House debates

Monday, 9 December 2013


Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill 2013; Consideration of Senate Message

4:44 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | Hansard source

I was loath to raise a point of order while the member for Moncrieff kept failing to refer his remarks through the chair, because I do enjoy that speech from the member for Moncrieff. I enjoyed it the first time I heard it and I have continued to enjoy it on each subsequent occasion that we have heard that speech. The thing that we hear time and time again, in the refrain from everybody on that side, is that they are not doing what they told the Australian people they would do. We went through that debate last week with respect to education. We go through that debate repeatedly in the vast gulf between what the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection promised and what he is doing now.

But I do not think there is an example more clear to the Australian people than when the same people who were railing against debt and railing against deals with the Greens then do a deal with the Greens for unlimited debt. I do not think you can get a quinella quite like that when it comes to what is being done by the government. I heard one of my favourite lines from the member for Moncrieff in his speech and I enjoy it every time he gives it. He says that they have to 'make the hard decisions'. Unlimited debt is hardly a hard decision. Unlimited debt is avoiding future hard decisions. Unlimited debt means they are just going to remove any level of public restraint and debate into the future. Then they say how proud they are that they managed to do a deal with the Greens.

I am disappointed, obviously, to see that they have been so willing to jump in and team up with the Greens. When the House divides on this motion, we will see the Greens sitting side by side with members of the coalition, and that is a decision for them. But for those opposite to pretend that it was really hard to get the Greens to agree with unlimited debt is really missing the point of basically every public debate that we have had on debt issues over the last few years. What is not lost on the Australian people is that the Prime Minister himself said that you should not do cheap and tawdry deals with the Greens. Well, I concede that this one might be tawdry, but it ain't cheap. There is nothing cheap about this deal at all. Those opposite told people that they would turn around the figures and start delivering surplus—they would shift from deficit to surplus. If you go to surplus, what occurs? Debt starts to go down. Yet they, on the economic pathway they have now chosen, know that they are heading down a path where, under their government, debt year on year will become higher. That is the pathway they have chosen and that is why the action they have taken now is for debt to be unlimited. Unlimited debt is the pathway that those opposite have chosen.

They are so desperate to say that, even though it has happened since they have been in office, the continued increases are somehow Labor debt. Those opposite need to recognise: they are in government now, which means what happens on their watch is their responsibility. As debt goes up, it becomes their responsibility. The final record that was the responsibility of those on this side of the House was reflected in the pre-election fiscal outlook. The Charter of Budget Honesty, which Peter Costello used to back in and which those opposite used to support, did not require the figures to go to a half a trillion dollars. But there is nothing like the hypocrisy of going from bringing the debt down, to needing it to go to half a trillion dollars, to then saying, as those opposite do, that they want debt to be unlimited.

As the shadow Treasurer held up that ad last week, I think it struck a chord with people when they could see next to the Prime Minister the words that he would reduce the debt—and now we have the sheer hypocrisy of their not merely saying they will not reduce it and not merely saying they want to take it to a half a trillion dollars but saying the sky is the limit. Unlimited debt is now what those opposite want, which is the exact opposite of what they told the Australian people they would do. On issue after issue, be it education, their handling of immigration issues or debt, they are a government who say one thing and do the exact opposite. (Time expired)


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