The debt legacy of Labor will haunt generations to come

There is an enduring theme in the speeches from this side of the House, and that is basically around the Rudd and Gillard governments’ legacy of debt and deficit. That is something that nobody can get away from.

It does not matter which way you spin it or which way you twist it or turn it; we have seen a series of budget mismanagements and budget deficits and what unfortunately has become intergenerational fiscal debt. We are told that gross debt will peak at over $667 billion thanks to the $123 billion in accumulated deficits. We have seen a projected deficit ahead of us of $47 billion.

The one thing that the Labor Party could not achieve in government was that very elusive budget surplus. They talked about it but they never actually delivered it. They claimed they delivered it, but they never did.

In addition to that, the one thing with all of these figures that hit me over and over again was that the Labor Party when in government provided absolutely no credible path back to surplus at all. It was just on a wing and a prayer and a maybe: ‘We will put it out in a pamphlet but it won’t actually happen.’

This is the legacy of the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments, and no amount of spin, no matter who is telling the story, can or will erase the impact of that debt legacy on future generations of Australians.

I will touch on one of the early effective policies—that is, of course, Operation Sovereign Borders. We know that the measures put in place by this government have seen a complete change in the people smugglers’ business model. I am sure this was something they had hoped would not happen, but it has; and that has resulted in, as we know, at least 70 days of no arrivals.

But I think to the people in this place, as we have heard previously, the most important thing is that there are no more deaths at sea. That is one of the biggest issues in this debate. I, like my colleagues before me, thought the comments by Senator Conroy, the shadow minister, to Lieutenant General Angus Campbell were absolutely disgraceful. There is no other way to describe that than ‘disgraceful’.

There has been a lot said about the carbon tax. I would have to say that for the last six years my electorate of Forrest was very poorly served by the Labor government.

There is no better example of this than what I call the absolute blight of Labor’s carbon tax. I have energy generators in my electorate—Muja Power Station, Collie, Bluewaters 1 and 2.

I think this will be something very relevant to people in Western Australia heading to the next election, because the carbon tax, along with the mining tax, was really a Western Australian tax. Of the 20 carbon tax bills in Australia, 16 have been sent to electricity companies.

Electricity is being hit with a carbon tax of $4.1 billion. That is passed on to households and to small businesses through their electricity bills. That is happening around Australia; but in Western Australia electricity generation was a $200 million work bill. The Bluewaters power stations in my electorate were billed $60 million.

We know that manufacturing and the mining have been hit with a bill of at least $1.1 billion; mining oil and gas, $980 million. Why would you make a bad situation worse? That is exactly what the Labor government did. For some reason they thought that business would be able to function under this increasing weight. And it was going to keep going up.

That is what people have forgotten in this debate: that carbon tax was going to continue to increase. Of the top 50 carbon tax bills sent to WA businesses: LNG at Woodside, $172 million; BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina, in my electorate, $56 million. And we know about fertiliser at the Yara Pilbara plant up north at $35 million. They are just examples.

The one thing that we know is that none of our competitors are facing the same economy-wide carbon tax as those in Australia are. We know that the cost to the state government in Western Australia would be around $50 million.

For some reason, the Labor Party when in government thought that these were just throwaway lines. But they are very real and they are very costly. They have affected every person—every individual—and every business and every industry in my electorate.

The other part of this carbon tax that completely floored me, when I looked through Labor’s papers, was the proposed hit to diesel fuel. We know that this was going to be Labor’s transport tax, a tax on trucks. As someone from the transport industry I took it personally. We could see how this was going to be applied.

It was around 7c a litre. The extraordinary thing about it was there was no recognition that this was going to disproportionately hit states like Western Australia, anybody else who lived in a rural or regional community and anybody in business in any way, shape or form. It would hit virtually everything that is delivered to a business or a farm throughout our states.

And it is a vast continent. That is why there would be a disproportionate impact—because this extra 7c a litre was going to be on diesel. I can see the member for Riverina looking at me because he understands the disproportionate effect this would have on rural and regional Australia—a tax on trucks.

Just about everything that is delivered in this country, whether or not the members opposite like to admit it, comes on the back of a truck. But they were saying: ‘We’re going to tax it just to get to you. We’ll just put up the cost of you doing business.’

One of the other things we said we were going to do was restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission. I was one of those who did some work on this in the run up-to the election, and we are certainly due for this.

I heard, earlier, one of my colleagues mention that Martin Ferguson might be one of the most quoted persons in this House. I agree, because I am about to do the same thing. Mr Ferguson said:

… it is time that some in today’s union leadership recognised that their members’ long-term interests are aligned with their long term job security.

And he supported our proposal to return the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

I want to touch on one other issue that I worked particularly hard on, and that is cybersafety. The internet is one of the most fabulous tools; but, as it expands and develops faster and faster speeds and greater reach, unfortunately, the risks are also increasing. That is why I spend a lot of my time educating Australians, particularly young Australians, on how to protect themselves and even their families, on what to be aware of when they are online.

Why is this an issue? Because, according to Telstra, Australian kids aged between 10 and 17 are online for an average of two hours a day—amongst the highest internet usage rates in the world. I would say, from my experience out in my electorate, that that is a very conservative figure.

When I ask young kids, ‘When you go home after school, how much time do you get to spend on the internet,’ sometimes it is half an hour, sometimes it is two hours, sometimes it is unlimited. When I say to them, ‘What about the weekend,’ it is, ‘As much as I like.’

But the thing that scares me most as a parent and as a member of the community is that, all too frequently, I meet young people who admit to me that they have gone and met in person somebody they had only met online. I hope that is a real wake-up call to every person in this House, every person who is listening and even to young people themselves.

They have no idea who they are talking to online or what that person wants from them. I want them to enjoy what they do online. I want them to be able to access the right information and enjoy what they do, whether it is music—whatever interaction they are having. But they do need to be smart, they need to stay safe and they need to be incredibly responsible when they are online. I want to see this education continue.

I am also particularly pleased about our approach to cyberbullying. One of the things I am really keen to explore further is a simple, practical definition of cyberbullying as an offence that can be used at a local level, because I have dealt with our local police on these sorts of matters and because a mother rang me up to say that her 11-year-old daughter came home after listening to one of my presentations and said, ‘Mum, I realise now, after listening to Mrs Marino, that I am being groomed online.’

Now, this is happening so much of the time. These are not isolated incidents that I am coming across, and their prevalence disturbs me greatly. And it is not as though our young people are accessing the internet only at home; it is everywhere. They can go to an internet cafe, they can go to some fast-food outlets—there is free access—and of course at the houses of friends, family and everyone else.

These young people need to know how to protect themselves, but I believe that these great young people are a major part of the answer. When I ask them in my presentations, ‘Do you think you know more than your parents about being online, about the internet,’ they say yes.

If I ask them if they know more than their grandparents, of course their answer is yes there as well. When I ask them if they think they know more than their younger brothers and sisters at this moment, of course they say yes again. And they are right, because this is their world, this is their space and they do know more than most of us.

That is why we need them to help educate the rest of us. But we also need them to be smart about what they do online, and one of the key messages I give them is that they should never, ever, not under any circumstances, agree to meet in person someone that they have only met online.

There is another area of pressure for our young people online, and I am really concerned about this. I was talking to the principal of a high school in my electorate recently, and he said that it was not just the academic, practical and VET accomplishments of his students that consumed his time and thoughts; his biggest concern was their mental health, and a lot of that revolved around what they do in the social media space and the impact that has on their lives.

When I talk to young people they say to me that they often have access to their devices 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When it is that young person who is going through a bad time, that is the time when they are going to bullied—and it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is relentless and these young people do not know how to handle it. And it is not just young people; adults can have the same experience.

I get out as often as I can and I talk to as many people as I can—young people, businesses, community groups, parents; whomever I can get to—and I encourage them to learn as much as they can about what they do online and to apply the same safety measures to themselves as they should apply to their children.

I encourage them to be involved with their children online. Their children actually say to me that often they cannot talk to mum and dad about what is going on online because they are worried that mum and dad will take away the device, take away their access or ground them—or do a combination of all three. So often they will not talk to their parents. But they do need to talk to someone, and that needs to be a teacher or a responsible adult.

We should not brush this off and take it lightly. As I said, this is 24 hours a day, seven days a week for these great young people. It is a very difficult issue for them to deal with and they do need good people like ourselves around them to help and support them during this time, even if they have to perhaps talk to someone in their school—a school chaplain or a school counsellor or even their teacher and their principal.

I know that some young people have been encouraged into using a range of different photo-sharing sites, and I am really concerned about the types of photos that are online that these young people know will be there basically forever.