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Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Page: 76

Senator CONROY (3:11 PM) —I used to defend Senator Fifield in the past. In his previous life he worked for the Treasurer and I knew that he would have been in there trying to convince the Treasurer to take the smirk off his face. But after that display of smugness and arrogance I am drawn to an article today in the Australian Financial Review. Senator Fifield, you should stay in the chamber for a moment because it talks about the ceremonial ironing that has evolved over the Costello era. It is the duty of one senior adviser to press the Treasurer’s shirt just before he steps into the House of Representatives. I am not surprised that Senator Fifield has run from the chamber in embarrassment because I understand it was his job to iron the shirt of the Treasurer just before he gave the budget speech.

The smug and arrogant government, as you have seen from last night’s budget, is alive and well because this is—do not misunderstand this—a very clever election budget but it is a budget that fails the future test. This is a budget that does little to build Australia’s productivity. We asked the government in question time: where is productivity growth? The government even managed to leave out of the budget papers the actual outcome of this year’s productivity growth because it is zero. It is a big fat zero. We listened to all the claims about the government’s IR reforms and how they are going to fuel the economy into the future. What do we find in the government budget papers? The long-term forecast for productivity growth is the long-term average. There is no increase in productivity growth forecast from the government’s IR reforms.

This is a government that has failed to address the future. It has failed when it has the most improved terms of trade in 30 to 40 years. We have had a long-term decline in our terms of trade and our economy has had to really pull its weight. But because we have had the biggest increase in the terms of trade in 30 to 40 years we have a complacent government that is coasting along. Fifty-five billion dollars was injected into the economy by this government last night for the next forward estimates period. That comes off $300 billion of growth in the economy from the mining boom. This is a massive injection of cash, and what it is masking is a low productivity growth. The government has failed to address our flagging productivity. It has failed to invest in a genuine education revolution. Today we had Senator Minchin and the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, Mr Costello, talking about the use of the $5 billion taken from the Future Fund.

Senator Minchin —It’s not taken from the Future Fund. You haven’t got a clue.

Senator CONROY —This government promised that all future surpluses—and there was your own promise—would go into the Future Fund. You have taken that money from the Future Fund. You have said that you are going to use the interest earned to spend on productive investment. We say that is a good thing; we believe in that principle.

Six or eight weeks ago when Labor proposed a national fibre-to-the-node network to build our productivity base—which according to the government’s own figures last night is impoverished—we were accused of economic vandalism. We had big stories about it. Now we have the Treasurer with his paws in the honeypot. Senator Minchin has spent the day wiping the honey off the Treasurer’s paws and the Treasurer has spent the day wiping the honey away from his mouth. Eight weeks ago this government said that it was economic vandalism to do exactly what it did last night. This government has not delivered a national high-speed broadband network. If you go through those budget papers you will find that again it has not faced up to that great challenge of climate change. It is smug and arrogant and it has not addressed the issues. There is nothing on clean coal innovation. There is nothing on an emissions trading scheme. There is nothing on renewable energy to encourage Australian made greenhouse technology. (Time expired)