Senator Wong Updates Forcasts

Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (15:22): I rise to take note of answers to questions, especially the question from Senator Abetz to Senator Wong where Senator Wong said, 'We'll update the forecasts.' They are always updating the forecasts because they never get them right. They are not even making a good guess. Here we are: 'The surplus is here; we are out of deficit—here to stay for surpluses.' Where will the surplus be tonight?

We will hear more detail—it will be around a $10 billion, $15 billion or perhaps $20 billion deficit for this financial year, whereas they, the government under Treasurer Swan, had forecast a surplus this year, even at MYEFO, back in October: 'We will have a surplus.' There will be no surplus. The Labor Party does not know what the word means. They simply borrow and borrow—and they have done it all my life, whether they be state or federal governments.


Senator Furner referred to Queensland. You would not believe it. There are 4½ million people in Queensland—roughly the same population as Ireland. Ireland owes $120 billion; the government took over the debts of their banks during the global financial crisis. Here we have Queensland owing $73 billion, and that is forecast to grow to $85 billion by 2015. They are heading down the road of Ireland. That is where the Bligh Labor government took the finances of Queensland. No wonder they have to take harsh action now to try to stop themselves going down the road of Greece. Now we have this government doing exactly the same thing. Just in the 10 months this year, on the figures of the Australian Office of Financial Management, this government has borrowed $37 billion. And there was going to be a surplus! No, there will be no surplus.

They do not care if they impact on the confidence of the Australian people. That is what Senator Wong was saying: that we on this side are destroying the confidence of the Australian people. No; you, this government, have destroyed it, through your $273 billion of debt—your waste. We can go through all the schemes: the Pink Batts; the school buildings. Take the building where we in the National Party launched our campaign at Wagga Wagga last year; just on that day the covered outdoor learning area they had built fell over—collapsed. I could go to schemes in Moree where a builder carried out the Building the Education Revolution building and was never paid. That was $600,000 of bad debt to a builder, from Reed Constructions, carrying out a government scheme for the New South Wales incompetent government at the time—I forget who was Premier, whether it was Nathan Rees or Kristina Keneally, or Morris Iemma; I know they changed premiers pretty often in those days. And here is a contractor, someone in the private sector, blowing $600,000 doing a government job. What an absolute fiasco!

We could go out to Tottenham, a little town literally in the centre of New South Wales, where they spent $600,000 to build a school kiosk. It was so small they could not fit the microwave in it—$600,000 worth!

You are an absolute disgrace, and the Australian people do not trust you. They will not believe what the Treasurer says tonight. He is going to talk about 10 years time: $100 billion worth of infrastructure over the next 10 years. You cannot get it right three weeks out. Three weeks ago there was going to be a shortfall of income of $7½ billion. Two weeks ago it was $12 billion. A week ago it was $17 billion. You are not even making a good guess. And if you cannot manage the money, you cannot manage the economy.

This is the craziest thing of all. In October 2009, the Reserve Bank started raising interest rates. We had seven interest rate rises in a row, while the government was doing what? Stimulating the economy! So the government is borrowing money; they have their foot on the accelerator flat out, stimulating the economy, and the Reserve Bank is pulling on the handbrake! Who drives their car with their foot on the accelerator while pulling on the handbrake as they drive along? That is how stupid it is. You would not find an economist in the world who would say it would be good economic policy to borrow money and spend it while your central bank is raising interest rates to slow the economy. That is a stupidity. Of course, up went the Australian dollar. Have a look at the ramifications for rural Australia of that.

We could talk about the live exports of cattle. What a mess it has made of the beef industry! Instead of 750,000 animals going to Indonesia each year it is now down to 250,000. With the dry weather in Queensland, there is a flood of beef coming down to the southern areas and flooding the markets, and we are seeing cattle back at $20 a head. I wonder what would happen if wages went back to 1970 levels. There would be a hell of a fuss from the union movement. That will never happen. But it does not matter when you destroy the beef industry in Australia and put so many under so much pressure! You are a disgrace and the Australian people do not trust you. (Time expired)