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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 45

Senator BARNETT (3:17 PM) —I rise to speak to Senator O'Brien's motion and to respond to the allegations made by senators from across the chamber. I want to start by responding to the allegations Senator Bolkus laid at this government and at a particular senator on this side with respect to financial irresponsibility and mismanagement. Those allegations came from a senator who was part of a government that in 1996 left the Australian people with a $96 billion debt. He was a key performing minister—or underperforming minister—during that time.

Senator George Campbell —What is the debt now? It is $406 billion.

Senator BARNETT —That debt has been paid off to the extent that it is now less than $30 billion. The government has not only paid off that debt but also has the ability to fund specific programs, Senator George Campbell, to the extent of $5 billion extra each year. That is a Labor debt that has been paid down. Senator Campbell knows that fact, as does the public, because it is on the public record. Senator Bolkus, when he asked a question in question time today, said that we used the Regional Partnerships program to target key marginal seats. The Labor Party attack was specifically based on the stage 2 redevelopment of the Bondi Marine Discovery Centre, which is in the seat of Wentworth in Sydney. That is known as a blue-ribbon Liberal seat. He talked about the pork-barrelling of marginal seats. His argument contradicts itself. It is lost.

Senator O'Brien in his address today talked about the preselection battles for the seat of Wentworth, but he failed to talk about his own preselection battle. He lost the support of the Left, with David Price, who is the State Secretary of the Labor Party in Tasmania, dumping him from the No. 1 spot to the No. 3 spot. Senator O'Brien, those in glass houses can throw stones. That is what happened. You were fortunate enough to retain that position, after a bit of a scramble. Then you started attacking the Hon. Tony Abbott and former parliamentary secretary Ross Cameron and hitting them with a wet lettuce leaf. Let us look at some of the facts, particularly on the Marine Discovery Centre at Bondi. Let us see who has been supporting this very important project. Do you know who has been supporting it? The state Labor government in New South Wales.

Senator Ferris —Fancy that!

Senator BARNETT —Fancy that! Before you asked your question today, Senator O'Brien, did you ask the state Labor government why they made that allocation, why they spent that money and why they wanted to support such an important tourist venture as the Marine Discovery Centre? I will tell you how much they spent: $100,000, just in 2004. Who else supported it? The local council. There was grassroots support for a local project. The Waverley Council made a community grant over a period of three years. That would make you think it would have a little bit of credibility, a little bit of support, from the local community. Of course the Australian government wants to get behind it and say: `Yes, this is good. It is good not only to create jobs and development in the area but to make this a particular and special event.' Eight hundred and fifty thousand-odd overseas tourists visit each year.

Bondi was the centre of the Olympics in the year 2000. Are you opposed to such events? Let us ask the Labor Party about that. I was there with my family and I enjoyed the events at Bondi. It was a wonderful location for the beach volleyball. It was a great success. Indeed, the Olympics in 2000 were a great success and a credit to all Australians, particularly the Australian government and the state government at the time.

These are the things that have been neglected in the arguments that have been put by the Australian Labor Party. We want to suggest to the opposition that they get out there, get their hands dirty and talk to the people concerned—the local community groups that want to support these projects. They know how important they are. The Marine Discovery Centre met the criteria. That is on the public record. They have met all the criteria. The application was received and it was successful. I want to pay tribute to the volunteers who got behind it as well. They received a little bit of support during the International Year of Volunteers in 2001. The contribution of volunteers should not be forgotten and the Australian government is getting behind them, as it is behind this special community project. There are plenty of projects in Tasmania that Senator O'Brien knows about, and I would like him to go on the public record and nominate the specific projects in Tasmania that he opposes. (Time expired)