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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1273

Mr SWAN (Treasurer) (10:10 PM) —We have just heard from the ‘wait and see’ brigade—the people who do not want to do anything in the face of a global recession. And no amount of slippery barrister talk from the Leader of the Opposition can camouflage all of his distortions and all of his opportunism. Three things stood out today in terms of distortion and opportunism. First of all, the Leader of the Opposition claims that he wants to cooperate. But what did we hear from him tonight? He said that they will have no part of it, in full. That is not cooperation. They want no part of it, they voted against it, and the consequence is the first Leader of the Opposition to walk into this House in this parliament’s history and argue for higher unemployment—the very first.

Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition said that he is opposed to borrowing. I watched him on Meet the Press last Sunday with Malcolm Farr. It was a joy to behold. Farr asked him this question:

MALCOLM FARR: You must know how much debt your scheme would involve. How much?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Malcolm, it would involve at least—somewhere between $22 billion and $27 billion less debt …

MALCOLM FARR: So we’re talking $180 billion versus $200 billion.

…            …            …

MALCOLM FARR: People stop counting after $100 billion when they’re talking billions, you know? Why is one level—

of debt—

unsustainable but $180 billion just peachy?

Mr Turnbull interjecting

Mr SWAN —You cannot believe I’m doing it, Leader of the Opposition, because you got up here and did not tell the truth about the amount of debt you are supporting in this economy. That is why I am bringing it up. You stood up and said that we had a plan for $200 billion worth of debt and you had a plan for none. How dishonest can you get? You know very well that if you were in government you would have to borrow for the revenue losses. You know that. One hundred and fifteen billion dollars has to be borrowed because of what has been imposed on this economy by the global recession. You are simply not telling the truth. You are going down through that use of slippery barrister talk and being deliberately dishonest.

Thirdly, Leader of the Opposition, you went on to argue that, compared to international stimulus packages, ours is too big. That is simply untrue. Ours is two per cent in the calendar year ’09, and you know that. But of course, once again, you come in here distorting the figures. You came in here and said to us: ‘What are we going to do about our children? Think of the kiddies.’ That was the Leader of the Opposition’s lead pitch. Well, why don’t you think of the kiddies in the schools and of the gyms that you will not give them? Why don’t you think about that?

Mr Ciobo interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member for Moncrieff mightn’t find I am generous soon.

Mr SWAN —And, of course, you could think a bit more about the kiddies and those people who are about to become unemployed if this stimulus package does not go through.

Mr Ciobo interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Yes, but I mightn’t be for much longer.

Mr SWAN —You could think about the kiddies who will ask something like, ‘Daddy, why does Mr Turnbull think his job is more important than mine?’ You could think about those kiddies, Leader of the Opposition. And, of course, you could tell the truth about what the international organisations are saying in favour of a substantial stimulus package. And you could tell the truth about what they say about lump sum payments and how important they are to stimulating demand, particularly when they are lump sums targeted at lower income earners, which is precisely what we are doing. Or of course you could take on board what organisations like the Business Council of Australia are saying. There has never in my whole political life been a time that I can recall where we have had the Business Council of Australia, ACCI, the Australian Industry Group, small business organisations, most market economists, the IMF and the World Bank—and the only person who can get it right is Malcolm! What arrogance! It is Malcolm and Warwick—they have both got it right and everybody else is wrong!

The government has a view that we can get through this global recession better than most other developed countries in the world. We can do that if we are strong, we can do that if we are united and we can do that if we put in place a very substantial fiscal stimulus such as the fiscal stimulus recommended by the IMF. But, of course, it does not suit your political agenda because, as we know, you have got the member for Higgins breathing down your neck. He is actually the architect of poor old Malcolm’s strategy. The member for Higgins, as this vital debate in the history of the country is going on, is currently in the dining room. He is currently in the dining room with the member for Menzies. He is currently in the dining room with the member for Warringah. That is what they think about the strategy from those on that side of the House.

The vote in the Senate today has profound implications for our country. As the IMF has observed, and most particularly, as their chief economist observed, the most important things in this environment are certainty and predictability, because they go to the heart of confidence. Nothing could be more destabilising to confidence in this economy than what the Liberal and National parties have been doing in the Senate and in this House over the last couple of weeks. That is why we say that those opposite are economically irresponsible. They are economic vandals and wreckers and they have demonstrated that in the House today. They know what is going on internationally. The United States has just had its worst employment figure in 35 years. Overnight, the trade figures from China were truly shocking. Those are the two economies that go to the core of the prosperity of this country, particularly in the last 20 years. That, in a globalised economy, gets transmitted directly into our economy. That is why there is such an urgency involved in putting in place this fiscal stimulus.

The country expects this government to act. The business community expects this government to act. Working families expect this government to act. They do not expect these sorts of destructive, politically opportunist tactics from an opposition at a time when the country needs unity. That is why what you have done is so profoundly destabilising and destructive of our political and economic system. I honestly did not think in my wildest dreams that the opposition would walk into this House and do what they did a few weeks ago and do what they did in the Senate this afternoon, because it simply runs against all of the advice. But it is just plain common sense. What they have done is thrown common sense out the window and gone for political opportunism and political pointscoring. That is what they have done.

It would not matter as much if it were just a political argument in this House, but people will be hurt as a result of your actions. The reason governments have to act early is to prevent a damaging and sudden loss of output. That is the economics of it, but what that actually talks about is the destruction to human beings who are affected. So do not come into this House and talk about the kiddies. Think of the kiddies in the families where people may lose their jobs because this parliament failed to act because you did not have the character to support correct policy. That will be on your head. It will not be on the head of this government. We will do everything we possibly can to keep the economic engine of this country running, despite every attempt that you have made to stall it.

Probably the most damaging thing that has come out of the opposition in recent times was the statement from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer, that all we should do is sit and wait. For what? Higher unemployment? It is just extraordinary. It really just tells you how far the great Liberal Party of this country has descended. It has descended to rank opportunism. But on this occasion it actually has costs for the country. We on this side of the House will not be deterred by those tactics. The country demands certainty, it needs strong and decisive action, and we will pursue the passage of the stimulus with all the vigour and the might that the times demand, because the country needs it and it is the right thing to do.

When the history of this is written, Leader of the Opposition, you will go down as a sad opportunist. The Leader of the Opposition will go down as a destructive political opportunist who stood for nothing and understood even less.

Mr Dutton —You’ve still got 10 more minutes to go!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dickson is denying the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the call.

Government members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Members on my right are not helping this important debate either.