We can throw statistics back and forth across this chamber tonight, arguing that one side is a better economic manager than the other, but ultimately this debate is not about statistics; it is about people. The fact is that a lot of Australians are doing it really tough at the moment. After 16 years of growth and a minerals boom, not everyone is basking in the economic sunshine. A lot of people are doing it really tough: the one million Australians who are suffering from mortgage stress at the moment, or the 10,000 Australians who lost their homes last year, or, for that matter, the three Australian families in my electorate who will lose their homes tomorrow. That is what I believe debunks the coalition's claim to be the superior economic manager.
Putting together a budget is a tough task. You have to make a lot of tough decisions, responsible decisions for the prevailing economic climate, and doing what you can to make life a little bit easier for those who really need our help. And that is what this budget does. That is what the previous budgets did not do. They fuelled inflation. When a little bit of restraint was needed, the budgets in the last years increased spending by about four per cent-fuelling the flames of inflation, adding to demand and, most importantly, making the Reserve Bank's job just that much harder. John Howard had his foot on the accelerator, while the Reserve Bank was pulling the handbrake. That is why, despite 12 interest rate rises in a row, and despite 20 warnings from the Reserve Bank in a row, we now have the highest inflation in 16 years. That is why the New South Wales business chamber, hardly a Labor think tank, said:
... the Government's commitment to reining in [inflation] is a welcome improvement over the final Costello budgets.
Goldman Sachs has been quoted repeatedly in this chamber, and with good reason. The former company of the shadow Treasurer had this to say about the budget:
Finally, after two years of notable conflict, we have fiscal policy pushing in the same direction as monetary policy.
Business has welcomed the budget because it puts responsible economic management above buying votes. It is the government's job-and it is the budget's job-to make the Reserve Bank's job so much easier, not harder. Fiscal policy working in concert with monetary policy, pushing in the same direction, rowing in the same direction, and that is what this budget does: cuts spending and encourages saving. We are taking the budget to the gym after those opposite fed it KFC. The coalition fed it up for the election campaign and we are putting it on the fiscal treadmill.
The budget does something else that is equally important: it implements the promises we made to the people of Australia. It probably should not be worthy of note, but in this day and age it is. We are a government good to our word. Australians are pretty cynical. They do not expect much from governments-they often do not expect governments to keep their word, but this budget does just that. It implements the tax cuts that we promised; the childcare rebate that we promised; the 50 per cent education tax refund that we promised; the computers in schools that we promised; the universal preschool for four-year-olds that we promised; the dental program that we promised; the training places that we promised; and the Building Australia Fund we promised to build bridges, tunnels, roads, railways and port infrastructure. The plasma screen budgets are over. This is a bridge-building budget. This is a nation-building budget. This is a responsible budget. And the people in my electorate of Blaxland hope it is the first of many.'