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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6140


Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (19:31): As we have just heard from the member for Higgins, as well as from the member for Moncrieff and the member for Casey, it is becoming an unfortunate habit for people on this side of the House to have to clean up another mess of this government, but more particularly to clean up another mess of this Treasurer. The member for Moncrieff was right to highlight this Treasurer's appalling track record.

Mr Randall interjecting

Mr CHESTER: Yes, I take the member for Canning's interjection, that the member for Lilley is supposedly the world's greatest Treasurer. But one thing he will be remembered for is his consistency. As the member for Moncrieff pointed out, the Treasurer has been consistently about $20 billion wrong in every budget he has delivered. What is $20 billion between friends? Well when it comes to the Australian people, $20 billion amounts to about $192 billion worth of deficits. We have had year upon year of deficits from a Treasurer who claims to be in a position to deliver a surplus. And oh how he must hate former Treasurer Peter Costello; how he must hate that guy with his year after year of surpluses. What would the member for Lilley, the current Treasurer, give for just one surplus, just one? How he would love to be able to get out a black pen for once rather than continuously finding himself surrounded in red ink. But, alas, this Treasurer has put us into a position as a nation where we face an enormous deficit and a crisis of confidence in the community that I believe will be up to the coalition to repair come September this year if we are blessed with the vote of the Australian people.

Today's amendment had its genesis in this Treasurer's desperation, in his determination to secure just one surplus. We had this desperate Treasurer making desperate moves to try to prop up his already failing reputation and try to achieve that surplus. That was the one, that was the surplus that the Treasurer promised and the Prime Minister promised to the Australian people hundreds and hundreds of times. He promised it time and time again. In fact, he started his budget speech in 2012 by telling us the years of budget surpluses were upon us. That was his gold-plated guarantee to the Australian people, that he would deliver a surplus in 2012-13. But in this indecent rush to secure that surplus, he mucked it all up. That is why we are here today trying to clean up the mess, as the member for Moncrieff and others quite rightly pointed out and highlighted in their addresses tonight. As the member for Casey also mentioned in his comments to the House, there has not been one blush, not one hint of apology, not one request for forgiveness from this Treasurer.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. DGH Adams ): Order! The member has got a bill before him and I ask the honourable member to speak to the bill. It is—

Mr CHESTER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It is a very tight bill and I ask the member to come back to the bill.

Mr CHESTER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker.

Mr Randall interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Did the honourable member just reflect on the chair?

Mr Randall: No, I said the Treasurer should be embarrassed by what he has done.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask the honourable member to stay out of the debate. He has not got the call.

Mr CHESTER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker, and I take your point that the bill before House does seek to amend this government's own policy, which was introduced late last year. It was a policy position that was motivated by the Treasurer's desire to achieve a surplus because the basis of this whole piece of legislation was to try to secure an improvement to the budget bottom line for the Treasurer. What we have seen, in the indecent haste, is a mess that now the House is seeking to clean up through the amendment. All of this would not have been necessary if only this Treasurer had the capacity to live within his own means and to live within the means of the government and deliver value for money to the Australian taxpayers.

In this search for every dollar that we saw at the end of the last calendar year, the government announced that it would shorten the time period before money could be considered to be lost or unclaimed. In bank accounts, for example, that time period would be reduced from seven years to three years; for life insurance, likewise: it was going to be cut from seven years to three years. For superannuation accounts, the inactivity period was slashed from five years to 12 months, after which superannuation accounts of unidentifiable members would be transferred to the Australian tax office. And superannuation accounts with balances of less than $2,000 and accounts of unidentifiable members inactive for 12 months were required to be transferred to the Commissioner of Taxation. Also, unclaimed property of corporations was to be counted as part of the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund upon receipt by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, not the companies and unclaimed moneys special account. But it was quite a bonus for the underlying cash position of the Commonwealth and hence the efforts by this Treasurer where the government were hopeful that these measures would net the government nearly $900 million over the four-year period to 2015-16.

As you may be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, the government-controlled Senate economics committee inquiry was held into this bill and recommended that the government bill be passed but the coalition members on that Senate committee inquiry gave a dissenting report. What we are left with today is, as I referred to earlier, an effort by the House to clean up the government's own errors in the drafting of the legislation as to what we regard as a poor policy measure. The government has failed in its duty of responsibility to the Australian people to manage the economy in a way which delivers good value for money and also in a way which builds trust with the Australian people. We have ourselves in this situation due to the Treasurer's ineptitude, and I feel that come 14 September this year the Australian people will judge this government and this Treasurer very harshly not only on this measure but also on other measures.