Monday, 10 September 2012
Private Members' Business
Australian Greens' Policy Costings
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) the Australian Greens can formally submit an unlimited number of new policy proposals to the Government for analysis and costing under the Agreement for a Better Parliament: Parliamentary Reform, signed on 7 September 2010 to establish 'a basis for stable and effective government'; and
(b) on 20 July 2012, The Treasury made a decision on a Freedom of Information request to refuse access to 12 documents relating to Australian Greens' policy costings because the documents 'would allow a direct inference to be drawn about subsequent Cabinet deliberations' and they contained 'material prepared to inform deliberations of Government';
(2) recognises that the Government has previously released policy costings, namely:
(a) an Executive Minute detailing costings of the Coalition's Direct Action Plan, released in full by The Treasury on 2 September 2011;
(b) updated costings on reopening the detention facility in Nauru, released by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on 27 January 2012; and
(c) Treasury modelling provided to unaligned Members, released by The Treasury on 24 February 2012; and
(3) calls on The Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation to release all costings of policy proposals that the Australian Greens have formally submitted to the Government for analysis since the 2010 Federal Election.
I appreciate the opportunity this evening to speak to the motion in my name, and I am proud that the shadow Treasurer saw fit to second this motion, which relates to what I think is a very important issue in this place, and that is the government's double standard with regard to policy costings by the Australian Greens. It also relates to a major issue facing the Australian people between now and the next election, which is the $120 billion black hole that the Australian Labor Party has in its own budget. The reason for this motion is that we suspect that that black hole is far bigger than what we have seen in the reports of recent days because the government have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide this information over the last 12 months.
The background to this motion is that, about 12 months ago, in Senate estimates, Senator Scott Ryan pursued with the relevant departments how many policies the Australian Greens had asked to be costed under the side deal they did with the government when they formed a coalition to govern the country back in September 2010. That agreement between the government and the Greens—I am pleased to see that the member for Melbourne is in the House and is speaking on the motion, and good on him for doing so—gave the Greens the right to submit their policies to Treasury and Finance for costing. A lot of us thought that was a terrific outcome because for once we would get to see what we on this side of the House, at least, believe is the economic lunacy in the Greens manifesto exposed for what it is. We thought the costings process would help the Australian people understand just how dangerous a proposition it would be to elect Australian Greens to this place and to the Senate.
When Senator Scott Ryan, as usual doing the hard work, the hard grind, as senators do, asked those questions in estimates, the officials dodged the question, took it on notice and came back with an answer earlier this year which basically did not answer the question, you will be surprised to know, Madam Deputy Speaker Owens! At that time we thought we should FOI what was there because we did know from the answers we got that the Greens had asked for quite a number of policies to be costed, including the policy areas of taxation, education, health, environment, housing, communities, transport, regional, communications, employment, infrastructure, superannuation, science, veterans, governance and sports. There were quite a variety of policy costings that the member for Melbourne and his colleagues were interested in. So we thought, 'Let's FOI these documents; let's see how much is in there,' because we had heard the Prime Minister and the member for Lyne in September 2010 talking about the sunshine coming in, opening up the roof of the parliament and letting the sun shine in all over this place, all over the Greens' costings.
Of course, when push came to shove—and after, it must be said, a long FOI process with the department—our request was refused. But it was not the refusal that surprised me; it was the reason for the refusal that surprised me. The department claimed that the policy costings were developed for the dominant purpose of forming cabinet documents. But I thought that only the executive government formed cabinet documents. The Greens, these partners, are not in the cabinet, apparently, and not in the government, we hear. But, truth be told, they are in the government and they are in the cabinet room. The member for Melbourne and his colleagues in the Senate are in the cabinet room. We know that now because the Department of the Treasury, the premier department of all the government departments, said, 'We cannot give you those documents because they form the dominant purpose of cabinet deliberations.'
Now, if that is true—and I am sure the member for Melbourne will back this up—it means that the Greens' policy costings on taxation, education, health, environment, housing, communities, transport, regional, communications, employment, infrastructure, superannuation, science, veterans, governance and, let us not forget, sports were produced for the dominant purpose of appearing in cabinet. So let's not have this fake attack we have heard from the member for Hunter and others in the last few days. It was reported in the Australian today—this is a classic—that:
Labor frontbencher Mark Butler told the Sky News Australian Agenda program yesterday he believed support for the Greens would "taper off—
are you listening to this, Member for Melbourne?—
as people become more accustomed or get a better appreciation of the Greens party policies about things that matter to Australian families".
How about, at the end of this motion, you release the policies? We will see what the Australian Greens' policies are all about. The minister for mental health wants to! What perplexes me is that the member for Melbourne, sitting in the chamber, does not want them released either. If you are so proud of them, if they are not economic lunacy as we assert, release them, Adam! Get them out there!