What is on the mind of Australian people around the country is: how much more debt can we afford to carry? And the answer is no more. We are in debt to the tune of $563 billion. It was just a few weeks ago that the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that we are going to raise it to $600 billion. The debt ceiling was taken out. We did have a debt ceiling but that was changed around 2009. The Labor Party had a debt ceiling, but Tony Abbott’s government and also the Greens removed the debt ceiling that we had in Australia. I do not believe that it can go on the way that it is going. Scott Morrison has said in the past that we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. But, well and truly, I say that we have both. We do have a revenue problem and we do have a spending problem.
If we have a look at the debt, we can see that it is accumulating at a rate of about $14 billion a year. That is how much we are going further into debt and, at this rate, we will never be able to pay it back. The government is increasing the debt. At budget time they tell us that we will be back in surplus in a matter of years, but that is not the case. We need to rein in our spending, and I can give a few examples of where we could do this. Firstly, we could look at the remuneration packages paid to a lot of our organisations—as I raised in the chamber, the CEO of Australia Post was on $5.6 million a year—$5.6 million a year he has paid himself—and the head of NBN is actually on $3.6 million a year. Looking at chancellors of universities, we can see that the top one is on just over a million dollars a year and that the top 21 are probably bringing in $700,000-plus a year.
Then you can look to some of the other positions in Australia Post, where you have people who are on $1½ million a year, and then at the board of directors, who are on another $1.2 million a year. And the CEO of the ABC is on approximately $900,000-plus a year. This is completely out of the realm of what the average Australian finds acceptable. We are now getting a divide in Australia where we have ordinary Australians who are trying to work extremely hard for the average wage. And though some may say it is around about $45,000 or $50,000 a year, many are only receiving their $35,000 and are having to live on that. When you hear of these people and these wages that I have been talking about, such as the $5.6 million for the CEO, people are furious about it, and I do not blame them.
When I raised in the parliament about what the CEO of Australia Post was getting paid, the Liberal Party, the government, said: ‘Look, we will fix that. We will change what he can be paid.’ And they put out a remuneration package here that he should actually come under, which has the classification of band E. It is quite interesting: if you go through bands A, B, C and D you will see they start from a certain amount and they have a total amount that they can be paid. But that is not the case under band E, which says, ‘from either $380,230 or from $469,340’, but it does not say to what amount. The government has actually given carte blanche to the board of Australia Post to stipulate what they want to pay the next CEO of Australia Post.
Australians are not going to put up with this anymore. We cannot continue to have the divide in this country, which is becoming the rich and the poor. The remuneration packages we are paying these people in Australia is far superior to what people in the same positions in other countries around the world are paid. This has to change.
Another thing about our debt and where we can rein it back in is that we had assets. We had Telstra which, in 1996, made a profit about $2.2 billion—but no, the government wanted to sell Telstra, and now it is making a profit of about $6½ billion a year. Then you have the Commonwealth Bank, which was also sold off and is now looking at making nearly $10 billion profit a year. We are seeing too many of our assets being sold in this country, and Australians are fed up with it. Their assets belong to them. It is not up to governments to decide when they wish to sell off an asset to gain just a couple of billion dollars that they continually waste, and then we do not have the revenue coming in from those assets.
A case in point that I am going to talk about is the Adani mine. The government is looking at lending the Adani mine $1 billion to build this railway line. I am all for the coal mining; I have no problems with it; we need it for the jobs—it will create around 1463 permanent jobs, but building the railway line will create more jobs in the interim. If we build the railway line—the mine is supposed to be productive for 60 years—Adani will have to cart its coal and the average cost of carting that coal will be $10 a tonne. At the height of production, they are looking at 60 million tonnes which equates to $600 million a year—revenue we will have from that railway line. It is not only Adani but other coal mines in the area, and that would amount to another $60 million a year. If the government owned the railway line, it could pull in at least $1 billion a year. Why are we going to allow a foreign company to own the railway line and to pull in the profits from that? Unless we start looking at turning that around and getting people in this parliament with business acumen who know what they are doing to stop selling Australian people out, we are not going to have the money to run this country—our hospitals, schools or to pay those people who need the pension, including the sick and the aged. We will not be able to look after future generations and we will be leaving a hell of a debt for them. That is exactly what we are doing.
The welfare system needs to be reined in. I am suggesting an Australian identity card so that anyone who is on taxpayer-funded services must apply for the card, present their 100 points of proof of who they are—we have too many aliases, too many rorters, too many people ripping off the system. If you have a card, then when you go to the doctor you swipe your card. It must have your picture and your palm print because that cannot be duplicated. We have overseas visitors coming to this country who get a Medicare card and go to the doctor. They get scripts and some are ending up in the hospitals that we are paying for. There are numerous people who are collecting welfare payments and there are people rorting the educational system. If we want to be fair dinkum at reining this in, this is the only way we can go about it. We need to address concerns about it.
Another thing on the minds of the Australian people is our gas fields. On the North West Shelf, we have multinationals taking our gas, selling it to Japan. They are getting it 65 per cent cheaper than what Australians are paying for it. The deals done in this country disgust me. We have no equity in our gas fields. We get royalties out of it, but we do not know exactly how much gas they are taking. It is a sham that has been going on. It disgusts me to think that they will bring out gas from America and release it in Australia more cheaply than we can provide it to our own people. Australians are at a point where they cannot keep being taxed further and further. The government must rein the debt in. I say that we need to stop allowing the government to increase the debt ceiling whenever it suits them. It has to be changed; we have to control this government and future governments.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/au Parliment of AustraliaTranscript used for news reporting