McMillan) (11:34): Where is the self-worth and self-esteem of the Labor Party after what you left us with after your years of government? You left this nation with massive debt and continuing growth in debt. The member for Moreton talked about rising unemployment. Who signalled rising unemployment but the former Treasurer, Wayne Swan? He signalled rising unemployment in each budget that they put forward, didn’t he? There is a lag in those figures that always comes 18 months afterwards. What did you leave us with? Where did you point the direction of the economy?
It is a disgrace that you can stand there in this day and age and pretend, even with the cuts that you were prepared to make in previous budgets—that you can stand there now and say, ‘But we’re not supporting those cuts anymore.’ What intended hypocrisy! How can the Labor Party that I knew—and that I know some of my people in the seat of McMillan actually vote for—sit there and oppose every balanced part of the budget that this nation needs to make, the cuts that need to be made, the cuts that you as a Labor Party signalled? You signalled that these are the things that have to be done in this nation to get the budget in order so our families will be better off and so small businesses can grow, yet you come in with these speeches that are laden with hypocrisy and duplicity. I cannot believe that you would try to mislead this nation in such a way.
Yes, unemployment figures are growing, and they are the legacy of what the Labor government left us after they were defeated at the last election. When this government came in and began to put our nation’s economic wellbeing in order, what did the Labor Party say? It said: ‘We’ll join with the crossbenchers in the Senate to stop everything. Nothing will go through. No cut, no change—nothing of any substance will go through for the next 18 months until there is an election, which we believe we can win.’ That is what it is all about. That is exactly what it is all about. The way you have treated this parliament with contempt is a disgrace and you are continuing to do it with every speech that comes forward—especially that of the member for Moreton. I would have expected more from him.
I made a mistake the other day—
Dr Chalmers: Did you say the member for Moreton?
Mr BROADBENT: The member for Moreton, just to make it clear. The member for Moreton was in that government. He knows the mistakes they made. He knows they were a profligate, spendthrift government. They had no concern for what they were spending; they spent and spent. When the income of this nation took a downturn they did not stop spending. They were actually told by the head of Treasury, ‘You can’t keep spending like this. We can’t afford new programs into the future; we just can’t afford it.’ He said, ‘The money’s not there to pay for it.’ What did the Labor Party say? ‘We don’t care.’ This is all about politics. It has nothing to do with the best interests of the Australian people or the health and wellbeing of this nation and its economy.
I made a mistake the other day, which I will admit to. I walked out in the middle of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition because I was so disappointed that he made a partisan statement when this parliament and the nation were trying to send a message on closing the gap. It is a bipartisan statement of this parliament that we want that gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people closed in every state, community, city and country. I should not have done that; I should not have walked out. But I was so disappointed with the Leader of the Opposition because I expected more from him on that day. So if there is anybody out there I need to apologise to, I apologise to them now; but I do not apologise for being absolutely disappointed with the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Champion: Thank you. Apology accepted!
Mr BROADBENT: The two members at the table can laugh; but the smiles will be on the other side of your faces if the reigns are ever handed back to the Labor Party and we go on another spendthrift dream ride: ‘We can do what we like because eventually we’ll go out of office’—and the Liberal-National coalition will come in again and try to clean up the mess. They say, ‘We don’t care.’ I say to the people of Macmillan and to the people of Australia generally: this is unacceptable at this time because the future of our children, and their children, is now on the line. The further we put off the changes that have to be made to our economy, and the cuts that have to be made, the harder the crunch is going to be. That is the situation we find ourselves in today.
We can no longer, as a country, continue spending billions of dollars more than we are receiving. You cannot do it in a family. Coming out of a small business, as I do, you cannot do it in a business—because if you do, you eventually cannot pay your bills and the bank says, ‘You’re finished.’ That is exactly what happens. You cannot do it on a dairy farm. You cannot do it on a beef property. You cannot do it anywhere within the magnificent contribution that my electorate makes to this country in agriculture. You cannot do it there. You cannot have loans that are crushing the future ability of your family to receive a benefit for the work you are putting in today. Eventually you have to stop and turn around.
That means there will be cuts in this budget and the next budget and the next budget. At the same time, we have to make sure the benefit goes to those who are most vulnerable in our community. The member for Moreton talked about what the Labor Party stands for and what he believes. I think what this parliament should stand for is that first obligation we have to the Australian people: to make sure those most vulnerable are cared for. It happens in a family. If you have one child who is struggling in a family, who gets the most attention from mum and dad? The child that is struggling. The other children are told, ‘Get on with it. Fend for yourselves; do the best you can.’ The vulnerable child gets the support.
This nation has grown on that egalitarianism. This nation is known for the way it spreads its wealth through the community. But it cannot be laissez-faire. Everybody has to accept that there will be changes. There will be cuts. You have to think about how we are going to afford this and whether it is fair.
Fairness is important in this nation. It goes to the heart of the way we think, it goes to the heart of the way we talk and it goes to the heart of the way we make decisions. If it is seen to be unfair, that is when we respond. If it is unfair in a family, or it is unfair in a business, or it is unfair in the workplace, we will respond as a nation because that is who Australians are. But we cannot stand here and say, ‘Let’s all go over the debt cliff together.’ The time has come for us to change where we are headed in this nation.
Mr Whiteley: Time to show some responsibility.
Mr BROADBENT: It does take some responsibility. It also takes some energy and effort to make sure we take the Australian people with us in the decisions we take.
I need infrastructure in my rural and outer-urban electorate, whether it be the baseball club or the cricket club, the tennis club or the football club. We are in a massively growing area. I have had more than 20,000 new residents come into my area over the last 18 months. Their children all need facilities, be it for soccer—which is one of the great growing sports in my community—baseball, or other sports we have not heard of like indoor slide ball. There are all sorts of things. Some 1,800 people a day go through our sports and aquatics centre, mostly for basketball. All of them could do with extended facilities.
There are bridges in my electorate that need rebuilding, either after fires or because of the fact we now have B-double trucks travelling over bridges that were never designed for that. I have one of the strongest agricultural areas in the nation—the great provider of much of the milk, beef and lamb you consume; the great provider of the wool that is exported and of the manufacturing across Gippsland. We contribute the power out of the Latrobe Valley that runs the nation—and I have fantastic workers there—but we do understand as a people that we cannot live beyond our means.
Politicians in this House and Senate collectively are letting you down because they are not telling you the truth about the nation’s finances and where we are headed, what we need to pay for and the infrastructure we need to grow this country. I am not talking about just those listing to this broadcast today; I am talking about their children and their children. We need to have politicians in this nation prepared to project 30 years and see where we are going to be. We need to have politicians in this nation not making promises that we cannot afford and not making promises about what they are going to deliver but never delivering.
We have to be reasonable with our statements and honest with the Australian people and say: ‘Today is a time when we have to pull back.’ Our national income has been diminished. You did not do it, I did not do it, the Labor Party did not do it and the coalition did not do it. There is a downturn in our earnings. If there was a downturn in the earnings in my businesses I had to stop the spending I was doing throughout the household. We never had to lay off people, which was fantastic. There were people who left, but we did not have to lay anybody off. We went without. This nation at this time has to change the way it is interacting with the Australian people. We need a new conversation to explain exactly the situation we are in and how we need to address it. I expect in the May budget that that will be the case.
It does no good for the Labor Party to stand there speech after speech denying the past completely and denying their hand in the state of the economy today. They are completely denying their hand and saying: ‘It is nothing to do with us. The election was the cut-off date. It is a new day today. All the things we said we would cut we are no longer cutting. We do not believe that any more. Anyway, it was the other executive who cut it. We are the new opposition.’ To this point I say to the Australian people: not one plan has been put forward by the Labor Party as to how they would address the economic ills of this nation. They have only said, ‘We do not like the way you are doing it.’ They have the right to say that but they do not have the right to stay completely silent on what plan they would have for the nation.
Mr Whiteley: Unfunded empathy.
Mr BROADBENT: ‘Unfunded empathy,’ says my friend. It is wrong in this nation at this time to say that the whole fault for what has happened to this nation lies with the government. They should be ashamed of themselves because of the way they have performed since they have come into opposition, and they know that. The great opportunity for the Labor Party today and for politicians of this country is to be honest with the constituents and tell them exactly the situation we are in in this country and how we got here. We need to look to the future to make sure that whatever we as a government want to do we are able to fund and deliver and we are able to look after our most vulnerable—we are able to look after our pensioners and those who are disabled. That should be the No. 1 priority for any government living in this time and this place. We need to do the best we can on behalf of our people.