Answers to questions - Budget

I have sat in this chamber for 14 days now, and I have endured 14 hours of question time. In that time, I honestly do not think that I have heard a question answered that has been put to the other side by the Liberal Party, the Nationals, the Independents or even the Greens. I am sure it is not a new phenomenon over the last 14 days. I am sure that questions have not been answered for a lot longer than that. I do not think that is acceptable. It is an extraordinary waste of everybody's time, and I think it is deflecting us from the real issues that we should be here talking about.

Today, again, there were a whole heap of questions asked in relation to the so-called budget surplus. It now seems that that budget surplus may not eventuate. I believe that over the last 18 months the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, collectively, have said 45 times that it was entirely not negotiable and we were going to have a budget surplus. So I can only hope that the assurances from the other side are true and that we are going to get a budget surplus.

The question that we really need to ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is: if this budget surplus is not going to be achievable, how long have they known that it was not going to be achievable and when are they actually going to come clean on it? Only a matter of a couple of months ago, I was running my own business. A lot of the decisions that I make in my own business are based on the information that is in the market. If this government knows that we are not going to have a budget surplus, they have got a responsibility to tell the people of Australia that we are not going to have one, so that they can use that market information to make the kind of investment decisions that they need in their business. I think it is an absolute disgrace if we are not getting that information. If business fails to provide that sort of information about the market, ASIC comes down on them like an absolute tonne of bricks. So why is it that the government can fail to provide information to the market that could reasonably be expected to mislead the market and have significant consequences?

Moving on from the fact that there seems to be one rule for the government and one rule for the rest of us, what of the MRRT? Where are the plans and what are the projects in relation to filling and plugging that gap with these billions of dollars that we were supposedly going to get but have not seen? We need to know what projects are going to be funded and what projects are not going to be funded. Are there projects that are going to be shelved? My understanding is that we did warn the government when this mining tax was brought in that it was highly unlikely that there was going to be any money earned from the tax—certainly in the short term. And yet now we have got a situation where they have not earned any money and yet they have allocated projects against the revenue before it was even earned.

As for so many promises that were on the agenda, we need to know which ones are going to be off the agenda, because we do not have the money to pay for them. It is the same as all those other projects that we seem to have been promised. Where is the money for the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Where is the money for the dental scheme? Who is going to fund Gonski? The list goes on and on and on.

I suggest that the people of Australia are, justifiably, getting pretty sick of these promises that are never likely to eventuate, and they are certainly understandably peeved they have been constantly misled. 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'; now we have a carbon tax. 'There will be no cuts to private health insurance'; there appear to be. 'There will be a $9 million windfall from the mining tax'; there is not much to show or account for that at the moment. 'There will be a surplus in 2012-13'; it does not look like it.

So today we have had questions from the opposition on the mining tax, the budget surplus, the national building scheme, the stimulus package and education spending. Today, have we had answers to any of them? Senator Pratt chastised Senator Payne for talking about TV when we are here today to talk about the really important issue of the economy. Maybe Senator Pratt should go back to her frontbench ministers and say that when they are asked questions about the economy they might like to answer them.

Senator Wong says, 'Don't talk down the economy.' I do not think we are talking down the economy. I think what we want to know is the actual truth about things out there. We are sick to death of rhetoric. If you give us the answers, we will not be talking down the economy, we will just be providing correct market information. Finally, the public are not stupid, so stop treating them as if they are stupid and give us the information so we can decide whether you are a good enough government.

tags:  speech