First, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you, Deputy Speaker Coulton, on your election to the deputy speakership. I rise today to speak in support of the appropriation bills that have been presented to the House. It is always interesting to speak after former Treasurer Swan. I always value his contribution, but, as usual with the Labor Party, they like to rewrite history. I think it is worth reflecting—and I was asked this question on the weekend by somebody: over the past 12 months what is one of the achievements of the government? My answer to them was this: our primary responsibility as a government is to govern the country well. If you have a look at our track record for the past 12 months, and prior to that, we have not had a pink batts debacle, we have not had a ‘cash for clunkers’ debacle and all manner of debacles that we saw under the previous Labor government. So, I think the first and most important measure is that as a government we have governed the country well. That is about ensuring that the programs we are looking to put in place for the current and future benefit of Australians are being well run and, importantly, are being funded. That is what we are consistently looking to achieve.
The previous speaker spoke about the issues of fairness and equality. But, interestingly, they actually never define what fairness and equality are all about. They never define it and instead just make these giant motherhood statements, expecting everybody to nod in agreement that fairness and equality are great ideas. But they never actually define what they are. We should be very proud as a nation that we provide the social service net that Australians enjoy today across a wide variety of payments, whether it be our age pension system, our welfare and support payments for middle-class Australians, for those who are unemployed, for those who are finding life difficult and, for those who have a disability, now through the NDIS and the programs we are running there. The responsibility of government is to provide and continue to provide these services and support, to ensure we remain a well-functioning first-class nation. I think, overall, we have done a great job in that over the past 12 months.
But I want to remind the House that it is important for us to have these debates about what governments can and cannot do. Over the past 30 or 40 years I think we have seen that maybe governments have made promises—and both sides of politics have done this, I might add—and now that the time is coming to pay those bills we are discovering it is much more difficult to pay the bills than we originally envisaged. I will quote a passage I have previously quoted in the House that I think bears repeating in the context of some of the points raised by the previous speaker on the notion of fairness and equity. This is from an author, Tom G Palmer, writing about the risks of the welfare state, if we do not manage it properly. He uses this analogy:
The welfare state has something in common with fishing. If no one owns and is responsible for the fish in the lake, but one does own all the fish he or she can catch and pull out of the lake, everyone tries to catch the most fish. Each reasons that ‘if I don’t catch the fish, someone else will.’ Each of us may know that catching lots of fish now means that the lake will be fished out, but so long as others can catch whatever I don’t catch, none of us have an incentive to limit our fishing and let the fish population replenish itself. Fish are caught faster than they can breed; the waters are fished out; and in the end everyone is worse off.
We have a system today where 50 per cent of Australians pay no net tax. By the time they pay their income taxes and receive benefits back through middle-class welfare they pay no net tax. The question is: how long can this situation continue? Environmentalists, economists and political scientists call the analogy I have just spoken about ‘the tragedy of the commons’. It is a very serious problem, because it goes to the heart of my earlier comment about governments making promises that ultimately they cannot deliver. It is the root cause of many of the crises we are facing globally today, whether they be depleted ocean fisheries, air or water pollution, or other problems. But it is not limited to those; it also affects how welfare states operate. The tragedy is facing countries across the world today. In this country we are in a fortunate position, in that we had a period from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s when successive governments of both political persuasions sought to open up our economy, relax regulation and give Australians the opportunity to do what they do best, which is to grow businesses and build wealth. Whether they were small, medium-sized or large businesses, they were all given that opportunity. That is what we, as a government, want to present to the Australian community again: an opportunity for them to succeed and do what they do best.
Now, back to the analogy! In modern welfare states, everybody has an incentive to act like the irresponsible fishermen who fished out the lake—and it is not only individuals; interestingly, we also see it in the various incentives that get paid to the business and corporate sector—except the resource we are plundering is each other. At the end of the day, the revenue that government receives comes from Australian taxpayers. It is not money that governments receive through magnanimity or create out of thin air; it is money received from Australian taxpayers. Each person seeks to get as much as he can from his neighbours, but at the same time his neighbours are trying to get as much as they can from him. The welfare state institutionalises what French economist Frederic Bastiat called ‘reciprocal plunder’.
We heard that earlier from the member for Lilley. There is a notion among members on the other side that we can continue to tax those who have wealth and resources because it does not matter how much we tax them as long as we can redistribute it somewhere else. That does not work in the long run, because the people who have those resources will eventually try to do something with their resources to protect what they have. The risk is that they will take away their knowledge, wealth, skills and intellect—maybe to set up their businesses offshore in a foreign country—not only robbing the Australian economy of finance and resources but robbing the Australian economy and Australian people of jobs. That is why it is so important, as a government, to ensure that our taxation and regulatory systems create incentives not only for existing businesses to grow and prosper but for people to take the risk and start new businesses, because frequently it is the new businesses that come up with new ideas and innovations.
In this country we have a history of being creative and inventive and of solving problems. Australia’s history is replete with examples, such as the black box flight recorder, the Hills hoist, the combine harvester—to name a few. We should be seeking to encourage and facilitate the modern-day versions of those businesses in this country, because they are the businesses that will create the opportunities and wealth for the future, not only for the owners of those businesses but for their employees. We know that when people are employed they have better self-esteem and the ability to provide for their families. Nobody wants to see people survive on welfare. We want people to have jobs, because that is the best form of wealth creation there is. It gets people out of their homes every day, doing something constructive and productive. Interestingly, it is employees in the small and medium-sized businesses around this country who sometimes come up with the best ideas about how those businesses can grow and develop.
That is what this government is looking to do in its agenda going forward, but I also want to touch on a couple of things I have achieved over the past three years in the electorate of Forde. Again, I take this opportunity to thank the community of Forde for re-electing me for another term. This government and the previous government have delivered on all of the commitments we took to the 2013 election for the electorate of Forde. Whether it was funding for the Beenleigh town centre project, funding for safer streets through the use of CCTV, continued funding to our councils for Roads to Recovery or funding to our councils for the bridges to recovery program, there have been many, many projects that this government have funded over the past three years in the electorate of Forde. We will continue to do so through the commitments we have made for the forthcoming term of parliament.
In addition, we are seeing more and more areas of the electorate receiving NBN as the rollout gathers pace. I know there are those who would like to see it happen more quickly, but in the electorate of Forde it is happening far quicker now than it would have under the previous Labor government.
Every single commitment I made at the 2013 election has been delivered, and I have every intention of continuing that record by funding the commitments we made at the 2016 election. We have committed $350,000 to the Loganholme football club to upgrade its clubhouse. The Loganholme football club—or Loganholme Lightning, as it is known—is a fantastic local club that is growing and becoming one of the major clubs in our area. It enjoys tremendous support from its members, players and supporters. We also announced $100,000 to install lighting at the Ormeau Bulldogs Junior AFL Club so they have the capacity to train at night, not just in the afternoons.
Beenleigh Senior Citizens Club will receive $90,000 to upgrade their kitchen facilities. The kitchen is not only used by the seniors citizens club but also used by our local Meals on Wheels. Given that we recently celebrated National Meals on Wheels Day, can I just say what an amazing job our Meals on Wheels friends do. I am very pleased that they will also benefit from the upgrade to this kitchen.
We have committed a further $525,000 through our Safer Communities program to fund the installation of new CCTV cameras around Logan. Through our Solar Communities program, we have allocated $100,000 to a number of local organisations to assist them install solar to offset some of their electricity costs. We have also announced a major Green Army project on the Logan River for $200,000 to improve water quality and protect waterways through revegetation.
The achievements of this government over the past term and the achievements that we foresee over the coming term will stand the electorate of Forde in good stead. I am extremely proud to be part of the Turnbull government and look forward to a productive three years to come as we continue to build a future for Australia. (Time expired)