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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 272

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (16:34): I rise to address the issue of the Prime Minister's failure of leadership on economic policy. It gives me no pleasure to catalogue the various areas in which this Prime Minister has let down our country—particularly in the area of economic policy, which is so critically important for the future of our nation. It is quite clear that a government which is divided upon itself cannot lead the nation. We have an example before us of a government that is warring with itself on a range of policy matters that are extremely significant, and this is holding up the economic development of our country.

The response of the Prime Minister on economic issues and what seems to pose as economic leadership from this Prime Minister is, firstly, to attack the trade union movement. This is the last resort of Liberal governments, and also their first go-to area when seeking to demonstrate that something is happening. Attacking the trade union movement—seeking to demonise the union movement which has done so much for this country—is almost a knee-jerk reaction from this government. We know that the ABCC bill was supposedly one of the most important issues for this government; it was the trigger for the ill-fated double dissolution election we have just been subjected to. So when we are talking about leadership with this government, we are talking about attacking the trade union movement.

The second area where this government pretends to exercise leadership is it is going to look after its mates in the area of big business. The much-discussed $50 billion tax cut for the big business community included, of course, a tax cut for foreign companies and a $7.4 billion bonus for the big banks. These are the things that this government considers to be the priorities for Australia. If you ask the average Australian what the issues are that need to be addressed in our country in terms of addressing the economy and jobs, attacking the trade union movement and giving a tax cut to foreign companies and a bonus for big banks are not going to be the first responses that you will get.

We have recent examples of this government being completely adrift when there is a need today for economic leadership. We have a Prime Minister who assumed the leadership of his party on the premise that he was going to be a superior economic manager, but we have examples of where this government is completely adrift. We have seen that the Treasurer wanted to introduce changes on negative gearing. He had flagged publicly that there were excesses in the system of negative gearing but, when it came to getting that through the cabinet, we have reports today—which I note the government seeks to distance itself from—that both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were rolled in cabinet on any changes to the negative gearing system. Really that happened for base political reasons rather than on the basis of a proper consideration of what is necessary for our economy.

We have also just found today that not only is this a government that cannot provide leadership for the country in economic matters; we find that they cannot even add up. We found that the omnibus bill, for which the government has sought Labor's support, has a $107 million black hole in its costings. In the area of the student start-up scholarships, the government has pretended that there is a $405.6 million saving when in fact the sum total of the savings in the column set out is $298 million.

This is very embarrassing situation. It is perhaps the final blow to the credibility of not only the Treasurer but to this government. It is an embarrassing shambles that we have had presented to us. We have a government which is not up to the task of budget repair and it is not up to the task of economic leadership.