As Senator Lazarus so rightly put it, where do you start? When the Abbott government was elected two years ago, we were told: ‘The adults are back in charge.’ Well, this government has just turned two, and it sure is acting its age! I should know this, Mr Acting Deputy President, because, as you know, I spent over a decade in the early childhood area, and I have seen temper tantrums and I have seen tears and I have seen all sorts of spoilt little activities there. And can I say: those on that side just embody two-year-old temper tantrums.
What we have seen in two years is a catalogue of dysfunction and division, broken promises and excuses, and absolutely no sense of confidence that this government knows what direction it is heading in. The last two years have clearly demonstrated that this government had a plan for getting into government—we all know that—but they had no plan for governing once they got there, and they still do not.
The Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, has shown that he is big on three-word slogans, yet very short on any of the ‘real solutions’ his party promised. We all remember that famous pledge in an SBS television interview the day before the election when he said there would be:
No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.
That was the biggest 10-second fib we have ever heard. Following the election, Mr Abbott set about breaking every single one off those promises.
The litany of broken promises from this Prime Minister, and this government, belies something else that Mr Abbott said before the election. He promised a ‘no surprises, no excuses government’ because ‘you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses’. What has transpired over the last two years has led the Australian people to seriously question the honesty of the man who occupies the prime ministership and the ministers who support him.
Let’s have a look at some of the other promises that were made and compare them to what has transpired over the last two years of this shambolic government. In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in February 2013, then opposition leader Tony Abbott said that following a change of government there would be an instantaneous adrenalin charge in our community. Yet, under this government, annual growth has been trending downwards and is now at a paltry two per cent. Prior to the election, the Liberals promised that they would create one million jobs in five years and two million jobs in 10 years. What has happened? Unemployment is now at a 13-year high of 6.3 per cent and, for the first time in over two decades, more than 800,000 Australians are unemployed. This is not surprising when Mr Abbott and his ministers have been doing everything they can to drive automotive and shipbuilding jobs offshore.
In regard to taxation, Mr Abbott said before the election that:
Taxes will always be lower under a Coalition government.
In March 2012 he said:
What you’ll get under us are tax cuts with no new taxes.
After coming to government, they have introduced 17 new or increased taxes and charges, including an increase in petrol taxes and a GP tax, which parliament would not pass, being brought in via the back door. And now government ministers are hinting at increases to the GST despite unequivocally ruling it out before the last election. Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio is 22.3 percent—higher than it ever was under the former Labor government—and the budget papers show it is expected to rise every year over the forward estimates.
Despite the Abbott government’s tax grab, they have still made savage cuts to essential public services. The government’s first budget included $80 billion in cuts to health and education—$57 billion was cut by tearing up Labor’s health and hospitals agreements with the states. Their plan to plug the hole left by their cuts to universities is to charge students $100,000 to get a degree.
As a member of the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, I cannot stand up here today and let the Abbott government’s record on the NBN go without comment. I have been over this in more detail in recent speeches, but I will just say that the government promised their NBN would be fast, affordable and sooner. Instead, the rollout of the NBN has slowed to a crawl, the cost has blown out to almost double at $56 billion and most Australians will get a network that can barely cope with the speeds many are demanding now let alone the speeds they will demand in 10 or 20 years time. While Mr Turnbull promised that the NBN would reach every Australian home by 2016, the government’s second-rate network will not even reach half of all premises by mid-2017.