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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8175

Mr JOHNSON (9:40 PM) —The great economist Milton Friedman once wrote, ‘If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.’ To paraphrase Milton Friedman in the parliament tonight, I want to say that, if you put a Labor government in power in Canberra, within months there will be a shortage of national economic leadership and national confidence. This Rudd Labor government looks very much like it has lost the plot. Certainly this Labor Prime Minister looks like he has lost the plot. Clearly the wheels of this government are falling off—if they have not already fallen off.

Today, as we all know, the world is in great need of leadership. The world is experiencing, by some accounts, economic challenges of a magnitude not seen and witnessed since the days of the Depression. This country needs the best leadership that can be afforded it, and it needs a leader who knows something about business. It needs a leader who knows something about the corporate world. It needs someone who is more than just a consultant. The times demand economic knowledge. The times demand someone with genuine economic and business experience.

Indeed, I understand that the Prime Minister did not even do senior maths. I am not quite sure that the people of Ryan would appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister of the day, in charge of a $1.1 trillion economy, did not even complete senior maths at the high school that he went to. As a citizen of this country, I am appalled by that. I suspect that the constituents of Ryan would be absolutely gobsmacked by the fact that, at a time when national leadership on the economy is absolutely indispensable to ensuring that mortgages can be repaid, that homes are not repossessed and that car loans can be financed and at a time when people are looking to the leadership of the their national government, the Prime Minister—the man in Canberra who lives at the Lodge—did not even complete senior maths. I think that would stun many in the Ryan constituency. We certainly did not see that fact on the TV ads during last November’s federal election campaign.

I will inform the people of Ryan and other Australians who might be listening to the parliament tonight why I believe that the Prime Minister has lost the plot. I think it is self-evident, but I should say why. We have a situation here where the Prime Minister is going on an international trip to the US and he says he is doing it because it is in Australia’s national interest that he does so. I want to ask: is it in Australia’s national interest that he picks up the phone and calls a member of the Australian Senate, Senator Nick Xenophon—whom I understand the Prime Minister has not even had the courtesy to speak to—and discusses much important legislation in this parliament?

The people of Australia are going to find out what having a Labor government in power means. Clearly, it means that economic hard times are coming our way. If we are in business, we are going to find out just how difficult it is to do business under this Labor government. If we are in charities or all kinds of small endeavours, we are going to find out how difficult it is to get support from the federal government here in Canberra.

I understand, as I said, that the Prime Minister has not even met with Senator Nick Xenophon, who is a critical player in the parliament today, given that there is legislation backing up in the Senate. I find it absolutely amazing that a Prime Minister would put on his schedule talking to African leaders at Columbia University about his grand scheme of having Australia front and centre in world affairs ahead of walking the 200 yards—or the 200 metres that he fondly speaks of in the chamber here—to meet a member of the Australian Senate to put the legislation of the country ahead of his concerns.

We know that times are different today. The Economist wrote of the previous government’s record that Australia’s economic performance was ‘the envy of Western countries for well over a decade’. That was written in May 2005. In 2008, times are very different. I know that the people of Ryan, who are putting health care and education front and centre in their lives, are not at all interested in the Prime Minister going to Columbia University and talking to African leaders about getting their votes for Australia to get a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. (Time expired)