Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:47): In February 2013, as the days of summer and cricket gave way to the days of autumn in football, the now Prime Minister stood up in Sydney and promised two things.
The first thing he said was that if the coalition government was elected, there would be:
…an instantaneous adrenaline charge in our economy.
The other thing he said to CEDA on 15 February 2013 was that there would be an 'instantaneous surge of confidence' in the economy. Of course, the reality has been very different.
As the shadow Treasurer has said and as my other colleagues have said, the government has misread the economy. That has cost confidence. What you damage confidence, you damage growth and you damage jobs. If we cast our minds back to the time of the Prime Minister's speech, they were handing out this glossy pamphlet with Joe Hockey on the front with the blank look on his face and they were promising that the sun would shine and the birds would sing if they were elected. They said that confidence would be boosted, jobs would be boosted, the cost of living would come down and living standards would go up.
If we cast our minds to that period, we know that the reality has turned out very differently. When they try to justify it and when they try to explain all of their other broken promises on hospitals, schools, the ABC, the SBS, pensions and petrol—all of those broken promises—they say, 'Don't worry. We know we broke all of those promises, but judge us on our economic promises.' That is as if there is some sort of hierarchy of hypocrisy that the Australian people will let them get away with. They say, 'We have broken all of these other promises, but judge us on the economy.'
On the basis that you can choose opinion but you cannot choose facts, let's run through some of them. Our world ranking on living standards has gone from 8th to 14th in the world since the government was elected. The cost of living, as a result of their budget, is an extra $6,000 per year for an average family. The unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent on the day that the government was elected; it is now 6.2 per cent. There are 40,000 extra people looking for a job today than the day that the government was elected. When it comes to consumer confidence, it is down 13 per cent since the government was elected. Business confidence has gone down since the budget came out. When it comes to the budget, in the first mid-year update the Treasurer doubled the deficit.
We now have another mini-budget coming up. It is due in the next few weeks. Already, the excuses are mounting about this mini-budget coming up in a couple of weeks' time. Our front bench asked the Treasurer today to pick from a menu of excuses and he said, 'I will have all of them. I will have all of the excuses. I will have every excuse on the menu. Any excuse you want to pitch up to me, I am happy to rely on.' As the member for Wakefield said, it was like fish jumping into a boat. It was like we had hooked him by making him admit, two or three weeks earlier than he had hoped, that he is going to go for every single excuse. He is going to blame everyone else except himself, despite having been the Treasurer for the last 15 months.
I remember very well when the Treasurer was the shadow Treasurer he would always say, 'Well, you can't hide behind the iron ore price. You can't hide behind the global economy. You can't hide behind fluctuations in world prices for resources.' Already, we have seen with the sneaky little leaks to the gallery upstairs that that is exactly what he intends to do. The government promised that they would make the budget better. The budget in this mini-budget will be worse. They promised that they would fix the cost of living. If you ask families in my community and communities right around Australia, including communities represented by those opposite, they know that the budget makes the cost of living worse. The government said that they would be part of the solution when it came to the budget or cost of living and they have turned out to be part of the problem.
There is another little sneaky thing that people need to keep an eye out for. The member for Jagajaga and I have been discussing this. With all of these are cuts that are rightly held up in the Senate, the Treasurer—in his typically sneaky way—will try to claim them as savings and improvements to the budget bottom line when the mini-budget comes out. Is it any wonder that Laurie Oakes talks about Joe Hockey being like the Hindenburg?
There is a quote in the Laurie Oakes piece, and it says:
People criticised Joe for going on holidays to Fiji. Now some of us are sorry he came back.
I think that a lot of people on that side of the House over there, judging by their silence and judging by them pretending to read and all that sort of thing, agree with it. The fact is, it is beyond question: their misreading of this economy is costing this economy confidence, and when it is costing this economy confidence it is costing growth and jobs as well.