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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2035


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:11): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy. I remind the minister of his statement yesterday that the Treasurer 'should take a good, hard look at himself'. Was he referring to the Treasurer's handling of the mining tax, which has had three different versions and five different costings, or is he referring—to use the minister's own words—to the 'character assassination' of the member for Griffith?

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The House will remain—or become—silent so that I can listen to the Leader of the House on his point of order.

Mr Albanese: I submit to you, Mr Speaker, that the second half of that question is clearly out of order as it does not go to the minister's responsibilities.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, on the point of order: it is a longstanding precedent in this place that ministers can have their words put to them and simply be asked whether they stand by them. The Minister for Resources and Energy has made those statements and he has a responsibility to either stand by them or repudiate them in this place.

The SPEAKER: My principal dilemma is whether I rule the whole question out of order on the basis that half of it pollutes the whole or whether in fact I direct the minister to answer the first part of the question. I invite the minister to answer the first part of the question, and he will disregard the second part.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:13): I thank the honourable member for the question, which really raised the importance of the mining tax. Our endeavour to put in place a profits based system in Australia is exceptionally important to the future of Australia. It is about time the coalition understood that we are very fortunate as a nation. There is a huge pipeline of investment in Australia to the tune of $455 billion in either planned or committed capital investment.

It is also time they understood that our economy is going through a major transition at the moment. Whilst a significant part of our economy is getting major benefits in the process of this investment, there are other parts of our economy that are challenged by the impact of the dollar and, I might say, disappointing commodity prices, such as the aluminium industry. That is the case internationally at this point in time. I also say to the opposition that only Labor have the capacity to manage this transition, just as we, during the period of 1983 to 1996, were the only party capable of opening up Australia to the process of globalisation.

Mr Hockey: Mr Speaker, on a point of order, the question was about whether, when he said that the Treasurer should take a good, hard look at himself, he was referring to the bungling of the mining tax or the other issue.

The SPEAKER: The second part of the honourable member's question was ruled out of order. The minister will assist the House if he is as precise in his answer as he can manage. I call the honourable minister.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON: When it goes to a question of having a good, hard look at yourself, it is time the coalition had a good, hard look at its scare campaign in terms of the transition that is going on in the Australian economy at the moment. I am talking about its endeavours to use workers and their families—

The SPEAKER: The minister will be directly relevant.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON: with respect to the transition that is occurring with Qantas, Alcoa and BHP.

Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to address this matter. The government is hard at work in trying to assist the Australian economy to manage a major investment pipeline whilst looking after those sections of the economy that are challenged by the transition. I say to those opposite: front up to policy and real policy debates rather than having your heads in the sand.