House of Representatives - Matter of Public Importance - Government's Failure on Day To Day Issues

7th February, 2012 
Mr TRUSS (Wide Bay--Leader of The Nationals) (16:16): At the beginning of the federal parliamentary year Australians are increasingly alarmed about the Gillard government and its lack of an agenda.

The Prime Minister's authority is clearly in tatters. Her cabinet is split. The rank and file are bitterly divided, both philosophically and politically. If you throw in the Greens and a handful of Independents you have all the ingredients for a directionless, dysfunctional government that has no idea what it wants to do. It is completely out of ideas and it is bereft of an agenda.

They were so out of ideas that this past weekend they decided to bring the caucus together in a new-ideas forum to set a new agenda for Labor in the year ahead.

And, yes, as the honourable member said, 23 of them did not even bother to show up.

They did not have any ideas at all.

But I have a bit of an idea that there was not too much love at this love-in.

They had the butchers paper out, and also the butchers knives. They were sharpening them up and there is no doubt at all it is the Prime Minister's leadership that was on the chopping block.

This is a government without ideas. Indeed, after the event we seem to have heard no new ideas put forward.

They had to bring back former Prime Minister Bob Hawke to give them some ideas - a blast from the past.

They did not go to the popular former Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs; they went back a further generation to Bob Hawke to try to give them just a few ideas, but nothing came forward.

We should be thankful that at least the current Prime Minister only brought together her caucus for the barbecue at the Lodge. Her predecessor brought together a cast of hundreds and hundreds for his ideas summit.

Labor was elected without any ideas and then they had to bring in people from all over the countryside. They came up with a thousand ideas, and four years later fewer than 10 are still breathing, let alone there being any kind of activity that might change the country.

Labor is unable to develop ideas of its own and is now even unable to take ideas from others.

The Prime Minister simply cannot be trusted or relied upon. Labor's national conference was just as bad. Labor forgot all about struggling families and the things that matter to them.

Instead, Labor tore itself apart over gay marriage and uranium sales and so on. It is not just the issues themselves; it is also that they represent more broken promises from the Prime Minister and from Labor.

Then, as the new year began, there was another broken promise. The written agreement with the honourable member for Denison in relation to poker machines has just been torn up.

No wonder the Australian people do not trust this Prime Minister and this government. Then, today, the Prime Minister walked away from the commitment to the member for Melbourne and the Greens about dental reform.

Another broken promise.

Her word is simply worthless. She cannot be trusted. The Australian people are well and truly aware of that--the government cannot be trusted.

The Treasurer told us that last year was to be the year of jobs. The Treasurer said this in his budget speech and said it repeatedly at the Press Club and at other places.

The theme for the year was going to be jobs, jobs, jobs.

He said 500,000 new jobs would be created. Labor's primary emphasis in 2011 was creating jobs. And what was the final result?

Nil. Labor created no new jobs.

For the first time for almost two decades, no new jobs were created in Australia.

Labor put all of its effort for the year into creating jobs, and they got none. Indeed, the situation is clearly getting worse.

Already this year we have heard of Westpac retrenching 400 people; the Bank of Scotland, 200 jobs gone; the ANZ, 130 jobs gone, with another 700 yet to go; Holden, 100 jobs gone; Toyota, 350 jobs gone; BHP, 155 jobs gone; Reckitt Benckiser, 190 jobs gone; Manildra, 70 jobs gone; the Hydro Aluminium plant near Newcastle, 150 jobs gone; Tomago Aluminium, 100 jobs gone; Thales, 50 jobs gone; Don Smallgoods, 31 jobs gone; Heinz, 146 jobs gone; and, today, at Macquarie Bank, 1,000 jobs gone.

This is the government that says it is about creating jobs, but that is a list of some of the job losses that have been announced for this year.

Also, bear in mind that this is only a small glimpse at the jobs being lost.

Almost every small business is laying someone off, but that is not in the newspapers. Almost every manufacturing business is laying people off.

Labor's record in the manufacturing sector--the people they purport to represent and understand--is 130,000 jobs lost in manufacturing under the Labor government.

Indeed, if we have a Labor government for too much longer, will we have any manufacturing industry left at all?

All of these just sound like numbers, but each one of these jobs lost is a job for a worker. It is a family without somebody who can meet the bills, a family that has lost a job because of this government's incompetence.

Today we had the announcement of what Labor's theme is going to be for this year: they want an economic debate.

This is the year for the economy. The Prime Minister called upon all of us to participate in a debate on the economy. Aren't we so pleased to do this.

This is the government, after all, that took Australia from surpluses, from having funds in the bank, to massive deficits. The world's greatest Treasurer produced our country's four greatest deficits.

He has no idea how to run the country.

Labor inherited $70 billion in the bank. Now we have a net debt of $133 billion. The Treasurer is always running out there complaining about the banks not reducing interest rates as much as they should.

I think the banks should reduce their interest rates more as well, but one of the reasons why the banks cannot reduce interest rates is that the cost of borrowing money is going up.

One of the primary reasons why the cost of borrowing money is going up is that the government is out there borrowing more, $100 million every day.

So when somebody is trying to get a home loan from their bank, they are actually competing with the government, which is there in the marketplace on the same day borrowing $100 million.

If this government is serious about reducing interest rates, then it must borrow less.

It must start balancing its budget.

It must start being responsible and putting together an economic agenda that demonstrates this country can pay its way and can balance its own budget--set an example rather than criticise others.

We are leading up to a budget in May. That is going to be a really dodgy document because the government has already announced that billions of dollars worth of expenditure that was supposed to be in 2011 is being brought forward to this year.

Other expenditure is being delayed until 2013-14.

What they are trying to do is create one little year, one little window, when the budget might actually be balanced, but that is at the expense of a higher deficit this year and a higher deficit in subsequent years.

They have diverted a whole stack of money for road funding into this financial year from the next financial year. There will not be any new roads sooner.

It is just paying money across to the states so that they can shovel it out and it is not included in next year's budget.

There is a similar story with the mental health program and a similar story with the carbon tax.

Even though the carbon tax only starts in 2012, the big compensation payout to pensioners is going to be in this financial year. So they pay out billions of dollars worth of compensation this financial year and then collect the tax from the next financial year.

This is a dodgy surplus, if ever it happens. In fact it will not happen. This government is not competent enough to put together any kind of logical budgeting.

When they do put together a program, it is built around waste and mismanagement.

Now everything is going to have to carry the extra burden of a carbon tax, adding to the cost of everything we do, adding to the cost of living, adding to the cost of manufacturing and making our economy uncompetitive.

This is a government with no ideas. The ideas it has had have turned to lemons. They have been a dismal failure.


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