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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 1050

Senator MARSHALL (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate and the importance of long-term sustainable economic reform and how the government proposes to boost productivity and participation? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches that would hinder this reform agenda?

Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I thank Senator Marshall for his question. We on this side of the chamber do understand the importance of long-term economic reform and the importance of boosting productivity and participation. This is a party of economic reform. Labor oversaw the modernisation of the Australian economy. We floated the dollar, brought down tariffs and introduced a modern superannuation system—the last of which was opposed vehemently by the Liberal Party—and we have a plan to boost productivity and participation through our investments in human capital. We are strengthening our financial system, reforming our education system and reforming our telecommunications sector and we are committed to progressing further reforms today to meet the challenges of tomorrow—such as tax reform, a carbon price and doing more on superannuation.

Let us contrast this with those opposite. We have an opposition that does not know what its plan for the economy is, an opposition that does not know what its reform agenda is and it is an opposition that does not even know if it wants Mr Hockey to remain as shadow Treasurer. What the opposition do know, as we have already seen today in question time, is how to quote from the Australian. I wonder if they would be interested in commenting on a paragraph by Matthew Franklin in the Australian. He said:

Mr Hockey is in deep strife with his colleagues, who blame him for inviting Gillard’s attacks with loose comments about the need for government to use levers to prevent banks from increasing interest rates beyond increases made to the official rate by the Reserve Bank.

That was from the opposition’s journal of choice, their preferred reading before question time. It points out not only the many positions they have adopted but also their own internal strife. This is an opposition that is completely divided and unable to put forward anything positive. (Time expired)

Senator MARSHALL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate the importance of sensible policies to build the capacity of the Australian economy and does the minister believe there are challenges ahead in relation to capacity-building?

Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —There are substantial challenges in relation to capacity building. We understand that. That is why we put in place a range of policies prior to the election and have made further commitments which are about increasing the capacity of the Australian economy. But one of the most significant challenges is the fact that those opposite are intent on saying no and tearing down and wrecking any sensible economic reform. During the election campaign, amongst the things that Mr Abbott proposed to cut were the trades training centres, Computers in Schools and the National Broadband Network. It is quite clear that those opposite wish to tear up any of the investments which go to the long-term challenges that the nation faces, because they are unable to put forward a sensible agenda to boost productivity, boost participation and increase the capacity of the Australian economy in the years ahead to meet the challenges that we know exist.

Senator MARSHALL —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate the government’s views on recent commentary on economic policymaking, including any alternative approaches to economic reform?

Senator WONG (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —We certainly have had a range of alternative approaches, and I have traversed some of them in previous question times this week—various thought bubbles from Mr Hockey and from Mr Robb. This contrasts with the long-term plan that this government has to reform the Australian economy, improve participation and boost productivity, as well as our commitment to strict fiscal rules. The reality is that the opposition we see today are so focused on internal divisions that they are unable to develop any credible economic policy and they are threatening to cut the very investments that would boost the capacity of the Australian economy. It is quite extraordinary. We have Mr Hockey apparently indicating to the papers that he thinks it is either Mr Turnbull, Mr Robb or Mr Macfarlane behind the leak. This is what they are focused on. Not only would they rather see the government fail than the nation succeed, but now their priority is to see each other fail (Time expired)