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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 350


Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:51): We were promised a government of no excuses. We were promised a government of no surprises. We were promised a government with the adults in charge. And we get this childish performance from this trainee Treasurer. The Treasurer could have a debt limit increase right now. We could vote on this and we could have a debt limit increase right now. We voted on this last night and we supported a debt limit increase. But the Liberal Party will insist on transparency and we will insist on a lot more transparency than we are getting from this Treasurer—this Treasurer who is refusing to release the mid-year economic forecast as well as the incoming government brief, this Treasurer who stood at that dispatch box yesterday and said, 'I'd love to release the Reserve Bank documents,' this Treasurer who stood at that dispatch box yesterday and said, 'I'd love to release the request from the Reserve Bank for $8.8 billion.' It was FOIed and rejected. And today at two o'clock the government was obliged to table before the Senate the correspondence from the Reserve Bank, and the government has failed. The government is in breach of a Senate order.

What have you got to hide? Why are you going to such lengths to be so duplicitous with the Australian people and not release the request from the Reserve Bank for $8.8 billion? You say the Reserve Bank asked for $8.8 billion this year. Well, show us the request. It is nice and simple. Did they request it? Show us the request. Do not hide behind a breach of a Senate order. We just saw in question time—the second question time of the parliament—an amazing contempt of the parliament. When you are in contempt of the parliament, you are in contempt of the people. This Treasurer is in contempt of the parliament and the people. What have you got to hide?

The Reserve Bank transfer of $8.8 billion, of course, increases this year's deficit by that amount. But it goes much further than that. It increases the level of interest required by more than $1 billion over the next four years. Not only has the Treasurer declined to outlined the reasons for that; he has outright refused to release the documentation in breach of an order of one of the houses of the Australian parliament. What levels will you go to to hide the facts from the Australian people?

Let us be very clear: there is only one person talking about a crisis here; there is only one person talking about a shutdown of the government; there is only one person talking about a breach in the debt limit—that man there. The only person who is trying to confect a political crisis here is the Treasurer, because he could have a debt limit increase right now, today, of $100 billion. It is not a small amount, not a trifling amount. Does the Treasurer think for one second that he can argue that $400 billion would not be enough to get through to next year? Senator Sinodinos was asked in the other place: 'When will $400 million be breached?' He said, 'Oh, sometime over the forward estimates.' As I outlined to the House yesterday, the Australian Office of Financial Management has made clear that it issues bonds only for the budget year in question.

We are more than happy to work cooperatively with the government if they are up-front with the Australian people, if they reveal the impact of their decisions—of this man's decisions—since the election and if there is much more transparency to go with it. Before the election we heard all about the need for transparency when it came to increases in the debt cap. We heard the now Prime Minister—who went on 2GB, for a change, to do an interview—say:

… the Government has to justify this. Our money, our future, is too important to be mortgaged like this without the Government giving us the strongest possible arguments for it, because every dollar that they borrow has got to be repaid.

I have got news for the Treasurer. This is actually a hung parliament. The government has a big majority in this House but no majority in that house. A hung parliament requires a bit of cooperation, a bit of negotiation and a bit of transparency. It does not mean being arrogant. It does not mean saying, 'My debt limit or no debt limit.' It does not mean chest beating. It does not mean political stunts. It does not mean saying, 'You'll wear this like a crown of thorns.' It means being responsible, open, transparent and constructive—something this Treasurer is just not capable of.