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Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Page: 523

Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (18:20): What a performance we had in this chamber from Senator Canavan just moments ago. Before touching on some of the points and the incorrect and false information that was presented to this chamber, I want to acknowledge the contribution of Senator Whish-Wilson, who actually outlined and detailed a series of policy failures from this government and the impact of those failures. Earlier we had Senator Canavan getting up here, giving a speech begging why the Australian people are not thanking this wonderful, fantastic government for the brilliant work it is doing in business confidence!

Let's be clear, when we are talking about confidence, there is one group that has no confidence in this government and that is the government itself. In the same week that 60 per cent of their own backbench tried to neck the Prime Minister, you have got senators getting up in this chamber talking about what a wonderful job this government is doing, how fantastic business confidence is and simply wondering why they are not being thanked for what has been failure after failure, lie after lie.

Business confidence in this country is down. Consumer confidence has consistently been taking a hit. Why? Because you have got a government that has not been honest with its own people. A government that has not been clear on who is responsible and what can and should be done. Of course there are economic challenges facing this country. Of course there are spending, fiscal and other challenges facing this country. But rather than have an honest debate, you have fearmongering. You have this whole fear of debt and deficit that does not match the reality of what has actually gone on in this country and of what has actually taken place. The result of all of this has been a complete hit to Australian consumers. What we should be doing in this country is talking about, firstly, what the opportunities are for growth, not turning around and playing this complete blame game of saying, 'This group is responsible for debt and deficit, and this is what is going on'—none of this whole kind of fearmongering by the government. What this government should be doing is sitting down and saying: 'Here are the opportunities; here's what we can do; here's how we can work together and here's how we can face the challenges.'

The Westpac - Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index shows that confidence remains 10 per cent lower than it was at the election. As my colleagues have noted in this chamber, notably Senator Canavan amongst others, there is a blip in today's release—an uptick of eight per cent in January. But it is hardly reason for a celebration. According to Senator Canavan, who came and started calling it a surge, Westpac's chief economist himself, Bill Evans, commented that this is a stronger result than we had expected. And that is right. The experts are genuinely surprised by what was a blip in today's results.

The Saudis have flooded the market with fuel, lowering petrol prices—a 21 per cent drop in the past few months. We all know that, thankfully, there has been a recent interest rate cut which actually allows some people a little bit of relief from what is increasing desperation to be able to meet their repayments. And the share markets have been buoyant, among other things. But what you have here is a government in disarray. What you have here is a lack of faith in the Australian public. What you have here is a constant fearmongering—a constant scare campaign. Rather than having a government that is prepared to sit down and say, 'Here are the strengths; here is what is working in this country; here is how we improve; here is how we grow,' what you have is a government that is simply limping from crisis to crisis of its own. And, to do so, it is trying to create another crisis and pretend there is a greater crisis out there. Confidence—business confidence, consumer confidence—requires strong and stable government, and that is not what we are receiving from this government at the moment.