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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10532


Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (17:48): This has taken us about 2½ hours, but the parliamentary secretary has finally confirmed that the caretaker period under the proposal that is embodied in this government's Parliamentary Budget Office is absolutely no different to the situation we confronted at the last election and the election before that. We have a choice: we can use non-current Treasury data before the caretaker period or we can wait for PEFO—PEFO is very important data—and get accurate assessments of alternative policies, some of which we have not yet made a decision on because it depends on what data the PEFO comes up with. Those will be used and abused by the government. This is a total stitch-up and you have confirmed it. You have confirmed today that the only thing this does is give us access to costings well ahead of an election. That is what you have confirmed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): Can I just ask the member for Goldstein to make it clear that it is not me who is doing that. You were speaking through the chair.

Mr ROBB: Madam Deputy Speaker, I apologise for that. The second thing is that we have heard great defences of Treasury here from the member for Denison, the member for Lyne and others, but both they and the parliamentary secretary have continued to cast imputations on me and the member for North Sydney. That is against standing orders. However, it is not against standing orders to cast imputations against others other than members.

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

Mr ROBB: None of the people here, including the member for Hunter—was that you just throwing in your two-penneth? You have not been here for 2½ hours.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Hunter is out of his seat, so he will not be intervening at all.

Mr ROBB: Now that we have confirmed that nothing has changed and that, as far as the caretaker period is concerned, this is a total stitch-up, why are we wasting our time on this bill in this place? If you are going to use and abuse the office of government to misrepresent the findings of a committee, why are we wasting our time here when we will end up in the same dogfight again next time? Why not have a process where we can get rid of the calculations at a point of contention and then we can debate the merit of policy during the campaign. No, you are not prepared to do that. You just want to get down in the gutter again at the next election and spend 33 days casting aspersions on our ability to make assessments of the costings, when we would like to have an independent office which makes its own judgment of your policies and our policies so that we can take this costing process out of the public arena and we can debate policy. That is the root of the problem. The second thing is that the parliamentary secretary has again, in a very—

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: Madam Deputy Speaker, do you have several debates going on here or not?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Goldstein has the call.

Mr ROBB: I might have the call but I am having trouble hearing myself because of the Leader of the House.

A government member: You're not missing much!

Mr ROBB: That is true.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We will all stop interjecting and the member for Goldstein will continue his remarks through the chair and not refer to 'you' as often as he has been.

Mr ROBB: I will forget 'you'. The parliamentary secretary very craftily slipped around the second issue. I did ask him very explicitly whether, if the Parliamentary Budget Office wanted to get access to the carbon tax modelling and the assumptions—to all of the variables—and the impact of changes in those assumptions—

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: I am asking a question. Do you want to listen or do you just want to prattle on over there?

Government members interjecting

Mr ROBB: You are not in this debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Goldstein will resume his seat for a moment. I indicate that there has been a great deal of interjection, including interjections by members on their own speakers. The debate has been robust and I have allowed it to run but it is now my feeling that it is getting out of hand. The member for Goldstein will not respond to other conversations in the room. Those having other conversations will take them outside. The member for Goldstein has the call but his time is up. Is the member for Goldstein seeking the call a second time?

Mr ROBB: I am. (extension of time granted) Thank you for that privilege. The second point I would like to raise is the fact that I asked, quite specifically and directly, of the parliamentary secretary whether the Parliamentary Budget Office would have access to the variables and the modelling and the opportunity to change assumptions in that modelling and assess the outcome of that modelling—and any other modelling, for that matter. In a very obtuse way he said that the Parliamentary Budget Office could seek to strike a memorandum of understanding. The question I have to the parliamentary secretary is: does that mean that if a particular department—pick any one of 30—feels, on a day that they are requested by the Parliamentary Budget Office, that they do not want the department or the modelling that they have used and developed to be put under any scrutiny, they can just refuse to agree to a memorandum of understanding which gives the Parliamentary Budget Office that sort of access? If that is the case this is like the FOI process, where you are denied anything of any consequence.