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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5098

Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (16:47): Another sitting day, another ludicrous matter of public importance, another waste of time and another own goal from the opposition. The opposition, of course, have dredged the bottom of the barrel, and what have they pulled out? More over-the-top rhetoric, more bombast, more hyperbole, more exaggeration. But, if the Liberal Party want to talk about broken promises, I say good because, after the Howard government broke promise after promise after promise, the Liberals in fact achieved an infamous addition to the Australian political dictionary: the non-core promise. And didn't the Liberals chalk up a few of them.

Let's start with the one that everyone knows about: the GST. 'Never ever; it's dead,' said Mr Howard. Said Mr Howard, 'It was killed by the voters in the last election.' That was non-core to the core. Following in Mr Howard's footsteps you had Mr Abbott, who promised in February 2010:

We will fund our promises without new taxes and without increased taxes.

But less than a month later he announced the paid maternity leave policy of the opposition would be funded by a new tax on business. At least Mr Howard kept his tax promise for a full term. Mr Abbott could not even keep his promise for a full month.

And speaking of non-core promises, there was Mr Howard's claim that 'there would be no $100,000 university fees under this government'. By 2007 there were 104 domestic full-fee university degrees that were more than $100,000. Even worse, Mr Howard and Mr Downer grievously misled the nation about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led this country into a war based on a lie.

Another contribution to the Australian political dictionary eventually became the Howard government's own brand: truth overboard. Truth overboard and kids overboard went into the political lingo courtesy of Mr Howard and his ministers. We now hear in this MPI that the Liberals are appalled by raised expectations. Would it be unreasonable for the people of Australia to expect Mr Abbott to provide some vision for this country? Would it be unreasonable to expect Mr Abbott to put aside his reckless personal ambition, just for once, in the interest of the nation? Should we expect no vision, no cooperation, no common sense? Should we just expect 'no, no, no' from Mr Abbott?

For my part I admit I would rather raise expectations and even fall short than never try anything ambitious at all, because the Australia that cares for people when they are sick, no matter their bank balance, where they live or who they know; the Australia that respects the elderly and believes retired Australians should have the opportunity to live full and fulfilling lives; the Australia that gives you equal opportunity whether you come from Sydney or the bush; the Australia that believes in second chances, that, if a job or business does not work out for you, you should be supported through tough times and have the opportunity again; the Australia whose economy is the envy of the entire world; the Australia that cares for people with disabilities—the Australia that does this will not be built on people who are afraid of raising expectations. I am proud to live in an ambitious Australia. I would prefer that to Mr Abbott's Australia—the 'no Australia' of Mr Abbott.

Finally, the MPI mentions unfunded commitments—this from a political party, the Liberal Party, of gigantic blank cheques and bulging black holes. The Liberals have the hide of a rhinoceros straight off the African savannah to raise this issue. What a gift from the opposition to be given the opportunity to compare the credibility of the opposition's economic management to that of the government. You do not have to go back very far to reveal the opposition's hopeless record of costing blow-outs and budget breakdowns. They were exposed for it in the 2010 election campaign and they have even bettered it with their $70 billion black hole now. It was a black hole so big that it threatened to suck in the entire Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and about 20,000 Commonwealth public servants. Of course we know that action taken by this government during the GFC meant that this country emerged from the GFC with strong growth, low unemployment and solid public finances. So while you have Mr Robb and Mr Hockey out the back with an abacus and a candle trying to figure out what the hell is happening to the budget of this country, this government is forging ahead with the same steady hand that guided us through the worst global economic conditions since the Great Depression.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Furner ): Order! The time for the discussion has expired.