Mr HOGAN (Page) (12:08): I rise to support this bill.
Governments are about doing what is right; governments aren’t always about doing what is popular.
This budget bill is certainly about that.
We often hear in lots of different areas the word sustainability, whether it be environmentally, with food production or using natural resources.
Sustainability is an important word and it is an important term—something that we have to look at and acknowledge in relation to everything.
What this budget is about and what unfortunately we don’t hear a lot about from the other side sometimes is financial sustainability. We need a system that is sustainable.
We hear things like: ‘We want to help pensioners’, ‘We want social welfare programs,’ and ‘We want spending from government in this area or that area,’ and we do.
What we need it to be is sustainable.
If it is not sustainable, the people who will be hurt the most will be those on pensions and others relying on different welfare mechanisms.
We need our education spending, our defence spending and our health spending all to be sustainable.
This budget is about making sure that they are at levels which are sustainable.
We have seen many examples in other countries where the spending has been increasing at levels which are not sustainable, and some of those governments are now under great pressure not to have things increase at the levels that they are and also to cut them.
We are certainly not doing that.
When you are a government, I suppose you look at two sides of an equation.
You look at the expenditure side and say, ‘How can we keep our expenditure sustainable?’
On the other side, you have tax revenue.
Tax revenue has to be sustainable as well, Mr Deputy Speaker, because, whether you like it or not, we are in a globally competitive world.
If we have tax levels, especially company and corporate tax levels, that are not competitive, as we have seen, companies will move offshore.
We have to keep our tax levels competitive.
Therefore, getting the balance right between what we are spending the taxpayers’ money on and how we get that taxpayers’ money has to be sustainable.
It is a very, very delicate balance.
I think this budget is getting to that level.
It is very easy for a politician to walk around the countryside—and we have certainly seen that in the last six years—promising money.
It is very easy to do and be everybody’s friend—’There’s some money for this and there’s some money for that’—without being accountable for it.
We have heard some previous speakers talk about the absolute level of debt, and they say that it is not a problem.
They say that our debt levels are not a problem relative to other countries.
Do you know why, Mr Deputy Speaker? It is because for 11 years we were the adults were in charge.
We had the best set of figures that any Western country in the world had.
What did we see in the last five or six years?
We saw the fastest growing debt of any Western country in the world.
That, unfortunately—and as much as it might make you popular as you walk around throwing the money out—is not sustainable.
The deep debt levels that we are seeing in some of the European countries—and I even include the US in it, too—are getting to the stage where the interest payments are absorbing most of their income tax.
We do not want to get to that stage.
In terms of our interest bill—and let’s go back six years—no interest was paid on the debt by the Commonwealth government because we had none.
The previous government, the Howard-Costello government, had also put public money, taxpayers’ money, in to fund the unfunded superannuation liabilities of Commonwealth public servants.
Again, it was a good measure to make sure that future taxpayers did not have to pay for that.
We now have a level of debt—again, one of the fastest growing debt levels that we have seen in the Western world over the last five or six years, because it is lovely to walk around throwing money out and being popular but not necessarily sensible—where the interest on that debt is $1 billion a month.
It is obviously not hard to work out that that is $12 billion a year.
What would $12 billion a year build?
Imagine the schools, the hospitals, the roads and the highways that $12 billion could build a year—a lot.
But we know that this year it is going to go in interest.
Where this is a problem is that you then pay it again next year.
If you keep running deficits, the interest bill will get higher and higher.
With the trajectory that our debt level was on, we would have soon been at levels, when we are talking about $600 billion, where our interest bill would be five or six times what it is currently.
That is what we are talking about.
We are the friends of people on welfare.
We are the friends of the health system.
We are the friends of the education system and the people who rely on government money.
Do you know why, Mr Deputy Speaker? Because we want the budget to be sustainable.
We want it to be at a level where we can always say, ‘We have the capacity to do this.’
We are seeing other countries rack up big debt levels that are not sustainable and that is when people who rely on those types of measures are in trouble.
Speaking positively for both sides of politics, we have been a country that has been relatively well served by both sides of politics over the last 20 or 30 years.
I think that some of the measures of the Hawke-Keating governments were admirable.
The Hawke-Keating governments made decisions that were not necessarily popular.
They made reformist decisions.
Things like tariff reductions were not necessarily popular decisions.
They sold off some government assets.
They brought in things like HECS for university students.
They made decision that were not popular decisions but they were good reformist decisions because they brought things to a sustainable measure.
What did the Liberal-National parties do when the Hawke-Keating governments brought in those reforms?
We supported them.
We could have been populist.
We could have gone out there and said, ‘This is terrible for you,’ knowing that we might win some votes at the next election for that particular section of the community that may not have liked some particular reformist legislation.
I acknowledge John Howard and the leaders of the opposition during that time.
If they saw a bill and thought it was good for the country, they supported it, even though they could have been populist and opposed it.
That reform obviously continued under the Howard government.
We saw the debt repaid that the previous Labor government had left.
We saw things like the Future Fund.
We saw tax lowered again.
This side of politics know that the more money that individuals have, that households have and that business has to invest and spend, the better it is for the economy.
We saw some good reforms from the Hawke-Keating governments, which we supported as an opposition even though we could have been populist.
We then had the Howard years when those reforms continued.
What has happened since then?
Since then, we have had valueless government, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, which were not good for our country.
They certainly were not reformist governments.
They were about being popular.
They were run by opinion polls.
They were run by what they thought would win them votes not what is right nor what is sustainable.
Now we have a difficult decision.
We have a populist opposition with no values.
It would be the good for the country if we saw the next Hawke or Keating on the other side of politics, but they don’t seem to be there.
Those opposite do not seem to have a values driven or a principled politician on their side.
They are simply populist.
If they do not support this budget, what is the solution that they are offering?
If they do not want to get the budget back to a sustainable level, what do they want?
They just want to run up the debt.
Let’s just keep spending money and let’s keep running up the debt then interest payments will obviously go up and up.
When the interest payments of $12 billion a year grow three, four or five times, which was the projection for the debt levels, what services would they cut?
What services are they going to cut in five or six years time?
That is what I want to know.
What services are they going to cut when we cannot afford them?
When our interest bill goes from $12 billion to $40, $50 or $60 billion, besides just being populist, the other side of politics need to tell us what services or what programs they would cut when the debt gets to that level.
Again, this is about doing what is right, not what is popular.
I congratulate the Treasurer on this bill.
I think that this has been a well-considered bill, with everyone across the board putting in their fair share.
It is about sustainability.
When I think about this bill I think simply about sustainability.
That is the theme that I think this is about.
This is about us being on a sustainable footing and the government of our country being able to afford to pay their bills over the next number of years.
It could sound as if we are not spending at all, but actually the government is still spending an enormous amount of money.
In fact, we will be spending more money this year than we were last year.
We will be spending more money in health and education, and more across a whole lot of fields—as we should.
The other element of this budget that I just want to note in closing is the massive spend on infrastructure.
A lot of new infrastructure projects have been put into this.
There is a $40 billion to $50 billion infrastructure spend planned for the next number of years.
This is about us again becoming a more efficient and productive country.
This is about us being able to produce goods and services and move them around the countryside, and money not being spent or lost with things being stopped on highways and stuff.
Just in my electorate, we have the continued duplication of the Pacific Highway.
Again, the previous federal government wanted to lower federal funding on that from 80 per cent to 50 per cent.
We said that we would maintain the funding of that highway at 80 per cent, and there will be well over $5 billion spent by the federal government on that over the next few years.
There will be increased spending again in rural and regional communities.
We understand the importance of roads.
We understand the importance of being able to get your product around.
We are going to increase the funding for Roads to Recovery to local councils.
We have a Black Spot program that is also going to have increased money.
Also, for two LGAs in my area, the bridge renewal program will be very important.
In the Kyogle Council area and the Clarence Valley Council area in my electorate there are enormous numbers of old wooden bridges.
They can cost anywhere up to $1 million to repair.
Often cattle trucks and other produce-type transport goes over those bridges.
They need to be maintained and repaired.
This is a new program.
It does not exist right now.
We are going to go fifty-fifty with them.
That is another exciting program.
So we do want this budget to be sustainable—we do want the federal government to be able to afford to continue to pay its bills because we want people who rely on that to be guaranteed that they will get it.
But, besides that, this budget also has some great projects in it, like the ones I have just mentioned, to increase the value of and spending on infrastructure programs around the country, especially in rural and regional communities like mine.
That is very important and will add, as this budget does, to economic growth, to jobs growth and to the continued growth of this country.