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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 2835

Senator BUSHBY (10:34 AM) —Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator BUSHBY —The opposition does not begrudge Dr Henry the opportunity to have an overseas holiday at this time. We are sure he has earned a holiday given the ad hoc way the government approaches economic issues and places demands on Dr Henry. But of course we have been reasonable in this. We have actually sought private clarification through the minister as to the nature and the timing of the trip to ensure that the circumstances leading to this are truly immovable and truly relate to circumstances that cannot be avoided. Despite making that effort, we have received no assurance that that is the case. All we have been told is what is contained in a letter from the Assistant Treasurer which we received last night—that he has unavoidable personal commitments and no further advice has been provided as to what that relates to. Given that he is not due to appear for three weeks, one can only presume that those relate to commitments that he has chosen to accept rather than those that might have been imposed on him through a sudden death or similar tragic circumstances.

The question is: why has this holiday been chosen to be taken during estimates? It has long been the case that the budget is held in the second week of May and that, after a week’s break, budget estimates occur in the two weeks following. It is not like the Secretary of the Treasury has not known when this will occur. The sittings for this year came out in November last year. He has had almost eight months to lock this into his diary and to make sure that he was available to turn up on these dates.

We are looking at a point in time that will be the first opportunity for the estimates committee to examine Dr Henry on the Henry review. For the last two years, he has been turning up to estimates committees and refusing to answer questions about the review because ‘it is not yet delivered’. It is now delivered; it is released. The government has responded. But it has responded dismally to the Henry review, and the people of Australia deserve the opportunity for parliament to examine Dr Henry on his review and his thoughts about the government’s approach to it.