MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (16:37): I rise on this matter of public importance on the economy. I am not the only one to reflect this but the days in this place tend to speed past. I had the sense that, even though we sped past yesterday, the events of last night will come back in two years time to haunt those opposite. Effectively, last night was about the opposition putting a line in the sand that they will return to. Through the 12 amendments that the opposition put forward and all their filibustering over the Parliamentary Budget Office, the line in the sand is that, in two years time when it comes to stepping up and delivering their election promises and having them costed, they will turn back to last night and say they refused from that point onwards to believe in the value of the Parliamentary Budget Office, therefore escaping scrutiny on their promises yet again.

It was an absolutely shameful performance by those opposite, clearly designed to set them up for two years time when they will yet again dodge scrutiny and repeat what they did last year in the election when they turned their backs on the Costello legacy of the Charter of Budget Honesty. They turned their backs on the scrutiny and the mechanisms set up by then Treasurer Costello. They went to an election knowing, deep within their promises, that there was an $11 billion shortfall between what they planned to do and how they could deliver it. It was an $11 billion black hole called by the Treasury and in their full knowledge, as the member for Throsby rightly points out. When it was pointed out to them, what did they do? They attacked Treasury. They attacked the messenger for discovering what they knew they had and they refused to be upfront about it.

In this debate we had the amazing situation where the shadow Treasurer lectured us all on the need to be able to deliver on our promises when he had an $11 billion black hole and would not be able to deliver any promises that he put in if he were in government.

Mr Melham: They couldn't deliver a pizza!

Mr HUSIC: Indeed, they could not deliver a pizza. I thank the member for Banks for that interjection. They want to lecture us on economics. They picked up some unknown Liberal aligned accounting firm at the back of WA and relied upon them to cost their election figures. When that firm was tested as to how far they should go to back these promises, even that firm said, 'This is not an audit of their figures.' Even the shadow Treasurer stuffed up when he was confronted on that. He had not even read the fine print of their own costings. They used a firm that was not even known, instead of going through Treasury, instead of being able to hand over their costings and instead of being able to follow the Charter of Budget Honesty, and now they come in here and tell us that they are in a position to lecture us about economic challenges. The Leader of the Opposition was lecturing us on economic challenges when he was either snoozing or boozing while we voted on the stimulus package.

We often get these guys saying, 'You made the wrong call; we would have made it better.' Let us turn to what they had to say when they were challenged back last year. When greatness was thrust upon him the Leader of the Opposition needed to be able to come up with a response to the greatest economic challenge confronting advanced economies in 75 years. He was asked on the 7:30 Report what he would do. Chris Uhlmann said:

But you would have spent money as well.

This is the stimulus package. He continued:

The coalition actually backed the first stimulus package, didn't it?

The Leader of the Opposition said:

Yes, which was about a quarter the size of the second stimulus package, which we opposed.

Chris Uhlmann said:

But certainly that money was necessary, and it appears to have done the trick.

And here we go—this is what the Leader of the Opposition said in response to the greatest economic challenge in 75 years:

But at a high price. And if you look across the Tasman, New Zealand has done just as well, it seems, as Australia without going into anything like the same level of debt and deficit that we have.

New Zealand: lower growth, higher joblessness, higher inflation. The opposition's response to the GFC was to spend less and condemn us to lower growth and higher unemployment. They made that call. The man that occupies the Leader of the Opposition's chair made that call and was backed up by the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister. They made that call. They then say they are in a position to tell us about economic challenge.

Thankfully, we ignored their advice. What did we get for it? Through the work that we did, we are now in a position where we have higher growth and more people in work. It is believed 44 million jobs were lost in advanced economies. We managed to create over 750,000, close to 1,000,000. Defying what happened elsewhere, we did it. So we were able to have higher growth, more jobs, greater security and the world's greatest treasurer, who is walking in right now. And they cannot stand it.

And what else? Whenever they are tested further about what they should do, they beat their chests. In the aftermath of the natural disasters that affected Queensland we knew we had to act. We had to help Queenslanders out and we needed to find a way to fund that recovery. They said they would find $6 billion without having to put in a levy. They chastised us because we were there to stand up for Queenslanders, providing the money to help reconstruction and making the hard choice on a levy. And they said, 'We shouldn't help out Queensland that way; we shouldn't put in a levy.' They said, 'We'll find the money and we'll find the savings to be able to do this without a levy.' They said back in January: 'We'll get back to you. We'll let you know when it's coming.'

The end of January came and they still had no ability to find savings. Back to the parliamentary sittings, they still were unable to find any savings. They then outsourced their policy to some One Nation hacks sitting in some garage somewhere, and they worked out that the smart way to do that is to turn our backs on something our predecessors did. They picked up the simplest One Nation policy, which was to cut back the education support provided to Indonesia. That was their response. They could not find the savings.

They beat their chests, unable to do it, and again they come in here and talk about economic challenges. This is in a climate, mind you—the member for Throsby was right—where they had an opportunity to point out what economic challenges they deal with and were unable to. The shadow Treasurer not once added anything to identify the challenges. There is one global economic challenge right now, and it was called out by Richard Koo from the Nomura Research Institute, who reflected on the fact that the private sector, by addressing debt and cutting back spending the way it is, is putting big pressure on the global economy, and monetary policy simply will not cut it in the way that it did.

So monetary policy will not cut it in the way it once did and the economy is unstable. Their reaction? 'We're going to cut $70 billion out of the economy—puncture a huge hole in the economy.' On top of what we have been able to do to cut back spending, they would go even further. They would have three times the amount of consolidation that we have done, and they reckon they would do it. After, mind you, they could not find $6 billion, these geniuses reckon they will find $70 billion. When you cannot meet the first challenge, set the next one extraordinarily high.

At the end of the day, what gets me the most is this: they are only happy with bad news. They are only happy when people are suffering. They are only happy when jobless rates go up. They are only happy when growth goes down. They are only happy when the bad times come in. Those are the only times they cheer, the only times they have a smile on the face. They are a disgrace to economic policy. They should go away and actually work out what they think they should do and be able to do instead of coming here and lecturing us otherwise.

Congratulations to the Treasurer, by the way.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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