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Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Page: 3344

Mr KEENAN (6:40 PM) —In politics, as in life, we reap what we sow. Having promised the Australian people that they will bring down petrol prices in the lead up to the last election, the Rudd government is now reaping the barren harvest of their empty rhetoric.

It is extraordinary that we have a Prime Minister who so readily dismisses the concerns of average Australians and who is prepared to wave the white flag without ever making a serious attempt to address the issues that just six months ago he was labelling as core business for this new government. The Prime Minister did that when he made his Adelaide declaration. In it he shamelessly said that the Labor government had done as much as it physically could to provide additional help to the family budget. That is an extraordinary thing to say, considering that they have done absolutely nothing about the things that they were raising as issues prior to the last election. But now that they are elected, they are not interested. They are just waving the white flag and saying, ‘There is nothing further that we can do.’

The issue of the rising price of petrol provides a perfect metaphor for this government and the way that it operates. They raise an issue, then they feign concern about that issue, then they make some gesture—in this case the ludicrous Fuelwatch scheme—and then they blithely move onto the next thing without ever making one iota of difference to the problem that they first identified.

This is why we have a Prime Minister who seems to have invented his own language and finds it increasingly difficult to talk in plain English as he struggles with issues that he obviously does not understand or comprehend. This is why he never seems to know the detail of his own government’s policies and why he obviously fails to understand the consequences of the decisions that his government takes. This is why, I think, he reverts to this bureaucratically based language. It is something that, on the surface, is relatively funny, but it is something that ultimately protects him from ever stating a clear view. It is a language that always allows him to hedge his bets and it makes him never responsible for things. That is why he always says things like ‘I am advised,’ and it is why he does not have relatively simple facts to hand about his own government’s policies. This is why we get ridiculous policies such as Fuelwatch. This is a scheme that has been brutally unmasked by the resources minister today—a minister who often stands out, I think, as a beacon of common sense on the other side and who actually takes the time to understand the consequences of the decisions that cabinet makes.

Members will know that this scheme has been in operation in Western Australia for some time. I asked retailers in Stirling what they thought of the Fuelwatch scheme. One independent retailer gave me the example—

Mr Bowen interjecting

Mr KEENAN —I would be very interested if the Assistant Treasurer wants to respond to this. The independent retailer furnished me with the example of how he asked the authority that oversees this scheme whether he could decrease his petrol prices at the pump. This authority said that if you were to decrease your petrol prices, they would fine you for it. This is the ridiculous policy that this government now wants to impose on the whole of Australia. What an absolute farce.

This is a scheme that will not bring fuel prices down. You do not need to take my word for it. Let’s see what the Minister for Resources and Energy has to say. He actually understands a thing or two about the way the world works. He is the minister who wrote to the Prime Minister, to the finance minister, to the Treasurer and to the Assistant Treasurer to expose this policy as anticompetitive, a waste of taxpayers’ money and a policy that will not lead to lower prices. This is a very important point to make for the Assistant Treasurer and the members for Blaxland and Lindsay. He also said that the biggest losers from this policy will be working families in places like Western Sydney. So the resources minister in this government has confirmed what we already know and what is slowly being revealed to the Australian people: that there is always a yawning gap between what this government says and what this government does.

This is a Prime Minister and a government that made promises to Australian families to bring down the price of petrol, and it has completely and utterly failed to implement that promise. Now they have raised the white flag and said, ‘There’s nothing more we can do about it.’ Australians deserve better than this. They deserve more than spin and stunts. They deserve a government that stands up for their interests and does something about the rising price of petrol. (Time expired)