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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10410


Dr JENSEN (7:30 PM) —I would dearly love to stand before you today in support of the motion that Mr Hale brought forward—


Mr Hale —You can.


Dr JENSEN —I cannot. The Leader of the Opposition in fact offered full bipartisan support, including roundtable talks, to work with the government on the best solution. These offers were rejected. The Prime Minister and his bumbling, incompetent, so-called Treasurer went full steam ahead with a package they thought was right—once again, policy on the run—not looking forward to the possible ramifications, for example, of the freezing of the funds of thousands of people. The Treasurer advised them just to pop down to Centrelink. What a joke the Treasurer is and what a joke that statement is. All that shows is utter contempt for Australians. When the government were asked in parliament to release details of their so-called strategy, time after time they refused. If they did know the details, why did the Prime Minister continually avoid the questions? Some questions were as simple as requiring a yes or no answer but he still could not do it. Australians deserve to have these questions answered in full. I put it to you that the Prime Minister did not know the answers to the questions on his quickly-thrown-together economic security strategy. The strategy has been rushed and bungled from the very start, and it is already showing signs of being a complete disaster. With their unlimited bank deposit scheme the government again did not want to have talks with the opposition or listen to valid suggestions such as a cap on those guarantees. Even more reprehensible, they did not even bother to hold discussions directly with the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Why? Because apparently they know it all. Well, clearly they do not, and we are in a mess with our surplus dwindling by the minute.

I really must ask this, because I am sure there are a lot of people who would love to know. What would the Prime Minister have done? What would his strategy have been if the Howard government had not paid off the $96 billion of debt left by the last Labor government? What would he have done without the healthy surplus the government inherited to use for his answer to the global financial crisis? We fought for the government to increase the pension by $30 a week. The Prime Minister and his ministers freely acknowledged that they could not survive on the pension yet argued the point and flatly refused to increase the pension until another one of the Prime Minister’s reviews was complete. Even though he promised prior to the election that he would reduce the price of fuel and reduce the price of groceries, what did he do? He watched the price of fuel go up and he watched the price of groceries go up. Older Australians were really struggling and yet he still refused to take immediate action until he needed to spend some money to stimulate the economy—and, bang, he used pensioners and announced one-off payments for them. Whilst supporting this measure, short term as it is, I am sure the pensioners of Australia are cynical as to the motives when only a couple of weeks before he and his Minister for Health and Ageing stated that there would be no increase in the pension until his review was completed next May.

The global financial crisis is huge and there are many reports that it is by no means over. The government had an opportunity to prove they could handle the economy. I think that the rushed, uninformed, go-it-alone attempt at their rescue package shows that Australia is in real trouble with these clowns at the wheel.