Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Shadow Minister for Social Services
Shadow Minister for the NDIS
Shadow Minister for Housing
Shadow Minister for Homelessness
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Labor’s Unfunded Election Promises

I must admit that I am a little perplexed by today’s motion, moved by the member for Throsby. When I first read the motion it looked like—to use cricket parlance—a full toss on leg stump. The sheer audacity of this motion is, in effect, the member for Throsby demanding to know why the coalition is unable to meet the former government’s last-minute pork-barrelling through round 5 of the RDAF, in addition to our own election commitments.

Let me be clear to the member for Throsby: the funds for round 5 RDAF projects were doled out by a desperate and profligate government which knew it would never have to fund the projects itself. What is also perplexing about this motion is that oppositions normally try to hold a government to account by demanding that they keep their own election commitments. But here we have the member for Throsby questioning why we are not meeting the Labor Party’s irresponsible election promises on the eve of the last election.

In my own electorate of Deakin, all of the RDAF projects were announced on the eve of the election and they were, categorically, election commitments. One heartbreaking example for me as a local member is the Croydon Mens Shed, whose members were cruelly misled by Labor. Instead of doing the honourable thing and making clear that these funds were election promises contingent on the Labor Party’s re-election, the former Labor member dishonestly presented these funds—to use the term provided to me by the Croydon Mens Shed—as ‘signed, sealed and delivered’. But the truth is that not a single funding contract was signed prior to the election. Moreover, in the case of the Croydon Mens Shed, the group did not even know that the funding was coming before it was announced. They had not specifically sought it. During the desperate and rushed process, on the eve of the last election, the Croydon Mens Shed received a telephone call out of the blue asking for a photo opportunity and a press release. Labor undertook no due diligence on the project. After the event we now know that the project is worthy. But no due diligence was undertaken by the Labor Party and that is a hallmark of how they treated taxpayers’ money for the six years that they were in government. We know that the Labor Party are good at putting out press releases and generating great photo opportunities, just like they did with the Croydon Mens Shed. But they just do not have any ability to manage a budget or to spend taxpayers’ dollars in a prudent way.

I suggest that if the Labor Party want us to take their RDAF election promise seriously, they should start by doing so themselves. But we know they could not contractually commit to these projects because no money was allocated to the projects. So of course they could not enter into the contracts. These round 5 projects were yet more expenditure commitments tied to the income supposedly being raised by the mining tax. Labor were unable to deliver on these projects because they depended on mining tax revenue that just was not there. And we all know that the expenditure commitments tied to the mining tax far exceed any projected income.

In contrast, the coalition government takes its commitment to regional Australia seriously, and that is why we are taking real action and introducing the National Stronger Regions Fund. Two hundred million dollars per year has been allocated to this fund over the next five years. Not only is this fund within our fiscal means but the government is committed to working with local communities to ensure this funding is delivered to the areas that need it most—not phone calls out of the blue requesting photo opportunities, Member for Throsby, but undertaking proper due diligence with taxpayers’ money. Furthermore, proposals for worthy RDAF round 5 projects like the Croydon Mens Shed may be resubmitted under the NSRF scheme, with the scheme’s guidelines to be released shortly.

On September 7, the Australian people elected a government that says what it means and means what it says. They also elected a government that knows how to manage its finances. I am therefore proud to be part of a government which continues to make prudent decisions in order to meet our financial obligations and a government that has made substantial commitments to regional Australia. We look forward to honouring these commitments.