MOTIONS Fuel Excise


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory): Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was not expecting to get the call for a few minutes, so bear with me for one moment.

I did want to start with a brief rebuttal of some of the issues that Senator Bullock raised, because he did go a little bit beyond the motion—and I will stick to the motion, I assure you, Mr Acting Deputy President, but I do have to rebut some of the statements that were made and some of the assertions that were made on a range of issues by Senator Bullock. He touched on things like superannuation, car industry jobs and unemployment. I want to touch on those before I go to the detail of the motion before us.

 

Firstly, on superannuation: we heard it again from Senator Bullock, and it seems to be this modern Labor Party approach—or, at least, a post Hawke- Keating approach—which is blind, it seems, to the impacts of policy. What Senator Bullock seems to be suggesting on superannuation and what Labor seems to be suggesting is: when you increase compulsory super, there is no impact. You can do it. It is always a good thing. It never has any impact. Of course, economists will tell you different. They will just tell you that it is a deferred pay rise. Bill Shorten has said that it comes out of your wages. There is less money for wages. If you do not believe that, Senator Bullock, and if you think that what most economists say—what virtually every economist says—and what Bill Shorten has said is true, then you would double or triple compulsory super, because it would have no impact. We know, of course, that—

Senator Bullock interjecting—

Senator SESELJA: But that is the logical extension, Senator Bullock, of what you are saying, because if it has no impact on wages, if it has no impact on businesses, then jack it up as high as you like! It is a magic pudding! We know that that is not true. We know that as compulsory super goes up there is less money for wage rises. That is a fact. And no serious economist will dispute that. So we believe in compulsory superannuation, but if you do not increase it as quickly as the Labor Party would like, that does mean that there is more money for people's wages. It means that people have that money now, to choose what to do with. They can choose to put it into their super. They can choose to put it into their mortgage. They can choose to live a different lifestyle. That is an individual choice for individuals and families to make, not one to have dictated to them by governments.

Senator Bullock touched on car industry jobs.

Senator Lines interjecting—

Senator SESELJA: 'No understanding'—I hear from Sue Lines about how I have got no understanding of the magic-pudding theory on superannuation and everything else.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sterle): Order! Senator Seselja, I would urge you to ignore the interjections. If you could refer to senators by their official titles, it would be appreciated. Please just direct your comments through the chair.

Senator SESELJA: I do apologise. You are correct. I will do that. I will not respond  to  interjections from Senator Lines or anyone else, regardless of how ignorant they may be. Let us just deal with it. Let us just deal with the issues that the likes of Senator Lines raise. That is, again, this magic-pudding theory when it comes to superannuation. That is that there is a magic pot of money and that if you increase compulsory superannuation, it has no impact. Well, it clearly does. It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

It is likewise with car industry jobs, which was touched on by Senator Bullock. He was trying to blame the coalition for the loss of car industry jobs. But let us go this issue because, again, the Labor Party are claiming and would put this claim out that endless subsidies are okay and that no matter how high the subsidy is for car industry jobs we should pay it. We believe there is a limit to that kind of assistance. There is a cost. The Productivity Commission suggested around $300,000 in subsidies per job. The shop assistants, who Senator Bullock used to represent, are asked—

Senator Bullock: Still do.

Senator SESELJA: Senator Bullock tells me that he still does. The shop assistants who Senator Bullock seeks to represent are being asked, were being asked and would be asked by Labor in perpetuity to be paying out of their wages to subsidise $300,000 per car industry job. Is that the kind of policy we want to see in this country? That is unaffordable and that is the kind of approach that we have seen from the Labor Party in a whole range of areas: all care, no responsibility. It is always popular to hand out money—let's face it. But in the end, you run out of other people's money. That is the fundamental problem.

I have just one final point of rebuttal in relation to unemployment. Senator Bullock and the Labor Party have no credibility when it comes to criticising the coalition on unemployment. When we left office, the unemployment rate was 4.4 per cent. It shot up under Labor, in the very time that Senator Bullock was talking about. They left it at 5.7 per cent. We have inherited that and we are endeavouring to turn that around through a range of policies to improve the economy, to improve productivity and to make it easier for businesses to employ people. Those are the kinds of policies that will see employment grow, not endless subsidies and not endless government spending on all sorts of irresponsible programs, as we have seen from the previous government.

Let us go to the motion and why we have this situation of a reintroduction of indexation for the fuel excise. As Senator Abetz said earlier today, and all of us on this side of the chamber would share this view, we do not want to see taxes go up. I want to see taxes go down. But the reality we face is a serious budgetary problem. If I had my way and if we did not have the inheritance that we have from the Labor Party, I would not just want to see the fuel excise go down; I would want to see income tax go down and I would want to see all kinds of other taxes go down. Under coalition governments, they do—once we get the finances under control.

That is what we saw under the Howard government and that is what we will see under this government. We are already seeing it with things like the carbon tax—that is, the massive tax reduction with the carbon tax and the mining tax. We have seen significant tax reductions, but in a perfect world I would like to see them all go down. When we get the finances under control, we will again see more and more taxes going down; that is what good governments do over time. Liberal governments fix the mess from their Labor predecessors. Sometimes that does involve increases in taxes. It hurts. We saw that under the Howard government as well, but what we saw overall under the Howard government was a significant decrease in tax whilst delivering large surpluses. We grew the economy, we got the budget under control and then we returned money to the people through tax cuts. That is what a good government should do and that is what I would like to see this government do—and it will.

The final-year budget position that the last coalition government left was a $19.8 billion surplus. The Labor government left us $47 billion deficit. The average budget position under the former coalition government was an $8.1 billion surplus. The average under the Labor government was almost a $40 billion deficit. The government debt in net terms was negative $44.8 billion at the end of the Howard government and it was $191.5 billion at the end of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. Gross government debt was $55 billion at the end of the Howard government and $310 billion at the end of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. Interest on government debt was negative $1 billion at the end of the Howard government and $8.8 billion in net terms under the Labor government. It was $12.4 billion in gross terms. With any measure you want on the economy or on the budget and budgetary management, we see a stark contrast between the coalition and the Labor Party.

We do want to see these taxes go down. Let us deal with a number of the assertions and the claims of those opposite in relation to it. Let us look at the cost of this, because, as I said, I want to see taxes go down wherever possible. We need to make it clear that what we are talking about here is 40c a week for the average family. I would prefer that was not happening, but these are the fiscal realities. That is the truth. It is 40c a week on average. At the same time that we have got rid of the carbon tax, the people can see their electricity prices coming down and a whole range of other costs coming down. The Treasury, under the former government, estimated around $500 per year in savings for the average household. So we need to look at this in relation to all of the government's policies. We have gotten rid of a massive tax on families and we have kept the compensation. With reindexation, what we are saying is that the real value of the tax will stay the same over time. That does mean a 40c per week hit on the average family.

But that is in contrast to the average $10 per week that families save as a result of getting rid of the carbon tax. Let us not forget that. The Labor Party, who are now arguing against a 40c increase in fuel excise that will go to roads funding, supported and voted to keep an extra

$10 hit every week on average families as a result of the carbon tax—a carbon tax that had no positive impact, where what we are talking about when it comes to fuel excise is greater funding for roads. We are talking about better roads for Australians—putting $2.2 billion into roads. That is a stark contrast, isn't it, as we look at the relative merits. I think every contribution from the Labor Party or the Greens, who voted to keep that carbon tax, should be seen in that context. They now say they do not want to see a 40c increase per family per week for fuel, which would go into roads funding of $2.2 billion, but they do want to see a $10-per-week hit on families—on their electricity and other costs—as a result of the carbon tax, which, of course, achieved nothing. There is the stark contrast.

The Labor Party talks about the precedent. This is a precedent that they engaged in, in terms of the mechanism. This is a precedent that the Labor Party imposed in the previous government. I would also add this—and perhaps in any of the further contributions from Labor senators they can put on the record what they are going to do, because there will be a couple of opportunities. Will they be voting to get rid of indexation, or to reduce fuel excise? Remember that the Labor Party have not supported any of our savings. Bill Shorten makes the laughable claim that he can get to surplus more quickly than the coalition can. So, he has put it out there whilst rejecting all the savings—rejecting even his own savings—that the Labor Party supported whilst they were in government. The question now is: will they promise to reduce these taxes? I put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that come the next election the Labor Party will not be promising to reduce any taxes, and if they do they will do so with absolutely no credibility. They have not identified any savings and they are committed to all the extra spending, so they are going to start way behind on the task of getting the budget back into surplus. They will have no capacity to credibly offer tax cuts in any area. Be it income tax cuts, be it indirect or be it things like the fuel excise, the Labor Party will have no ability to offer any relief to taxpayers.

Only a responsible government that gets the budget under control, that has had a record of lowering taxes, growing the economy and delivering surplus budgets, will have the credibility to offer anything in the way of tax reductions and tax cuts. If there is one thing we know, it is that, no matter what the revenue is for the Labor Party, they will always spend it, and more. That has been the record in Australia. That is now a fact in Australian politics. As many of us will remember, Labor has not delivered a surplus budget in a generation. They went through the greatest mining boom we have seen in 100 years, the greatest terms of trade we have seen in over 100 years, and they still could not deliver a surplus, notwithstanding that. If you cannot deliver it when you have the best terms of trade ever, then you will never deliver it. I think that if you cannot deliver it for 20 years then the Australian people can safely conclude that the Labor Party is not capable of delivering a surplus, despite having promised that they had already done it. Bill Shorten told us that he had already done it. That was rubbish. It was not true, and the Australian people know it.

 

As we look at these issues we need to look at all of the facts. We need to look at the facts of what we were left with and what we are trying to fix. We need to look at the fact that, counter to the 40c increase per family per week for fuel, we are talking about an average $10 reduction as a result of our policy to get rid of the carbon tax—something the Labor Party and the Greens opposed. And we need to look at the record of coalition governments in getting budgets back under control and then delivering that dividend back to the community, whether it is through record investment in roads and infrastructure, whether it is through other services or whether it is through tax cuts. That is the record of coalition governments, and that is what we are aspiring to do as we fix the significant debt and deficit disaster that was left to us by our predecessors—the $1 billion a month, headed for $3 billion a month if we do not get it under control. This is what we are dealing with as a nation. This is what serious governments have to deal with, and those opposite, as they critique our efforts to fix their mess, have absolutely no credibility in doing so.