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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 440


Senator RONALDSON (1:48 PM) —Before I get into my comments on this package, there is one observation that I would like to make about something which I am sure has not been lost on others in this chamber. This is potentially the most significant package that has ever been put through either chamber. I looked at the speaking list and what did I see? I saw the names of coalition senators wanting to speak on this bill. Is there one member of the Australian Labor Party who has their name down on the speakers list to speak on the largest package that has ever been through this parliament?

Opposition senators interjecting—


Senator RONALDSON —Not one of them is prepared to stand up here and defend this package. Not one single member of the Australian Labor Party has their name down on the speakers list to debate this package.


Senator Sterle —We all agree it’s great!


Senator RONALDSON —Not one single person.


Senator Cormann —The government is gagging you!


Senator Sterle —I can’t wait to tell all the people in Stirling, Cowan and Swan and tell all the schools that you’re making sure they don’t—


Senator RONALDSON —When the Australian people are judging the integrity of the Australian Labor Party in relation to this package, they will need to look no further than who is prepared to speak on this and who is not.


Senator Sterle interjecting—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Parry)—Order! Senator Sterle, it is disorderly to shout across the chamber. Remarks must be addressed to the chair. If you have a point of order, please raise one.


Senator RONALDSON —We have had interjections from Senator Sterle. I have had a look at the speakers list and I cannot see Senator Sterle’s name on there. So he is happy to sit in here and throw a bit across the chamber, but he does not have the intestinal fortitude to put his name down to debate it. After all the crocodile tears we have seen shed by the Australian Labor Party over the last decade about the role of the Senate and the ability of the Senate to scrutinise the actions of government, what did we see today? They tried to ram this package through without any scrutiny from the body that for 10 years they said was being stymied by the former government. It is probably the most hypocritical action I have ever seen in my life. They try to gag the debate; they will not stand up and put themselves on the line to debate it. What an extraordinary outcome and how incredibly duplicitous those people are.


Senator Marshall —You have nothing to say about the bill, though.


Senator RONALDSON —Another voice from the wilderness! Senator Marshall will love this bill because there is absolutely nothing in here which forces the government to look at the long-term ramifications. Senator Marshall is quite happy to bank-card everything. He is well known for supporting the nefarious activities of the Cain-Kirner government, which sent the state of Victoria broke. He is a member of the Australian Labor Party that was quite happy to defend that. He is not standing up here today, because debt does not worry him. It has never worried him and he is not worried about it now. He is not going to talk about it, but he sits across there with a silly grin on his face throwing some stuff across the chamber. Why doesn’t he have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and debate this?

While we are on people who are not prepared to stand up, I just wonder where Mr Darren Cheeseman, the member for Corangamite, is in relation to this bill. Mr Cheeseman, of course, has been running around saying, ‘There is money coming for the Princes Highway West duplication.’ We are talking about $42 billion, and where is Cheeseman in relation to this? Where is the member for Corangamite?


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Ronaldson, you need to address members of the other house by their correct title.


Senator RONALDSON —I picked two out of three. Where is the money for the Princes Highway West duplication between Waurn Ponds and Winchelsea? We are talking about $42 billion and you cannot even keep a commitment like that. I will be interested to hear what he says, although I suspect that Mr Cheeseman will not be speaking on this matter either.

The one key issue in this package is jobs, and it is the one thing that is missing from this package. It should be about jobs, yet there is nothing in this $42 billion package about jobs. You cry crocodile tears for Australian workers. There is nothing in this package for jobs. Before I go any further, we on this side of the chamber would like to know what happened to the 75,000 jobs that were lauded as the outcome of the last $10 billion cash splash. Where are they? We have not heard a word about it. We heard Senator Evans today saying, ‘People are arguing over 35,000 or 45,000 jobs.’ The reality is that he has not come into this chamber and said whether the 75,000 jobs were created. Now he is trying to play it down to 35,000. Is it 35,000? Is it 10,000? Is it 15,000? Once again, that $10 billion did not create jobs, and this $42 billion package will not either.

Where is the assistance to small business to keep employment high? There is no mention of small businesses. Very few of them will benefit from this. We need a fiscal stimulus which invests in the Australian economy in a way that makes the whole economy more productive, efficient and competitive. Of course, that is why tax cuts are so effective—because every business and household in Australia benefits from them. We believe that an element of the stimulus package should be that it lowers the cost of employing Australians so that we can both retain jobs and promote jobs growth.


Senator Marshall — You’re a bit confused, Ronno.


Senator RONALDSON —Senator Marshall is at it again. He is not prepared to talk on this matter but he is prepared to yap, yap, yap across the chamber. If you are so anxious about this, get up and make a speech. I will be looking forward to it. The reality is that the Australian Labor Party is hopelessly out of its depth. This is just the latest in a string of mistakes. Of course, we have the nonexistent inflation genie. Remember that the genie was out of the bottle. The Prime Minister and Mr Swan were out there goading the Reserve Bank to lift interest rates. They almost threatened the Reserve Bank to lift interest rates. You were told what the impact of that would be. You were told that this economy was in real strife. But, no, you had been running the inflation genie political argument for three months, and you were still doing it in the May budget. Everyone knew at that stage. Blind Freddie knew by May that if you were to put higher interest rates into this economy you would kill it dead. No, you were prepared to run the political argument because you had been on a political course for six months and nothing was going to stand in the way of cheap politics, certainly not killing the Australian economy dead. You were running this line about the inflation genie, and you killed this economy stone-cold dead. In May, you were still doing it.

Then we had the unlimited bank deposit guarantee. This is a government that is totally out of its depth. We had the cash splash before Christmas. I hope those opposite are proud of that outcome, by the way. I hope you will be similarly proud of the potential outcome of this cash splash. I would just like to read something from the Colac Herald to put all this into some sort of perspective:

Gamblers also broke the highest-ever spend on Colac poker machines for a one-month period in December with $756,000, or $24,387 a day, spent.

The December record smashed the previous record of $691,000…

If that is the outcome of a cash splash which you thought would benefit the Australian economy, then you need to have a good, long, hard think on what the outcomes of this one are going to be. If you think that an increase in problem gambling is an appropriate outcome of this cash splash, then you will stand utterly condemned for your behaviour. You have been lauding a very marginal increase in retail figures in December, which of course includes alcohol and gambling, which you are not prepared to talk about. I will finish these remarks after question time, but I just want you to think long and hard about this: are you members of a government that is prepared to put at risk the lives of people with a gambling addiction by making it easier for that addiction to grow? If that is an outcome that you think is appropriate, then say so. If you think problem gambling is not an issue, you say so. But you have to accept that one of the outcomes of this cash splash will be an increase in spending on alcohol and an increase in spending on gambling. You know that, I know that—we all know that. That is the only outcome from this.

Government senators interjecting—


Senator RONALDSON —I see that this provides some mirth for those opposite. They think that problem gambling is something funny. They are all laughing and giggling over there. If they think that is an issue for mirth, then that is entirely up to them.

Debate interrupted.