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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2749


Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:25): If it was not so serious it would be amusing being invited to be on the Liberal team. We are in the Labor team. Today in question time it was as if Mr Hockey is not the Treasurer anymore. We barely heard his name mentioned. And today on Sky News it seemed that Senator Birmingham well and truly outlined the Abbott government's economic credentials when he said that Joe Hockey will deliver a budget that 'continues to show a steady trajectory back towards deficit'. Anyone can work out what Senator Birmingham meant when he said that—

Senator Conroy: Back towards deficit?

Senator LINES: Yes, that is what he said—back towards deficit. Finally, we have a frontbencher acknowledging the chaos and dysfunction of the Abbott government. They cannot even get their message right. Then Mr Barnaby said of Mr Hockey—

Senator Conroy: Mr Barnaby Joyce?

Senator LINES: Yes—Mr Barnaby Joyce. He said: 'I don't want him cartwheeling around in front of the media. I want him behind his desk.'

Here we have Mr Hockey being accused of doing cartwheels. Mr Hockey has been described in the media as the 'phantom' Treasurer. Mr Hockey has been described as being the hole in the heart of the Abbott government. What about that awkward photo last week? That awkward photo of our Prime Minister and our Treasurer—thank goodness I am not in that team—with that awkward hand on the arm. What was that about? It certainly looked to me as if the Treasurer was definitely not part of the story. And where have the key budget announcements come from?

Senator Conroy: Not from Joe!

Senator LINES: They certainly have not come from Mr Hockey. They have come largely from Mr Morrison, so perhaps Mr Morrison is the Treasurer who will take up that formal role once the budget is out. So we have had Mr Morrison and the Prime Minister making all of the announcements. We certainly have not seen very much of Mr Hockey at all, except Mr Hockey is quoted in the media as saying, 'The electorate realised that good policy needs to be implemented.' They sure have. We know that voters in Australia have completely lost faith that the Abbott government is ever going to deliver good policy. The Australian voters sure know that, and they know that good policy has not been delivered since this government was elected. They know the Abbott government is absolutely incapable of delivering good policy.

Here we are, I think for the first time in our history, still debating last year's budget on the eve of the next budget, the second budget of the Abbott government. Here we are still with an unsettled budget from last year, and what we have seen from the government is backflips on budgets. We were going to have this GP tax, but after we attacked this government day in day out in this parliament suddenly we saw the backflip on that—although I do not think we have seen the last of that; I think there will be a GP tax at some point.

We have seen the government having to be bludgeoned into backflipping on some of its more harsh budget measures. For example, where is the budget measure not to have young people under 30 eligible for payment for six months? Presumably, that is still in a drawer somewhere. Will that try to come out, sneakily? And there is this whole absolute dishonesty around cuts to pensions. If you change the way that pensions are calculated in a way that reduces the pensioners' entitlement then that is a cut. If you are used to getting $200 into your bank account and suddenly you start to get $180, that is a cut. And yet, day after day, we see the Abbott government trying to put a spin on it, trying to say to Australian pensioners, 'No, we are not cutting your pension.' They know better.

And what about the dishonesty about superannuation in this country, where the employer contribution has been frozen? That is a cut too from a government who try to pretend they are responsible. They are not. All we have seen from the Abbott government is that they cannot manage anything. They cannot manage their frontbench, they cannot manage their Prime Minister and they cannot manage their Treasurer. Hiding them away means that they are still there. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.