the right for them to accumulate wealth and to improve the lot for themselves and for their families. We ought to congratulate those people who have done well, not perpetuate this envious approach to politics and government that says that if you do well you ought to be taxed more, and if you produce more wealth and more jobs you ought to be yoked and burdened and harnessed until you are unable to compete properly.
The reality is that the ministers of this Labor government, and the Prime Minister and the Treasurer in particular, have tried to cast themselves as Robin Hood as a desperate smokescreen for their inability to manage the nation’s finances. They are exploiting the natural egalitarian instinct of Australians. That egalitarian instinct is a good thing, but it is not an instinct that we should promote in order to hold people back from succeeding. We ought to reject the premise that governments unjustly redistributing wealth will produce a better society. It will not. It will make all of us poorer.
I also want to speak today on some of the realities of infrastructure funding as well in Sydney and in my electorate in particular. The reason I want to raise this is because in successive budgets now we have seen the government laud its infrastructure credentials. In fact one of the reasons for this mining super tax is of course that it is going to build infrastructure. The entire budget for national infrastructure building this year is only $12 billion, which is very much down the order of priorities for the federal government’s expenditure this year.
In particular in Sydney, the biggest city in Australia, once again we have seen a complete lack of funding for key infrastructure projects. In last year’s budget there was a mere $40 million for a study for a western metro line, which was to go through the minister for infrastructure’s electorate, funnily enough. But with the worst New South Wales government in the history of our state—and I know the member for Werriwa will agree with me on that—we were unable to complete the western metro line and of course the money has to be returned to the Commonwealth. The $40 million for a study now has to be returned to the Commonwealth government. So Sydney ends up with not a single dollar of infrastructure spending—the biggest city in Australia.
Every resident of Sydney—and I know the constituents of Werriwa, Blaxland and Lindsay in particular—will know that when the minister for infrastructure speaks of the great infrastructure spending of our time and the improvements in infrastructure that this government is making, there is not a dollar for Sydney infrastructure, even though we have the worst New South Wales government in history and even though they are cancelling key rail and other key infrastructure projects almost on a weekly basis in Sydney.
Today I also want to speak on some factors that affect young people in Australia. One of the promises that the Rudd government has broken in relation to young people is that of a mandatory internet filter. Prior to coming to office the government announced its intention to filter the internet on a mandatory basis at the ISP level. I think this is very important, because a very revealing story came to light about the federal government’s budget just in May this year. On 15 May this year Rick Feneley from the Sydney Morning Herald revealed in an article that buried in the budget papers—not this week’s bundle of course; he is not referring to this year’s but to the 2008-09 budget papers—is a ‘small set of ugly numbers’. In his article he said:
The Coalition had boosted funding to the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team, a unit of the Australian Federal Police.
But now New Labor was quietly giving this team of paedophile hunters a $2.8 million haircut. Kevin Rudd and his Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, apparently reckoned it would be better spent on an internet filter.
With $44 million, they would take on the world wide web and create a ‘‘clean feed’’. They would impose their filter on the net’s greatest horrors …
and succeed. I want to record, as a member of the Cyber-Safety Committee and deputy chair of that committee, that this is exactly what is wrong with the Rudd government’s approach to government. The government thinks that somehow, by moving a law or imposing a mandatory filter on everybody, it can protect us from all the bad things and the risks of life that are out there. I want to reject that notion. The way to protect our children and the way to protect people online is to enforce the law—to have laws that are there to protect people.
That article is very revealing: at the same time that they are proposing a filter that will allegedly protect everybody—which we of course know it will not do—they are cutting the budget for the Federal Police to target online predators. It is an absolute outrage. I know that young people around this country feel betrayed by this government. We knew that Kevin07 was something new. He was trendy. He was going to relate to young people. He used to go on Rove and make very bad jokes—I never thought they were very funny but obviously other people disagreed with me—but he was going to relate to our young people. I speak to a lot of young people aged 18 to 25 and they know that a mandatory internet filter is not a solution to the problems of the internet. They know it will slow it down. They know it will allow the government to monitor and filter views that they disagree with—something which in a free society we should absolutely reject. That is another example of what is wrong with this government.
By stealing the image of Robin Hood in a modern-day society, this government is trying to claim the role of hero. But I want to record very strongly here today in this House that they are taking money unjustly from the most productive sector of our economy because they have recklessly spent the budget surpluses they inherited. They were looking for any industry they could find, and they went for the most productive sector because they thought they could get away with it. But even the very simplest person in this country, ordinary Australians, people on very low incomes, can understand that a 40 per cent tax hike is a tax grab to cover up reckless mismanagement of our nation’s finances.
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (8:48 PM) —I rise tonight to speak on the issue of transport infrastructure in my electorate of Mitchell. It is timely that I raise this matter here tonight in the House, because 2010 was the year that the long-promised north-west rail line for North West Sydney was to commence. Service was to commence in this month, according to the first initial state government promise in 1998. I do not need to remind the House that this promise has been cancelled, re-promised, cancelled and re-promised almost uncannily in sync with every state election. Now we have a timetable that has the completion of the north-west rail link in 2024.
Tonight I want in particular to raise the proposal of Mr Ron Christie. He has written an independent report that calls for an independent agency, Transport for Sydney, to be modelled on the successful Transport for London. It is important that the government, and particularly Infrastructure Australia, take note of this. With the worst government in New South Wales history, people in Sydney and New South Wales have completely lost faith in the ability of government to deliver infrastructure in key parts of our state.
My electorate of Mitchell has the highest rate of car ownership in Australia. That is because of the lack of transport options. It has the second highest proportion of couples with dependent children of any electorate in the country. It was one of the fastest growing corridors in Sydney. It still remains a very fast growth corridor. No government is proposing to put in any transportation options until 2024.
This has led to citizens, independent bodies, newspapers—including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Hill Shire Times—and other agencies, such as the Hill Shire Council, to form their own group, called the Build It Now Coalition. What this represents is a new thrust in New South Wales because government has failed in its job and in its fundamental responsibility. What we see in the Build It Now Coalition is a response to the abject and utter despair of the average citizen in New South Wales because the government will not deliver what it promises—especially in transport infrastructure. Of all the submissions that were put to the independent inquiry by Mr Ron Christie—more than 500 submissions—over 24 per cent were on this issue of the north-west rail line. About a quarter of all submissions to this independent body were on the single item of the north-west rail link. It is a vital and key piece of infrastructure for Sydney.
I want to note that in successive federal budgets since the election of this government and the formation of Infrastructure Australia there has been very little funding of any nature for infrastructure in Sydney. The much vaunted, much claimed and much talked about need to raise taxes, to raise capital and to invest in infrastructure has no application to every single resident of Sydney in every single seat in Sydney because there simply is no infrastructure funding for Sydney.
In last year’s budget we saw a meagre $40 million for a study for a western metro line from the city to Parramatta, which was to go right through the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government’s electorate, uncannily. But the incompetence of the New South Wales government knows no bounds, and that project has been cancelled as well. So the money had to be returned to the Commonwealth. The money provided in last year’s budget for a study for a western metro line through the minister for infrastructure’s own electorate had to be returned to the Commonwealth by the New South Wales state government.
And of course we all know of the absolute and utter failure of the New South Wales government to put a credible submission for infrastructure funding to the federal government in the first year of Infrastructure Australia. Here is a great new body of the federal government to deliver infrastructure in Australia—money on the table—but the New South Wales government fails to put even a credible submission together for any of that infrastructure money for Sydney.
I praise the work of the Build It Now coalition. The north-west rail link was supposed to open this year. We have a timetable from the Build It Now coalition which says that we can complete this by 2017. I urge the New South Wales government to do so, to get on with the job, to put proper applications in to the federal government and to seek all available funding to get this vital piece of transport infrastructure built for the residents of Sydney, north-west Sydney and my electorate of Mitchell.
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (4:06 PM) —I rise today to add my voice to the issue of military superannuation pensions, which is an issue that has been hotly debated in this chamber in recent days and one which many of my constituents from the veterans community of Mitchell have visited me on and raise with me regularly.
I want to acknowledge that defence service is unique and I think it was a poor outcome of the Henry review of taxation which viewed defence service as just another form of Commonwealth employment. I think there is a unique nature to service in the defence forces and I do not think it is appropriate to accept that it is just the same as any other form of employment by the Commonwealth government.
I want to thank my constituents for raising with me matters that apply to military superannuation. Those constituents have been very detailed in their submissions and analysis of how successive governments have failed to act on this important issue. I accept that it is one of the biggest issues affecting the veterans community at the moment.
I also want to acknowledge the motion moved by the member for Lyne about the military superannuation pension and the move to index it twice annually by the greatest divider of either the consumer price index, the pensioner beneficiary living cost index or male total average weekly earnings. While this may not be a motion that was supported by both sides of the House, I know that this issue is going to be an ongoing concern for veterans for some time.
I think that the government, unashamedly, at the last election promised veterans that there would be action in relation to this. Of course, it is yet another broken promise for the veterans community that we have seen. It does seem to me that there is a lot of money for all sorts of projects and all sorts of worthy causes around the country, yet money is being wasted in so many programs. The primary role of government, of course, is the defence of the nation, and looking after men and women who have chosen to serve on an ongoing basis is something that we ought to do first and something that we ought to consider before other important and worthy causes because we have asked those men and women to do something very important and sacrifice something on our behalf.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I consider military service as the highest form of service to the federal government. There is a strong case for action on military superannuation and pensions going forward. If you look at the reviews that have been conducted, such as the Matthews review, which came to the conclusion that there was no need to change the indexation method for military superannuation, or the Podger review, which has been well mentioned in this place, it does appear that superannuation—of course one aspect of the total remuneration package awarded to ADF members—is something that should be looked at again and something that in the future we should consider very seriously.
The visit by the Shadow Minister for Seniors, Bronwyn Bishop MP, to Castle Hill was an important opportunity for local seniors to take their concerns directly to the Shadow Minister, said the Federal Member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke.
Mrs Bishop visited the Anglican Retirement Village at Castle Hill and also attended a forum and afternoon tea at the Harvey Lowe Pavilion at the Castle Hill Showground. More than 100 local seniors attended the forum and issues discussed with Mrs Bishop included pensions, superannuation, and increased charges and the cost of living.
“Bronwyn Bishop is deeply committed to helping seniors and I know she was greatly impressed with the feedback she received at Castle Hill,” Mr Hawke said.
“Seniors in the Hills share many of the concerns of seniors right around Australia, although there are some issues, such as local bus services, which particularly affect us here in the Hills.”
Mr Hawke said that he had been seeking to have Mrs Bishop visit the Hills to discuss local seniors concerns since her appointment to the Shadow Ministry by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in December last year.
“Our seniors contribute so much to our local community. Without the volunteer work seniors undertake, the Hills would definitely be worse off.
“I wanted Mrs Bishop to hear first-hand not only the challenges our seniors face, but also their successes. I am sure the views of local Hills seniors will be of great value to her as she continues the Coalition’s development of new policy for seniors.”
Mr Hawke thanked all local residents who were able to attend the forum for their honest and sometimes direct comments about available Government services and programs and said he expected Mrs Bishop will visit the Hills again in the near future.
Monday, 31 May 2010
Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (6.43 pm)—I rise tonight to speak about the successful year of The Hills Swimming and Life Saving Club in my electorate of Mitchell. The club was formed in early 1967 with the name ‘The Hills Amateur Swimming Club’. The word ‘amateur’ was, of course, compulsory in those days. In 1998 it was changed to ‘The Hills Swimming Club’, and then, in 2006, to ‘The Hills Swimming and Life Saving Club. It is based centrally in Baulkham Hills and run by a fantastic committee of volunteers. It used to be the biggest swimming club in New South Wales, with over 700 members in the seventies. The lifesaving club, of course, is affiliated with the Royal Life Saving Society, whose headquarters is in my electorate of Mitchell. Classes have been held for the first season this year.
I want to offer congratulations on the presentation this year of the Derek Emery trophy to Eleanor Marshall and the Denis Robertson Award to Chelsea Podrow. One hundred and ninety-five club records were broken in the 2009-10 season. The club captains for swimming this year are Andrew Payne and Eleanor Marshall. The club captains for lifesaving are Ben Fishburn and Tiarna Jones. It was fantastic to attend the presentation, along with around 200 parents and committed volunteers.
Club membership is growing. It is such a fantastic club, and I want to congratulate all of the parents, the
hardworking coaches and staff at the club, the committee, the dedicated volunteers, the swimmers and, of course, the life members—the life members being Graham Taylor, Alan Kerruish, Pauline Alan, Bernie Boyle, Marilyn Tobin, Damian Hofman and Melanie Williams. This is a fantastic club. It fits in with the fine tradition of volunteerism in my electorate, and I endorse it thoroughly in the 2009-10 season.