I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2014-2015 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2014. It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Rankin, who sits on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics with me. The member for Rankin made some very cordial points about the deterioration of the budget. The budget has deteriorated, without a doubt. Some of those factors are beyond our control. The member will know that our exports minus imports, which are our terms of trade, are probably as low as they have ever been. Coal prices some 18 months ago were near on double what they are. Iron ore prices were just on double. We have no control over the growth of our trading partners. We have no control over the pace at which these countries chase their future growth targets. We are the recipient of their demand. As a result, our terms of trade have softened, and I am sure the member on the other side is well aware of that.
The member for Rankin quoted that comment from the RBA governor, Mr Stevens, from when we last met. He forgot to mention that the governor was extremely concerned about the levels of debt that the country had inherited from a Labor government. In fact, the level of debt was probably front and centre. And the Reserve Bank governor is not alone in his commentary when he speaks about the concern about debt. He is flanked by the secretary of the Treasury and many other commentators who say that the debt is an issue and needs to be addressed, because, for every cent that we are spending on servicing interest, servicing a level of debt, there is an opportunity cost forgone somewhere in the community, whether it be building roads, building hospitals or building schools.
Some people in this place will say that debt is not a problem. They will come here and brazenly say that debt is not a problem. In my opening comments, I said that, as a country, we cannot all the time control our destiny and that we are subject to our trading partners' demand. But I ask you, as a brazen, throwaway line: what would happen if we were to go into another GFC? What would happen to us as a nation if we had another global economic shock? The simple answer is: as a nation we are best prepared for future shocks if we have less debt. That is not the only reason we should be addressing it. The member for Rankin spoke passionately about a fair go for the Australian worker and said that while there was breath in the Australian Labor Party they would continue to fight for a fair go. Can I say: you are not giving the Australian people a fair go when you shackle the next generation to years and years and generations of debt. That is not giving the next generation a fair go. There is a group, between the ages of 18 and 35, that potentially, unless we change the trajectory of expenditure in this country, may not have pensions into the future. That is not giving people a fair go. We are trying to fix that.
If we do not fix the Medicare payment system, there are people working today who will not have a system into the future where they can go to the doctor and seek medical attention on the back of Commonwealth support. That is not a fair go. I suggest that you do not come into this place and falsely claim to represent those hard workers here in Australia, because Labor's policies fundamentally hurt most the people they claim to represent. The member for Rankin spoke about unemployment. The unemployment rate we have at the moment was forecast some four years ago. So do not wake up and say, 'shock, surprise!' We have just come out of the largest capital expenditure program in Australia's history, in 150 years, and we are in a transition phase where we are transitioning from construction through to production. There will be those in this House who will say, 'That's rubbish. Construction will always be there.' We are transitioning from a construction phase to production and, in conjunction, the government is ramping up its massive infrastructure programs, spending in the state of Queensland something like $13.4 billion. In my electorate alone we have $1.8 billion for construction of the Toowoomba range bypass, and the efficiency dividends to businesses, farmers and transport operators will be immeasurable. With strong and fluent transport corridors come opportunities for the future.
This appropriation bill seeks to appropriate around $1.7 billion and passage of this bill will ensure continuity in delivering government essential services. I thought I would share with the House what some of those are. Part 3 of the bill provides an appropriation of around $1,385 million for major elements including: $558 million for the Defence portfolio, reflecting additional overseas operations. That is our operations in conflict zones and theatres. When we get engaged at the behest of the United Nations that comes at a cost, and these appropriation bills seek to identify that. There is $115 million for employment, primarily to pay providers for increased numbers of successful job placements and to implement the new employment services for 2015 contracts. If you have an employment provider out there and there are incentives that the government partners with employment providers to assist people to get back into the workforce, that part of the appropriation helps those businesses to provide the outcomes that communities are desperately looking for.
The government job reforms are full steam ahead. The government has invested $5.1 billion in a new model to operate from 1 July 2015 to better meet the needs of job seekers, employers and employment service providers. The government is committed to helping more job seekers to move from welfare to work and to start enjoying the privileges of being valuable members of the workforce.
The government's reforms improve the operating environment for providers and significantly reduce the level of red tape and prescription in the model so that the providers are able to focus on what they do best—namely, helping people to get a job, because that is what this government is focused on. And it seems to be working. The member for Rankin said that there was no adrenalin shot in the region. It would please the House to know that over 200,000 jobs were created last year. No-one on the other side mentioned that. In fact, there were 213,900. This equates to around 585 new jobs each day. But no, you will not hear that kind of statistical evidence from the other side. It means that a new job is being created virtually every half minute. In 2014, jobs growth was more than triple the rate of 2013. We are providing job opportunities at virtually triple the rate that the Labor government were.
The Dun and Bradstreet business expectations survey, released on 3 February 2015, found that the outlook on employment is the most positive that it has been in 10 years. The Dun and Bradstreet business expectations survey is not a document to be sneezed at. The most recent ABS labour force release revealed that 37,400 new jobs were created in the month of December, building on the 45,000 new jobs created in November. The unemployment rate at that stage was 6.1 per cent.
The bill also provides for an appropriation of around $240 million which includes major elements such as $40 million for DFAT for a temporary embassy in the Ukraine. In addition to that, there is $90 million to agriculture for concessional loans under the Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Scheme to support New South Wales and Queensland businesses facing drought or suffering the combined impact of the 2011 live cattle export debacle that Labor oversaw into Indonesia.
In recent weeks in this place we have been more than cognisant of the effects of the cyclones in Queensland, and local communities such as my home town of Rockhampton are now cleaning up. Can I remind the House that while that clean-up is happening, there are large pockets that missed out on that very valuable rain and are still in drought and experiencing hardship. It is difficult to fathom after that enormous deluge of rain that there are pockets that missed out on it. I speak of west of Emerald and into the Longreach and Winton area. My heart truly goes out to those people. I spoke to a grazier the other day who is halfway between Longreach and Winton. He informed me that his feed bill to keep his stock alive is in the vicinity of $20,000 a week. The mental strain on those people is difficult fathom. My heart and thoughts go to those who are still struggling.
We will do everything we can in this bill to try to assist through the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme to assist those where we can. These loans are vitally important for the bush. This is $90 million on top of the $280 million that the government pledged last year as part of its $320 drought package rolled out in the 2014-15 federal budget. These loans can assist farmers to get onto the road to recovery when the seasons turn. Farmers face two strategies when dealing with drought—and there is no right or wrong way in the business model. You either keep your stock and buy in feed and keep feeding them—and I just spoke about the level of expense that that can involve for a farmer—or destock early in the drought. Our national herd numbers normally sit around 35 million. At the moment they are around 26 million. When the drought breaks, the demand and supply pressures at the saleyard mean the buy-in cost to go and buy back the herd is greater. For example, if you have offloaded 3,000 head, for the same money you are probably going to pick up around 1,200 head. From a cashflow perspective, it takes many years for your breeding cycle to get back and be fully efficient again.
One of the criticisms of the drought package is that the loan period is too short, that it is four years. The Minister for Agriculture got the message that those terms needed to be lengthened. I know that area is being addressed at the moment. In managing the drought the biggest demand for cash often comes in the recovery phase when farmers need to restock or when they need to replant. In addition to the government's support, the opening of six new live export markets and record live export volumes is seeing renewed confidence in saleyards across the country. I have spoken about the national herd numbers, but there is another thing which is pushing up prices at the moment.
There is a rule of thumb when selling cattle or sheep, that you do it for two reasons: one, you are out of money and you are looking to create cashflow—it is that simple; and, two, you are out of feed. At the moment in certain parts of the country where there has been good rain and where feed is abundant, when interest rates are low people can restructure their operational overdrafts on their farms so they are not so hard up against the wall when the seasons are not so kind.
In addition, $35 million will go to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for additional counterterrorism activities and to repurpose the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield. Robust and rigorous counterterrorism activities have never been so important. This week the government released the review of the Australian counterterrorism machinery.
This government is doing all it can with the fiscal levers that are available to it to provide good government and good leadership to the nation. I remind the nation that if we return to a Labor government, the boats will start coming, the debts will increase and intergenerational debt will increase for those still to come into the system. There is only one option for good government in Australia—that is, a coalition government