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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10403


Mr HARTSUYKER (7:01 PM) —I find it quite extraordinary that we are here in this House tonight being asked to commend the government for its performance on the economic playing field. When a crisis hits, Australians look to their elected leaders to provide strong leadership and to make the right decisions. We saw recently the performance of the Treasurer as he bumbled and bumbled for 90 seconds—on national television—trying to find the inflation figure somewhere in the MYEFO documents. Did he have it at his fingertips? No, he did not. Did he know where to find it? No, he did not. It was an embarrassment to the people of Australia. It was of concern to the people of Australia that our nation’s Treasurer did not know what the forecast for inflation was.

With regard to the financial crisis that is spreading round the world and is certainly having its impact on Australia, the government claims it has taken decisive action to provide the solutions that this country needs. But was it decisive or was it a result of the needs of the media cycle? Why didn’t the Prime Minister consult with the Governor of the Reserve Bank on the day he made the decision? Why didn’t he have representatives from the Reserve Bank, ASIC and APRA in the room when the decision was being made? They had a media deadline. They had to cut to the six o’clock news with a solution, so they rushed the decisions and got it wrong. As a result, we have very substantial dislocation in our financial markets—dislocation related directly to the ineptitude of this government, the failure of this government to take the time to get it right, seek the right advice and make the right calls for the Australian people.

Because of that, we have Australian retirees unable to access their funds—people who never thought they would have to depend on the welfare system potentially having to do so as a result of this government’s failure of economic management. We see that there is the potential for many, many people to be in very difficult circumstances as a result of their funds being frozen due to the ineptitude of this government. The government is very focused on attempting to avoid a recession. That is very good policy indeed, but there is a $10.4 billion stimulus package. Why not $12 billion? Why not $7 billion? We do not know. Where is the modelling that underpins this decision? Is this another decision made in order to meet the media cycle, or is this a decision made on the basis of sound economics, sound thinking and careful research? The modelling that underpins this decision is very much one of the unanswered questions. I think the people of Australia are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Prime Minister is not levelling with them and cannot be trusted, and it is of grave concern to them.

It is interesting that finally the government has got around to taking an interest in pensioners. We on this side of the House have been saying that pensioners, particularly single pensioners, urgently need assistance, but it took the global financial crisis for Mr Rudd to come around to that conclusion and to make some provision for those people. I know that many pensioners in my electorate have been in desperate straits, struggling with the cost of living.

During the 2007 election campaign, Mr Rudd and Mr Swan wandered the countryside, telling everyone that they were going to act on the cost of living. They were going to provide cheaper petrol. They were going to provide cheaper groceries. They were going to make housing cheaper. There was no element of the cost of living that they were not going to address. But, on coming to government, the first thing they did was forget about those promises. On fuel, they have the discredited Fuelwatch scheme. On groceries, they have the discredited GroceryWatch scheme or GROCERYchoice, whichever way you want to look at it, and they have a very minimalist approach to putting downward pressure on the cost of housing, when Labor state governments around the country put so much upward pressure on the cost of housing. The people of Australia deserve better leadership in the financial field than they are getting from this government. They are beginning to see the fact that Mr Rudd is not levelling with them and that the economy will suffer due to the incompetence of this government.