Below is the full Hansard transcript of Mr Robb, the Shadow Finance Spokesperson, who yesterday spoke on the suspension of standing orders.
In bold and italics are a couple of simple fact checks against what Mr Robb said.
Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (15:03): I second the motion. Standing orders should be suspended, because the final fig leaf hiding Labor’s incompetence and economic ineptitude is withering before our eyes. The surplus is dead. Despite Labor’s best efforts at budget fiddles and budget fraudulence, this government is finally being bludgeoned by the fiscal consequence of years of reckless spending (In real terms, government spending fell 0.4% in 2010-11, rose 4.8% in 2011-12 and is forecast to fall a record 4.4% in 2012-13. That is an average annual growth of 0.0% for three years. In 20 Budgets, neither the Howard or Fraser governments cut real government spending. In 2012-13, government spending will be 23.8% of GDP, compared with the Howard government average of 24.2% of GDP) . The government is squirming away from its non-negotiable promise to deliver a surplus. The pretence of having your cake and eating it as well has been exposed—and doesn’t everybody know it.
Standing orders need to be suspended, because we see today that only one in four Australians believe that Labor will be able to deliver its promise to get back into the black before the election. One in four, 25 per cent of Australians only, believe that this government can deliver a surplus—will get back into the black—after years of economic growth, after the biggest boom in our history, after terms of trade that were at 150-year highs (the terms of trade peaked over a year ago, in the September quarter 2011. They have fallen 9.2% since then and according to Treasury, will fall a further 8% in 2012-13), after an increase in commodity prices of only 350 per cent! (According to the RBA index of commodity prices, there has been a 29.2% rise in commodity prices in Australian dollar terms since Labor took office in November 2007, in US dollar terms the rise has been 49.5%. I am not aware of any commodity price index that is up 350% in the last 5 years). Yet they still cannot deliver a surplus, and 75 per cent of Australians can see straight through the rhetoric of this government, see the emptiness of Labor’s economic promises.
That is why standing orders must be suspended. There is a crisis of confidence right across the community; there has been now for 18 months to two years: 13 per cent of all disposable income across 7½ million households is being saved (according to the ABS National Accounts, the household saving ratio in the June quarter was 9.2%. The last time the household saving ratio was 13% or more was in the March quarter 1986), because people have no confidence to spend money. No wonder retail is on its knees (retail sales in volume terms rose 3.9% in the year to the June quarter, the fastest rate of increase in 3 years). That is $120 billion taken out of the economy in one year in savings. Why? The only reason is that people have no confidence that this government will do what it says it will do. Seventy-five per cent today confirmed that they do not believe that this government will deliver a surplus. They do not believe any of the nonsense this government has been peddling in budget after budget—the shonky forecasts, the endless spending, the reckless spending. It goes on and on and on.
The economic fraudulence of this government was so starkly exposed when, as my colleague said, within a day of the release of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, it was revealed that the first quarter’s payment of the resources super tax was a bit fat zero. The Treasurer became the first Treasurer in history to initiate a tax that does not actually raise any money! In fact, we are told that it could in the years ahead lead to the payment of money back to companies. This is a oncer; this is a first.
The important thing is that walking away from a surplus does have major consequences. It will result in more unfunded spending. It will open the floodgates to spending. The $120 billion black hole is only the start of it—this will open the floodgates for more spending. We have heard it today, with the Asia vision: billions of dollars being promised at this dispatch box, by implication. Where is that coming from? It is on top of the $120 billion black hole. We will see more borrowing, more debt, more issuing of government bonds, more pressure on the Australian dollar.
Penny Wong, the finance minister, said in her first speech that ‘this government has made it clear that the return to surplus is not negotiable’. Well, this government is crab-walking away from that promise, made over 150 times in the last two years. The backflip over this non-negotiable commitment to deliver a surplus is leaving Australia more vulnerable, more exposed—we need a change of government if we are to remove the crisis of confidence that is so endemic in our community. (Time expired)