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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3788

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (16:20): I am pleased to speak on this matter of public importance. I am a bit astounded that this is an MPI that is being put by those opposite, because I would not have thought that one from the opposition benches would be seeking to raise matters about either transparency or concern about the business community at a time when two very significant issues are facing them. When they come into this place they are clearly opposing the interests of those they repeatedly propose to represent by opposing tax cuts for companies and for small business. They have shown themselves to be very emphatic on those points. It is extraordinary that they are coming in today and putting forward an MPI which professes to support the business community. And in terms of transparency, it is just as extraordinary that they are here today talking about economic transparency when the hot topic at the moment is exactly what the opposition has committed itself to in terms of budget cuts and exactly what this new commission of audit constitutes in terms of the opposition's policies.

The opposition have for almost 18 months gone about this place calling themselves an alternative government, trying at every opportunity to find a seat on the government benches of this place. Yet, when they are asked to provide very basic details about their economic policies, very basic details about costings and very basic details of what they do stand for, they go back to being the opposition. They go back to being not accountable and they go back to indicating that they will reveal this in due course, that it is somewhere off in the distance and that at some point in the future they will provide information for people to be able to put their finger on what the opposition represents in terms of job cuts and cuts to health and education budgets—all of those things that we inevitably see whenever any conservative government comes to power. I am certainly very familiar with that because we have recently been the beneficiaries of the Baillieu government in Victoria. We see very clearly that while in opposition members of conservative parties are very reluctant to provide specifics about their economic policies and to provide appropriate details about what their priorities are, and when they get into government, as is the case in Victoria with Ted Baillieu, they sit on their hands, they do nothing and they allow the state to stagnate, or they decide to slash and burn. We have certainly seen that in previous governments at a federal level and very certainly at a state level, in my state. So it is extraordinary that today we are being invited by those opposite to talk about issues of transparency and support for the business community when they so obviously fail repeatedly on both counts.

I am however very pleased to speak about this government's track record of transparency in relation to our economy and in relation to our support for the business community. I am somewhat disappointed to have heard the member for Goldstein, who brought this matter before the House, reflect on the events of the global financial crisis. So regularly as individual members, when we go to our electorates and see the benefits of construction projects in schools and housing developments, we hear of the benefits for ordinary people as a result of the stimulus spending put in place by this government. We see the practical effects of support for jobs in our own communities as a result of the very real policy commitments this government made during the global financial crisis.

It is extraordinary that the member for Goldstein stands repeatedly in this place and pretends that it did not occur. We have heard that throughout the three contributions of the members who have spoken from the opposition benches this afternoon. We have heard denial of the global financial crisis as a reality which affected the world several years ago and is continuing to be felt by countries around the world. We saw denial of the benefits of the Building the Education Revolution by the member for Murray. I can confirm that the 68 schools in my electorate which have been the beneficiaries of this government's economic responsibility at a very difficult time are very thankful for the commitments we made—the $110 million spent across my electorate.

We heard denial from the member for Dawson about the financial impacts of natural disasters. He, as a member who has been directly affected by natural disasters, should know very well about the economic impacts that people in his own electorate must have felt and must continue to feel as a result. He must know that there are realities for our economy which must be faced as a result of those natural disasters. So it is utterly ludicrous for the people who have stood here this afternoon, seemingly talking about transparency and support for the business community, to be denying the realities of pressures being felt by our economy and denying the reality that this government is responding to those financial pressures.

It is absolutely extraordinary that the opposition are speaking about transparency and accountability, because we have heard their proposals for economic transparency and accountability. I must say they leave rather a lot to be desired in relation to the most recent extraordinary plan about an audit commission. This is seemingly the way they are going to recover from the $70 billion black hole they have announced by various means will result in the event that they find themselves in office.

The reason I and others on this side of the House are incredulous about this so-called 'audit constitution' is that the understanding of members of the opposition and indeed the shadow Treasurer of what it means to conduct an audit and what an audit represents was made pretty clear at the last election. Seemingly audited accounts were revealed to have an $11 billion hole in them. We know that on ABC in August 2010 the shadow Treasurer said that their accounts had been audited. He said:

You know what? If the fifth-biggest accounting firm in Australia signs off on your numbers it is a brave person to start saying there are accounting tricks. I tell you it is audited.

Apparently they said that there were savings of $11.5 billion that the coalition had identified as part of their audit. This audit is an extraordinary thing because we now know that not only has it been revealed through appropriate scrutiny of those accounts that there was indeed an $11.5 billion hole in this supposed audit but that the ICA's appeal tribunal found that the audit the coalition had organised was not an audit at all. So industry bodies are aware of exactly what they mean by an audit. The Australian public and the Australian Treasury are certainly aware of what they mean by an audit. So in terms of transparency the opposition have a little bit of form about what it is to conduct an audit. They have a bit of form about whether or not their audit can be relied on.

So it is with incredulity that all of us on this side hear about an audit commission which they propose to set up to be able to identify cuts to services, cuts to budgets—the inevitable things that conservatives do when they come to office. All Australians have come to know that. They are certainly coming to know that in my state. I expect that when the appropriate scrutiny is applied to those opposite, their audit will reveal itself to be exactly what it was at the last election—a sham.

By contrast, we have been absolutely clear with the Australian people about our support for small business and for the business community in general. It could not be clearer that those opposite stand for undermining the business community generally and undermining small business that they so heartily profess to support when they come to this place, when they are out on the hustings, when they are back in their electorates indicating that they have done their very best to support small business, despite the fact that they inevitably will vote against cuts to taxes for small businesses and they vote against company tax cuts. We heard today from the Treasurer about the practical realities of what the coalition's proposals for company tax and small business tax reform that we are undertaking, and that they are opposing, would mean. We know that they oppose the tax cut for companies. In fact, they want to increase company tax by 1.5 per cent. We know that this means an estimated $392 million cost to the manufacturing sector. We know that it means an estimated $270 million cost to the retail sector. Quite frankly, if you are going to come into this place and put up a matter of public importance about support for the business community, it would be worthwhile not adding to their costs through your public policies. This is an extraordinary motion and one which should not be supported by the House.