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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1970

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (15:23): I am gobsmacked. From a government that has promised us stable and somewhat dull government, they come up with this clanger. It is unbelievable. Let me reiterate. Mr Abbott has spent the last three years while in opposition and government talking about a so-called budget emergency. I will say it again for everybody out there: a budget emergency. He has been spreading fear about the Australian economy which has been driving down business and consumer confidence. His whole tactic has been to trash the economy. When the debt was 13 per cent of GDP, Mr Abbott called it disaster, but yesterday Mr Abbott said a ratio of debt to GDP at about 50 to 60 per cent is a pretty good result when you look around the world. Wake up and smell the roses. It must have been a bad hair day for Mr Abbott when he looked at that.

How this is possible is a complete mystery to me when you look at the position this government has put itself in. Net government debt is now 35 per cent higher than in January 2014, but according to Mr Abbott the budget emergency is now over as the government has got the budget situation from out of control to manageable. This is from a man who was running around the country before the election and since saying that this is a budget emergency, which is the reason he ground an unfair budget in. The reason we copped a bad budget was the budget emergency which has now evaporated.

Let's remind ourselves of what Mr Abbott said previously:

What we're not prepared to do though is sell out the fundamentals and the fundamentals are that we have absolutely got to get this budget crisis back under control. I mean, Labor left us with a debt and deficit disaster.

This government has taken one step more and found a 50 to 60 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio manageable somehow—quite an extraordinary circumstance.

I think the editorial in the SMH really sums it up when it says:

This "being in government" business is proving to be all too hard for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his ministers.

Too hard to frame a fair budget.

…   …   …

Too hard to be civil and constructive on policy options. Too hard to explain to voters the need for reform. Too hard to find a consistent message.

And way too hard to provide the sort of "stable, no surprises" government Mr Abbott promised just 18 months ago.

Who would believe 18 months ago that he made such a promise?

The Herald said then that voters would get to judge Mr Abbott on trust and stability "in three years or, should he prove unable to manage a democratic parliament, much sooner".

…   …   …

Indeed, being in government has turned out to be so hard that some ministers and others in his inner circle even considered plans to commit hara kiri through a double dissolution election.

What a shambles.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said on Thursday: "The important thing is to keep heading in the right direction."

Tell us what that direction is because we do not know, the public do not know and the commentators do not know. If you can find a direction in all of the dropped pie, let us know; we might be able to at least discern your position. That is what your government looks like. It looks like a dropped pie: completely shambolic, completely rudderless and directionless and one which does not have any consistent message.

Are we now going to drop the budget crisis message and move to a dull and boring government? Let me tell you, from a person who understands a bit of dullness; you guys are not dull! It is an extraordinary circumstance that you have now laid out. The message is quite clear though. One, we have to hide Mr Hockey. Don't let him out! We have to hide Mr Hockey, and Mr Abbott is going to take the lead. Nobody has told Ms Credlin this, because it would not be one— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.