Speech delivered to Parliament on February 13
Mr HOGAN (Page) (12:54): We had scheduled for today, or potentially earlier in the week, some discussion on appropriation bills, which will be deferred until the next sitting. What I would like to address today is that when we talk about appropriation bills we are always talking about economic management.
I would like to talk a little bit about my history and what I think I have observed in the history of our country in recent times. I also want to talk about what good economic management is and how, when they do want that, people always turn to a coalition government.
First, let us talk about legacy. Let us talk about the facts of history. The first thing I remember, as far as economic management goes, is the Whitlam government—and we know what a disaster that government was for our finances and our economy: we had the Khemlani loans affair that gave us international disrepute.
Then we had the Paul Keating Labor government. With all due respect, Paul Keating did many good things as far as the economy goes but he also gave us the recession that we had to have and 18 per cent interest rates, and left the Howard government with a $90 billion debt to repay.
Then what happened? We had a coalition government. John Howard and the team inherited $90 billion worth of debt. What did they do over those 11 years? They paid it all back— the whole $90 billion. Not only did they pay back the whole $90 billion that the Hawke and Keating governments built up; they also put $50 billion into the Future Fund to fund what were basically unfunded superannuation commitments to our public servants—a wonderful thing to do for the workers of the Public Service.
In the final year alone we see that the surplus of the Howard government was over $20 billion. You would think then that maybe Labor had learnt a lesson after we had the Whitlam problem and the $90 billion debt left by the previous government.
Then what happened? We had the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco. What happened there? Did they learn from their previous mistakes? Did they learn from the good economic management of the Howard government? No. They ran up the six biggest deficits we have ever had in our country. It has grown into the hundreds of billions and will be projected to go over $500 billion unless we correct that.
Opposition MPs often—and we all do—like to talk about sustainability in lots of things. Sustainability is important. The opposition’s type of economic management is unsustainable. We see many countries around the world run by parties similar to the Australian Labor Party who have run into, or are verging on, economic unsustainability.
We have a lot of countries in Europe that are now having austerity measures imposed. They are losing control of their own autonomy because of the debt that they have run up. What happens when a country gets to this?
‘Debt’ is an easy word to say; what is the practical result of debt? This is something that we do not talk about enough. The practical problem of debt is that you not only have to pay the debt back but also to pay interest on that debt. The interest payments alone of many countries is huge.
In Australia, the Australian Labor Party in 2007 were left a surplus. They were left money in the bank. They racked up hundreds of billions of dollars of debt, and now—we like to talk about infrastructure; we like to talk about services we would like to provide—we have billions of dollars every year that we are paying just in interest on debt. That is not paying the debt back and that is not building any schools or hospitals, or the roads or infrastructure we need; it is simply the interest that we are paying on the debt that the previous government, the Labor government, built up.
We talk about the education of our young. We talk about giving our young people the services they need: good education, good health—good everything, as we should. But the one thing we should not be doing to our young, which I think the other side of politics often forget, is burdening them with the legacy of huge debt, where our economy has a noose around its neck.