PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS Australian Greens’ Policy Costings

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (20:44): I actually do not want to give a hard time to the member for Mayo because he is having a hard time as it is. I think he is doing some very important work on the other side in trying to improve their economic literacy. But he is having a hard time because he, the member for Casey, the member for Kooyong and the member for Higgins—a reservoir of talent there—have been overshadowed by an economic titan in the form of Senator Joyce. They have to sit there and watch as that sort of equivalent of an economic Jupiter sucks all the attention and all the policy straight into his pet issues while they try to get a bit of economic literacy on their side of the fence. So I want to support the member for Mayo in his efforts as he uses this issue to burn out a few demons on their side of the fence and those, past and present, acting as a dead weight on the coalition. Now it is up to a fitter and stronger member for Mayo to put his shoulder to that dead weight and try to get some changes on their side of the fence.

It is rare that you see a coalition member embrace the notion of transparency or financial transparency. I will correct myself actually: it is that they do not normally do it. They do it when they are in opposition because that is always the best time for them to argue for transparency. But, sure enough, they start to choke on their hubris and find it is a lot harder to do in government from their perspective than when they had their solemn hand-on-heart moment that they were going to be the most economically transparent around. The classic example is Peter Costello. He rode the wave of the 1996 election victory and introduced a charter of budget honesty. He showed himself to be a big fan of economic transparency or financial transparency. In December 1996 when he was introducing the Charter of Budget Honesty Bill, he said:

This is the kind of reform which, when enacted, will be a permanent feature, making sure that Australia’s economic policy is run better, making sure that the public is better informed, making sure there is transparency in economic policy.

That was in 1996. Boy, a lot changed in a short period of time.

We had the other side complaining about FOIs being knocked back. What happened? The minute there was some scrutiny on the then coalition government’s approach to taxation, in particular dealing with bracket creep and all the Treasury documents that existed about the first homebuyer scheme, there was Peter Costello stamping out any opportunity to use FOI by the media—not within this chamber but by the media—to get answers to the way they were managing fiscal policy. It was stamped out. They are champions one day of transparency and the next day they are clubbing the FOI Act themselves when they are in government. But they are here today to lecture us on transparency. Free speech is very important to those opposite. They will defend Andrew Bolt but the minute it comes to an FOI that might expose their approach to fiscal policy they say, ‘No, you can’t have free speech.’ Then we had a whole series of conclusive certificates that were designed to shut down the entire debate by their person, Peter Costello.

Why is it relevant? It is because the member for Mayo thinks that the FOI processes should operate to hand him over info that he demands to see. He is right to call for financial transparency. I do not mind him calling for that. But, at the same time, he needs to be consistent. Look at the litany of errors that those opposite made in a short space of time during the course of the last election. They went to an election where they dodged the very thing they created—the Charter of Budget Honesty. They went to an accounting firm hardly known on the east coast and they were found to have underdone costings and disciplinary breaches and to be out of whack by $11 billion. Then they got into this parliament and opposed the Parliamentary Budget Office and confected a whole set of excuses as to why they did not want to support that.

And it kept going because then when it came to costing, for example, offshore processing, who did they use? They got burnt because they could not pick an accounting firm, so then they went to a catering firm. They used a catering firm to work out their costings on offshore processing. They outsourced immigration to Tetsuya’s; they had the master chefs in there working as their ERC. And it keeps on going because in their ERC itself they leak on each other’s budget costings to see who is leaking out of their ERC. So you do not have an ERC; you have an entrapment exercise. I understand why the member for Mayo is pushing this. It is as much an education process to their side— (Time expired)

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