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Thursday, 13 March 2008
Page: 1769


Mr KEENAN (3:45 PM) —We have just heard about why it is so important that the House agrees to this motion. The government have absolutely no idea of the serious circumstances they now find themselves in, and they have absolutely no idea about how serious the consequences are for the course of action that they have chosen in talking down the Australian economy. By talking down the Australian economy, the Treasurer and the Labor Party are misleading the Australian people and they are damaging the future of Australia’s prosperity.

The reality—and everyone in this House knows it—is that this government inherited the strongest economy of any incoming government in the history of Australia. Labor inherited a strong economy, and it is now creating the expectation of what will happen if that economy falters.


Mr Price —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The opposition have to show why standing orders should be suspended.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member for Stirling will refer to the motion before the House, which is to suspend standing orders.


Mr KEENAN —The reason that standing orders must be suspended, and the reason why it is urgent that this happen, is that we have a government that have absolutely no idea of the consequences of the course of action that they are choosing to take. They have no idea of the consequences for Australia’s families, and they have no idea of the consequences of talking down the Australian economy.

What plans, if any, does this government have to manage the economy? We had adverts running in Western Australia during the election campaign, with Kevin Rudd coming forward and saying, ‘We have a plan to manage Australia’s $1.1 trillion economy,’ but all we hear from the government now is complaints about the economy it inherited, even though this economy it the strongest of any incoming government in the history of this country. The reason that this motion must be agreed to is that we have had a collapse in consumer and business confidence. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index fell 9.1 per cent in March to 88.6 points. This index is 23.3 per cent below its level a year ago, and it is at its lowest level since September 1993, which was at the end of the ‘recession that we had to have’.


Mr Burke —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is nothing vaguely approaching relevance to the motion. The truth is that the opposition does not want to deal with a ministerial statement about the export wheat marketing arrangements. It has been causing chaos—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Stirling will come to the motion before the House to suspend standing orders.


Mr KEENAN —The reason we must suspend standing orders is that confidence has fallen to record lows, and the government has absolutely no understanding of the serious consequences of that for the Australian economy. The reason we must suspend standing orders is that the government does not understand the consequences of the course of action it is pursuing. Confidence affects issues such as employment and inflation, and it affects the overall condition of the Australian economy.


Mr Tanner —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The seconder of the motion is moving into the substantive matters that are the subject of the motion sought unsuccessfully to be moved by the member for Wentworth. He should return to the content of the motion before the House, which is a suspension motion.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Stirling has been asked to refer to the substantive motion before the chair.


Mr KEENAN —Madam Deputy Speaker, I am making the case as to why it is urgent that this House suspend standing orders. It is urgent because this government is pursuing a course of action that is damaging the interests of the Australian people. It is urgent that we suspend standing orders because there has been a collapse in consumer and business confidence. That is why this is urgent: because the government has a political strategy that is damaging the interests of the Australian people. So it is urgent that this House suspend standing orders to address the problems with the government’s approach. It is urgent that we suspend standing orders because last month’s Sensis business index revealed that support for the new government’s policies has plummeted 34 percentage points, for a net balance of negative five per cent.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired. The question is that the motion be agreed to. All those of that opinion say aye and against say no. I think the noes have it.


Mr Abbott —Division required.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Warringah will remove himself from the House under standing order 94(a).


Mr Abbott interjecting


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, you didn’t; you were advising the chair on how to progress.

Opposition members interjecting—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —My apologies but, from my point of view at the moment, the member for Warringah has spent the last debate advising from the sidelines on how the chair is to progress. He may have got away with it in the last parliament, but he should desist in this. I will withdraw, because I thought that was what I was hearing. I was about to say: ‘I think the noes have it. Is a division required?’ Yes, it is. Ring the bells for four minutes.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Turnbull’s) be agreed to.