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National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 (No. 2)
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Macdonald, Sen Ian
National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 (No. 2)
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QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
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- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
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QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (Question No. 371)
(Boswell, Sen Ronald, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
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(Johnston, Sen David, Evans, Sen Christopher)
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(Ludlam, Sen Scott, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
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(Abetz, Sen Eric, Carr, Sen Kim)
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(Abetz, Sen Eric, Evans, Sen Christopher)
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (Question No. 371)
Thursday, 25 August 2011
Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:45): This is a debate on the National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010 (No. 2). Given that it is a debate, I should debate some of the comments made by the two previous speakers. I say to both Senator Ludlam and Senator Cameron—and this distresses me a bit, because I am not usually into personal denigration—that if you want to get into the personal attacks then you will get it back double from me. You of course will not want to wait around to hear it, Senator Cameron. Typically of you and your union bullies who run the Labor Party, you throw the spears and then escape before anyone else can have a say.
I first turn to the 'contribution', as I will call it—although it was hardly a contribution—by Senator Ludlam. If you ever needed any evidence of who is running this country you only had to see the apologist line Senator Ludlam took in his speech. Everything the Labor Party did was good; everything the coalition did was bad. I am sorry, Senator Ludlam, but none of us on the committee and none of us in this chamber shares your very high level of intellect when it comes to telecommunications matters. I am sorry about that. Please forgive us for not having all your intelligence, as you were telling us in your speech, but some of us do try to struggle by.
Senator Ludlam told us, with his superior knowledge, how the Labor Party has been doing everything right. Clearly Senator Ludlam falls into the same category as Labor Party people who, when it comes to spending other people's money, are first-class masters. They and socialists around the world find it easy to tax ordinary hardworking Australians to collect their money and then waste it on the stupidity of the projects of socialists like Senator Ludlam and Senator Cameron.
Senator Ludlam, despite his great intellect, could not understand how you would work out the costs in calculating a cost-benefit analysis that this bill calls for. Senator Ludlam must wonder how the Productivity Commission has worked out costs on everything they do cost-benefit analyses on. He must wonder how Infrastructure Australia can do cost-benefit analyses on all the things they do analyses on. I could tell Senator Ludlam what the cost is for this white elephant that Senator Conroy has established, the NBN. At the moment it is $55 billion plus, and increasing by the day. You do not have to be terribly clever, Senator Ludlam, to work that out. All you have to do is go back and have a look at what the Labor Party has promised in relation to the cost of building this white elephant and then add up what they have actually spent.
You will remember that they had that tendering process halfway done when they pulled it all, at a cost of around $20 million, although I forget the exact figure. Then they did not know where to go . That was a couple of years after they had been elected to implement some sort of NBN. A couple of years later they have this $25 million assessment by McKinsey of what they should do and how they should do it—and this is before they even turned a sod on what was happening. The money just keeps rolling out.
Add up the continuing costs and you will get some idea of the cost of this. And then Senator Ludlam says you cannot work out the benefit of something like the NBN. Well, gee: the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia can work out the benefit of other bits of infrastructure, like rail, roads and school halls. For all those sorts of things you can work out the benefits, so why does Senator Ludlam, with all his great intellect, think the Productivity Commission could not actually work that out? These are very professional people who are skilled at doing cost-benefit analyses. I am quite sure they can do it.
Senator Ludlam says, 'Look, don't worry about cost-benefit; you've got this NBN committee to oversight it.' Senator Birmingham is on that committee, as well as Mr Turnbull, Senator Fisher, myself, Senator Xenophon and a number of other people. They are all involved in that. Sure, we can oversight it from this chamber or from the committee rooms, but unless you can get in and get the figures and do the clinical and professional analyses that are needed, you will never be able to get the same sort of result as a proper cost-benefit analysis, which this bill calls for, would provide.
I remind both Senator Ludlam and Senator Cameron that had the coalition won the 2007 election there would have been a very high-speed national broadband network up and running now, providing benefits for Australia. And yet, under Senator Conroy's model—the Labor Party model, the Greens model—we are still flailing around trying to get this network rolled out.
Senator Ludlam went on to quote a handful of people who all said that Julia Gillard was great, that the NBN was fantastic and that Senator Conroy knew what he was doing. I do not think they actually said the last thing—I had better not exaggerate there. But when we give the details to all of those industry and Telecommunications Act experts both within Australia and from right around the world who profitably run multibillion dollar networks we are told by the Greens and the Labor Party, 'Oh, yes, but don't take any notice of them—they're just profit-seeking individuals.' So it is okay to use the quotes and references that Senator Ludlam wants but it is typical of the Labor Party and the Greens that if you do not agree with them and their ideas you should be completely ignored.
Senator Ludlam also said that the parliament and the Greens can work out that government infrastructure projects do not cost more than they should. Well, Senator Ludlam, how did you go with the pink batts proposal? The one where you supported the Labor government to put in $14 billion worth of pink batts and then paid another $4 billion or $5 billion to pull them all out again? Great oversight by the parliament you provided on that!
And what about the school halls? This parliament was oversighting that and we have example after example of waste and corruption in the spending of government money. Senator Ludlam's best effort, I think, was then to blame the coalition for the fact that Senator Conroy could not roll out his NBN. You can really see where the Greens are scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to prop up their mates in the Labor Party when they come up with that. Since the 2007 election this proposal has been one series of disasters and confusions after the other, all caused, I might say, by Senator Conroy and his mates in the Greens. Senator Ludlam's contribution—and as I said, I unadvisedly call it that—is, with respect, not worth the paper it is written on.
Senator Cameron spent all but the last three minutes of his speech talking about matters that had absolutely nothing to do with the NBN bill. I think that just demonstrated Senator Cameron's abject ignorance of the NBN and telecommunications. I might say that Senator Cameron—and because this is debate I will respond; I should not, but I will—started talking about bullies, or 'boolies' as he called them. He spoke about Mr Abbott being a 'boolie'. This was coming from someone like Senator Cameron, who was renowned for his bullying tactics as a union boss. I suggest he should go and ask former Senator George Campbell about his bullying tactics. You might recall that it was Senator Cameron who not only supported Ms Gillard when she stabbed Kevin Rudd in the back but probably invented that sort of approach when he stabbed former Senator George Campbell in the back all that time ago.
If Senator Cameron wants to talk about 'boolies' or bullies, perhaps he could give us a commentary on what his New South Wales Labor colleague Craig Thomson did when he was another union heavy. I do not enter into that debate except to repeat what I saw on Lateline last night from the current general secretary of the Health Services Union, who said that there is $100,000 missing. She indicated that she was very concerned that low-paid workers who pay their contribution to the unions in good faith to get the unions to support them in their wage claims and their industrial conditions should have that money being wasted on—well, we do not know what. We will await the outcome of police prosecution. Suffice it to say to Senator Cameron, when he is attacking the coalition, that he should be careful about the words he uses. I would suggest to Senator Cameron that he should use any other word when accusing the opposition in this week than 'prostitution'.
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Cameron, you would do well to curtail your language. I am sorry the chair did not draw that to your attention.
Senator Cameron then went on to a bit of a discourse—a confused and dishonest discourse, as are most of his contributions—on some Scottish heritage. My recollection is that the Camerons were part of the Campbell clan, which joined with the English King William to slaughter the Macdonalds at Glencoe. The Macdonalds brought in the Campbells—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I did not raise the issue of Scottish heritage. The Macdonalds brought in the Campbells, succoured them and gave them shelter and comfort for a couple of weeks, then in the middle of the night on the word from the English King William the Campbells up and slaughtered the Macdonalds at Glencoe. I would not be surprised if the Camerons were part of that as well.
Senator Cameron, talking about bullying, will well remember the night outside an estimates committee hearing when he was challenged on a ruling. There was some discussion and Senator Cameron tried his old bullying tactics. They did not work with the committee. He then said, 'We are going to shut down the estimates and have a private meeting.' We did and he then came outside and confronted me nose to nose—I suggest wanting me to hit him, but I have been around too long to fall for that old trick. But he could not help himself—the old foot on the toe, the stand on the toe trick which I am sure Senator Cameron was pretty good at when he was doing his bullyboy tactics in the union movement. It does not quite work in this chamber, Senator Cameron, so keep your feet to yourself next time. He then spent a lot of his speech denigrating one of Australia's most respected, able and highly regarded broadcasters and commentators, Mr Alan Jones.
Senator Bilyk interjecting—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Bilyk, put yourself against Mr Jones for honesty, integrity, ability, capability and interest in Australia and I will back Alan Jones any time of the week. Put yourself against Alan Jones on what he has contributed to the nation, as opposed to what you have contributed to the nation, and I will back Alan Jones any day of the week. Can I say to you 90 per cent of the rest of Australia would do so at the same time.
Senator Cameron then went on to denigrate those honest, hardworking Australians who came from all over Australia to make their point of view known. Senator Cameron and his mate Bob Brown attacked the peaceful gathering out the front. Senator Brown said the convoy, the demonstration, was not much good because it 'has not blockaded anything'. This is not what I usually do. It distresses me to be involved in this sort of debate but I am debating the sorts of things Senator Cameron raised. If he wants to get into that, why doesn't he go back and have a look at his mate Senator Brown's record and see how he got on with the police in some of his demonstrations. You might also trawl along the frontbench of the Labor Party in this chamber and see if you recognise any current senior minister who might have been out the front of the Parliament House before that person was in parliament, knocking down the front door of Parliament House which had to be repaired at a substantial cost to the Australian taxpayer. You might want to have a look at that before you start accusing law-abiding Australians of not knowing how to properly make their point. Sure, law-abiding Australians from regional Australia do not come and get arrested by the police. They do not knock down doors of Parliament House. They try to get their message across to an uncaring, arrogant government and, because they do not get arrested or break some doors, they are called a convoy of no consequence. Madam Acting Deputy President, can I just—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Crossin ): I draw your attention to the bill we are debating, Senator Macdonald.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am debating Senator Cameron's comments. It is not the way I would usually like to debate this because it is filled with personal invective and that is not me. But if they lead with their chin, they will get it back double.
I sought the protection of the chair. Senator Cameron was trying to kill me with laughter when saying that Peter Costello was not a good Treasurer. Peter Costello left this country $60 billion in credit and turned a $96 billion deficit left by the last Labor government into this $60 billion credit over a space of 11 years. Senator Cameron says he was a hopeless Treasurer, that Wayne Swan is a beauty. Not only has Wayne Swan spent the $60 billion; he has given us deficits every year he has been Treasurer. We now have a total debt in the vicinity of $150 billion, increasing by millions of dollars each day. To suggest that Peter Costello was an economic illiterate just does not deserve any further comment.
This bill tries to put some financial responsibility on this totally irresponsible goverment, a government that is irresponsible generally but particularly irresponsible when it comes to financial management. Senator Ludlam, you can do a cost-benefit analysis. The Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia do it every day of the week. What Senator Ludlam and Senator Cameron and their mates in the Greens and the Labor Party do not want to be demonstrated to the Australian public yet again is that this government is totally incompetent and corrupt when it comes to financial management. The proper analysis that this bill calls for would even more clearly show to the Australian public that this NBN is a financial white elephant.
I conclude by repeating, as I will continue to repeat, that had the coalition proceeded with its plans in 2007 Australia would have had a very fast broadband network up and running today. We still would not be, as we are under Labor, thrashing around trying to put all the pieces in place after the event in getting this white elephant on the way. This is a good bill. It deserves support. Clearly with the Greens and the Labor Party yet again getting together, it is going to struggle to get through. But notwithstanding that I would hope that some of the Labor senators would see the sense and vote for the bill. (Time expired)