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Monday, 24 November 2008
Page: 19

Senator FORSHAW (3:24 PM) —Today is not just the one-year anniversary of the election of the Rudd government, which, I certainly agree with Senator Crossin, is something to celebrate. Today is also the one-year anniversary of the defeat of the Howard government. When the people finally got their chance 12 months ago to throw out the previous, incompetent government, a government that made—

Senator Cormann interjecting—

Senator FORSHAW —Am I going to be allowed to continue in silence?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is silence, Senator Forshaw; continue.

Senator FORSHAW —The previous government made an art form of breaking promises, whether it was the never-ever GST or that we would not invade Iraq to support regime change. You could go on and on; it was a government that was characterised by constantly breaking its promises. We have just had an attempt by Senator Fifield to give us an economic lecture. He talked about the wonderful achievements of the previous government. Well, I have been here long enough—like you, Mr Deputy President, and like Senator Macdonald, who is no longer in the chamber but who asked these questions today—to be able to recall what happened back in 1996. Senator Macdonald made great play about his assumption that the EMDG Scheme might be abolished. There are all these assumptions being thrown around today by the opposition, such as Senator Fifield’s assumption that there might be a deficit. They are trying to talk down the Australian economy rather than focusing upon reality and upon the facts.

One of the facts is that, when the Howard government came into power in 1996, they abolished the Development Import Finance Facility scheme—a scheme that directly supported Australian industry. So I found it somewhat hypocritical to have this question asked today about dreaming up some perceived threat to the EMDG Scheme, which this government has strongly supported, unlike the previous government. If you go back and check the estimates hearings, year after year, you will recall that the previous government did very little to support the EMDG Scheme.

The Howard government, of course, had the advantage of riding on the back of the minerals boom for years and years. This government has had to face and is facing the most significant economic financial crisis since the 1930s; that cannot be disputed—a challenge to this government that no other government in the last 60 or 70 years has really had to face. And we are doing it appropriately.

All of these questions and comments that have come from the opposition today are not in the national interest. They are seeking to predict doom and destruction in the Australian economy. You have a situation around the world where major economies are going into recession. But, in this country, fortunately, through the government’s quick action early in the piece, particularly in the area of banking and financial regulation, we have a position where it is looking extremely good for this country compared to the rest of the world in terms of facing up to the global financial crisis.

I also want to turn to the achievements of this government over 12 months. Senator Crossin has referred to a number of them, such as the apology to the stolen generations. We also recall that one of the very first moves of the Rudd government was to ratify the Kyoto protocol and to get serious about climate change—an issue on which, clearly, the public judged the previous Prime Minister, Mr Howard, as not up to the mark. He was not interested in climate change as an issue, and it was significant in his election defeat. So was Work Choices.

Yet we still hear the opposition equivocating about whether or not they will support the government’s policy, for which we have a mandate, to restore balance and fairness in the Australian workplace. I could go on. I could talk about the electoral reforms. I could talk about giving recognition to local government through the great forum that was held here last week, with local government finally getting a direct voice into federal government. I thought one of the most amazing comments I heard last week was from the president of the Australian Local Government Association who said that, in all of the years of the Howard government, he could never once get a meeting with the Treasurer. What a disgrace that was! (Time expired)