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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 195


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) (3:42 PM) —Congratulations, Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, on your new role. We have just heard from an opposition leader whose only vision is division. He is someone who lacks a positive agenda for Australia. He is someone who does not have any plans for the future. He is someone who is driven entirely by short-term political gain for the Liberal Party. He is someone who would rather see the country fail than see the government succeed. He does not have the national interest at heart at all. He is on about short-term political interests, not the long term national interest. He has the balance all wrong.

I believe that approach will be comprehensively rejected by the Austrian people, who a few months ago elected this government and expected us to come together and find common ground to pursue the national interest, not the selfish political interests of the Liberal and National parties. How absurd it is to be lectured by the Leader of the Opposition—a bloke whose word is not worth the paper that it is written on. Only a couple of weeks ago he signed the document committing himself to parliamentary reform and then repudiated it and went the other way. He is a spoiler, a wrecker. He is somebody who entered into an agreement with the Independents and minor parties, and when the decision did not go his way he went out and ripped it up. Well, his reputation is dead, buried and cremated by that one act because what the Australian people do expect from a Leader of the Opposition is that he is a man of his word. What he proved following that agreement between the major parties and the Independents is that he cannot keep his word. That is what he has proven.

The Leader of the Opposition is not up to the task of meeting the great challenges which face this country: dealing with the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the global recession and dealing with the great economic, social and environmental challenge of climate change. He is not up to dealing with the investment in infrastructure, such as in superfast broadband, that is required to meet the challenges of mining boom mark 2; not up to putting forward a positive plan to deal with the challenges of the mining boom and what it means for all of our communities but particularly our communities in rural and regional Australia.

It is the duty of this parliament to the people, to the country and of course to the national interest to address all of these issues and to address them in a way in which the people expect us to given the election result that has been achieved. Neither major party has a majority. We are even-steven in terms of the major parties. The Australian people want us to find common ground. But we know what the Leader of the Opposition wants; he wants nothing more than another election. That is why I say his vision is division, because he is determined to tear everything down.

We on this side of the House want to build up our economy, to build up our society, and we have a positive plan to do that, but all we are seeing is a self-interested political response from those opposite. They are attempting to do everything they possibly can to send Australia back to the polls. Those are precisely the tactics that I believe the Australian people do not want, and the Leader of the Opposition is pursuing this goal at his own grave political risk. The Australian people expect us all to do the right thing. They are sick and tired of the type of politics that is being played by the Leader of the Opposition. They want us to go back to work and to get the job done—to strengthen and broaden our economy; to do good things for our society; to strengthen our prosperity for our children and our grandchildren. They want these national issues addressed by all parties in this House. But if you were to ask those opposite what their positive plan is for Australia to secure these objectives they would say they simply do not have one. They know how to oppose; they know how to wreck.

We heard in question time today the defence from the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the Opposition as to why they tore up the agreement on parliamentary reform. They tried to create a fig leaf and they based it on a legal opinion from Lord Brandis of Brisbane. He commissioned his own opinion, he delivered it to himself and he expects this parliament to treat it in a credible way. Well, I am afraid the opinion of Lord Brandis of Brisbane is worthless, and indeed it was rejected by the Solicitor-General, who provided comprehensive legal advice. So there is no fig leaf for those opposite to hide behind when they claim they had no choice but to rip up this agreement that the Australian people expect all of us in this House to honour. They expect us to cooperate. They expect us to work together. They expect us to make the most of what they have delivered to us through the vote. But this Leader of the Opposition will stop at nothing to pull policies down, to pull the people down and to pull this parliament down.

Why should we be surprised by this excessively negative attitude? We really should not be too surprised because it has been a feature of his life’s work in politics and, sadly, increasingly a feature of the Liberal and National parties in this House. When this country was threatened by a global financial crisis and a global recession, what did they do? They opposed the measures that we took. They did that for political advantage. In fact, they rejected the second stimulus package in the Senate. Finally, we got it through because those in the minor parties in the Senate and the Independents put the national interest ahead of a political interest. Just imagine where Australia would be today if the opposition had succeeded in that sterile opposition to stimulus package No. 2. Would we have the national accounts figures that we received for June, as the strongest-growing advanced economy in the developed world? No. We would have seen unemployment going through the roof and business closures going through the roof. We would have seen higher deficits and higher debt as a consequence of their negative approach and their unwillingness to come together in this parliament to put in place policies in the national interest.

They opposed the bank guarantees. I remember this time two years ago, just after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when the whole financial system across the globe was melting down and the opposition were in this House scoring cheap political points, trying to panic the Australian people. And when we put in place the bank guarantee, arguably one of the most important things done by a government in this country in our entire history, they opposed it. They came into this House and sniped at it and they scored cheap political points again and again. So there is a history of this negativism here.

Of course, during the election campaign what did they oppose? They opposed our very logical proposal for a very significant tax cut to small business, they opposed the investments in schools, they opposed trade training centres—they opposed all of these measures which were quite logical. Then we get to the ultimate in stupid, ignorant opposition. They oppose our minerals resource rent tax. They oppose a funding source, agreed to by the mining industry, that we can use as a nation to make all of our companies more competitive, that we can invest in our great mining regions. They oppose that. They think the mining companies are paying too much tax. Can you believe that? They came into this House and mounted the argument that mining companies were paying too much tax. And of course we have seen the investment figures continue. Investment in mining is still increasing dramatically, the profitability of the industry is increasing dramatically, the long-term plans for investment are increasing dramatically, the nation is crying out for a positive response to mining boom mark 2, but that is just opposed by the modern Liberal and National parties, who do not have any positive policies to deal with the challenges of the future.

Let us go to the ultimate absurdity, which is their opposition to the NBN, to superfast broadband. Our regions understand how important superfast broadband is. They understand how the Liberal and National parties over 12 years did nothing in this critical enabling technology that can join our regions to our cities and join our cities and our regions to the world in the Asian century. What could be more important to a small business in regional Australia than superfast broadband? But none of them understand that. They are entirely negative yet again.

You can go through the litany of things they oppose to see what they stand for. What do they support? During the campaign they supported an increase in the company tax rate of 1.5 per cent, making all of those small businesses more uncompetitive, and they opposed our tax cut for small business, the $5,000 instant asset write-off, which will be of enormous benefit to the millions of small businesses around this country, not all of which are doing well. Even in the booming mining states there are small businesses that are not doing it well and need a helping hand. Do the Liberal and National parties understand any of this? They understand none of it. That is why I say yet again that the only vision the Leader of the Opposition has is division. It is his natural approach, it is his natural style. He thinks he is crumbling another team on the football field. We cannot afford in this environment, given the result delivered to us by the Australian people, to have two teams at each other’s throats. They want us to work together in this parliament. That is the message from the people, but it is one that the Leader of the Opposition simply does not understand. He is not a builder; he is a wrecker—and that is what he has demonstrated in this House time and time again.

We on this side of the House understand this one important fact: that securing a prosperous economy and delivering opportunity to all of our people is our central role in this parliament. It is not just a question of economics; it is a very important question of how we relate to each other as a society. During the global financial crisis we all worked together. One of the reasons we came through so well was that we worked together—employers and employees. We came together. We did it well. Now we have to take that and, having come through so well, we have to use it. We have to work together, given the opportunities we have because we did not go into recession, to strengthen our economy so we can maximise all of the opportunities, social and economic, which will flow from the Asian century. There are fantastic possibilities for our country in the years ahead if we get the economic framework for the future right. That is what we are doing. That is the program we put to the people at the last election

I can think of no greater pleasure than spending my time in here talking to all the Independents and the minor parties about our plans for the future. They will deliver what the Australian people expect. They know we need superfast broadband. They know we need investment in critical infrastructure to expand the capacity of our economy and to ease inflationary pressures. They know we have to lift productivity. They know all of those things and we have a program to do those things.

It would be a different thing if those on the other side had a program at all but they do not have anything. Can anyone name three or four policies they stand for? They just stand for themselves. They do not stand for the common good, they do not stand for the national interest; they stand for their own selfish interests. Until they learn to behave better, we will continue in this parliament to work with those of goodwill to put forward a program which will grow our economy and make our society a better place. We need less anger and more thoughtful reflection from the opposition; we need fewer slogans and more policies. All we have at the moment is a series of slogans and a lot of anger. It is not going to make our country a better place.

What will make our country a better place is a decent program which has at its core making our economy more competitive and cooperative, so that we can grow it and make a better society. We must put in place the policies we need in health and education, to fund them and build infrastructure, so that we do not get the sorts of inflationary pressures which can flow from the mining boom we are currently experiencing. That task lies before all of us.

For us on this side of the House, our central purpose is to protect the national interest. Those on that side of the House ought to think very seriously about their divisive approach. I know this: the Australian people will judge them very harshly. Their tactic of trying to create an election again, to go back to the people, to ignore the will of the people, is going to blow right up in their faces. If they keep going the way they have gone in the last 48 hours they are going to face very harsh judgments. (Time expired)