Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:33): From the longest serving parliamentarian in this building to the newest senator, Senator Hume: my very heartiest congratulations on a speech which was intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, warm and caring, and was from a senator who clearly has a very, very big future in this place. My best wishes to you, Senator, and all the very best for the endeavours and the goals you have set yourself.
After that uplifting experience, it is my misfortune to have to return to the debate that was interrupted by that wonderful speech and to try and answer the debating points, in the drivel that came from Senator Cameron, that pass as economic theory and debate from the Labor Party. For the Labor Party to have the hide to criticise the coalition on any economic matter just leaves me breathless. As I mentioned, I have been here for a long time. So perhaps, for newer members, I could give a bit of a history of the Labor Party's management of the economy and money. It is encapsulated in a few short words: you cannot trust Labor with money.
Many people will not believe me when I tell them that, in the days of Hawke and Keating, I was paying interest at the rate of 17½ per cent on my concessional housing loan. The normal interest rate under Hawke and Keating was about 21 per cent, and it was not unknown for businesses to be paying 24 per cent, and even 28 per cent—as I recall, from my days practising law—for some people. And younger people simply do not believe me when I tell them that I was paying 17½ per cent under the Labor Party.
Labor continued on. We had double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment and almost-two-dozen-ish interest rates on ordinary loans. That was the legacy you got from Labor's mismanagement of the economy.
But Labor always put across a good story. There will be few who remember the 'L-A-W law' tax cuts, as they were called. This was before the '93 election—the election Mr Keating did not expect to win. The Labor Party actually legislated for tax cuts. It was passed through the parliament—with our support, of course, because we like lower taxes. Labor took that to the election—told the people of Australia, 'Look what we've done: tax cuts!' Do you know the first bit of legislation they did when they were unexpectedly returned at that election? They avoided, they reneged on, they cancelled, they reversed that L-A-W law tax cut and simply ripped the money back off Australian workers.
And so it goes on. We saw the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. Remember—and Senator Hume spoke about this—when we had $60 billion in the bank, put aside for a rainy day, put aside for future generations, put aside so we could give greater benefits, so we could encourage people to work harder and pay less tax? There was $60 billion put aside. It took two short years for Labor not only to spend the $60 billion but to run up in its first or second budget a deficit of $20 billion. That was horrendous, but in retrospect $20 billion from Labor was child's play. Labor then had six years in government where they spent and spent money that they did not have, borrowed from overseas lenders, and it got to a stage where if something had not intervened, like a change of government, the debt that would have been burdening the Australian people would have reached in the order of $700 billion. I will just repeat that for anyone who might be listening. Labor came into power. They had $60 billion in credit, in the kitty, left to them by the Howard government. And in six short years not only did they spend the $60 billion but they ran up a debt that if not arrested would have reached $700 billion. So, for Labor to bring forward a motion criticising anybody, let alone the coalition government, on economic mismanagement is just ridiculous.
Regarding the commitments made before the recent election—and the Governor-General confirmed those commitments in his wonderful speech to parliament yesterday—this government has a real plan for the Australian economy and a plan to draw in unfunded expenditure to continue the essential services of government and to get Australia back on track. I had pages of comments I wanted to make on the wonderful program this government has planned in an area that I am committed to, and that is the north of Australia. I just do not have time even to mention them by single-syllable identifiers, but the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility is one. All of the money being spent on roads and rail in the north, all of the money being spent on defence and border protection in the north—these are just a very few projects of the wonderful program that this government has for the next three years for Australia. I look forward to it. It is going to be an exciting time.