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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6378

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (16:01): I rise on this important issue and the references to promises. I remember the cruellest hoax of all, back in August last year. Senator Wong might be interested to know that the member for Wakefield, Mr Champion, wrote a letter to the constituents of Wakefield in which he stated, three-quarters of the way down from the top of the letter, 'I have secured the future of General Motors Holden until 2022.' What a cruel hoax that turned out to be. Talk about shrill. He is either incompetent—which I suspect—or downright dishonest, because that was not within his remit or his power and he clearly could not say it. But he did trick the voters of Wakefield by suggesting that he had saved Holden. He clearly had not. He has still offered no reason why he would say that.

Senator McEwen: Are you going to talk about submarines?

Senator EDWARDS: I am quite happy to talk about all these issues.

Senator Gallacher interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order on my left. You will cease interjections.

Senator EDWARDS: But if you are going to misrepresent the issues, if you do not want to know the truth about some of your colleagues and the representations that have been made, you should know at least what they are writing to their constituents, misrepresenting the facts, because Mr Champion, the member for Wakefield, certainly did not save Holden. Senator Gallacher must surely acknowledge that Holden were not saved, as was promised, by Mr Champion.

We have fulfilled the promises that we went to the election with. We went to the election in 2013, and indeed in 2010, saying that we would repeal the carbon tax, and for that matter the minerals resource rent tax, and we did. We went to the election saying that we would stop the boats, and within 12 months it is down to one boat in that period of time.

Then we said that we would build the roads of the 21st century. You on the other side are in complete denial. You missed the turning of the sod by the Prime Minister last week on the billion dollar south road extension of the Torrens to Torrens.

Senator McEwen: I rise on a point of order on the matter of relevance. The senator is talking about roads. The urgency motion before us is about Australia's future submarine fleet. The last time I looked submarines do not travel on roads, so perhaps you could bring the senator's attention to the topic before the chamber.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The tradition is to debate under broad terms.

Senator EDWARDS: What a nonsense. Senator Wong spoke in here about promises. I am just telling the people in this chamber about the promises we have delivered on. We said we would get rid of the carbon tax. We said we would stop the boats—we are nearly there, 12 months after your six years of indifference to border security led to a tsunami of boats and a tsunami of deaths on the sea.

Now we are talking about the other promise of building roads. We are building them, and we are building them in your home state, Senators McEwen and Gallacher. We are building the roads of the 21st century.

And what else did we promise? We promised to repair the budget, because that is what is done by people who are responsible and understand the driver of an economy—they rebuild a budget, and we always have to. We had to repair the $96 billion in 1996, and we had to repair the blowout that occurred under your reign. All of you over there should hang your heads in shame. And now we have to fix the budget. Part of the budget is health, education and the military. This is where we obviously get to talk about submarines. Submarines are singularly—

Senator McEwen: Boats.

Senator EDWARDS: They are not boats. Can I assure Senator McEwen that submarines are not boats. That might be part of the problem that we have here in this chamber. I guess when the issue was raised, 'We need to spend more money on boats,' they left out submarines, because that is exactly what happened under Labor's reign. They cut more money out of this program, because it was over allocated.

Senator Conroy interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Williams ): Order! Senator Conroy, I will not tolerate interjections. I was very firm on Senator Edwards when Senator Wong was speaking, and I expect the same from your side.

Senator EDWARDS: It is very nice of Senator Conroy to join us. Let us get to him. Ours is an approach to defence based on sound economic principles, on value for money, on economic accountability and on the responsible expenditure of public money. Our approach to defence acquisitions is no different. The coalition government is committed to a viable shipbuilding industry that provides value for money while adhering to world's best practice. Decisions in this space are made on the basis of the needs of the services and the responsible expenditure of taxpayers' money—there is no back-of-the-serviette or Coke-drink coaster accounting anywhere in our budget costing rooms, through you Mr Acting Deputy President to Senator Conroy.

Those opposite would have us embark on a procurement path that gives little consideration to our financial responsibilities, little consideration to fiscal prudence, little consideration to balancing the books, and little consideration to the fact that we are spending other people's money. They are called the 'taxpayer'—the people out there in Australia who elected this government on 7 September last year to restore confidence in this economy. Labor's reckless approach to spending in the Defence portfolio is not an example in isolation. It is a part of their rich heritage of fiscal recklessness and their rich tapestry of economic vandalism—with the notable exceptions of Prime Minister Hawke and Prime Minister Keating, since they achieved some reasonable reforms. There was a lone voice in the last government, Mr Martin Ferguson's. He was obviously outgunned by his socialist colleagues, the spendthrifts over on the other side. He left parliament, sadly, and is now working with industry, where he enjoys a great deal of respect. But then there is the current opposition defence spokesperson, who is with us here in the chamber, Senator Conroy, whose most notable contribution to policy making has been that back-of-the-napkin episode.

I remind the chamber, as if it needs reminding, that as the Labor communications minister, Senator Conroy committed the country to a $43 billion policy that was the NBN. This $43 billion policy commitment was devoid of any cost-benefit analysis.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator EDWARDS: Senator Conroy, you may laugh about it but $43 billion is a lot of hot dinners. You might think it is not a lot and you may treat it in a very cavalier way, but it does not have a business case at all. It would have blown out to $73 billion, if the coalition had not been elected to repair the damage.

Senator Conroy: I rise on a point of order on relevance, Mr Acting Deputy President. I appreciate that you are being very tolerant in allowing him to talk across the chamber instead of through you. On the point of relevance, the National Broadband Network has nothing to do with shipbuilding. You might want to draw him back to the topic.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator EDWARDS: Thank you for the protection from what is quite idiotic. The Labor Party left Australia on a debt trajectory of $666 billion. The Labor Party came to power with a budget surplus of $20 billion, with $45 billion in the bank, and you wonder why we have to scrutinise the budget, Senator Conroy, because clearly you never did or had any intention to. From the way your forward estimates were projected in health, education and defence, you were going to have to start printing money at some point in time. The money was never there for the cuts you talk about. It is just another cruel hoax like the member for Wakefield's promise to that electorate last year that he had secured the future of Holden.

The coalition has brought forward an open competition with Australian industry to construct more than 20 replacement Pacific patrol boats. That is what we are doing. We are doing what this country can. Defence acquisitions will be made on the basis of defence logic. Under this government, they will be. (Time expired)