Questions without notice (budget)

Senator RUSTON (South Australia) (15:32): I too rise to take note of answers given by Senator Wong in relation to questions asked by Senators Abetz, Brandis, Joyce and Sinodinos. Senator Cameron and those senators on the other side who spoke before you, we are talking about broken promises, when you say one thing and you do something completely different. This is not about the interpretation of economic indicators, as you have just stood up and talked about; it is actually about telling the Australian public the truth. I draw to your attention that in 2008—

Senator Cameron interjecting—


Senator RUSTON: I draw to your attention, Senator Cameron and others in this chamber, that in 2008 the Treasurer, Mr Wayne Swan, titled his budget speech 'The new era of responsible economic management'. I have to say that I do not think that at the time anybody probably took a great deal of notice, but some five years on I think there is probably quite a lot of amusement out there that somebody could have entitled a speech that proved to be so wrong. The real tragedy is that the joke has been on the Australian public.

Hundreds and hundreds of times over the last five years, we have been told that we are going to have a surplus—we are going to have a surplus soon. At Christmas time, we were still going to have a surplus this year. After Christmas, we thought that maybe we were going to break even and we were going to have a small budget deficit. Two weeks ago, it was a $12 billion shortfall in revenue. One week ago, it was $17 billion in shortfall. One can only wonder, if we are losing about $5 billion a week, whether tonight's budget is actually going to tell us that we have a $22 billion budget revenue write-down. I bet we do not hear the word 'surplus' used too often in tonight's budget speech by the Treasurer.

Let us have a look at some of the other comments that the Treasurer has made. I draw these to the house's attention simply because you cannot constantly keep saying something that is constantly proved to be wrong. We all accept that every now and again you can make a mistake, but what we do in our businesses is go back and revise the errors that we have made. In 2011-12, the Treasurer said:

We are on track for surplus in 2012-13, on time, as promised—and this provides the solid foundations for the targeted investments we announce tonight.

And then, in 2012-13:

… on time, as promised.

The alternative—meandering back to surplus—would compound the pressures in our economy and push up the cost of living for pensioners and working people.

And then another comment, from last year's budget:

This Budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, strengthening over time—

et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I am afraid to say how many times you can say the same thing incorrectly. You start questioning whether this Treasurer actually understands what a budget surplus is.

So what have we got? As a consequence of what I would now refer to as 'a new era of irresponsible economic mismanagement', we have a series of resulting backflips that have been caused simply because the government have had to balance the budget. Family tax benefit increases have been scrapped. Increases in the tax-free threshold, as were promised, have been scrapped. We were not going to have a levy to fund the NDIS, but apparently we now have a levy. And the list goes on and on and on. How many houses were we promised would be connected to the NBN by now? I do not have the exact figures, but I would almost guarantee that not as many houses have been connected as were promised by the minister. Where is the funding for Gonski? Where is the funding for the dental scheme? Where are the boats that were going to be stopped, as we heard Senator Cash say earlier? We believe that one of them probably popped into Australia just in the last few minutes.

But I have to say that the winner of the biggest untruth of this government's reign has got to be the carbon tax: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' As was mentioned earlier, it is not because of the global financial crisis that we have ended up with a situation where we were promised no carbon tax and we got one, but the real tragedy of the carbon tax is not the fact that the Prime Minister told us a lie but the consequences of that carbon tax on Australia. It is not just the cost of power; it is transferred into the cost of living. We have seen closed businesses. We see people out of work. We have seen the economy being constricted, and we have seen businesses become totally and utterly uncompetitive. So the great legacy of the lies and the untruths and the constant misrepresentation to the Australian people is that this government will leave a legacy that this country does not want.

tags:  speech