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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 1894


Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (15:22): Well, here we go again, with those opposite once again avoiding the main game in this motion to take note of answers debate. We did have questions from Liberal senators today about some serious policy issues. Senator Ryan asked a question about small business. Senator Williams asked a series of questions about rural and regional health care and rural and regional roads. But, again, they avoid the issues that matter to the people of Australia. They are not interested in talking about tax reform in this country. They are not interested in actually talking about providing benefits for small businesses. And why is that? There is one simple reason: it is because those on that side are opposing a tax cut for small businesses in this country.

It is almost like we are living in a parallel universe—because it is us on this side, the Labor Party, that are supporting a tax cut for small businesses in this country. We are the ones out there advocating for small business at the moment, saying that they need some tax relief, saying that some of the benefits of the mining boom need to be shared equally amongst other areas in our economy that we recognise are struggling under the weight of the resources boom in this country. But those opposite come into this place and again want to avoid the main game and instead want to discuss procedural issues—and, when you look at the position that they have got themselves into on policy and costings of policy, it is no wonder.

We all know that they are planning $70 billion worth of cuts to services when they fund their election promises as we get closer to the election. Australians who are worried about their health care, who are worried about the future of Medicare, who are worried about their reliance on the childcare rebate to make ends meet, who are worried about their tax cuts and who are worried about the increases in their pension want to know from those opposite what their policy is on these important issues that affect the lives of everyday Australians. But, once again, those opposite are not willing to discuss those issues. The reason is simple: it is because they are planning $70 billion worth of cuts to services that affect the lives of ordinary Australians. It is no wonder they do not want to talk about those issues. I would not want to talk about those issues either if I were them. How can you sell $70 billion worth of cuts to services for working Australians?

Those opposite come in here because they have their knickers in a knot about the fact that their scorned former Treasurer has not been appointed as the chair of Australia's Future Fund. We need to ask the question: why is Peter Costello scorned? Why is he feeling this scorn? There is one simple reason. It is because those opposite did not appoint him as their leader and Prime Minister of this country. When they had the chance to tap John Howard on the shoulder, they avoided the opportunity because they did not believe that Peter Costello was up to it. They did not have the confidence. Despite John Howard being Prime Minister for 11 years—11 years as leader of their party—and despite him being on the nose when it came to the polls and the views of the Australian public, those opposite did not have the confidence to tap John Howard on the shoulder and give the job to Peter Costello. They did not have the confidence, they did not have the trust, they did not have the faith in Peter Costello to lead their party or to lead their country. Now they want the Labor Party to clean up the mess that they created.

I have asked myself why that is. Why is it that they are now asking us to clean it up? I have got to say that I think it has a lot to do with guilt. I think their Christian guilt has got the better of them. Look at you: you are all laughing but that is the real reason, isn't it? Your Christian guilt has got the better of you. You know that you missed the opportunity of a lifetime to appoint Peter Costello as leader. You know you all feel bad about it. You know you cannot sleep at night when you think about the fact that you dudded him, and now you want us to fix up your mess. Unfortunately, we do not govern like that. For those opposite it is unfortunate, but we do not govern like that. We are not into righting the wrongs of the Liberal Party and making sure that their guilt over the past disappears. We believe that David Gonski is the best person to chair the Future Fund and that is why he has been appointed. (Time expired)