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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10868

Mr PEARCE (10:59 AM) —It is good to rise in the House on this very beautiful morning in Canberra to speak on this package of bills: the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Economic Security Strategy) Bill 2008, the Appropriation (Economic Security Strategy) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and the Appropriation (Economic Security Strategy) Bill (No. 2) 2008-2009. These are the so-called Economic Security Strategy bills that have been presented to the House by the government. The bills provide some $4.8 billion for pensioners, carers, senior health card holders and veterans; $3.9 billion for families; $1.5 billion for first home buyers; and $187 million for training.

In the time available to me I think it is important to put these bills into the context in which we are now operating. Of course, these bills represent some sort of response from the government to what has been happening with the global financial crisis and also to what has been happening with the resulting dislocation in the Australian financial system as a result of the government’s policies. In putting it into context it is interesting to note that, within the context of what is a very serious situation around the globe in finance, we are yet to have the Prime Minister come into the parliament and address it about what the government’s plan and strategy is to go forward. I think it is absolutely astonishing that the only comments that the Prime Minister has made in relation to this global financial crisis have been in response to questions asked during question time. And, Madam Deputy Speaker Moylan, you would know that the Prime Minister has difficulty in answering questions during question time.

So here we are in one of the worst situations that the globe has faced—and, of course, Australia is not immune from that—yet our Prime Minister will not come into the chamber, will not make a speech to the chamber and will not inform the parliament nor the people of Australia of what his plans are, not just in the short term but also in the long term. It would be interesting to know what it would actually take to motivate the Prime Minister to come into this chamber and provide us with a sense of confidence that he does have a plan. The only thing that I can think of that might encourage him to do that is if we were to take this chamber and place it in a foreign country. I presume that, if we were a parliament in a foreign country, he would be very happy to come in and address us, but he seems to have an enormous amount of difficulty in actually coming in and addressing the parliament of the country of which he is the leader of the government. That is a great shame, because this a very serious situation.

Of course, our Prime Minister is very fond of declaring war on things. We heard yesterday the member for North Sydney asking a very poignant question in question time. He referred to the Prime Minister’s declaration the other day that he had declared war on unemployment. He also referred to the declared war on drugs, the declared war on inflation, the declared war on whalers, the war cabinet to fight disadvantage, the war on downloads and the war on pokies. In May there was a war against doping in sport and in October there was the war on bankers’ salaries.

Let us take the war on inflation. This war on inflation was announced by the Prime Minister in a speech at the beginning of the year in Perth. It was a five-point plan to fight inflation. Inflation has gone up every quarter since the Prime Minister declared war on it, and the only thing I can say is that he and his generals on the front bench have obviously been shooting blanks all year because it is not working, is it? I think you would also have to say that about the other wars. The Prime Minister has this habit of declaring war on things and of everything being important. I remember before the election that education was going to be the first priority of this government. Also, economic management was going to be the No. 1 priority, defence and security were going to the be No. 1 priority, inflationary pressure was going to be the No. 1 priority, climate change was going to be the No. 1 priority and cooperative federalism was going to be the No. 1 priority. So we have a lot of wars and a lot of No. 1 priorities.

The other interesting thing in the context of these bills and the global financial response is what has happened here in the Australian market as a result of the response that the government have taken to date. A lot of this revolves around the bank guarantee issue. We have the government saying that their May budget has changed because of the global financial crisis. Everything seems to be as a result of the global financial crisis. I think that is interesting and it is important to keep note of the fact that the government can only blame the global financial crisis for so much. They have to be accountable and take some responsibility for their own actions. The varying announcements that the government have made regarding the bank guarantee have certainly dislocated the market.

I think it was Paul Keating who once said, ‘If you change the government of Australia, you change the country.’ We are nigh on one year since the government changed and I guess you really have to stand back and ask: has the country changed? Well, boy, has it changed in one year! We now have inflation at a 13-year high. We have unemployment increasing. Unemployment is projected to go through the roof, to go up to nearly six per cent; others are saying it will be higher than six per cent. Around 270,000 Australians have had their assets frozen. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low. Business confidence is at an all-time low. The budget surplus that was left by the coalition government has been significantly reduced. So I guess the question that Australians are now asking themselves is: are we better off today than we were a year ago? And I have not found a single Australian who says that they are better off today than they were a year ago.