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Thursday, 25 February 2010
Page: 1228

Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (3:04 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery (Senator Arbib) to questions without notice asked by Senator Cormann and Birmingham today, relating to the Home Insulation Program.

It is amazing to hear Senator Arbib come in here and talk about our misunderstanding his role. At least he is admitting to actually having a role. And what is this role? This role was part of one of the greatest debacles in modern political history that is going to cost $100 million to fix up. This epitomises Labor Party management. This epitomises Labor Party risk. This epitomises the Labor Party and their whole rhetorical flourish.

Yesterday we saw our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, wandering down to the front with his notebook in hand. He was going to take notes; he was going to fix it all up. I noticed that there did not seem to be any other notes in the notebook—it seemed to be a new notebook. It was a new notebook specially designed for the occasion—a new notebook with probably a new pen with a whole new approach. There was nothing written in that notebook, so I imagine that to that point in time he had not really come across a problem that needed fixing.

So now we have Mr Rudd and his new notebook wandering down to earnestly talk to the ceiling insulation people. Maybe he would like to talk to the families that have faced the tragedy of the deaths that have been brought about by this badly administered program, this ceiling insulation program. Maybe he would like to talk to the people who wondered today whether their roof was a death trap. Maybe he would like to talk today about all the shonky operators who have been ripping off the Australian taxpayer with all their shonky deals in this completely shonky outfit. Maybe he would like to write in his little notebook about how even today we are finding advertisements going out for the installation of ceiling batts. Maybe he would like to talk today about the people who are willing to backdate jobs so they can still get in on the act?

Senator Arbib said he had realised there were a few reports and that he had not been across them all: ‘I knew there were reports and we had meetings but I can’t tell you exactly what they were about. I can’t tell you exactly my role in them. I think you’ve misunderstood my role. I think you’ve misunderstood exactly what the Labor Party are up to. I think the whole of the Australian people are at fault because they misunderstand the Labor Party and exactly what they have been trying to do.’ It was the case that the Labor Party decided on it, in a fit of inspiration, and then they put out this program fast—and that is on their admission. That is the admission of the finance minister, Mr Lindsay Tanner, who said, ‘We didn’t have time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. We had to get it out there.’ They did not have time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

So apart from the cost, the $2.45 billion that they were spending on it, what else has that admission cost us? We are seeing right now that the upfront cost of that admission is $100 million, so a $100 million statement by Mr Tanner or $100 million worth of bad management by Senator Arbib. What could that $100 million have done if they had actually managed it, if they had been diligent, if they had been decisive? If they had actually done their homework we could be using that $100 million for so many other things in our nation. We could be using it for health, we could be using it for education and we could be using it for defence but we are using it to fix up their stuff-up. That is what we have to use that $100 million for, to fix that mistake, and that is apart from the fact that there are four people dead, there have been over 100 house fires and there is the electrification of roofs. All this personifies the Labor Party.

The Republicans have their elephant, the Democrats have their donkey and the Australian Labor Party have the ceiling insulation program. That personifies exactly who they are, exactly how they operate and how shoddy and hopeless they are as an organisation. The notebook, the earnest look on the face and the strolling down to the front—it is all a rhetorical flourish but they lack the detail and they lack the capacity to bring forward an outcome. I would like Mr Rudd to table that notebook. It would be fascinating to see whether it even still exists. Does that notebook still exist? Is it really there? Whereabouts is that little prop? Let us see if Mr Rudd can table that little prop, that brand-new notebook. It is another form of deception of the Australian people in that it says that they care and that they are actually going to do something about it. Well, he stuffed it up and has got to fix it up. (Time expired)