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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 391

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (10:17 AM) —These are serious and urgent times. The global financial crisis is very serious, and most Australians are fearful about its effect on their households and their families. Job security is at the forefront of nearly everybody’s mind. The government has the right to put forward a stimulus package. It is responsible and right for the government of the day to assess the economic climate and respond, but equally I think most Australians would find it prudent that before we go and spend $42 billion we have a look at it. The government should not wait months and years to respond but to wake up one morning and say, ‘We’re going to spend $42 billion and we want it passed the very next day,’ is negligent. It is absolutely negligent, and most Australians see through it.

We should take the politics out of this and put it in terms that we can all think about. If you are going to buy a $42 billion house do you stand outside and say: ‘That’s it. It looks good; I’m going to buy it’? I don’t think so. If you were going to throw the nation into debt—throw our future kids into debt—would you stand outside and say: ‘Listen, we’ve got it right. No-one else can comment on it. No other experts can have their say publicly,’ and just buy the house? No. When you buy a substantial house you get experts to come and have a look at it. You ask: ‘Is it sound? Is it fit and proper for my family—for Australian families?’ It really is an insult to all Australians for us to treat them in that way.

By all means the government of the day should put forward a stimulus package. We need one. Family First will vote for one. But the government is spending $42 billion and it would have you believe that no-one should have a say on it. That is an absolute joke. So Family First has put forward a proposal and I am glad that common sense will prevail. We have been able to get all the non-government parties to agree to an inquiry into that whole package. That allows the Senate to have a decent, informed debate about it and to have experts other than the government’s experts look at it.

This is absolutely serious. These are times that are very tough. There is no silver bullet. I have heard that before. I think we all agree with that, but if the government are going to fire their final bullet, surely we should make sure that it is not a rubber bullet that may bounce back and hit us all so that we lose more jobs. Family First is not saying we should not go into deficit. I think it is repulsive to think that we would say that we should not go into deficit when we have hundreds of thousands of fellow Australians who could fall off the cliff. We should be investing money to try and avert that situation. We should be aspiring to have a recession-breaking stimulus package, but there is no silver bullet. Nor do we want a rubber bullet that comes back and hits all of us.

I also do not think that we should be saying that Canberra or parliament should have their pockets full of money or not go into debt while we see fellow Australians fall off the cliff. I am not one to do that. I think that we should put our hand out. It is pity that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition cannot come together in a way that unites the nation on this issue. This is not about politics; this is about real Australians who are doing it really tough and who are fearful. I have been unemployed. It is a terrible place to be. We need to do all that we can for others.

We should put aside the politics, look at this package with other experts and make sure that the components of this package are the best ways for the money to be spent. Will we be ever sure? Maybe not. But what is wrong with including other experts to have a look at it? What is wrong with having others say, ‘We think the money should be spent here’? What about others in the community who think that they are missing out with this package? Why shouldn’t they have their say? But no, the Rudd government says: ‘Listen, this is it. Take it or leave it.’ The Senate is doing what it was elected to do, which was to prudently look at things. It is urgent. We have put off Senate estimates next week and we will have an inquiry to allow other experts to have their say. That is the proper and prudent thing to do.

Senator Evans said that we need strong and decisive action. I agree. He left one word out: we need strong, decisive and prudent action. He left that out. Why did he leave that out? I am not sure why. If Australians took his speech and replayed it, they would see that he used words like ‘patsy’. What a joke. What an insult to Australian families. We should take his speech and publish it in the papers—the whole lot. Let them judge whether the Labor Party’s view on this is right.

Surely they should be supporting a short inquiry—a couple of days—into spending $42 billion. And they are laughing at us. They are laughing at Australia. It is an insult. I cannot believe that they are even credible coming forward with this and manoeuvring last night to try and pin it back and pull it back. They have presented the whole thing as a package. Let us look at it in an inquiry as a package. So as to satisfy the crossbenches, we will have an additional committee look at the housing package. But that is in addition. We need to look at this package in its entirety. We owe it to Australians and to our kids’ kids. If we are going into debt, let us get it right.