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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11261

Mr HUSIC (ChifleyGovernment Whip) (16:44): I am prompted to speak this afternoon as a result of the earlier contribution by the Chief Government Whip, reflecting on what has occurred this week and more specifically on what has not occurred. We saw earlier this week an exhaustive amount of time expended by the opposition through the debate on the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. People will recall that the Parliamentary Budget Office was triggered by two things. The first thing was the incredible situation we had where the coalition turned its back on the legacy of former Treasurer Peter Costello in establishing the Charter of Budget Honesty, requiring of parties to demonstrate that the election promises they put forward are costed properly but, more importantly, can be delivered once in government. Instead, we had the experience of the opposition going to some lower tier accounting firm in the back of WA in an effort to try to dress up costings that simply could not tally with what they were dishonestly putting to the Australian people.

The next thing was that Treasury clearly saw, after the election outcome when the costings were put for both parties' policies, that there was a massive shortfall in the opposition's costings—an $11 billion black hole. A commitment was made for a parliamentary budget office as a result of negotiations between the parties to ensure that there was integrity of election costings and that the public could be sure those costings were thorough and robust and that the promises made could be delivered. The Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office inspected that commitment and came up with an idea of how to put the Parliamentary Budget Office forward. The coalition members on that committee agreed on the need to have this office and then, at some point, the shadow Treasurer turned to the shadow finance minister and said, 'Do you know what this means?' It was then the penny dropped that, in any future discussion about what costings are put forward in an election context, the opposition would need to be able to verify what they were promising and to back it up. They did not want to have the sunlight shine on their election promises.

What happened? We had the work of this chamber delayed as we saw filibustering over 12 separate amendments to the Parliamentary Budget Office legislation put forward by the other side in a desperate effort to stop and to stymie the office proceeding, yet it was clear to the Independents in particular that that was simply an unacceptable outcome. Secondly, every single amendment, when it was clear that they were not going to get them up, the opposition still put up for a vote.

Why do I reflect on this? Because, frankly, the government has, as has been demonstrated by the Leader of the House, in a minority government where people were predicting we would be unable to get a legislative agenda through, been able to deliver 190 different pieces of legislation. We have demonstrated that this parliament can work. Not satisfied with their inability to frustrate that agenda, the opposition have now sought to embrace a new tactic, which is to waste the time of the chamber, frustrate the program and stop us from being able to get legislation through. We saw, as the Chief Government Whip said, prevarication, flip-flopping between whether or not we would discuss the clean energy bills. As I said before, we had the issue of the Parliamentary Budget Office and the delay and chewing up of time in relation to that. Now we have a situation where, in the interests of their grubby attempt to fundraise, we are unable to proceed with other votes because they want to get out of the House, again demonstrating that if they cannot run the country they will wreck the parliament and that if we cannot govern in the national interest we have to put their interests first. It is simply a disgraceful arrangement that reflects poorly on them, but it is something we have expected from these guys time and time again.

Mr Morrison: Mr Speaker, I ask the member to withdraw his imputation.

The SPEAKER: To suit the convenience of the House and to assist me, I ask the member to withdraw whichever imputation it was.

Mr HUSIC: I withdraw unreservedly.

The SPEAKER: I thank the member.