Matters Of Public Importance - Budget (Aug 26)


 

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory): In 2007 when the Labor Party came to office they inherited the best set of books that any incoming government has ever inherited in Australia's history. That is a fact. When the Labor Party left office and the coalition came to office in 2013, we inherited the worst set of books for an incoming government in Australia's history. That is the legacy and the fundamental difference that we are dealing with here.

 

We had a coalition government that delivered surpluses, that delivered tax reform, that left money in the bank and that paid off all the debt—and in six short years the Labor Party managed to undo all of that good work and in fact make it far worse than even when the coalition came to government in 1996. That is what we are dealing with in this budget. That is the legacy that we are seeking to address. The vandals on the other side in the Labor Party, who were so reckless with our finances, do not see the fact that they created the problem in the last six years and now, as we seek to fix the mess that they left us and the legacy that they left the Australian people, they are doing everything that they can to prevent us fixing the mess. They are doing everything they possibly can to stop us.

The fundamental debate that we are having between the government and opposition at the moment is: 'Do you believe in fiscal responsibility? Do you believe in getting the books under control and getting the budget under control for the sake of future generations?' That is the question that is before the Australian parliament at the moment as we debate all of these various measures: 'Do you believe in that or do you believe that endless deficits are okay?' The evidence from Europe is that when you allow endless deficits to happen—it does not happen immediately but when you allow them year after year after year—something has to give. The medicine that we have seen in Europe is something that we do not want to go anywhere near. That is what we need to avoid.

Senator Bilyk started by talking about buyer's remorse and the like. There is an interesting thing about some of the polling that we have seen in today's Newspoll. As the coalition deals with a tough budget that is, of course, difficult—and there are some people who are concerned with us. But notwithstanding the tough budget and the difficult changes that the coalition is seeking  to  make,  the  Labor  Party  are  stranded—it appears, from today's Newspoll—exactly where they were at the last election when they had one of the biggest losses in their history. Their primary vote remains almost identical to where it was at that time.

Senator Dastyari interjecting—

Senator SESELJA: Senator Dastyari seems happy with a 34 per cent primary. The fact is that the Labor Party have not learnt that one of the main reasons they were tossed out of office was that they were economic vandals.

Senator Dastyari interjecting—

Senator SESELJA: You were not there but your party were economic vandals, Senator Dastyari—and that is what you have left us.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator

Whish-Wilson): Senator Seselja, please direct your comments through the chair. Senator Dastyari, interjections are disorderly.

Senator SESELJA: That is why Graham Richardson has been giving advice to his own party and has said: I haven’t met anyone outside of the parliamentary Labor Party who believes that Labor was spot on with its last four budgets.

He went on to say: Every minute of the day Australians are discussing the size of our debt and the problems we will bequeath our children unless we live within our means.

That is a fact. Unless we live within our means, we will be bequeathing our children something that we do not want to bequeath them—more debt, more deficit, higher taxes, fewer services and some serious issues should we face the next crisis. The next crisis will come. The next global economic challenge will come. Will it come next year? Will it come in five years time? Will it come in 10 years time? Nobody knows. We know that when we balance the books and look after the budget as we should, we are much better placed to deal with the challenges that will inevitably face our nation. This is a moral issue as to what legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. You cannot put your head in the sand and say, 'No, no, 16 years of consecutive deficits is okay.' It is not okay. As we have heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, 'It is time to start coming out of debt and deficit, otherwise the longer you leave it the more exposed you become and the harder it is to wind it back.' Have we not seen that from around the world, when governments lose control of their finances? Have we not seen how hard it is to wind it back when you do not do the work now?

We have heard recently the comments of Glenn Stevens that this is not a severe budget.  This is not a severe budget; it is getting spending under control gradually. Surely as a nation that is what we should be looking to do. We do not see massive cuts in expenditure. In fact we see continued growth in expenditure, but we see a slowing in that growth. Surely that is a sensible way to go rather than the recklessness advocated by those on the other side.

The Labor Party were reckless when they were in government and now they are being reckless in opposition. They are fundamentally saying to the Australian people that fiscal discipline and balanced budgets no longer matter. They have absolutely no alternative plan to bring the budget back into surplus. We have set out a plan to limit spending growth and invest in infrastructure. The Labor Party's plan, apparently, is to see spending growth continue to rise unsustainably, and the moral issue for them is: do they want to leave that to their grandchildren? Do you want to leave it to your children and grandchildren to pay off your debt? It is the height of irresponsibility for you to wreck the budget for six years and then come into opposition and oppose every measure that is about fixing your problems and your legacy. That is what the Labor Party is saying to the Australian people. They take no responsibility for the last six years and they take no responsibility for the task that is about fixing the problems that they created.

 

To finish where I started, the Labor Party inherited the best set of books that any opposition has ever inherited, and they left us with the worst set of books that any incoming government has inherited. That is their legacy. We have taken on the task of fixing that legacy. It is time that the Labor Party got out of the way.