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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4294

Mr ANTHONY SMITH (4:43 PM) —It is my pleasure to support this matter of public importance by the Leader of the Nationals. I tried to listen to every word that the previous speaker uttered. There was a touch of verbal anaesthetic there, I have got to say. It was like listening to a lawnmower going over wet grass. With all his bluff and bluster and all his histrionics that those opposite have to put up with on a daily basis, you did a good job, members of the Labor Party backbench, of smiling painfully on cue. But once again he still could not bring himself to mention the $58 billion deficit in the budget.

Here two weeks ago today it was budget day. The Labor Party caucus were preparing to be briefed on the budget. When you look at the language we have had from those opposite, the conduct of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and you measure the extent to which they have gone out of their way not to level with the Australian people, this last three weeks has really begun to show the true side of the Labor Party. Before the budget we had the astonishing use of language, with ‘six years of temporary deficits’—‘temporary’! In budget week the Treasurer and the Prime Minister did not blush when they talked about ‘temporary’ and ‘six years’ in the same sentence. Imagine getting a temporary car when you get your car serviced and having it for six years. Imagine a road being temporarily closed for six years—although my colleague the member for Cook points out that this does happen in New South Wales. I thought to myself: where would the Labor Party have got this language, because they are so programmed? Did someone just think of it or did they delve back into their history? What has come to my attention is that the Labor Party, fond of their history as they are, indeed delved back into their history. Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, were not the inventors of the term ‘temporary’. Actually the inventors of it were Gough Whitlam and Rex Connor during the loans affair, where they said in an executive minute—that famous minute that summed up so much the economic incompetence of the Labor Party, that saw them thrown from office in 1975—that the borrowings would be for ‘temporary purposes’. Now we are starting to get a true picture of the Labor Party.

Then we had the extraordinary revelation of the Treasurer not being able to utter the budget deficit figure during his speech. A budget is four documents and a speech, and all these documents come down to the outcome. They all add up to one figure—the deficit or the surplus—and he could not mention it on budget night. When the Labor Party were briefed on the budget just before the budget speech it is now quite clear that they were not briefed on the figure either. There has been a lot of criticism of the member for Petrie, but she cannot say what she has not heard or what she does not know because the Treasurer did not tell his own people and deliberately omitted the budget deficit figure from the speech. As he did so, it just demonstrated the extent to which this government will go to conceal the truth from the Australian people—and those opposite know it. They know it. They know it is wrong. We have seen that time and time again.

Instead of caucus members being issued with facts and figures on the budget, what we have seen in the week after the budget is that they were all issued with hard hats and fluorescent vests! That is what we have seen all over the country. The extent to which this government will go to bring on a stunt and avoid the substance is breathtaking. This is not a government; it is a stunt factory. That is all we see from those opposite. For 100 years the budget papers were as you would expect: plain old, boring, black-and-white budget papers. Then, when this government got elected, you can see one of their biggest decisions—they probably spent the day on it—was: ‘Let’s make them blue.’ You can imagine, can’t you, the Labor strategist saying, ‘What’s the really important thing to do?’

Mr Morrison —They should be red.

Mr ANTHONY SMITH —That is exactly right—they should be red. That is what we have seen from those opposite. We have seen the Prime Minister join the Treasurer and refuse to mention the level of debt. The previous speaker uttered the words ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’ but he would not say how big the deficit was. The Prime Minister spent an excruciating week going out of his way to conceal the most basic figures from the Australian people. No matter how hard it is to conceal it, the Prime Minister was determined to. We had the infamous interview on Lateline, where he was asked over and over again and refused to let the words pass his lips. It made the John Clarke interview look like a serious interview. That’s how pathetic it was. When asked the debt figures both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer took the fifth—and so they should, because those figures do incriminate them.

Those opposite know that. They did everything they possibly could all week to avoid levelling with the Australian people. The Australian people are beginning to wake up to it. They are beginning to wake up to the fact that Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan, our Prime Minister and our Treasurer, are not up to the job of economic managers. They might be up to the job of media pictures. I think it was probably a lineball call from the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s office on whether they should actually wear their hard hats here into the chamber!

Mr Morrison —And the vests.

Mr ANTHONY SMITH —And the vests. Whenever you see fluorescent vests and hard hats coming, you know the Labor caucus and a few ministers are on their way. You should have one of those safety signs there—‘Danger! Reckless Spender’—because that is what we get from those opposite. What we have seen from those opposite in the last week tells the whole story. That is why the Prime Minister, grudgingly, after a week of evasion, finally uttered the budget debt figures and the Treasurer finally uttered the deficit figures. But this is their stock in trade. As we have seen with the employees share scheme fiasco, the has been two weeks of chaos—absolute chaos. The first instinct when a mistake has been made is to cover it up, to ignore it and to babble on like demented cockatoos.

The public are beginning to wake up to this. Those opposite get given their lines, they get given their fluorescent vests and they get given their hard hats. If they are prepared to stick to the script, the public will very quickly wake up to them. But those opposite know in their heart of hearts that for a Treasurer not to release the budget deficit figure during his speech is extraordinary. That sums it up very much for this Prime Minister and Treasurer. Of every Labor Prime Minister and Treasurer—and this is a big statement on Labor Party history—this duo is easily the most economically incompetent and irresponsible in our history.