I have to say that this will be my most economically focused address because, without a strong economy, it’s impossible to have strong and sustainable communities.
Economic growth is the means to a stronger society and a happier people.
That’s why my election pledge, endlessly repeated, was to build “a strong and prosperous economy” – not as an end in itself – but “for a safe and secure Australia”.
We’re striving to achieve a stronger budget because that’s the way to a stronger economy, to a stronger society and to make your life better and your job more secure.
On election night, I said that Australia was open for business – and every day since we’ve been working to implement our Economic Action Strategy.
We promised to abolish the carbon tax and the mining tax – and we won’t rest until they’re gone.
We promised to stop the boats – and to end the $11 billion border protection cost blow out; and for the past four months none have come, not a single one, compared to over 100 carrying more than 6000 people in the same period last year.
We said that we’d conclude free trade negotiations with Japan and Korea, and we have, and we’ve accelerated talks with China.
We promised a one-stop shop for approving big projects; that’s well underway and we’ve given the green light to new projects worth over $400 billion – yes, $400 billion worth of new projects have been given environmental approval since the election last year.
We promised to cut red tape costs by a billion dollars a year, every year. We’ve made a strong start taking some 50,000 pages off the statute book and the budget will do more.
We promised to crack down on union officials who rip off their members and that’s happening.
We promised an airport for Western Sydney; with the help of the New South Wales Government that’s happening too.
We said that we wouldn’t chase failing businesses waving blank cheques at them because the end of the age of entitlement should start with the end of business welfare.
Above all, in promising to deliver a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia, we promised to get the budget back under control because you can’t fix the economy unless you fix the budget.
Now, there’s far more that’s right about our country than wrong; and there’s far more grounds for optimism about our future than worry.
But we do have to get the economic fundamentals right.
Prosperity is not a gift; we have to work for prosperity through being smarter and more diligent than our competitors.
Like households and like businesses, governments have to live within their means.
Every dollar that government spends is a dollar taken from the people in taxes or in borrowings.
Everything that government does has to be paid for either by today’s taxes or tomorrow’s taxes – with interest.
And continuing a cycle of debt and deficit might briefly save a government from a bad headline, but it won’t help you, the people, to plan a stronger and better future.
A government that understands its limits is a government that allows the people to grasp their full potential.
Every time a government spends people’s money for them, it limits their own freedom; hence the famous dictum that government should do what the people cannot do for themselves, and no more.
As many of you would remember, the previous Liberal government in Canberra inherited $96 billion in net Commonwealth debt and a $10 billion budget black hole.
It took the good work of John Howard and Peter Costello to produce surpluses averaging almost 1 per cent of GDP with almost $50 billion in the bank by 2007.
I regret to say that this government’s budget inheritance has been even worse. Labor debt and deficit stretches out as far as the eye can see: $123 billion in cumulative deficits over the next four years, debt projected to reach at least $667 billion – which is $25,000 for every Australian man, woman and child – with $10 billion a year in interest repayments alone.
At this level, countries no longer control debt; debt starts to control them.
There were roof batts that caught fire, school halls that cost twice the going rate, super clinics with no doctors, and the NBN that cost more and more to deliver less and less.
The Labor government made vast open-ended commitments on schools and hospitals to take effect beyond the forward estimates period.
They didn’t just booby-trap the budget; they created a ponzi scheme of unsustainable spending because they thought that new taxes, more spending and bigger bureaucracies were the answer to every problem.
This budget will not change everything with one stroke.
It won’t offer a spurious guarantee of a surplus by a particular date.