The Liberals' Budget failures

May 09, 2018

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:46): As we learned again in question time today, the Treasurer is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but I think that even this Treasurer would have regretted beginning his speech last night about the budget by asking the Australian people: 'What have we achieved; what are we going to do next; and what's in it for the Australian people?' I'm happy to inform the Treasurer. What has he achieved so far? He's doubled the debt in this country from $175 billion to $350 billion on his watch. What is happening next? They're going to give at least $80 billion to big multinational corporations and $17 billion to the big banks. And what's in it for the Australian people? Cuts to their hospitals, cuts to their schools, cuts to their pensioner energy supplement and cuts to their TAFE. The list goes on and on and on.

You'd have to be pretty spectacularly out of touch to expect a big pat on the back for a budget which cuts the pensioner energy supplement at the same time as it gives a $17 billion tax cut to the big four banks. You'd have to be spectacularly and stupendously out of touch to expect a round of applause for a budget which takes money from a pensioner in the suburbs and gives it to one of the big banks in the dock at the royal commission right now, where we're seeing all the rorts and rip-offs being uncovered. It says it all about those opposite.

The budget last night had two main political objectives for those opposite on the eve of an election. The first one was to try to make the Australian people forget all of the pain that has been inflicted on them over the last five years and over the last four budgets—all the damage that has been done to our social fabric and to our hospitals and schools over the last four budgets. Last night was all about trying to make people forget about all of that. We saw an unedifying spectacle from the Treasurer, who wants to claim all of the credit for the fact that the global economy is in the best condition it's been in for a decade. He wants to claim credit for the economies of the world improving so substantially that they have delivered to him $40 billion in extra taxes and charges in this budget.

Despite that $40 billion in extra money—free money that the Treasurer got courtesy of the upswing in the global economy—we've still got the old cuts of $17 billion from schools, $700 million from hospitals, and the pensioner energy supplement. Remarkably, despite $40 billion just showing up, rolling through the door and landing at the Treasurer's feet, we've now got new cuts: $270 million pulled out of TAFE, and we know how much damage that will do; and $127 million pulled out of the ABC, the public broadcaster, to satisfy some kind of petty, vindictive political vendetta on that side of the House. The list of cuts goes on and on and on.

Despite this $40 billion which has shown up at the Treasurer's feet in this budget, we still have record debt in this country. Net debt is twice what they inherited from us. Gross debt has only ever crashed through half a trillion dollars under one government ever in the history of Australia: this government. It is at half a trillion dollars every year for the next 10 years. It will be higher in 10 years than it is today, and they want a round of applause for this rubbish that they delivered last night, despite all this new revenue.

The surplus for 2019-20 is $2.2 billion, and that includes $3½ billion for an accounting trick which brings tobacco tax forward a year into 2019-20. Without changing tobacco tax, there wouldn't be a surplus in 2019-20. It's also based on the zombie measures that the member for Jagajaga mentioned, which won't pass the parliament. It's based on some very optimistic assumptions about wages. The list goes on and on and on. The whole budget is built on an assumption that the global upswing is permanent, which is a very dangerous assumption. We've seen Liberal governments give permanent tax cuts on the back of temporary spikes in revenue. We know how that movie ends, and it doesn't end well.

Despite all of this, they want us to sign up now to a set of income tax cuts when they won't tell us how much those income tax cuts cost. They want the centrepiece of this budget to be an enterprise tax plan where they won't even mention how much it costs over 10 years—the enterprise tax plan which dare not speak its name. They want us to sign up to all this despite record debt on their watch. We support tax cuts for 1 July, and everyone understands that beyond that we'll be fairer across the board. We'll be more responsible as well. We'll provide relief to those we represent and those who need it most.