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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 953


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (22:01): A couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister summoned her caucus to gather around with some butcher's paper, pencils at the ready, to develop policy for our nation's future. One can only wonder at the thoughts that must have been passing through the minds of her enthused backbenchers. The party that 'lost its way' has built on the 'year of decision and delivery' and now has the butcher's paper that will lead it through 2012 and beyond.

To keep some perspective, let us take a moment to contrast how others go about the business of strategic planning. In the corporate world the development of investment strategies is partnered with intensive due diligence, as expert decision makers analyse the direction in which the company is going to travel. At the centre are fiscal prudence and responsibility to shareholders, checked by an assortment of banks and accountants who independently scrutinise every last dollar. Smaller companies take risks; big businesses are more conservative, more responsible and more accountable, using their vast resources to perpetuate their success.

It seems the biggest business of all, the one that runs our country and answers to over 22 million shareholders, operates a little bit differently. This group with the butcher's paper has a record of investment which includes flammable pink batts, unwanted school halls and $900 gifts to dead people—and the NBN, such a brilliant idea that it was created on the back of a beer coaster at 30,000 feet! The riches gained and grown over 12 years of good government have all washed away within just a few years of 'hard Labor'.

In contrast, on the other side of the aisle, Tony Abbott and Andrew Robb preside over an all-inclusive structure—

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will refer to members by their electorates or by their positions, not by their names.

Mr ALEXANDER: Excuse me. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for finance preside over an all-inclusive structure of policy development units. This group is delegated the responsibility to privately address the challenges that we now face and to divine the best path for our nation's future, overseen by shadow ministers who direct, scrutinise, encourage and, at times, redirect. If certain ideas gain support, more guidance and assistance is freely given. The Leader of the Opposition is kept apprised. He is the final check. You had better have your homework done by the time your baby arrives for baptism.

As a first-term backbencher, I find one of the most gratifying aspects of involvement in this process is the seriousness with which policy development is treated. In my maiden speech to parliament, I spoke of the need to master-plan our nation's long-term growth. Subsequently I was assigned to chair a sustainable cities policy task force in collaboration with my parliamentary colleague the member for Ryan.

Most Australians were astounded recently to learn that Sydney's real estate prices are second only to those of Hong Kong, whose high costs are understandable: lots of people and not much land. We have boundless plains and a small population. Land is our single biggest asset. This confounding scenario has developed without intervention. In the absence of any national plan of development the symptoms of serious illness are appearing.

There are few things more regrettable than opportunities missed and potential unrealised. This is reminiscent of the biblical story of the master who entrusted money to his servants, of free will. One buried the money and did nothing with it and gave it back to the master on return in full. The other set about industriously using the money, did good work, and increased the master's fortune. The first was chastised for being lazy and doing nothing. The other was praised and rewarded. Apparently there was a third servant, but the text has been lost. He is said to have wasted the money on harebrained ideas and was then knifed by his sister, who did even more wasteful and wicked things whilst all the time lying about her deeds.

Genuine policy development should arise from due diligence, serious analysis involving academic and industry experts and based on the need for long-term planning and financial responsibility. We are entrusted to govern not just for the current electoral cycle but with a view towards 2020, 2050 and 2100. When it comes time for the next periodic judgment, our team will be ready, having without fanfare sought to expand our vision—scrutinised, examined and tested—to find the track to achieve our full potential for this generation and future generations.

As the glow of camera flashes subsides from the Prime Minister's butcher-paper event, the coalition have returned to parliament determined to realise our opportunity and prosecute the case for a stronger future for our nation. We stand proudly together on this side of politics, a team united by a common purpose. (Time expired)