Government should not abolish debt ceiling

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:14): What an extraordinary contribution from the member for Moncrieff. We have heard it about four times already in this debate. Frankly, taking a lecture from those opposite, particularly from the member for Moncrieff, on political obstruction and opportunism is like taking a lecture from Ronnie Biggs on train safety. It really is. Their approach in the 43rd Parliament was to say no to everything. Even when it was consistent with their own policy, they said no to everything. They said no, whether it was about assisting the government to find savings through measures like putting an indexation on the private health insurance rebate—they talk about debt; well, they could have done some things when we were in government to assist in dealing with the issue of debt—or whether it was, as the member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out so many times, their belligerent approach when it came to the people transfer agreement with Malaysia. So taking a lecture from those opposite on the issue of obstructionism is really a little bit too much to take.

This bill, the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill 2013, is an extraordinary bill, which is why members on this side of the House cannot support it. It is extraordinary that the members on that side of the House would be speaking in favour of it, because, not three months ago, they were all standing in front of billboards and waving pamphlets around, saying, 'We will reduce the debt.'

Dr Leigh: Where is the debt truck now?

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Where is the debt truck now? The government members have gone from being the party of no debt to the party of no debt limit. I cannot understand why they are willing to stand there and speak in favour of this bill. It is Buzz Lightyear economics: 'To infinity and beyond!' We are all looking for Woody to make an appearance in this debate! They have only got themselves to blame. They would like to sheet home all of the blame to us on this side of the House, when we did the right thing by the country and we did the right thing by the parliament during the global financial crisis. Yes, we were willing to put the budget into the red to ensure that businesses stayed open and that people stayed in work. It was the right thing to do by the economy. It was the right thing to do by the nation. We got no assistance from those opposite, yet they come in here and complain to us about obstruction.

We might be able to take them a bit more seriously if, when they came back into government, they had done the right thing by the budget. But what was their first act? What was their first act when they came back into government? It was to give an $8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank. That is right—an $8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank, no strings attached. Yet they come in here and they complain about debt. Well, there is a fair bit of debt that was racked up on their own watch. They have only got themselves to blame.

From looking at what is in the chute, we believe the debt is actually going to get worse. What have the government's first acts been, on regaining the treasury bench? They have given a tax hike to low-superannuation earners and a tax cut to high-superannuation earners—an increase for high-superannuation earners. They have denied themselves a revenue stream. They like to take the fun out of the minerals resource rent tax, which is a growth tax: the tax increases when profits increase and decreases when profits are flat. But one of their first acts in government is to bring a bill into parliament to reduce the government's capacity to raise revenue in the future. It would seem that, if you want a tax cut in this country today, you have to own a mine. You can see where their priorities are. In fact, if you want help with your school expenses, your name has to be George Brandis. You can see where their priorities are and who they are looking after.

Those opposite puff up their chests and talk about the great deal that they have been able to do with the Greens. You can see how tough those negotiations must have been, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta! 'Dear Senator, I'm here; I want to ensure that we have no brakes on debt into the future, no debt limit.' You can imagine that that negotiation went on for weeks and weeks! We on this side of the House oppose the legislation. It is the right thing to do by the country.

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