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RON WILSON: It's been a heated week in federal Parliament with tempers fraying over stimulus
payments and question time stunts.

Joining us for our regular review of the week in Parliament are Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek
and Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Tony Smith.

Minister, I might start with you this morning, if I may.


RON WILSON: We've seen a weird week in Parliament, if anything. We've got these photographs being
held up to taunt the Opposition members, and then, of course, we had Joe Hockey yesterday with his
demonstration of the never-ending debt. Is it a sign of desperation from both sides that they've
got to pull these stunts?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, I think there's a balance isn't there? I think, during question time, using
a picture or a graph that illustrates a point is one thing. I think the sort of thing that you've
seen from Joe, both in unravelling his big graph and, also, you know, carrying in cardboard
cut-outs of the Prime Minister, and things like that in the past, really, are a little undignified
for someone who thinks he's going to be Treasurer of the nation. I think he's putting a lot of
creativity into getting on TV, but not much thought into how he would actually handle what is the
greatest financial...

TONY SMITH: Oh, come on.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: ... crisis in 70 years.

TONY SMITH: Oh Tanya...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well Tony, we haven't heard from the Opposition yet.

TONY SMITH: I can't s...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Just one moment.

TONY SMITH: I can hear you.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We haven't heard...

TONY SMITH: I can hear you, I can't see you, but I can't imagine you saying this with a straight
face after...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Tony, we haven't heard yet...

TONY SMITH: ... sitting and watching Kevin Rudd all week.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Sorry, we haven't heard yet, Tony...

RON WILSON: Sorry Tanya, you go ahead, yes.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We haven't heard yet, Tony, what would the Opposition borrow in this circumstance
and what would they do to support jobs? They've admitted that they would borrow, but they won't
tell us how much they'd borrow, they won't tell us when they would repay and how they would repay
the money, and they haven't told us what they'd do to support jobs, which is absolutely critical at
this time.

TONY SMITH: Well look, what Tanya said is unbelievable. I mean, she sat there and watched the Prime
Minister day after day, question after question, bring photographs into the Parliament...


TONY SMITH: ... like some relative coming back from a holiday showing you the photo album. I mean,
we don't know what's next. I mean, I wouldn't rule out Kevin Rudd bringing his laptop and a big
screen down and doing a PowerPoint presentation.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: I don't know what's wrong with photos of schools, Tony.

TONY SMITH: I mean, Kevin Rudd set the trend, and it was quite sensible for Joe Hockey to
demonstrate the size of the debt, which Kevin Rudd won't mention.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: He could show it on one page, Tony.

TONY SMITH: And talk about - and talk about...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: He was pulling a stunt.

TONY SMITH: Well, he can't...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: You know he was.

TONY SMITH: Tanya, he can't help the fact that your debt's so big.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Oh [indistinct] how big would your...

RON WILSON: Okay, well let me...

TANYA PLIBERSEK: How - what would you borrow, Tony?

RON WILSON: Let me just stick my - let me just stick my foot in the door for a moment. We now have
this confirmed Budget deficit of around $200 billion. And as far as we can determine from the
Federal Government, and this is a pretty reasonable question by the Opposition by the way, but the
Government's response is, that it's determining its time of coming out of this debt simply by
looking at previous recessions. What is the Government's plan to recover $200 billion, apart from
simply crossing its fingers?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Ron, we've been very clear about how we will repay the money. We've said that when
growth returns to above trend, that we'll repay this debt. We'll keep the extra tax receipts that
are coming in when growth returns to above trend growth, and we will pay down this debt.

It's very important to remember, Ron, that the Opposition have admitted that we're collecting $210
billion less tax than we were expecting to during this time because of the global recession.
They've also admitted that they would borrow. They won't tell us how much they'd borrow. They won't
tell us how they would support jobs and they won't tell us how they will repay the debt.

RON WILSON: There again, you're in charge of the plan to get us back on track, so we've got to be
asking you that question rather than the Opposition.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Oh absolutely. And we've got a very clear plan for doing that. We've said how much
we'll borrow, and we've said that we will spend 70 per cent of the borrowing on nation-building
infrastructure, fixing up our schools that have been let to run down, building roads, building
railways, building ports and in my own area, building housing - keeping construction workers in
jobs. Keeping plumbers and electricians, and tilers and plasterers, and their apprentices, working
at a time when otherwise they would lose their jobs.

RON WILSON: Mr Smith, the Opposition has ridiculed a lot of those stimulus payments. Sixteen
thousand of them going to deceased estates. But, in the end, that money then moves on to the
beneficiaries, whether it's children who may be left behind, widows who may be left behind. Can
this now be seen as a heartless move by the Opposition?

TONY SMITH: Well look, it was interesting, yesterday morning, the Small Business Minister Craig
Emerson admitted on television that the Government didn't intend for these payments to go to
estates, and to criminals and to expats, and he said that the only reason they did was because the
Government was desperately keen to get the money out quickly.

So, in the ordinary course of events, it wasn't the Government's intention. So they can't have it
both ways. The point we've made all along, Ron, is that, at every stage, the Government has made a
difficult situation worse in Australia by rushing, by bungling and by focusing more on the sort of
stunts you were talking about at the start. Kevin Rudd's been more concerned that he's got his hard
hat with him and his fluorescent vest, rather than the facts and the details. And we saw that with
the Treasurer who delivered a Budget speech and would not even mention the Budget deficit figure.

RON WILSON: Yeah. Did you get your stimulus payment in the mail, by the way, Mr Smith?

TONY SMITH: No, I didn't, I didn't.

RON WILSON: You haven't?


RON WILSON: Which means you haven't done your tax return.

TONY SMITH: No, it doesn't mean that, it means I didn't qualify.

RON WILSON: Okay, that's fair enough [laughs].

TONY SMITH: Did you get yours?

RON WILSON: No, I haven't yet.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Ron, can I just make a point?


TANYA PLIBERSEK: Can I make a point about the reason that you have to get stimulus payments out
quickly? We wanted that first round of stimulus payments to go out before Christmas for a very
important reason: we wanted to keep jobs in the retail sector. And we saw in Australia that we were
able to keep those jobs and, in fact, increase them, when in all of our similar countries around
the world, like the United States and like Europe, those jobs were being lost.

Everything we are doing is about keeping Australians working. And if you look at what's happening
with unemployment right around the world, that has to be our first priority as a Government,
keeping Australians working.

RON WILSON: Just very quickly before we go, Minister, there's two events coming up next week that
we need to look at, just very briefly if I may: national accounts figures due out on Wednesday,
which would indicate whether we are definitely in a recession. And the other thing, of course, is,
we've got the Reserve Bank board meeting on Tuesday.

What are you seeing the environment like for the ongoing recession and also on the interest rate

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well Ron, I'm not the Treasurer, but I expect that the national accounts will show
that we are in difficult times.

TONY SMITH: I reckon you'd do a better job, Tanya. I reckon you'd do a better job.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Tony, that's sweet of you. And I don't know what the Reserve Bank will
do, and I don't want to speculate or try and influence them. But I can tell you this much, if they
do put interest rates down again, it would be terrific to see the banks pass that on as quickly as
they responsibly can, because it's very important to Australian working families to have that extra
income and be able to pay down their mortgages...


TANYA PLIBERSEK: ... but also have a bit to spare at the end of the day, so they can keep
circulating it in the economy.

RON WILSON: All rightee, thank you very much, both of you for being with us this morning and
discussing these matters.

TONY SMITH: Thank you.

RON WILSON: Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek, and Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Tony Smith. Thank
you very much.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: It's a real pleasure, Ron.

TONY SMITH: Thanks. Have a good [indistinct]