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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 171

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:52): There is so much to choose from when speaking on this MPI. We could talk about immigration and how this government is not what it promised to be—how they promised to turn back the boats, and buy the boats. We saw the spectacle today of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection saying that that was an operational issue, and treating this parliament with contempt. That is not how we recall him behaving when he stood at this dispatch box on this side of the House—it was a very different attitude from the member for Cook in those days. But we cannot go past the other spectacle and the other prime example of this government's breach of promise to the Australian people, and that is the management of debt and deficit—the prime example—

Government members interjecting

Mr BOWEN: of this government's hypocrisy. On 22 October the Treasurer, with equal parts chutzpah and hypocrisy, stood in the blue room and said: 'By the way'—casually, he said—'we are going to increase the debt limit to half a trillion dollars.' Around Australia, voters, even conservatives, scratched their heads and said: 'Is this the same Joe Hockey? Is this the same Joe Hockey who told us—not that debt was a challenge, not that debt was a problem, not even that debt was a crisis—that we had a budget emergency?' Well, some emergency—especially if the way to fix it is to increase the debt limit to half a trillion dollars! When this government said, 'We will pay back the debt,' did the Australian people think that that meant increasing the debt limit to half a trillion dollars? The Prime Minister stood in the chamber today and said: 'We never voted against an increase in the debt limit when we were in opposition—we might have voted against stimulus measures.' That is just plain wrong. It is misleading this parliament and misleading the Australian people. He and all his colleagues voted against increases in the debt limit. Now they are proposing the biggest one in history: a 67 per cent—$200 billion—increase in the debt limit of this country. Why? Because debt is going to increase. 'Debt going to surge, Abbott admits'—is that what the he told the Australian people before the election, Mr Deputy Speaker? Is this a headline we would have seen before September 7? Is this a headline you would have put in your election pamphlets—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for McMahon will not use props. He knows it is disorderly.

Mr BOWEN: I think I have made my point, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't force me to make another point!

Mr BOWEN: There is no budget emergency to be seen after the election. And it is not just that: last year on 11 May, we heard the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, talking about debt limits. He went on radio 2GB—just for a change, to face a hard-hitting interview—and he said about the previous government's debt limit: 'The government has to justify this. Our money, our future is too important to be mortgaged like this without the government giving us the strongest possible arguments for it, because every dollar they borrow has to be repaid. Give us the strongest possible arguments for it.' Now, in office, they casually release an increase in the debt limit to half a trillion dollars, with no argument—and with no mid-year economic forecast—to justify this. And again, we saw the Prime Minister standing at that dispatch box today saying, 'We will release MYEFO in December, just like the previous government did.' That is the second misleading of the parliament in his first question time—one question time, two misleads of the parliament from the Prime Minister—because not once during the Rudd or Gillard governments was the mid-year economic forecast released in December—not once. A clear mistruth from the Prime Minister of Australia, standing at that dispatch box in question time. This is not something he told the Australian people before the election: that his government would seek an increase in the debt cap without releasing MYEFO—that is, a mini-budget. This is not something he said before the election; it is something he misleads the House about after the election, in the first question time. That is two misleads by the Prime Minister of Australia—two misleads of this parliament. That is treating the parliament with contempt. At least the member for Cook did not mislead the parliament; he just did not tell us anything! But the Prime Minister has misled this parliament twice on matters of economics.

We had the Treasurer standing at this dispatch box on 21 May 2012—you can just imagine him; he would have been in full flight, all bluff and bluster—and saying:

Now they are saying they are living within their means but are also saying, 'Just in case, please give us an increase in the credit card limit to $300 billion.' It does not sound like a lot if you say it quickly but it is a hell of a lot of money that Australians have to repay.

Three hundred billion dollars was a lot before the election; $500 billion is a mere trifle after the election—a mere bagatelle that this parliament should apparently approve without debate, in 24 hours, because the Treasurer says so in his arrogant way.

This parliament will approve a debt limit but not the one this Treasurer arrogantly calls for. (Time expired)