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Thursday, 26 May 2011
Page: 4871

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (16:19): I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate on this matter of public importance that was proposed by the member for North Sydney. I note that the matter of public importance was, 'The failure of the Treasurer to respond to imminent threats to the Australian economy'. I must say that I have listened long and hard to the protestations of the member for North Sydney, but in the entire 15 minutes of his speech he did not even bother to set out what he thought those imminent threats to the economy were.

To his credit, the member for Cowper at least attempted to identify one threat that he believed existed in relation to the National Broadband Network. There is no doubt in my mind that, like all of those Liberal state members of parliament in my electorate at a recent Building the Education Revolution opening, when it comes to the opening of the NBN in his electorate I am certain the member for Cowper will be there for happy snaps just to make sure that he cashes in on the rollout of the NBN in his electorate.

When I try to ascertain what the coalition believes these imminent threats are it seems that the entire substance of the member for North Sydney's contribution related to the fracas over the royalties issue in Western Australia. The Assistant Treasurer went through in great detail the repeated commitments that had been given by Premier Barnett. On eight occasions within eight months, and most recently within eight weeks of the printing of the budget, he ruled out an increase in the rate of royalties. Regarding this discussion about whether or not the Commonwealth Treasurer knew about the plans of Premier Barnett, let us have a look at the public record. I reaffirm the points that the Assistant Treasurer made by simply pointing out that every single one of those public commitments that the Premier of Western Australian made indicated that he would not be supporting an increase in the rate of royalties.

Let us have a look at some of the genuinely imminent threats to the Australian economy, and let us have a look at the way in which this Treasurer and this government are responding and dealing with those threats. We could talk about those threats that occurred during the global financial crisis or we could talk about the threats that occurred as a result of the natural disasters that we faced. You would have thought that these were the sorts of imminent threats by which the performance of this Treasurer and this government would be judged. They were the imminent threats that real Australians faced. They were the things that impacted on the lives of everyday Australians across this country.

When it came to the global financial crisis we must proudly stand behind the record of what this government delivered. It was a government and a treasurer that acted swiftly and with the degree of decisiveness that was required to ensure that this economy avoided recession, unlike any other advanced economy in the world. Not only did we avoid recession, but we have delivered over 700,000 new jobs since we came to power, at a time when millions of jobs had been shed right across other advanced economies in this world. Indeed, we managed to create jobs and not see a loss of jobs.

In terms of the fiscal record of this government, we also see a clear pathway to return the budget to surplus. I would have thought that that was a threat that faces the economy—the threat of rising interest rates in the event that we do not contain government spending and we do not get the budgetary position of the Commonwealth back into order.

But that is the very essence of this budget. It is about delivering a surplus by 2012-13. It is about tackling some of those important challenges, such as skills and labour shortages, this country is facing. And this is not a new challenge, albeit the interruption of the global financial crisis meant that some of those threats abated for a short time. But the Reserve Bank gave the former Howard government 20 warnings in relation to capacity constraints and skills and labour shortages and the imminent threat that they posed to the economy through higher interest rates and, consequently, more mortgage stress for people out there in communities such as the one I represent. If we look at those imminent threats we can see that when the coalition were in government they failed abysmally to address those imminent threats. But they are at the very heart of the budget that the Treasurer handed down this year. It is about delivering opportunities to ensure that we are able to get more people into work. We already have a participation rate at record levels in this country, but we want to get more people into work. We want to use this once-in-a-generation opportunity of mining boom mark 2. We want to get the benefits out of it, some of which were squandered under mining boom mark 1. We want to get those benefits for the people who have been stuck in unemployment. We want to ensure that we provide them with the assistance and the incentives to get them into the workforce to play a part in the national challenge of meeting the many challenges that flow from the mining boom.

During the global financial crisis there was often a lot of talk about allegations of waste. I heard the member for North Sydney talk about the allegations of waste. When it comes to the member for North Sydney, he at least did come into this place and vote against that package. I note that the member for Cowper was offered up as a speaker today. I thought that was interesting. I feel a great degree of sympathy for him. I know that there has been a lot of talk about the leak that the matter of five individuals missing the vote was all about undermining Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Wentworth. Indeed, if the truth be known, it was a very evil plan to undermine the position of the member for Cowper. What is the member for Cowper's position again? I am not sure that we know what his position is. The member for Cowper was here on occasions when the global financial crisis was about to strike and the stimulus package was being voted on.

I remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition, for all of his bleating about the stimulus package, did not even turn up to vote on the stimulus package. I will quote from an article in the Daily Telegraph on 8 March 2009 titled 'Tony Abbott Slept through the Key Vote'.

Mr Tony Smith interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): The member for Casey.

Mr BRADBURY: I do want to quote from that article, because it sets out in great detail the failure of the member for Warringah. It said that Mr Abbott told the Sunday Telegraph that the group had consumed a couple of bottles of wine, but he denied that he had fallen asleep.

Mr Tony Smith: You said it was the Daily Telegraph.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Casey will remain silent.

Mr BRADBURY: The article said that he had told the whip the reason he was not there to vote on the stimulus package was that he fell asleep through it. I have often suggested that those on the other side slept through the global financial crisis, because they want to deny its existence. But when it comes to the Leader of the Opposition he may well have slept through it, because he certainly slept through the vote on the stimulus package. It is hardly the record of someone who is fit to govern.

While we are looking at the imminent challenges, I thought it was also worth having a look at some of the longer-term challenges. I note that the member for Flinders is with us this afternoon in the chamber. The member for Flinders has really let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the opposition's approach to tackling climate change.

Mr Tony Smith interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The honourable member for Casey will remain silent for the rest of this contribution.

Mr BRADBURY: When it comes to the opposition's approach to tackling climate change, perhaps they have not talked about climate change today because they do not see it as being an imminent threat. Maybe they see it as being a medium-term or a longer-term threat. In this debate there has been a failure to address some of those longer-term challenges. But the member for Flinders let the cat out of the bag when he was interviewed on 7.30 just a couple of days ago. He was asked whether or not the so-called direct action plan—this is subsidies for polluters—would provide long-term certainty for the investment community. The best he could come up with was to confirm that the policy does not even look beyond the next 10 years. It is a policy that is directed towards a target of 2020. But if you are out there in the investment community and you want to make some of those hard investment decisions about whether to invest in the new technologies of the future—whether to make those 30- to 50-year investments across the lifecycle of an asset—if you want some certainly don't go to the coalition because, by his very admission, the member for Flinders has indicated that his policy does not even look beyond the next 10 years.

So, when it comes to imminent threats, they have failed to address them. We saw the opposition leader's attempt at a budget in reply.

Mr Hunt interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Flinders will remain silent.

Mr BRADBURY: If this is about trying to force an election to give people an opportunity to determine whether or not this government should continue to govern, then I will simply say that the Leader of the Opposition should have done a lot better than he did in presenting one of the poorest attempts at a budget in reply speech. It is no wonder he was frightened off from trying to attempt one— (Time expired)