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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2470


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (11:32): I find it fascinating that a man who seeks to lecture the parliament regularly about evidence-based policy and having academic debate, and who is often fond of quoting Leon Lee on television programs—to the extent where some of his colleagues have Leon Lee bingo going on in their offices—would launch a savage attack on think tanks in Australia for having ideas and for discussing policy. Can you imagine people having different ideas to those of the Labor Party? I know we have a bill before the parliament this week which will talk about cutting down any debate in newspapers—exactly what the Labor Party like; the thought police—we now have the academic thought police over there. Here he is: the first person ever in Australian political history to be appointed to an opposition position from government. Can you imagine? They have made him an opposition waste-watch spokesman. Can you believe it? How embarrassing for the poor member for Fraser. He cannot get on the government front bench, so he is already on the opposition front bench from government. Now work that out.

It is a bit the same as trying to work out this motion. This motion is a bit of a joke being played by the Labor Party because if you look at the first point:

(1) notes that:

(a) a bipartisan parliamentary report recommended the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is now operational having passed Parliament …

That is true. Of course, it was policy announced by the member for Wentworth when he was the Leader of the Opposition in his budget reply speech in 2009. We did not hear that from the member for Fraser. We missed that on the way through his speech. It was actually the member for Wentworth's idea in the first place that we have a Parliamentary Budget Office, and so we do support a Parliamentary Budget Office. We support a Parliamentary Budget Office particularly because when each year you have a budget which says you are going to have a deficit—that is a word you guys in government are familiar with—which is a certain amount, but the final budget figures come out the deficit is far more than what was expected, we are looking for some independent costing numbers and analysis of the budget, because what we are seeing from the Labor government is nowhere near the true state of the Australian budget on a rolling basis

Therefore, we are suspicious of and sceptical about the Labor projections in their budget. We know they are politicised. We know that there is influence put on the Treasury to change figures, to ensure that the budget looks more rosy than it actually is, and we know that the best way to ensure we get updated figures is to wait for the PEFO statement prior to the election.

That takes me to point (2) of the member for Fraser's motion, which:

… calls on all parties to have their policies costed consistent with the Charter of Budget Honesty, and release them to the Australian people in enough time to have a well-informed debate.

That is an interesting point. So let us have a look at the Labor Party record on releasing of costings before the election campaigns.

In 2004, when Mr Latham was the leader of the Labor Party—do you remember Mr Latham? I remember Mr Latham. I loved watching Mr Latham. In fact, he wrote a very good essay about the Labor Party last week. I really enjoyed it and I think he was spot-on. It was an interesting analysis by Mr Latham. He does have some very interesting insights into those on the other side. When he was the leader of the Labor Party in 2004 the ALP released their costings on Thursday, 7 October 2004. When was the election in 2004? It was on 9 October—within 48 hours. That was what we needed! So much for calls on the parties to have their policies costed consistent with the Charter of Budget Honesty and release them to the Australian people in enough time for a well-informed debate! Okay, fair enough—that was 10 years ago, and it was Mr Latham who was the leader at that point. We can forgive them for that. They would have learnt their lesson. The member for Fraser says we need a proper debate about costings. So, in 2007 when they were likely to win the election—they were in front in the opinion polls all year in 2007; we remember it well—when do you think they released their policy costings for that election? It is one you would be familiar with.

An honourable member: Months in advance, surely?

Mr BRIGGS: Well, they released them on 23 November 2007. The election date for that election was 24 November—within 24 hours! They even bettered Mr Latham's record! The member for Griffith, who of course they knifed in the back not long after he became the Prime Minister, released them within 24 hours, to give the Australian public the proper time to have a well-informed debate!

If you think you are getting the smell of hypocrisy here, you would be right, because, in 2010, when they were actually even in government, when they had all the resources of government to prepare for the election campaign, when do you think they released their policy costings in that election campaign? On Friday, 20 August 2010. The election was 21 August 2010. So that was within 24 hours of the election, of people actually voting. The Labor Party and the member for Fraser think that is enough time to have a well-informed debate about policy costings.

This is absolute hypocrisy. This is from a government who put a mining tax in, and booked up $12 billion of expenditure based on a tax which has received $120 million in revenue. They booked up $12 billion of expenditure, based on $120 million of revenue. And we want to have a debate about policy costings! What an embarrassing thing for the Labor Party to do. It is the greatest own goal in the history of Australian politics.

Those on that side of parliament, who inherited a budget position of a $20 billion surplus in 2007, have turned that around to a $265 billion debt, with more to come, because we know that last week in parliament the Prime Minister and the Treasurer refused to rule out increasing the debt limit, and they want to have a debate about policy costings—with their record of releasing their policy costings within 24 hours of the election campaign!

We also heard the member for Fraser talk about the latest scare campaign which has been run in South Australia and Tasmania relating to the GST distribution. Let us step through what has happened here. The Treasurer and the minister for finance announced two years ago a review of the arrangements relating to GST distribution. That review has not been released yet. Mr Greiner, Mr Bracks and Mr Bruce Carter from South Australia—a well-connected Labor appointee—were on that review panel. We have not seen the final results of the Labor review. Yet somehow it is the opposition who have plans to change the GST distribution across the country—even though it has been ruled out that any state would be worse off. Even though it has been ruled out, they just keep saying it.

Jay Weatherill, the Premier of South Australia, desperate because his government is facing an absolute electoral annihilation next month, is out there today desperately trying to create another scare campaign. It has been ruled out, time in and time out—but it has not been ruled out by Penny Wong. We have not seen the Labor Party rule it out yet, yet on the other side they are making all sorts of accusations. Again, it is hypocrisy. You just cannot trust Labor. They are as trustworthy as a government which would tell you, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,' or, 'There's more chance of me playing full forward for the Western Bulldogs than rolling the member for Griffith.' Well, we saw how that worked out for the member for Griffith.

Finally, in the time left, I will make another point. This motion 'calls on all parties to have their policies costed consistent with the Charter of Budget Honesty', and we will do so. We will release them to the Australian people in enough time to have a well-informed debate. We have put well over 50 policies in to the Parliamentary Budget Office for analysis and costing. We are doing the detailed work. We have had an expenditure review committee, which I am part of, operating now for a couple of years, working through the budget and working through the Labor waste, the mismanagement, to find where we can improve the delivery of efficient services.

But a very important point which calls the lie on this motion has actually been made by the Parliamentary Budget Office itself at the recent estimates hearings. I refer to a media release from my good friend—now a new father—Senator Mathias Cormann, who says, 'PBO confirms election costings can't be finalised until after PEFO released.' So let us go past all this spin, all this attempt to create a false scare campaign like the GST distribution debate, which the member for Fraser referred to, and like the costings debate that they are trying to create. We know from independent analysis that they have $120 billion that they have not been able to fund. We know that the carbon tax is not going to collect what they thought it would. We know that the mining tax is not collecting what they thought it would. They should not be talking about costings. They are the most fiscally irresponsible government in Australian political history, and the master of European economics over there knows it.