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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8169


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:29): The debate today is about the adverse effect on the nation of the Australian people's lack of confidence in the government. Before we turn to the Australian people's lack of confidence in the government, for starters let us have a look at what Labor insiders are saying about this government. On radio 2GB this morning, Alan Jones interviewed two guests: two Labor insiders. During the course of the interview he raised a whole raft of issues that the government was currently bungling: the carbon pricing scheme, the East Timor solution, and the Malaysian asylum seeker issue. He said:

I mean, the issues are everywhere. How is the backbench reacting to all of that?

He put the question to one Graham Richardson: a former Hawke minister; godfather of the New South Wales Right of the Labor Party; the most recognisable faceless man of the Labor Party, reportedly involved in the political assassination of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the installation of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. This is what he had to say, and he has obviously been talking to a lot of Labor backbenchers. He said:

Well, a lot of them just simply delude themselves into believing that next May when the money starts going into people’s pockets a couple of months in advance of the tax that suddenly there’ll be this massive change of heart and they’ll be saved, they’ll be delivered. I wouldn’t have thought that’s going to happen myself. So I think that’s just delusional, but that’s what a lot of them are doing. Some of the others are ... already looking at what they’re going to be doing next because they know they won’t be in parliament. And some of the others—

and this is Graham Richardson—

are just sitting there scratching their heads and saying ‘what will we do?’ I think there’s a great number in there saying ‘how did we get into this strife and how do we get out of it’ and they haven’t got answers.

This is what a former Hawke minister is saying of Labor members of parliament. If that is what Labor members of parliament are saying about their own government, if that is what they believe are the problems of this government, why on earth would the Australian people have any confidence at all in this government?

The Australian people have no confidence in the Labor Party leadership, and why should they? Again, Alan Jones to Graham Richardson:

Is she up to it?

He asked Graham Richardson, former Labor minister, whether she—meaning the Prime Minister—was up to it. Richardson said:

No. I don’t think anyone really believes it at the moment. She’d have to have a magnificent year to come; this was to be the year of delivery. Well so far the delivery has been pretty poor.

And then, finally, the radio show host put two questions:

... (a) will she lead the Labor Party into the next election and (b) what will happen to the Labor Party at the next election?

Alan Jones's other guest, John Black, a former Labor senator from Queensland, said in answer to the question (a):

Well, I don’t believe that she will and there’s a slim chance for the Labor Party if they changed to the right leader and acted quickly.

Then the last word of course was to Graham Richardson who said:

She’ll lead Labor, it’s far more likely, and I believe Labor will be slaughtered.

That is the view of the insiders of the Labor Party—that they will be slaughtered at the next election. As Mark Latham, the former Labor leader, said of this Prime Minister:

She's the next one for the knife.

So why would the Australian people have any confidence in the leadership of this party? Why would they have any confidence in this government when their own people, people on their own side, believe that it is an incompetent, hopeless government?

Let us turn to the Australian people. Business and consumer confidence is fragile in this country. People do not believe the government spin. They do not believe that this government has any fiscal management skills at all and they certainly do not believe it has the ability to get Australia through the coming months and years, particularly because of the global turmoil. This comes from the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment:

Consumer sentiment fell by 3½% in August, coming after a fall of 8.3% in July.

And as the chief economist of Westpac said:

... this latest fall is sending a significant message ... the index is at its lowest level since May 2009.

He indicated that the index was falling even before the current turmoil in the markets in the US and in European zone. He said:

... this financial turmoil has added another dimension of risk to consumers over and above those issues associated with interest rates, house prices, carbon tax and, potentially, jobs.

The Australian people are concerned because they know that Australia is not in the same shape that it was when we entered into the global financial crisis in 2008. They know that the Rudd government had inherited the best fiscal position of virtually any comparable economy. There was zero government debt—no government debt—and a surplus over $22 billion. There were tens of billions of dollars of savings in a Future Fund, a Higher Education Endowment Fund, and a Health and Medical Research Fund. This government inherited enormous capacity to respond to that global financial downturn.

In the aftermath of the downturn they announced a $10.4 billion stimulus, and we supported that. They were able to do that because they had inherited a $20 billion surplus. But when the government then announced in 2009 a $42 billion stimulus, we knew that that was too large, poorly targeted, and was going into too deep a descent into debt, and we offered an alternative and affordable package. But, no, Labor went ahead and now the stories of the waste and the mismanagement from that $42 billion stimulus package are legendary—the pink batts, the $900 cheque giveaways, the overpriced school halls.

Since 2008 the Treasurer has delivered successive budget deficits. They have been so large that on occasions he has been too embarrassed to even say the amount of those deficits. The cumulative deficits under this Treasurer, under this government, come to $150 billion. In order to fund those deficits they are borrowing and going into debt, and the debt is now $107 billion and increasing. It has gone from zero when they came into government to $107 billion, and it is going up. How do we know it is going up? Because we have a debt ceiling in this country. There is a limit to the amount that the federal government can borrow. It was $75 billion, but in the last budget they came in in the dead of the night and put legislation in this House to raise the debt ceiling to $250 billion. That is where their debt is heading.

The incompetence is not just confined to the waste and mismanagement; it is also in relation to their promises. The Gillard government promised that the budget would be back in surplus in 2012-13. They have promised it—they guaranteed it—but now they have downgraded that promise. Now it is going to be: wouldn't it be nice to be able to get the budget into surplus in 2012-13? The fact is that this Labor government will never deliver a surplus; therefore, we will not have a buffer for the next global financial downturn and it will put pressure on interest rates.

The incompetence is not confined to matters purely fiscal. Australians are well aware of the waste and mismanagement, the debt, the deficit, the reckless spending and the borrowing. Add to that incompetence the border protection debacle, the East Timor solution that never was and the Malaysian swap deal. The Prime Minister claimed the Malaysian swap deal to be one of her achievements the other day. Not one asylum seeker has been sent to Malaysia under it, it is mired in the High Court because of a legal challenge and the boats keep arriving, yet the Prime Minister says that that is an achievement.

There is the spending, borrowing and taxing. There was a flood tax because they could not even find $1.8 billion in reserves to rebuild Queensland after the floods. The mining tax will put a burden on the most productive sector of our economy. Then there is the carbon tax, which no other country on earth is introducing. When the President of the World Bank says that we are entering a new and dangerous phase and when he says this turmoil could be with us for some years to come, this is the worst time for a government to be introducing a job-destroying carbon tax.

The Prime Minister said before the last election, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' She has broken faith with the Australian people. She should do the honest thing and take this matter back to the Australian people in an election because this government has no mandate to introduce the tax. The Australian people have no confidence in this government to manage this economy through a global downturn. This government must go.