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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 66

Senator CAMERON (4:58 PM) —This matter of public importance debate is absolutely unbelievable. It demonstrates that the coalition are living in a time warp. I think the movie that influenced Senator Ryan was none other than Wall Street, with Gordon Gekko. At a time of economic of global economic crisis, the Liberal Party come in here with a time-warped defence of economic liberalism. At a time when governments around the world are actively intervening in the operation of the market in the interests of economic stability and the wellbeing of their country, Senator Abetz wants to engage in an ideological defence of the failed theories of neoliberalism.

Senator Abetz and the Liberal Party are stricken by an ideological blindness that means they cannot accept that the theories that have underpinned the Howard government’s approach have failed. Senator Abetz must now accept that the grab bag of ideas that made up neoliberalism have led to the global economic meltdown and huge inequalities; they have led to poverty and to inefficiencies in our economy. Senator Abetz knows that the foundations of economic fundamentalism—the dogma that markets are self-correcting, that markets allocate resources efficiently and that markets serve the public interest to the exclusion of all else—has been exposed as no more than a theory that has been discredited by the historic developments of recent times.

I know it is hard for the Liberal Party to accept that Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and John Howard were wrong to place the future of society in the hands of the market. We believe there must be a role for government. Multi millions of dollars have been spent by the neoliberals on think tanks, media blitzes and public relations exercises to convince the public that neoliberalism is the only way forward and that it is some natural condition for humankind. How wrong can you be when you see the very fundamentals of the international economy under unprecedented pressure? After three decades of neoliberalism, John Maynard Keynes is back in town—and he is back in town in every country in the world, including the United States. It is not surprising that the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said that ‘learning the lesson that neoliberalism is not supported by economic theory and not supported by historical experience may well be the silver lining in the cloud now hanging over the global economy’. This is the lesson that the Liberals have to learn.

It is clear that Senator Abetz and the Liberal Party have not learned the lessons that unfettered neoliberalism will destroy the economy. Malcolm Turnbull continues to dogmatically defend the market in the face of global evidence of the danger of allowing the market to operate in an unfettered and uncontrolled manner. Letting the market rip is a discredited, dangerous and unacceptable way forward. We will never adopt the approach that says there is no alternative. And we will never accept the neoliberal approach espoused by Thatcher:

It is our job to glory in inequality and see that talents and abilities are given vent and expression for the benefit of us all.

We will never ‘glory in inequality’. That is the reason the Australian public tossed you lot out on your ears. That is the reason that Work Choices became the epitome of inequality in this country. And that is the reason why you are here, belatedly and hopelessly, trying to defend neoliberalism. We will never glory in inequality, as you on the other side have done. We will make sure the markets operate in the interests of the Australian community. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Hurley)—Order! The time for consideration of the matter of public importance has concluded.