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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4739


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (11:42): I move:

That this House expresses full confidence in the:

(1) Department of the Treasury and Department of Finance and Deregulation;

(2) Treasury Secretary, Dr Martin Parkinson and Finance Secretary, David Tune; and

(3) following words by Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson: ‘I can say on behalf of David Tune, the Secretary of the Department of Finance and myself—and get this right—were PEFO [the Pre Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook] to have been released on the 14th of May, it would have contained the numbers that were in the budget.'

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Owens ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Windsor: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Mr OAKESHOTT: I am all for vigorous debate in this chamber, as I hope we all are about the ideas facing our nation, but there has been a recent trend where rhetoric has drifted a long way from reality. That is why on the motion last week we got the House to move a confidence motion and see the House of Representatives and every single member in this House support with full confidence the science community of Australia and the advice that man-made climate change is real.

Likewise, today is a chance for the House of Representatives to express in full its confidence on the work of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation and end this game of rhetoric in the public domain, somehow questioning the advice that is received from the best that we have got in this country on advice around the budget, around PEFO and around forecasting and estimates. It is a problem that, culturally, we seem to be getting more and more into. Only today the candidate in my electorate was questioning the estimates from the New South Wales and the Commonwealth education departments. We are seeing questioning of the corporate plan of the National Broadband Network. We are seeing ASIO's work being questioned.

Again, I am all for full debate in this chamber, but it is drifting off our job if we are attacking those who cannot respond, who are working in an apolitical way and providing the best advice possible, and saying that it is all being done for some sort of political expediency. Public servants are just that—they are here to serve the public in this country—to serve the public. They are not here to serve one political persuasion or the other; they are here to do the job of providing the best possible advice they can without fear or favour. I would hope that this chamber accepts that, acknowledges that, respects that and endorses that ongoing work regardless of temperatures raising over the next three or four months with regard to elections.

My colleague next to me, the member for New England, and I, on the back of the 2010 election, saw this firsthand with the departments of Treasury and Finance. All the election promises were put on the table. There was a break of the conventions around elections, where, thankfully, the leaders of both political parties agreed to allow us access to Treasury and Finance, and we witnessed firsthand the very best in this country working through all the election promises made and providing advice, without fear or favour, at a very difficult time and, in many cases, with personal consequences to these senior public officials. They did it without bias. They sat with the leadership teams of all persuasions, argued the toss, and then put their signatures onto paper in the most objective way possible.

They are honest men and women. They are men and women of integrity, and I think they are doing all they can to provide the very best and most certain advice in challenging political times. So the reason for this vote today is to make sure the House has not forgotten that, and to make sure the words spoken publicly, from people like the Treasury secretary, Dr Martin Parkinson, are confirmed as accurate by all members in this House. When he says that of 14 May the budget, if we are talking about the pre-election financial outlook known as PEFO, then PEFO would have equalled the budget, and the budget would have equalled PEFO. There is no difference. There is nowhere to hide in any fudging of the figures. There is nowhere to hide in some grand conspiracy of public servants turning into political party apparatchiks.

The figures are the figures. The deficit is the deficit. There is no secret bottom-drawer figure. PEFO would have equalled the budget, and the budget would have equalled PEFO. So to have heard comments in this chamber that challenge that—and certainly to have heard comments in the public domain that challenge that—and question the integrity of officials who will work for all sides of politics in the best way they can for our nation, I think— (Time expired)