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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1971


Mr WHITELEY (Braddon) (16:49): The last thing this House needs is a lecture on budgetary matters from fiscal pygmies. That is what those people on the opposite side are: they are fiscal pygmies. They are the group who have taken this country from being in the black to facing an absolute fiscal nightmare after five to six years. We are the ones trying to clean up this mess. Each and every day we open a cupboard to another budgetary skeleton. Those people sit over on the other side of the chamber with a great sense of commitment to their cause, when we are the ones trying to clean it up.

They slid money out of education and spent three to four years of the infrastructure forward estimates in the first year, leaving nothing in the cupboard. They then come to this place and, even after the evidence of officials from Treasury at Senate estimates, refuse to accept the fact that we need to increase the debt ceiling. We would not need to have this debate right now if the Labor Party had decided to do what was in the best interests of the country, upon the advice of senior officials, and taken the debt limit to the $500 billion that was proposed. But, no, they want to take advantage of the political environment. They want to be political opportunists. They want to do absolutely anything they can to be economic vandals. They continue to be economic vandals in this place and it is an absolute disgrace. So do not lecture us on debt. Yours is the party that has taken us into fiscal oblivion.

We are comfortable on this side of the House with the Charter of Budget Honesty and the agreement that has been made between this side of the House and the Australian Greens to get us through this period. We have no qualms with that because we have nothing to hide. When it comes to the Charter of Budget Honesty, we have nothing to hide. You are the guys who are absolutely useless when it comes to managing Australia's finances.

They are the party that after six years took a country with money in the bank and no interest payments on debt to one now with in excess of $400 billion in debt and $10 billion in interest payments. They think it is funny, but it happened on their watch. It happened on their watch in six short years. They need to admit the fact that that is what occurred.

Dr Leigh: Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, I seek to intervene.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): Is the member for Braddon willing to give way?

Mr WHITELEY: No. The debt limit is a construct of the Australian Labor Party. Let's not forget that this was brought in in 2008. Let's keep in mind that at that point we had no debt, as a legacy of the Howard-Costello government. We had money in the bank. We were in a super position fiscally. In 2008 the Australian Labor Party came to this place on the back of the perception of a new superhero fiscal conservative in Mr Rudd—and what did we see? The first debt limit was set at $75 billion. Then they asked, 'Mr Bank Manager, can I have more?' It then went to $200 billion. Then they asked, 'Mr Bank Manager, can I have more?' It went to $250 billion. It went on and on. Thank goodness the Australian people spoke so loudly on 7 September and said, 'Enough is enough. We need to get the finances of this country back under control.'

What is absolutely ironic about this is that at the start of this whole process, when this bill was first introduced by the Treasurer, those on the opposite side were offered briefings. They refused to have them. The dead giveaway, when the Treasurer was bringing this matter to a conclusion today with his speech earlier, was that the accused, the shadow Treasurer, could not face the prosecutor. That is always a dead giveaway. He sat there. He twirled in his seat. His eyeballs rolled around in their sockets. He could not look the Treasurer in the eye. The Treasurer nailed him. The shadow Treasurer left a massive black hole. He left skeletons and black spiders in every cupboard. We are here now to declare, 'We will clean up the mess.' But those opposite should not stand in our way. The Greens have come to an agreement with us to make sure that we can continue to pay the bills when the time comes in the very near future. It is about time that those on the opposite side woke up to themselves, because they are nothing but economic pygmies.