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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 599

Ms VAMVAKINOU (3:39 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.

Mr Billson —You’d better change that title!

Mr Ciobo —What deregulation? It should be re-regulation!

Mrs Mirabella —Except for labour services!

The SPEAKER —The members for Indi, Dunkley and Moncrieff are warned!

Ms VAMVAKINOU —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Why is it important for the government to seek expert advice in dealing with the global economic crisis?

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Calwell will resume her seat until the House comes to order. I call the member for Calwell.

Ms VAMVAKINOU —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Calwell will resume her seat. I applaud the member for Calwell for referring to a member by their parliamentary title. I call the member for Calwell.

Ms VAMVAKINOU —Why is it important for the government to seek expert advice in dealing with the global economic crisis? What does the advice indicate about various options for responding to the crisis?

Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —The government is dealing with an unprecedented economic crisis consequent upon the global economic challenge, and naturally the government has sought advice. The government has sought advice from Treasury, from the IMF and from the financial regulators, and it is paying close attention to the opinions of market economists, to industry organisations and to governments of other major developed nations. Naturally in an economic crisis, Mr Speaker, you would expect that a government would pay attention to the advice, to the opinions, of people who know something about economics. Amazingly enough, this is not a universally held view—that in an economic crisis you might ask people like economists what they think about how to deal with it. In fact, the opposition believes that that is the last thing you should do—actually talk to economists. Twice yesterday the member for North Sydney said that the last people you would talk to about dealing with an economic crisis would be economists. He said on 2BL:

Economists will always go to extremes. Economists will say in downturns, ‘Spend, spend, spend.’

And then in the MPI he backed it up with:

They should not be listened to in those good times, just as surely as they should not always be the bible during bad times.

This is the guy who has just become the frontrunner for the member for Curtin’s job as shadow Treasurer. His view of economic advice is that, in order to be the Minister for Finance—and Deregulation—or indeed the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the last thing you do is actually talk to economists, the last thing you do is seek advice from people who have got some expertise in that area. You wonder who in fact he would consult—maybe some faith-healers would be the idea, or numerologists or astrologers. I see him there in his office late at night with the lights off, with a ouija board out there, going: ‘Milton, Milton, are you there, Milton? Tell us what to do, Milton.’

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Government members—He said Milton, not Wilson!

The SPEAKER —Those on my right will come to order!

Mr Tuckey —On a point of relevance: I listened carefully to the question to the minister for deregulation from the member for Calwell, but I heard nothing in it requesting a vaudeville show. Could the minister return to some facts and figures?

The SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation has the call.

Mr TANNER —I was mentioning Milton Friedman to make the point that in fact what the member for North Sydney said yesterday was not literally accurate, not precisely correct, because there are indeed a few select economists that he and the opposition do listen to—a few people like Arthur Laffer, John Taylor and Milton Friedman. And they just happen to be the people who believe that tax cuts for wealthy people and knocking over the rights of working people in the workplace are the solution to every economic problem. It does not matter what the issue, it does not matter what the debate, the answer is always: tax cuts for the rich and knocking over the rights of working people in the workplace.

It is not surprising, therefore, to hear the views of the member for North Sydney on Sunrise this morning, where he stated:

Broadly based tax cuts will provide long-term incentives for people to continue to work.

I wonder which people that would be. For the ordinary working people I know, their incentives to continue to work are to eat, to pay the rent and the mortgage. They do not need big tax cuts for the wealthy in order to have an incentive to work; they have to work.

It is hardly surprising that the Leader of the Opposition and his troops cannot make up their minds about whether Australia is going to have a recession or not. The Leader of the Opposition says that a recession is avoidable, that it may not happen. And yet we have had within the space of a couple of days the member for Sturt, the member for Curtin, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the member for Warringah all saying that it is a red-hot certainty that Australia is going into recession. It may well be just a coincidence, but I think all three of them are Costello supporters; I think they may all be supporters of the member for Higgins. The government in turn is interested in expert advice—

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. If the minister for finance is not going to be relevant, if he is not going to have anything meaningful to say, then I would ask you to sit him down.

The SPEAKER —The minister will address the question, and can I suggest that he brings his answer to a conclusion.

Mr TANNER —I will indeed, Mr Speaker. The government is acting in accordance with advice from Treasury, from the International Monetary Fund and the vast bulk of opinion both in Australia and around the world from expert economists, from industry organisations and all people with expertise in these areas. We are interested in taking action to protect and to sustain jobs and economic growth in this country, not to fight the obscure ideological and class-based battle for the rich which is the preserve of the opposition. We are facing in this country a global economic crisis that has largely been caused by investment bankers. The investment banker running the Liberal Party is so arrogant that he thinks he can run Australia from opposition in the middle of that crisis.