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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6629


Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (9:31 AM) —It is good to go back to exactly where we are. We are coming to the end of Fuelwatch—if you have seen The Castle, Fuelwatch has ended up heading straight off to the poolroom, straight off to the cabinet. Fuelwatch is going to sit up in the cabinet with GroceryWatch, with the war on obesity, with the war on binge drinking, with the education revolution—it is a very violent party, the Labor Party; a lot of wars and revolutions going on. We have the highest interest rates, the highest inflation and the record lowest consumer confidence—with a $10.4 billion expenditure of our surplus with no modelling. Now we have a motor vehicle package. I hope a bit more thought goes into the motor vehicle package. We have a deficit heading towards us. And the good news is that they have not even been in government for a year yet. This is the sort of government we have got. In the Labor Party poolroom are going to be all the adornments of what a marvellous government it is, what an absolute blessing to the nation this Labor government is.

It is interesting to go back through Fuelwatch. I was just having a bit of a read of the notes and looking at all the people who did not support it. The AAA, the RACQ, the RACV and the RAA in South Australia have all indicated that they did not support it. It was also indicated by the ACCC that figures for Perth motorists were based on buying petrol at prices greater than the average price over the cycle. What was Fuelwatch’s purpose? That is the question that is going to be finally left on people’s lips: what was the purpose of that exercise? The purpose of that exercise was the same purpose as the exercise that Mr Rudd used when he disclosed a private conversation with the President of the United States. The purpose of that exercise was purely and simply the media. That was it; that was the purpose of that exercise. The ramifications of that exercise are complete and utter embarrassment. I see Mr Dimasi from the ACCC waiting for the day when he can let the remnants of Fuelwatch slip into dark, distant memory.

What we can learn out of this Fuelwatch debacle is that we have to watch the Labor Party very closely when it comes to detail because they are lacking. When it comes to detail, when it comes to homework, they are very dangerous in how they actually go about spending our money and delivering a program for the nation. What we learned from Fuelwatch is that if the acumen that they deliver into that program is delivered into how they run the economy, if it is delivered into Minister Carr’s motor vehicle package, we will have the expenditure of funds for no outcome. We believe that we should have a strong and vibrant motor vehicle industry. We just do not believe for one moment, on the record that the Labor Party have presented so far, as ably displayed in the Labor Party pool cabinet, that they have any capacity to actually show diligence and efficacy in outcomes. The Australian people are going to start looking at the Labor Party pool cabinet, the trophy cabinet in the poolroom, and start asking themselves this question very soon: do these people know what they are up to? There have been so many reviews and programs and so much spin doctoring going on, but on delivery of an outcome that can be discernible, that can be attributable, that can actually show the nation benefit, they have not got one run on the board—not one. Not one thing can they show to the Australian people as a program that worked. But we have the instigation of a multiplicity of marvellous ideas. Anybody can come in here with marvellous ideas, but your capacity to govern is your capacity to deliver an outcome—not the initiation of an idea but an outcome of an idea. Not one outcome has this Labor government so far been able to present to the Australian people.

One outcome that we do have is that we started with a surplus in excess of $20 billion and we have now lost most of it. We are now heading towards a deficit. The Australian people are going to have to go to the marketplace to borrow the money to run a nation which was left in surplus. We will go into the most tenuous credit market in the world to borrow those funds. And think of the profligate waste of money! On 8 December money will be spent in lump sums that will appear in retail therapy, and everybody will be happy to get it. I am not denying for one moment that people are going to be happy to get it. But a lot of it will end up in poker machines and being spent on alcohol. In some areas of our nation, 8 December will be like Guy Fawkes night, the Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled into one. Unfortunately there will be the abuse of alcohol, the abuse of gambling and the assaults and everything that get rolled into that practice. I know because I will see some of it outside my window—I live next door to a pub.

This also is part of Labor Party management. They actually lack the acumen to see the social implications of some of their policies and exactly what happens next when the big lumps of money turn up in certain bank accounts in one fell swoop. This also is a reflection of the lack of Labor Party planning. After the money has been squandered on 8 December, the thought that the people of Australia will have to go to the market to borrow back the money I find absolutely incredible. But it fits well with Fuelwatch. If someone said, ‘Describe the Labor government to people from another nation, another planet,’ I would say, ‘Fuelwatch. That is the Labor Party.’ That is them to a tee. They think it is a marvellous idea, but they have absolutely no conviction whatsoever to bolster the powers of the Fuelwatch commissioner so they could actually do something. It was all rushed, with the ridiculous situation whereby people had to work 36 hours straight towards the delivery of a program with no efficacy or modelling on what the outcome was going to be. Then there was the huge charade, the absolute rubbish of a launch, with all the earnest faces that said, ‘Look at us bringing the price of fuel down.’ That was so insincere when you actually got behind and saw that they did not do the homework. That is the issue that I hope the Australian people start connecting to. The Labor Party do not do the homework. They can spend half the nation’s surplus without doing the modelling. I believe that if you ask them right at this moment, you would find that they still have not done it. This is the sort of management that is now running our nation. The results are so clear.

We are heading towards a deficit. We now have one of the highest inflation rates in recent history. We are now heading towards record growth in unemployment. We now have one of the lowest levels of business confidence on record. We have interest rates at their highest levels on record. That is certainly a quantifiable and salient picture of Labor Party management. It cannot be attributed to anybody else. If they say that it is unfair, you only have to balance it up with Fuelwatch. And the next fiasco tearing down the path towards us is GroceryWatch. You would think after you made one complete and utter botch up of a job that you would be smart enough to curtail the embarrassment and not continue down exactly the same path in another field. But, no, not only have they botched up the job, they have the arrogance to not be able to reflect on what they have done and improve the process.

Fuelwatch today will be taken off to the poolroom to be stored in the trophy cabinet where it will gather dust and be an item of ridicule. Slowly, that Labor Party trophy cabinet in the poolroom will fill up to such an extent that the people who come to visit will ask: do these people know what they are on about? This sort of banal and kitsch policy, which it is, will be seen clearly as the emblem of Labor Party government. The honeymoon is over today, ladies and gentlemen, with the purposeful burial of Fuelwatch. It will be interesting to hear the requiem that is now going to be sung by the Labor Party about the proposed benefits or losses to the Australian people for what could have been had things been different. What any person looking at this has to ask is: why would things be any different when the planning was so completely lacking?

Mr Walker is a classic endorsement of the Fuelwatch package. He was the person in charge of it and he bolted. That is the ultimate indictment of the package. The boss was appointed with such lauding and fervour and one of the first things he did was to run for his life because it was an absolute and utter mangy dog. This has to be seen. But, no doubt, Mr Bowen is going to come up with some other political fascinator to be worn on his head in the near future. We will wait for that and we will treat it with the same contempt with which we treated Fuelwatch.