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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3776


Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (15:34): Despite all of the allegations of spin, we have just seen more spin than a Shane Warne wrong'un. The member for Goldstein tried to spin his way out of what is a $70 billion black hole, but he will have to do better—and he will have to do better each and every day until the next election. We are going to hold him to account. He might have thought that at the last election he managed to skate through, but we all recall what happened back then. He recalls it really well. In fact, he was scarred by the experience. Most of his colleagues have made sure he was scarred by the experience. The buck-passing exercise that occurred amongst their shadow of an economic team left the blame fairly and squarely at his feet. And he is hurting—he is smarting from it.

I feel a bit sorry for him because he was not the only one to blame. We all remember the budget reply speech that did not turn out to be a budget reply speech—it was more of a flick pass out the back to the shadow Treasurer, who was then given the opportunity at the Press Club a week later to detail where all these savings would be made. He failed abysmally. We then had another flick pass, and the poor old member for Goldstein was left holding the baby. There he was, with the football in his hands, left to account for their black hole. He could not do it. We all remember the 'time to call it quits' press conference, when the press secretary started motioning, in a cutthroat fashion, to bring that painful press conference to an end. The pain and suffering of that experience is not about to come to an end. We are determined to make sure that excruciating, painful experience that the member for Goldstein endured lives on. His own conduct and the conduct of his colleagues have contributed to that. After the election, we saw in all of its ugliness the $11 billion black hole that the opposition went to the election with. It was only exposed because we had a hung parliament and the Independents, whom both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were negotiating with, determined that it was only fair and reasonable that the costings of both parties be placed on the table and that the sunshine be shone on what was ultimately an $11 billion black hole. Those are 11 billion reasons why those opposite are on that side of the chamber. It hurts. I know it hurts. But the reason it hurts most is that you have not learnt from your mistakes. Instead of going to the next election with an $11 billion black hole, it is looking more and more like a $70 billion black hole. This is not a figure that we have plucked out of the air. It was one of a number of figures that the member for North Sydney shared with his colleagues. In fact, I think the $70 billion was the figure he told the member for Goldstein. He also told a few other colleagues a few other figures—I think 50 and 60. Who knows? There might have even be an 80 in there. Just like the documents that are circulated with little secret markings to identify who the culprit is in the event that they are leaked, the member for Goldstein was caught out in leaking the $70 billion figure, and the member for North Sydney was brought to account in an interview.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The Assistant Treasurer will resume his seat. I ask him to be relevant to the matter before the parliament.

Mr Robb: Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask that you ask the member to withdraw that lie and that accusation that I had leaked—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Goldstein will resume his seat. The member for Goldstein knows he has other forms of the House to use, but the minister will withdraw.

Mr BRADBURY: I withdraw, Madam Deputy Speaker. The matter before the House is about transparency. I find it extraordinary that the member for Goldstein would call for transparency when nobody has more to fear from transparency than him. What we have seen with the $70 billion black hole—and that is only what they have admitted to—is that there are absolutely no plans to provide those savings at this point in time. In fact, what we saw recently was the so-called commission of audit that is going to be established.

Mr Husic: They've got a great track record with auditors.

Mr BRADBURY: The member for Chifley reminds me of a very important point, and it goes to the question of auditing. I should have made this point a little earlier. When those opposite went to the last election with an $11 billion black hole that was ultimately exposed, the member for North Sydney came forward and said, 'But all of our costings have been audited.' He used the 'A' word. He said they were all audited. But we saw subsequent to that that, in relation to the costings of the opposition and the so-called audit report which had been provided by accountants, those accountants ended up finding themselves being reprimanded for not having audited properly. In fact, they did not seek to audit those costings, even though the member for North Sydney said that they had been audited.

Mr Husic: Don't be too tough on them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Chifley!

Mr BRADBURY: I appreciate the member for Chifley's concern—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I don't.

Mr BRADBURY: about me being too tough on the opposition. I have not even begun. So we have this so-called commission of audit. This is what I like to call the chamber of horrors, because it is about locking up all of those nasty cuts that those opposite plan to make. You are just not honest enough to put them before the Australian people before an election. What you do is say: 'We've got it all under control. Trust us. Once we get elected, in the next term of parliament we'll set up this you-beaut commission and it will go through with a fine toothcomb and determine all of those places where appropriate cuts need to be taken.' If you think you need to make cuts, come clean with the Australian people and explain to them which vital services you intend to cut. What sorts of cuts are you going to make to Medicare? What sorts of cuts are you going to make to school funding? What sorts of cuts are you going to make to universities? What sorts of cuts are you going to make to family payments? These are the questions that people in electorates like mine and in communities like mine all around the country deserve to know before they go to the next election. We know about the $70 billion black hole; we just want to know how you intend to fill it. What cuts are you going to make to fill that hole?

It is really interesting that we never actually see both the member for North Sydney and the member for Goldstein running side by side in one of these debates. That is because every time they open their mouths they contradict each other. They contradict each other every time they contribute to a discussion. On this question of whether or not they have costed their policies, the member for North Sydney has an answer for all occasions—the member for Goldstein knows that—but those answers are not always right. The member for North Sydney was asked a question about whether or not the coalition had done the hard yards on costing their policies. He said:

Based on what we know now, we are doing all the costings. All our policies are costed.

The journalist said:

So you have found those savings you were looking for?

And the member for North Sydney said:

Yes, we have found the savings that we were looking for.

That was on 13 March 2012. Just a few days earlier, on 5 March 2012, the member for Goldstein said:

We haven't finalised any of our major policies …

That it was a very productive week of policy work I find hard to believe. Why should we be expected to believe that they managed to do in one week what they have not managed to do in the last four years, and that is develop policies, develop plans, for Australia's future and cost them? They have not done it for four years, so I find it just a little bit difficult to believe that they did it in about a week.

I have to say that I have some sympathy for the member for Goldstein, because I tend to believe him more than I believe the member for North Sydney. When the member for North Sydney says, 'Don't worry, she'll be right, all the policies are costed,' I do not believe it. The coalition have an enormous task ahead of them when it comes to filling that $70 billion black hole. They do not have any plans and, if they do, they are not prepared to share them with the Australian people because they are so scary and so nasty that nobody would ever vote for them. The coalition could come forward and say, 'We'll start to rip out the heart of Medicare,' in the way in which coalition oppositions have always wanted to do, but very rarely have they ever been brave enough to say it.

Dr Stone interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Murray might not get her opportunity to speak if she continues.

Mr BRADBURY: Which other essential services are they going to rip the guts out of in order to fund their $70 billion black hole?

I mentioned earlier that the member for North Sydney and the member for Goldstein have all sorts of difficulty in agreeing on basic matters. It is a bit of a problem when they are two of the key figures in the shadow economic team. One issue where there has been a lot of disagreement has been on the question of a surplus. The government's position on a surplus is very clear: we will return the budget to surplus. That will require some difficult decisions, but we will do it because that is what the nation requires. We need to stick to the plans that we have made; they are tough fiscal plans, but, all around the world, capital markets are looking to governments to actually deliver on these plans. We are a government that is intent on doing that and, by doing that, we will keep pressure off interest rates and keep interest rates low for families.

The member for Goldstein was asked whether or not the opposition would deliver a surplus. 'Would they commit to a surplus?' He said, 'Well, it just depends.' The member for North Sydney—not as directly contradictory as he normally is—simply said, 'Maybe.' The Leader of the Opposition said, 'We will do it as quickly as possible.' But then there was poor old Senator Abetz, who did not get the memo. Senator Abetz was out there and said, 'Look, we are not in the business of making extravagant promises.' Promising to return the budget to surplus is not of itself an extravagant promise, but when you are wallowing around in a $70 billion black hole, that is a very ambitious commitment to make; a very extravagant one, to use Senator Abetz's term.

When it comes to the contradictions in their positions on key questions of economic policy—and of course this matter of public importance goes to the importance of transparency in budget policy when it comes to business making the decisions that business needs to make—there are very few areas that have exposed just how flaky the policy approach of the opposition has been on economic policy quite as much as the question of tax cuts for business.

We have seen them cutting each other up over the last couple of weeks. Talk about poor judgment! Who was the brains trust that decided that they were going to lead the Liberal Party off this cliff? Who decided that they were going to come into this place and vote against tax cuts for business? If you go through the Hansard, you will see that just about every person on that side of the House came into this place and professed their 'unabashed support' for businesses large and small—'generators of jobs', 'creators of wealth'; but not worthy of a tax cut. When it comes to delivering a tax cut for them, they want to talk about how tough it is out there in the business environment. They talk the economy down, but when it comes to delivering them tax relief they come into this place and vote against it. To their eternal shame they will do that, and each and every one of them will have to go back to their electorates and explain why they voted against tax relief for the businesses in their electorate.

On the question of business tax cuts, just last year the Leader of the Opposition said, firstly, 'The government should keep its commitments,' and, secondly, 'We support company tax cuts.' But then, just a couple of days ago, the member for North Sydney was asked the same question about whether or not they would support a cut in the company tax rate. The journalist asked, 'Are you signalling that when this comes to the House you will support a cut in company tax?' The member for North Sydney said, 'No, No, No, No, No,' and just for further effect he said, 'We have said no.' Six noes. Not one, not two, not three; six noes. When it comes to cutting tax, they say no.

In fact, when it comes to any good idea proposed by this government, they say no. The only thing they will ever say yes to is a big fat tax cut to the likes of Clive Palmer. We have seen over the last couple of days—and in particular in the last 24 hours—some extraordinary comments from Mr Palmer. You would have thought there would be a handful of people in the Liberal Party sensible enough to come forward and at least acknowledge that perhaps it was a little bit of overreach. Talk about conspiracy theories: the CIA!

The only CIA that the Australian people have to worry about is Clive's influence agency. Those on the other side seem rather beholden to it. They want to give a big fat tax cut to the millionaire miners but not to the Australian— (Time expired)