I rise to present One Nation’s response to the 2017 Commonwealth Budget. This is my first budget reply speech on behalf on my colleagues. And, hopefully, if we have been doing our job listening to the people of Australia, we can deliver what needs to be addressed, so that we, as a nation, can move forward and repair the damage caused by consecutive governments and instil hope in all Australians that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
In 2013, the current government was saddled with a debt of over $257 billion from the previous Labor government. It is now at $552 billion and rising, with an interest bill of $16.4 billion per year. The Treasurer declares; ‘We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.’ But I have to ask the Treasurer: why did he just sign up a further credit card debt of $600 billion instead of tearing it up and throwing it in the bin?
I and many other Australians are fed up with governments delivering budgets purely as vote winners. When are we going to see gutsy leadership that is long overdue to pull this country out of the ever-increasing mess and the hole we are digging ourselves into—one from which our future generations will never see the light of day?
I am asking for a ‘please explain’ on behalf of the Australian people. Why are we allowing multinationals to strip our nation of its natural resources, such as gas and oil, without paying adequate taxes and royalties that are the norm in many other countries around the world? These multinationals call us ‘Treasure Island’—come on down and plunder and take what you want! We have one of the largest, if not the largest, gas fields in the world, yet Australians pay more for our gas than the countries who buy it from us, even after exploration and production costs. On top of that, we have an energy crisis, with out-of-control, overpriced energy costs that are destroying businesses and the family budget.
Why haven’t consecutive Australian governments kept sufficient energy resources to meet Australia’s needs? If Australia had conducted business like many other countries around the world, such as Norway and Papua New Guinea, we would not have a debt. Let me put it this way: the budget shows that taxes on beer will generate $2.4 billion; and tobacco, $11.4 billion. This far exceeds our government budget figures of $1 billion for the petroleum resource rent tax.
The problem is that we have a profits based tax for gas, which is all too easy for multinational companies to rort and pay no tax. Instead, One Nation proposes that, like most other countries, we adopt a system of royalties paid on production. On gas alone, such a scheme would raise up to $10 billion per year, with anticipated revenues of around $400 billion over the life of the wells, and clearly multinational companies can afford this. Instead of just enriching multinational companies and sending our resources overseas to benefit other countries, this is just one example of how effective management of our nation’s collective resource assets could transform our finances and enrich us all.
I talk about multinationals not paying their taxes here. I spoke to a minister recently, and they were thrilled about the fact that we are going to rein in, I think, $4 billion or $6 billion from multinationals. They thought that that was wonderful. I revert back to what Jim Killaly, the former Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, said in 1996—that we are losing $200 billion a year from multinationals not paying their taxes in Australia. I refer to Among the Barbarians, written by Paul Sheehan in 1997. He said, ‘With our 1953 double taxation agreement, we are losing out of our country $39 billion a year in taxes, and Australia only brings in $19 billion.’ It can be addressed if the government, Liberal or Labor, is prepared to change legislation to ensure that the multinationals pay their fair share of tax in Australia and not go to the battlers or people who want to have a drink or a smoke, who are picking up the taxes and keeping this country going.
I am sure that when Australians heard the Treasurer say that he was going to impose a levy on the banks we all thought: ‘Great! It’s about time.’ I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the levy will be a tax deduction for the banks of approximately 30 per cent. Had the federal government brought it in as a tax on the bank, it would not be tax deductible. These costs imposed on banks—$6.2 billion over the next four years—will no doubt be recovered by the banks through higher interest rates on mortgages or decreased returns on savings, affecting each and every Australian. Shareholders will receive less returns on their shares, and this will impact on self-funded retirees, who are already struggling to maintain sufficient income streams. In fact, the levy amounts to an indirect taxation by the Treasurer on the Australian public. I think that this policy was made on the run. I do not believe enough investigation was put into this before it was brought in in the budget.
I now want to turn to housing affordability. This budget does next to nothing about balancing the demand and supply of housing in areas where many people feel that they will never be able to afford a home. One Nation congratulates the government on the release of Defence land for housing. We also support the government’s initiative to allow first home buyers to save within their super fund a sum of $30,000 towards their deposit on buying a property. My fellow senators and I also congratulate the government on its initiative to reduce the number of apartments in a development that can be sold to foreign nonresidents to 50 per cent, but this measure does not go far enough.
I must say that Labor have been talking about housing affordability as if they worry about the people out there being able to find a home to rent. It was Labor in 2009 that made it that foreign developments could be sold fully to foreign investors. They got rid of the rule that 50 per cent must be sold to Australians. I congratulate the present government on reversing that and going back to 50 per cent having to be sold to Australian residents.
One Nation wants all sales of established property to be only for Australians whose identity and right to buy is verified at the time of contract, with effective penalties and enforcement. How often do we hear from people that they believe foreign investors are buying established housing? Under our laws they are not allowed to, but this is not investigated; it is not policed. What we are saying is that at point of sale, on the contract, you must produce evidence: your passport, your citizenship or a document from the Foreign Investment Review Board saying that you have a right to buy that property.
One Nation also believes that foreign nonresidents should not be able to buy established property. Likewise, in relation to new property, One Nation believes foreign nonresidents should be limited to one new property per person. We have 400,000 foreign students in Australia. They can buy established housing, but they must also sell that property when leaving Australia. This is not policed, so, if they buy a property and it is listed with the immigration department, that can be followed up if they leave the country and the property is not sold. One Nation would also force nonresidents who already own properties but do not live in or rent them to either do so or sell them to Australian residents within 12 months.
Everyone knows the single-largest outlay in this budget is for welfare related programs. Australia has gone into debt to keep paying welfare. I will not deny support for those in genuine need, but we have too many people on welfare who are cheating the system. This is not a new problem, but something needs to be done to reduce welfare expenditure so that those in genuine need can be supported.
It is time for an identity card to be issued to every person who is entitled to receive taxpayer funds. We cannot carry the costs associated with people who are not entitled to support. This has been raised previously, with an Australia card, but what we are proposing is an identity card. People who are going to access taxpayer funded services must apply for it, they must present 100 points for it, it must have their photo and a chip in it with their details, and it must have some form of security, which would be the palm of their hand, which cannot be duplicated. For anyone who is going to apply for welfare or child support or goes to the doctor, gets a prescription or goes to hospital, let’s make sure they are not rorting the system. There are too many aliases out there and too many illegal people in this country using their friends’ and family’s cards to visit a doctor, go to hospital or get prescriptions. People are rorting our system. There was a case in New South Wales where two brothers ripped off $27 million from taxpayers in childcare fraud, and there are numerous others.
If people are concerned about this card and their privacy, I say to them: you have probably applied for a mobile phone, where you have to present all kinds of identification to get a $30 plan. This is more important. If you are not prepared to present your identification to prove who you are to get taxpayer funded services, you will pay full price for it. Our welfare payments at the moment are over the top and we need to rein them in. There are people in this country in multiple marriages, having multiple children and getting thousands of dollars a week and, on top of that, we are providing housing for them. We have to do something about it. Australians are screaming out that changes need to happen. The welfare budget is now so large that it is stopping us investing in the future. Most of the infrastructure we enjoy today was made possible by past generations, but, as the population grows, we need new investment. The government expects to spend $164 billion in the coming year on welfare, and that figure will increase as our population ages. We cannot keep borrowing for recurring expenses.
One Nation is not convinced the NDIS will be funded by the half-a-per-cent increase to the Medicare levy. This is another thing that needs to be raised. We have over 800,000 Australians—it is approaching that number—who are on the disability pension. In one case I was informed about, a woman applied for the disability pension because she had chronic fatigue. She was put on a disability pension, was receiving it for four years and was never called in for a test. We have to stop this rorting from happening. I believe that, on a yearly basis, those who are on a disability pension should be called before a government-appointed doctor to reapply for their disability pension, unless it is evident that they are truly in need of a disability pension.
This budget represents a missed opportunity to build our nation. The government plans to spend $75 billion over 10 years on infrastructure. It sounds like a lot until you realise that, over this period, government revenue will be around $5,000 billion and welfare expenditure will be well over $2 billion. These figures show that the government’s infrastructure plan is just token window-dressing.
The proposal to build a new freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane will only benefit regional Australians, if it stops at the towns on the route—there is no suggestion yet that it will. Instead, the government’s proposed Melbourne-Brisbane rail link, using existing low-grade tracks, will support the alternative private consortium proposal building new high-speed rail lines. This will provide a cheaper, faster, safer and more accountable solution. The proposed rail link that the government is putting in will cost $10 billion and take over 10 years to build. Normally, anything the government does will blow out, so of course the cost is going to blow out. It is not going to go to the port, but the private proposal that they are planning will actually cost only $13 billion, be built in six years and actually be more beneficial to the people of Australia than the government’s proposal. Too often we see that government proposals and plans to build anything in this country do not work. It is over-the-top costing, and I do not believe it is investigated enough.
Likewise, the much-hailed ‘Snowy 2.0’, while also sounding wonderful in principle, starts to wobble as soon as it gets out of the gate. This appears to have already been the subject of a feasibility assessment by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation about 30 years ago, which found that it was not a viable proposition, so the likelihood is that this too will be a fizzer.
As announced by our parliamentary leader in Queensland, Steve Dickson, One Nation will build the visionary Bradfield scheme, which will divert water from North Queensland coastal rivers inland under the Great Dividing Range to irrigate a vast area of western Queensland the size of Tasmania and make the deserts bloom. An epic infrastructure project of around five times the size of the whole Snowy scheme, the Bradfield scheme will employ tens of thousands of people, hugely increase productive land and greatly increase the agricultural output of Queensland.
Hence, I now have to go to the Murray-Darling Basin. My colleagues and I just went on a three-day intensive tour of the Murray-Darling. It is costing Australian taxpayers $13 billion to buy back water and put in programs that are not going to work. We saw a program that is denying farmers, small businesses, industries, communities and councils the right to the water that will help them survive. We are shutting them down. We are saying, ‘You will not have the water supply.’ Water is the lifeblood of this nation. Why have we got individuals—who have no connection with the land and who are not farmers—who have the right to own water in this land? Why have we got multinationals and others who have bought water rights in Australia? And, yet, our farmers are crying out for more water so they can increase their production and are ripping out their trees because they have got no water. And yet, we are intent on allowing the size of the Hume Dam—approximately 3,000 gigalitres—to flow down the Murray and out to sea, which is not going to flood the entrance of the Murray-Darling. It is sheer madness, and the fact is that this and the $13 billion that the government is putting into this needs to be looked at. I saw farmers on their knees, losing their properties and their homes for the cost of something that belongs to every Australian: the water that falls out of the sky. Yet we are charging them thousands of dollars and destroying their livelihoods and their businesses all so big organisations or individuals can reap the rewards of it at their expense.
While I am happy with the increase in legal aid to community legal centres and Aboriginal legal aid, the government has ignored our request for an increase in legal aid generally to the tune of $200 million, which would have alleviated the burden on the courts, particularly the Family Court. Every member in this parliament knows that the Family Court and the issues that are happening there are devastating families. We need to put more resources into it. I would have dearly loved to have seen more money put into the Family Court, with registrars and with legal aid supporting and helping this, because the average family normally has to wait three years before their case can be heard. We see fathers and some mums out there suiciding over this, yet we are not addressing this matter of great concern. I see too much waste that is happening. There are Australian people who are crying out for assistance and it distresses me.
I support the massive program of construction of coal and gas fired power stations. We must go ahead with this. We must implement them to give us cheap power so that we can have industries and manufacturing and to lower the cost of living for the average family out there. The rising cost is nearly doubling. In Western Australia it has gone up approximately 72 per cent in a year. In Queensland we have the highest wholesale price of electricity. We have seen the power station in South Australia close. Now it has been Victoria. Yet we keep pouring more and more money into climate change—billions of dollars—and it is going nowhere. We have the Greens saying, ‘We’ve got to support wind power. We’ve got to support solar power.’ We cannot run the country on that with the population, the industries and manufacturing we have. We need coal fired base power load in Australia to run this country. I see the billions of dollars that are going into this and I just feel that we need a real debate to make sure this happens.
Student debt is blowing out of all proportion. With the vocational education and training debt plus the HECS debt, it is approximately $52 billion. No-one is really reining this in. You have to pay it back at $54,000, so I do say the government is trying to do something about it, but to pull it back to $42,000 before you start paying your debt back is not good enough. An education in Australia is all well and good, but if you are going to go on and do course after course and expect that you are going to become a professional student at the cost of the taxpayer when we have not got the money and we are borrowing it, you have to face up to your responsibilities. You cannot do it. I have no problem with giving a helping hand. It was One Nation policy that once you start earning $22,000 then you start paying back the taxpayer. When you are on $22,000, paying back two per cent is not much, because some of these people can go out on the town and spend over $100 on drinks and having a good night out—sometimes it is even more than that. They have a responsibility to the Australian taxpayer, and it cannot be taken for granted anymore. Let me put the vocational education and training debt into perspective. In 2009 it was around $25 million. By 2016 it was over $6 billion in debt, and we are looking at over $185 billion by 2025-26, which is going to be 46.3 per cent of our national debt. So these are people who have been given the opportunity of a higher education, and then they leave and they go overseas and they do not pay their debt back. I believe that we need to rein that in. We need to do something about it. And it is the taxpayers’ money. It is an opportunity that has been given to them. A lot of other countries around the world do not give their people this opportunity. But I feel that we are being taken for granted and abused.
I congratulate the government on reining in the 457 visa. We need jobs in Australia for Australians, and the apprenticeship scheme that the government is introducing and the money it will create. I hope that the government will actually look at an apprenticeship scheme, as One Nation has proposed, where the government pays, in the first year, 75 per cent of the wage; in the second year, 50 per cent of the wage; and, in the third year, 25 per cent of the wage. Businesses have approached me, and I have spoken to them about this. They would jump at the opportunity to put on apprentices. I congratulate the government on starting the intern scheme. That is wonderful for a short period of time; hopefully, it might turn into a full-time job. But, with an apprenticeship, those youths, or, maybe, the older generations who want to take on an apprenticeship, will have a job for the long term, and we will have our own trades men and women, and not be bringing in skilled migrants from overseas or 457 visa holders to fill these positions.
The NBN is costing this country an absolute fortune, and I am talking around $55 billion to $60 billion a year—sorry; I retract that; it is not ‘a year’ but ‘in total’. The NBN will fail. It will be out of date. And that is why many Australians are not taking it up. I believe that we should look wisely at how we spend this money and make sure that we have an up-to-date NBN that is going to be, on the world stage, as good as any other country’s, but I fear that we are throwing good money at something that is not going to be beneficial to this country.
What we in One Nation hope for is a vision to return our nation to unparalleled wealth and happiness. I would like to see back again the day when we were on the sheep’s back and had prosperity. I want to see industries and manufacturing, and I was disappointed to see that the government did not express that in their budget papers. In contrast to every other party, One Nation’s vision is for a new golden age of prosperity, accountability and integrity, unity and progress, in which all Australians will share.
Chamber Senate on 11/05/2017Item BUDGET – Statement and Documents Speaker :Hanson, Sen Pauline