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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 11040


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:37): It is certainly a significant and interesting day today. Today the IMF released a report that was unexpectedly bearish about the Australian economy and about the global economy, and Euromoney magazine handed out a number of awards, including an award to the current Treasurer. I have been encouraged by the opposition and a few journalists to offer my generous congratulations to the Treasurer—a Treasurer who is more like Steven Bradbury than he is Peter Costello. I thought: 'Euromoney magazine. I should first check the previous recipients of the award.' Over the last few years we have had two Slovakian ministers, a Serbian, a Nigerian and a Bulgarian. In 2001 there was a Pakistani finance minister. That is quite an extraordinary one, that one. Then there was Poland, Russia, Denmark and the United States. I thought, 'Well, that's not any basis upon which I could give my endorsement to the Treasurer.' So I thought I would go to the Labor Party. I came across the ringing endorsement of the previous winner of the Euromoney finance minister of the year. I quote from Euromoney magazine, which says:

When Euromoney sought comment from the only other Australian ever to have received our award, the famously flinty Keating's instinctive reaction was to tell us "to just f*** off" and "I couldn't give a f***", while curtly offering what appeared to be travel advice, suggesting we visit some place called "buggery".

That was Paul Keating. I have censored this, because I note down the bottom it says:

Copying and distributing are prohibited without the permission of the publisher. If you wish to distribute this content please contact Christopher Hunt (chunt@euromoney.com)

If anyone wants that information, that is where you can go and get the approval to use Paul Keating's own words in relation to that matter: Mr Hunt at euromoney.com.

I wonder whether I should give congratulations to a Treasurer who inherited $45 billion of net assets in the bank and has now turned that into a net debt of $145 billion.

Opposition members: Shame!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I give him congratulations?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I give the Treasurer congratulations—a man who inherited a $22 billion surplus and now has a $22 billion deficit? Should I?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise a Treasurer who has presided over the fastest peacetime accumulation of government debt in Australia's history? Should I?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise a Treasurer who has not in four years run a budget surplus?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise a Treasurer who introduced or has announced 19 new or increased taxes?

An opposition member: How many?

Mr HOCKEY: Nineteen.

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise a Treasurer who has presided over the most wasteful spending spree in Australia's history—the man who handed out $900 cheques to people who were dead, asking them to stimulate the Australian economy? Should I praise a Treasurer who oversaw a blow-out in the Pink Batts program and a blow-out of billion dollar proportions in the school halls program? Should I praise a Treasurer for his great work in doubling the cost of computers in schools?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: No. Should I praise a Treasurer who has turned a $4 billion broadband network into a $39 billion broadband network? Should I praise a Treasurer who wants to introduce a carbon tax?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise a Treasurer who wants to introduce a mining tax?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Should I praise the most incompetent Treasurer Australia has ever had?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: This is a Treasurer who is the Steven Bradbury of finance ministers. The difference is he is skating on Peter Costello's skates. That is what he is doing. He is a man who has come through. He is a survivor. That is all he is. He is not a reformer. He is desperately clinging to the title of 'reformer'. He is not a reformer. It is not reform to have had five different positions on climate change and the pricing of carbon. He is not a reformer to have had four different versions of a mining tax. He is not a reformer. He is not a reformer to have had had three different policies in 48 hours during the financial crisis on just how much of people's deposits should be guaranteed by the Commonwealth government. He is not a Treasurer that engenders confidence. He is not a Treasurer that has the AA, AAA—whatever it might be—standard that we would expect of someone running a AAA economy. He is not someone who is ever countenanced in the list of potential Labor prime ministers. In fact there was a survey recently of the top 10 candidates to be the leader of the Labor Party and—you know what?—in that 10 they had Bob Brown and Malcolm Turnbull and they didn't even have Wayne Swan. Why? Because everyone knows that this is a Treasurer who is good at surfing—surfing the hard work of everyday Australians. He is a Treasurer that is committed to lots of spin and heroic statements. He is not a Treasurer that engenders confidence, that builds confidence, in the Australian economy. He is not someone that you would follow over the top in a great battle when the whistle is blown. He is not that man. I would say to you the challenges are significant. This Treasurer said in this House in his last budget speech that it was vitally important for Australian pensioners and Australian home owners to have a budget surplus in 2012-13. You can imagine how he has become a figure of ridicule, for in a few short months since then he has changed that iron-clad commitment to a budget surplus to variations of an objective, an expectation, a determination, a plan and a guiding principle, and then this morning, speaking to an audience around Australia, he said he was going to give it his best shot. This is not a Treasurer that is going to inspire confidence. He is not a Treasurer that will bring the budget back to surplus. He might promise a surplus in 2012-13, but the test will be whether he will deliver.

This is a Treasurer who said when it came to the carbon tax that it would be budget neutral—$4.5 billion more in costs than the revenue raised over the next three years. Oops, that's an Ian Thorpe moment. Even now it is emerging that his much lauded mining tax, which the Treasurer had the hide in this place to claim as great reformist policy, is turning into a dog's breakfast, because he and the now Prime Minister, together with the member for Batman, formed a partnership—a trio partnership—to negotiate with just three miners, BHP, Rio and Xstrata, immediately before the last election. Is that what a commendable Treasurer would do—form a partnership to enter into a secret negotiation with BHP, Rio and Xstrata that left all the mid-tier miners behind, that left hundreds of miners behind? Is that the work of a competent Treasurer? He has had numerous versions of the mining tax. Now he has got a problem, because he has got Western Australia and New South Wales syphoning the royalties out of his own mining tax revenue.

That is not the work of a good Treasurer. How could a good Treasurer, under any circumstances, agree to put set-top boxes in pensioners' homes at a cost that is greater than a new television set? How could a Treasurer agree to that? How could a Treasurer sit idly by with waste and mismanagement across the entire government, with blow-outs in deficit, with blow-outs in taxes and with changes in policy that have left Australians bewildered, confused and in economic terms cocooning. They are cocooning because they are increasingly nervous about the future. This is not a Treasurer whom we are proud of that would strut the world stage, talking up all of our great initiatives here in Australia. This is not a Treasurer who has laid down a plan for our economic destiny which gives business confidence to go out and employ more people. This is not a Treasurer of whom Australia could be proud. This is a Treasurer who has found himself surfing the challenge of the financial crisis with tens of billions of dollars in the bank—the best banking system in the world. He has been fortunate, as have we all, to have a Reserve Bank that has been able to move monetary policy quicker than others because the transmission factor into Australian home loans is greater than most other Western countries.

Australians expect more of their government than is being delivered by this government. They expect an economic plan. They expect a government that when it says something it means it, that when it means something it does it. The government should be trusted by the Australian people. This government is not trusted by the Australian people. Reading the Euromoney magazine endorsement of the Treasurer, I thought to myself: why aren't there any ringing third-party endorsements? There are none. Not even Saul Eslake has given a ringing endorsement of the performance of this Treasurer. Why not? Because everyone knows it has been the combined effort of the Australian people, like the people in the gallery here, everyday Australians who work hard and make sacrifices to try to improve the lot of their families. They are the people who have done the heavy lifting. They are the people who deserve the award. From our perspective, Australia deserves a government it can trust, a government that is not confused and a government that does not make promises it cannot deliver.

Now the Treasurer is about to give a ministerial statement on the tax summit—a tax summit that has been forced upon him by the three Independents, a tax summit that he has now so constrained in its deliverance that everyone knows that nothing is going to come out of it. He is now going to do that on top of the Henry tax review, the great review, the landmark review, that made 138 recommendations. This Treasurer had the deep courage to accept 2½ recommendations.

Australians deserve better. They deserve a government that does not come up with a new thought-bubble policy every 24 hours. They deserve a government that is consistent, a government that has a Treasurer who understands what he is saying. On numerous occasions my colleagues and I have asked this Treasurer simple questions such as: how many companies will be affected by the carbon tax? On Wednesday he said 1,000 and on Thursday he said 500. We went looking for the 500 missing Australian companies. We looked in the dispatch box—they were not there. We looked under the table—they were not there. We looked in the TV sets. We looked everywhere for 500 companies that within 24 hours went missing—the 500 biggest polluters, as they call them. Do you know what we discovered? It is now 400, because the Treasurer revised his own figure about those people impacted by his own tax.

Let us be very clear: Australia does face some significant economic challenges on the road ahead. Europe is looking anaemic; the United States is struggling to inflate its economy. It still has a high level of unemployment. Perhaps commodity prices will come down, as the IMF has suggested. In that case, as I identified in the government's own budget papers, a four per cent variation in the terms of trade will completely wipe out any chance of a budget surplus. That will be the symbolic moment when it is proven that this government does not keep its word, that this is a Labor Party that does not live within its means. It is a Labor Party that is more concerned about its own jobs than about the jobs of everyday Australians. It is a Labor Party that is more concerned about protecting unionists than protecting our country. I say to you: the reason why we do not offer our heartfelt congratulations to this Treasurer is because the Treasurer is the member for Lilley.