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Opposition continues infrastructure bank attack.

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RN PM Opposition continues infrastructure bank attack


Opposition continues infrastructure bank attack

PM - Thursday, 4 December , 2008 18:10:00

Reporter: Kirrin McKechnie

MARK COLVIN: First, the Federal Opposition has continued to hound the Treasurer over claims that the Government's planning to set up an infrastructure bank to lend to the States.

Wayne Swan has dismissed the attacks as absurd but he says he is considering a range of options to help states which are having trouble borrowing money for infrastructure projects.

The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader weren't in Question Time, they were attending the funeral of the latest soldier killed in Afghanistan, so their Deputies were in charge.

But it's looking increasingly likely they'll all be back tomorrow.

From Canberra, Kirrin McKechnie reports.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Parliament had a real last day of school feel to it; with the nation's political leaders making their end of year speeches wishing each other a merry Christmas.

That is until the Leader of the House Anthony Albanese warned everyone it was likely they weren't going anywhere.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It's pretty clear that the Senate are moving extraordinarily slowly. There is still a substantial amount of government business and business that has been sent there from the House of Representatives for them to deal with. So it may well be that we adjourn tonight and come back for a short period tomorrow morning.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: One piece of government business the Senate has dealt with is its contentious Schools Assistance bill.

It passed this afternoon, after the Opposition dropped its objections over concerns for a national curriculum.

The acting Prime Minister used Question Time to taunt the Opposition's Education Spokesman Christopher Pyne over the backdown.

JULIA GILLARD: Now this has been achieved because the Shadow Minister for Education today engaged in what must go down as one of the most humiliating backflips in Australian politics. He was fighting on as late as this morning and then went into the Senate and performed this humiliating backflip.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: The acting Opposition leader Julie Bishop set Wayne Swan in her sights, giving him a grilling over claims the Government is considering setting up an infrastructure bank to service the States.

JULIE BISHOP: Why is the Government establishing a new bank that will channel petro dollars from Middle East to State Labor Governments?

WAYNE SWAN: The proposition put by the acting leader of the Opposition is just absurd.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: But the Treasurer says he is considering how to help out the States, struggling to borrow to fund infrastructure projects.

WAYNE SWAN: We will take on board, in our discussions with the States, some means to assist them if that is required when it comes to their borrowing programmes. There's been an exchange of correspondence with the Queensland Treasurer, that the Member is aware of, and I have written back to

the Queensland Treasurer suggesting to him that we're happy to work constructively with the State Governments to see a resolution to this problem, but rejecting the solutions that he put forward in that letter.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: But Julie Bishop kept prodding.

JULIE BISHOP: When did the Treasurer first become aware of the proposal for a new government owned

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bank? Can the Treasurer confirm that this new bank was born out of a discussion between State Labor governments and led by the New South Wales Treasurer Eric Roozendaal?

WAYNE SWAN: The answer is no (sniggers).

(Laughter from backbenchers)

WAYNE SWAN: Those events did not happen.


KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Ms Bishop wasn't taking no for an answer.

JULIE BISHIP: Is the Treasurer giving consideration to the establishment of a government bank and if so, given the poor financial position of many State Labor governments, has a risk assessment of the new bank been undertaken by the Treasury and has it been scrutinised by the Commonwealth Loans Council?

WAYNE SWAN: Mr Speaker I've got nothing more to add to answer that I gave before.

(Raucous jeering)


WAYNE SWAN: I said very clearly that the Government is prepared to examine any sensible and alternative measure.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: But while the Treasurer considers with how to help the States grappling with the global financial crisis, the now troublesome Labor backbencher James Bidgood has come up with a novel take on economic matters.

He's already caused a significant headache for the Government after last night being forced to apologise for taking a photo of an immigration protestor who'd doused himself in petrol and then selling that photo to the media.

But now he says he knows who's responsible for the world economic turmoil.

JAMES BIDGOOD: I believe that when Christians pray, God does things. And I believe what's happening today is as much to do with God in economics bringing judgement. Because I truly do believe that when someone walks away from a bank with $US480-million and the people whose money they were looking after are now bankrupt, that is wrong, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

And there needs to be some justice. And I believe there is God's justice in action in what's going on here. And we haven't seen the end of it.

MARK COLVIN: Labor Backbencher James Bidgood ending that report by Kirrin McKechnie.

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