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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2278


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (15:20): It is no wonder that people across regional communities and right across this country keep coming up to me and saying, 'Will this government please tell the truth! Every single time we turn around we get another mistruth from this government.' People out there are getting mighty sick of it. Today, in answers to questions, we have seen yet more of that.

Let me take the chamber to a comment by the Treasurer just this morning, talking about the estimates for the RSPT and the MRRT. The Treasurer said, 'Well, we don't do those 10-year estimates.' Let me just repeat that: 'Well, we don't do those 10-year estimates.' Guess what? Apparently, they do. Because here in this document, when I turn the page, is the 10-year estimate from Treasury. So on this hand, Treasurer: 'We do not do the 10-year estimates'; on this hand, the document: yes they do.

So the Treasurer is either completely inept or he was misleading the Australian people this morning when he made that comment. He said, 'That is a figure that has been bandied around by all manner of people.'

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator NASH: I will take the gesture interjection, thank you Senator Cormann! Arms up in the air in despair! Is the Treasurer completely inept or, simply, does he know he is misleading the Australian people and he does not care? 'That is a figure that has been bandied around by all manner of people'—what sort of comment is that for the Treasurer to make about something as important as the costings for the RSPT and the MRRT? 'Being bandied around,'—it is here right in front of us on the page from the Treasury documents that were provided under FOI on 14 February last year, and placed on the website. What on earth is this Treasurer doing? If he cannot get something right which is as simple as a question about whether or not 10-year estimates were provided, how on earth can the Australian people trust him to be in charge of the finances of this nation? They cannot.

Senator Boyce: They can't.

Senator NASH: Thank you, Senator Boyce; I will take that. I will have to write that to Minister Wong as well. How can anybody trust this duo—it is a bit like Laurel and Hardy—to actually run the economy of the country? They simply cannot. When we heard the minister, Penny Wong, talking just two days ago, just on Sunday—this is not a long time ago—about the estimates, about the costings for the RSPT and the MRRT, she said, 'We don't release 10-year costings.' Clearly, according to the RSPT and MRRT review of estimates document I have in my hand, they do release 10-year costings. It is black and white. How can they be so inept or misleading? How can they continue to tell untruths? I do not know which one it is but of any of them or all of them are completely unacceptable. How can the minister, Penny Wong, say, 'We don't release 10-year costings?' If she did not know that only 12 months ago this document was released to the public then that is an absolute failing in her duty as a minister.

It gets even better, because when we look at the figures—and there is a $60 billion shortfall once we move from the absolute shambles of the RSPT to the MRRT that the minister did with only three companies, mind you—if the Treasury had actually used the same commodity price modelling for the MRRT as they had for the RSPT, it would have been a shortfall of $100 billion. This is what we are stuck with; this is what we have got: the inept nature of this government, the Treasury team on the other side of Minister Wayne Swan and Minister Penny Wong. It is just extraordinary. There is no way they can explain the fact that they made those comments when that document was available. It was either completely inept or they actually were misleading the Australian people, and the Treasurer and Minister Penny Wong should come out and explain to the Australian people why they told those untruths and if they were in fact misleading, because to the Australian people that is entirely unacceptable.