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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator ABETZ (7:42 PM) —Accepted at face value, my friends on the crossbenches—plucked out of the air with no basis to it. It was based on assumptions. Surely they would have gone annual assumption by annual assumption, year by year. No! We dispense with that. We treat the crossbenches with absolute contempt, hoping that they will not ask the difficult questions. Well, I think they have asked some difficult questions, but the opposition is going to keep asking a few more difficult questions.

We have a situation where we must now say that Treasury officials deliberately did not seek further information from the FCAI, and they give us this bureaucratic excuse. Mr Rudd would be proud of that sort of language—’We can’t confirm,’ which is code for, ‘We didn’t bother confirming because we were scared of what the answer would be.’ They cannot deny the FCAI figures. You would have thought that the government was going to implement—what was that little slogan?—’evidence based policy’. Do you remember that during the election campaign? ‘Our policies are going to be based on evidence.’ Where is the evidence, Senator Xenophon, for the figure of $400 million that was provided in that email to you? There is no evidence backing it up in any way, shape or form other than the say-so of the government. I accept that you are entitled to accept it at face value, but I ask: why would one accept it at face value when one knows that they have not even calculated it year by year? They are unable to destroy the FCAI assertions. They deliberately do not ask the FCAI about their assertions and their methodology for fear that they might be in fact proven to be correct twice—once by the FCAI and then secondly by Treasury.

I say to my good friends that they are buying a pig in a poke. They have no idea whether that figure of $400 million is robust. Indeed, I would suggest that every indication is it is about as rubbery and as believable as when the Labor Party brought down their second last budget: they said it was either in balance or surplus and we found it to be only $10 billion in deficit. Unfortunately that is the sort of track record we have, Senator Xenophon, from the Labor Party run from a Labor Treasurer’s office, and so that is a matter of concern to us. Some of us have been here before and have had the bitter experience of being willing to accept on face value Labor assertions, only to find out how they fail to live up to the reality. I put to the Senate that there is no substance to this. It is a deliberate sidestepping of the FCAI’s methodology. Nobody has been able to lay a glove on it and, indeed, it would appear that the Treasurer’s office is that concerned about the robustness of it that they do not even want to ask questions about it. How on earth can you believe Treasury in those circumstances?

Question put:

That the request (Senator Abetz’s) be agreed to.