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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3114


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:53): I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—That this House calls on the Prime Minister to explain—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The leader will pause and the House will listen to the leader in complete silence. The Leader of the Opposition has the call and he will recommence the motion that he is proposing to move.

Mr ABBOTT: I presume my time will start again, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER: The clock will start again.

Mr ABBOTT: I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving immediately—That this House calls on the Prime Minister to explain why the Government rejected the recommended candidate to chair the Future Fund and to explain further why the Government:

(1) didn’t run a competent selection process; and

(2) hasn’t been honest about the choice of leadership for the Future Fund which is charged with the responsibility of managing $70 billion of taxpayer funds.

Standing orders must be suspended because, when it comes to the appointment of the Future Fund chairman, this government has been incompetent in managing it and dishonest in explaining it. The Future Fund is $70 billion worth of taxpayers' money, which should be treated as a sacred trust. Instead, so typically, we have had a Prime Minister looking shifty and evasive, looking angry and shrill in this parliament. Standing orders must be suspended, because this Prime Minister owes the country an explanation. She owes the country an explanation as to why the person she has appointed to chair the Future Fund does not think he is the person for the job. That is the truth, Mr Speaker. That is why standing orders should be suspended. She has just appointed to chair the Future Fund someone who says, 'I'm not the best person for the job.' What a classic example of incompetence and dishonesty from this government.

Standing orders must be suspended, because David Gonski, a distinguished and respected businessman, advised that Peter Costello was the clear preference of the Future Fund Board of Guardians for the chairmanship. David Gonski told the government that Peter Costello should be appointed. That was his clear recommendation. The government rejected the recommendation because, while he might have been economically competent, as far as they were concerned Peter Costello was not politically correct. They chose their version of political correctness ahead of clear economic competence. That is why standing orders should be suspended: because the government always chooses good politics over good economics. It is one of the reasons why they are so on the nose with the general public.

Standing orders should be suspended, because this government, yet again, has been dishonest in its explanations of this matter. What else can we expect from a government which never tells the truth when it would be more convenient to lie.

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr ABBOTT: I apologise; I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: No, the leader will pause. This is not a motion of censure; this is a motion to suspend. The leader will withdraw the accusation of dishonesty.

Mr ABBOTT: In slavish deference—in respectful deference, Mr Speaker, I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: Without condition.

Mr ABBOTT: It would be very valuable to get some facts here. Peter Costello is not just on the board of the Future Fund; he was not just appointed to the Future Fund by a previous Labor Prime Minister of more magnanimity than the current Labor Prime Minister—he created the Future Fund. The Future Fund exists only because of the good economic management of the previous government. That is why standing orders should be suspended so that these facts can be put clearly on the table.

Let us look at the record of Peter Costello: more than two million new jobs, a 20 per cent increase in real wages, a doubling of net wealth for the Australian people—every Australian man, woman and child had his or her net wealth doubled under Peter Costello. Surely, if there is one person who is eminently qualified to chair the Future Fund he created it is the former Treasurer of this country—the greatest Treasurer this country has ever had. He was good enough for Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister, to put on the Future Fund. Why isn't he good enough for this inadequate, unworthy, at times embarrassing Prime Minister to put into the chairmanship of the Future Fund?

Let us look at the record and see why standing orders should be suspended. This former Treasurer repaid Labor's debt. He was able to create the Future Fund because he repaid Labor's debt. He turned $96 billion worth of debt into $70 billion worth of net assets. Standing orders should be suspended, because he got Labor's reckless spending under control. He turned a $10 billion budget black hole into consistent $20-billion-a-year budget surpluses. This was a great Treasurer, and that is why he is absolutely the right person to chair the Future Fund that he created. And this is why standing orders must be suspended—so that some of the untruths that have been told by members opposite can be refuted.

Stephen Conroy, who rejoices in the position of Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, said today, 'I'd rather put my money under the control of David Gonski any day of the week ahead of Peter Costello.' The coalition is not against David Gonski, but David Gonski himself thinks Peter Costello was a better candidate, which is why standing orders must be suspended. What does it say about members opposite that they think it is their money—that they think the $70 billion of taxpayers' assets put into the Future Fund is somehow their money—to misuse for their politically correct purposes, not for the benefit of the Australian people? Peter Costello was the best Treasurer this country has ever had. That is why he is the right person to chair the Future Fund.

But it was not just Senator Conroy. Senator Cameron was also out there today, saying Peter Costello was a 'failed Treasurer'. Standing orders must be suspended, because if Senator Cameron thinks Peter Costello was a failed Treasurer then what on earth does he think about the current Treasurer? Peter Costello gave us the four biggest surpluses in history. The current Treasurer has given us the four biggest deficits in history. What does Senator Cameron think of the current Treasurer? Senator Cameron went on, in speaking about Peter Costello, to say that 'to give him any senior position would just be an absolute joke'. Hang on: what is he saying about former Prime Minister Rudd, who did give him a senior position—the senior position as a guardian of the Future Fund? Kevin Rudd, the member for Griffith, put Peter Costello on the Future Fund. Senator Cameron said that was an absolute joke, and then Senator Cameron goes around and says Kevin Rudd should be the Prime Minister again. Who is telling jokes now? This is why standing orders should be suspended: maybe Senator Cameron now agrees with the member for Bendigo that in fact the former Prime Minister is a psychopath with a big ego. What does it say about this Prime Minister that 31 people—31 members of the caucus—preferred a psychopath to her?

Let us look at what David Gonski said:

My report says that they wanted an insider. In my report it says that there is one person and I indicated to the department that there was strong endorsement for that person.

And what did the Minister for Finance and Deregulation say? She said that there was no recommendation from Mr Gonski's reports to the government for a particular person to be appointed.

There is a flat contradiction, and standing orders must be suspended, because when we have David Gonski's word on one hand and the word of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation on the other, I think we know who we can believe. Do we believe David Gonski, or do we believe the representative of a government that has been chronically untruthful?

The SPEAKER: The leader will return to the motion.

Mr ABBOTT: That is why standing orders must be suspended: to get to the bottom of this. We have a government that has been dishonest with the electorate over the carbon tax and dishonest with the electorate over gambling reform. The Prime Minister was dishonest to the electorate over Bob Carr. This is a government with truth deficit disorder.

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr ABBOTT: They are telling lies now. That is why standing orders should be suspended.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition has accused the Prime Minister of being dishonest and he has accused the government of telling lies. The Leader of the Opposition does not look remotely contrite, but if he wants to stay here he will move to the dispatch box and withdraw those two accusations.

Mr ABBOTT: I am delighted to withdraw, but every member in this House believes the same thing, and every member should come to the dispatch box and withdraw as I do.

The SPEAKER: The leader will return to the dispatch box and he will say, 'I withdraw those two terms', and not do as he endeavoured to do, which was to associate members of the coalition with the disorderly terms that he used.

Mr ABBOTT: I did accuse the government of being dishonest, I did accuse the Prime Minister of lying and I withdraw. I withdraw unconditionally.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: I did not hear what the Manager of Opposition Business had to say, but perhaps he wants to assist the chamber by withdrawing.

Mr Pyne: I think it would assist the chamber, and I am embarrassed to say that I also said that the Prime Minister was telling lies and was dishonest, so I also withdraw.