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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2409


Mr TEHAN (7:18 PM) —It is fantastic to stand in this chamber for the first time to show what the alternate government of this country believes in. Contrary to Julia Gillard’s latest slogan, we are not wreckers. Let us get it on the record. If I hear Julia Gillard say once more that we are wreckers, I will think that she has the rightful claim to be the Prime Minister renowned only for slogans and nothing else. On this side, we stand for holding the government to account, not as the opposition but as the alternative government of this country. We in the coalition have an alternative plan on broadband, a better plan on broadband. This is not about standing in the way of Labor’s policies; it is about standing in the way of bad policy. Let us make the point clear from the start. This is the largest expenditure of taxpayers’ funds on an infrastructure project in our nation’s history—that is, the taxes of mums and dads, of families in Australia going on the largest infrastructure project in our nation’s history.

And we will not forget where $2 billion of the total spend came from. That was money set aside by the Howard government to improve telecommunications in rural and regional Australia. It was put in a trust with the interest to be distributed to improve mobile and broadband services in the country. That money has not been spent in the last three years and, sadly, rural and regional Australia are worse off because of it.

What this country needs is an assurance that what this government has done and is going to do is not going to hurt us further into the future. That is why we in the coalition believe that a 10-year business case is what is needed, not the 10-week political case that has so far been provided by this sad attempt of a government. We propose a cost-benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission, not a political rhetorical analysis by the ALP. We on this side of the chamber know that the Australian people would not invest their hard-earned money on a venture without true returns and without having a study which would give us some idea of whether we will go any way towards achieving those true returns. This is the reason why it is so ludicrous that the Labor Party continues to insist that it knows what it is doing with our money—and it is our money, not the government’s. Taxpayers work too hard every day of the year to be short-changed by a government that simply does not care whether it is making a good spend, so long as it is making a big spend.

We hear the government tell us that we should judge them by what they have done. What they have done is deliver policy on the run—from school halls to insulation. We do judge you for what you have done but we are committed to not seeing this kind of disregard for taxpayers happening again. What we propose is that the government be asked the difficult questions about what they are doing. The government say they intend to release a majority of the information provided for in our bill sometime in the future. When? Why won’t you tell us when? If the government believe so strongly in the value of expenditure, why are we having this debate? Surely a government that believes in its policy would be happy to open it up to scrutiny. Instead, what we have is the largest taxpayer funded government infrastructure spend in our nation’s history being hidden from the budget bottom line.

We in the coalition believe in spending taxpayers’ money in a responsible and productive way, and that is why we are having this debate. We stand for transparency in government. We stand for, and welcome, reasoned debate on this issue. We cannot understand what you are hiding from, why you will not let the Productivity Commission decide whether what you are doing is in our interest or not. We stand for holding the government to account, not as the opposition but as the alternative government of this country.