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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 635

Mr HOCKEY (2:50 PM) —My question is to the aspiring—err, the Assistant—Treasurer. I refer the Assistant Treasurer to the Treasurer’s—

Government members interjecting—

Mr HOCKEY —We all aspire to be Treasurer!

Government members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The member for North Sydney has wasted some of his question time, but not all of it is his responsibility. I will take note of that, but he should go directly to his question.

Mr HOCKEY —I refer the Assistant Treasurer to the Treasurer’s statement on 9 February in this House in relation to the flood reconstruction, when he said:

There is no way of funding it without a levy …

On 18 February, from London, the Treasurer said in response to the concessions made to the independents:

We have said that we will make further savings in the Budget and we will do that, and we will outline that on Budget Night.

I ask the Assistant Treasurer: why was it impossible to find further savings in February but it will be possible to find further savings in March? (Time expired)

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The shadow minister’s time had clearly expired.

The SPEAKER —Order! Obviously not directly enough, I gave a hint that I was going to allow more time. Order! I acknowledged that the member for North Sydney had contributed to his loss of time because of remarks that he added early in his question and there was then a reaction by those on my right that ate up a bit more time. Given that he was—at the member for Reid’s pace—trying to conclude his question within the 10 seconds I was going to allow him, that is why I acted in that way. The Assistant Treasurer has the call.

Mr SHORTEN (Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) —I would like to thank the Assistant Treasurer, sorry the minister, sorry the shadow minister for, sorry, the shadow Treasurer—

The SPEAKER —The minister will answer the question.

Mr SHORTEN —Sorry. As the opposition leader knows sometimes you have those momentary blackouts don’t you?

The SPEAKER —The minister will get to the question.

Mr SHORTEN —The question goes towards saying that the Treasurer on 9—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister has the call.

Mr SHORTEN —The shadow Treasurer has asked a question quoting the Treasurer on 9 February talking about the need for a levy. Then alluding to 18 February the shadow Treasurer quoted selectively from the Treasurer again. This government will make sure that it does what it has to do to fund the reconstruction which is necessary due to this flood damage.

This government is the only major party in here with a plan to help Queensland and other areas of Australia which were disastrously affected by the floods. What we propose is that two-thirds of the reconstruction be funded from the reallocation and reprioritisation of existing government programs and from changes to the programs. We are proposing that one-third of the reconstruction bill comes from the levy. That is what we have said we are going to do and that is what we are going to do. However—

Mr Christensen interjecting

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dawson and the member for Sturt!

Mr SHORTEN —the opposition seem to be making some play of the negotiations with the crossbenchers which will see $150 million change from the initial proposition which will then be found by budget time by analysing where further cuts can be made to compensate for the arrangements that have been struck in the negotiations over this flood levy.

But let us be clear. There is an assumption in the question somehow that, if given their druthers, the opposition have a better plan. They do not have a better plan. In their propositions for costings I think the shadow Treasurer made a mistake that the shadow finance minister might not have made in that he double counted some of the money which was promised for their cuts. I can understand the well-reported frustration of the capable shadow finance minister that he is not writing the questions which the shadow treasurer is asking. Let us be clear, there is no contradiction in what the Treasurer has said. We will fund this reconstruction. All I would say to the opposition is that if they will not lead and they will not follow then just get out of the way and let Australia get on with flood recovery.