MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Budget


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:54): Well, it's an interesting debate, as always. The Labor Party and the Greens continue to lie about the impact of the budget, whereas I and, indeed, most Australians are very, very happy with the budget—because, to me, the big thing is that for the first time in almost a decade the government is now living within its means.

All of my constituents in Queensland, if they're in business or they have a family budget, know that they have to make their budget work. They have to balance the bottom line and they can't spend more than they earn. Families know that. Businesses know that. Why doesn't the government know that? For the first time in almost a decade, this government is doing that. Not only are we now living within our means but the deficit has come right down. It'll come down further next year, and the following year there will be a $2.2 billion surplus. I've been here a long time. I used to sit here and listen to Wayne Swan promise a surplus in every budget, and not once did he get a surplus. In fact, every year the deficit went up. We've committed since we've been in government to bring the deficit down, and we are on track for a surplus in a couple of years. That, to me, is the big thing. Once we get into surplus, we can start putting money aside and we can start paying off the $400 billion to $500 billion debt run up by the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. That's the exciting thing for me.

The other thing that interests me is the tax cuts. Excuse me, I'll be a bit parochial about Queensland and I'll talk about North Queensland and about the electorates of Herbert and Kennedy, which I look after because they don't have members that have any interest in the people in those areas. I heard the member for Herbert and the member for Kennedy both saying, 'Oh, there's nothing in this for Kennedy; there's nothing in this for Herbert.' Well, I say to the member for Herbert: go and ask the almost 70,000 taxpayers in your electorate—that's almost three-quarters of the voters in your electorate—if they got nothing out of the budget. They will tell you, because you seem to be too incapable of understanding, that they are going to get real tax cuts, real money in their pockets, starting on 1 July this year. In Kennedy, there are almost 60,000 taxpayers, whom Mr Katter obviously has no connection with, who will benefit from this budget. In addition to that, older people will now get increased aged-care packages to stay at home. There will be new places in aged care. In Townsville, the garrison city, I'm very excited about the support for the veterans community. Apparently the member for Herbert, following the Labor mantra and the talking points that come out and say, 'Just criticise everything,' doesn't realise that the Defence community do well. In the north generally, the chaplaincy program is only a little program but is very well received in the north, and the schools up there will be delighted to see that this chaplaincy program is now becoming permanent.

Road funding in the north, and across the board in Queensland, continues to increase. If there's one problem I have with the road funding, it is that I live in Ayr, which is about 100 kilometres south of my office in Townsville, and it very often takes me longer than it should to get from Ayr to Townsville because there is so much roadwork happening. When I drove to Brisbane at Christmas time, it was the same story. There is so much roadwork happening under the coalition government that there are disruptions, but they are building safer and better roads for which the Commonwealth is responsible.

There are hundreds of other initiatives in the budget. The 10 minutes that I have wouldn't allow me to go anywhere near all of them, but I want to respond to some of the previous contributions that have been made. Senator Siewert was talking all about people who haven't got a job. As has been so often said, the best form of welfare is a job, and, thanks to this government, 411,000 new jobs have been created in the last year. That's why we can do good things with the budget, because no longer are we paying those 411,000 people unemployment benefits. They're actually working and we're getting tax from them.

Senator Dodson talked about First Nations people. As I have often said here and elsewhere and to my Indigenous friends up in the north, the best thing that we can do for Indigenous people is treat them like every other Australian, and the sooner we can do that, we will close the gap. We shouldn't separate them, in my view. We should give wealth and advantage where it is appropriate and we are doing that. Senator Scullion is doing marvellous things. But the best thing we can do is treat Indigenous people like every other Australian and not as a separate sub-class, which people on the other side seem to think is needed.

The senator from New South Wales, Senator O'Neill, was going on about the ABC. The ABC gets a billion dollars of taxpayers' money every year. Now, if the ABC can't save because of the pause—$83 million—then they are even worse managers than I thought. Some of the journalists that work at the ABC, particularly in this building, are good journalists. But you get down to Ultimo and you get all the lefties who run the subediting stuff and who really are just mouthpieces for the Labor Party and the Greens. I gave Senator McKim a book earlier about Manus Island. The ABC continue to run the left-wing theme on Manus and Nauru. I should have got the ABC a copy of this wonderful book about the untold story on Manus, the truth on Manus. The ABC could easily find $87 million out of a total budget of $1 billion every year.

But let me say this to the ABC—and I can warn them the government will be closely watching—one of the things the ABC does very, very well, and it has my full support, is the regional service it provides to audiences where there aren't any other providers. You go to Ultimo in Sydney and there are, what, 23 different commercial stations—TV, radio. You've got plenty of choice in Sydney. In the regions, very often there is only one source of information and that's the ABC, and they do a wonderful job. But, if the ABC think that they are going to punish the coalition by cutting services in the country, let me warn them: they will have a real fight on their hands if that happens.

We've been through this before. We do have a better ABC board these days, and I'm sure they will understand that there is a real opportunity to shave the bloated bureaucracy and the subeditors, the left-wing cabal, who are in the back rooms of the ABC, and get onto their main purpose of disseminating real information, not the opinions of some first-year journalist who has been to university and picks up on the sort of rubbish you hear from the unions. Some journalists actually report facts, not their opinions. I'm quite sure the ABC can do that and I'm quite sure they can do it while maintaining a real service in country Australia, which is a service I totally support. I congratulate and thank the ABC people who do actually work in country Australia.

You can tell by the yelling and screaming from the other side that they don't like what I'm saying because they know, whenever I speak, that I tell the truth. People do actually listen to this on radio, and the Labor Party and Greens are determined to shout me out because unless you agree with them, you're not intended to be heard. But I love it. I love it. It just shows that everything I say is right on the mark.

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