Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Treasurer. I refer the Treasurer to today’s Reserve Bank board minutes on the decision of 6 October to raise interest rates. The minutes state:
… the balance of risks was now such that the current very expansionary setting of policy was no longer necessary, and possibly imprudent.
Isn’t it the case, Treasurer, that the current very expansionary setting of fiscal policy is also no longer necessary, and possibly imprudent?
Well, talk about verballing the Reserve Bank board and their minutes! There they go again. They cannot stand the fact that the stimulus was successful. They cannot stand the fact that the stewardship of this government during a period of grave threat to this country was successful. They simply cannot stand it so they will stretch any fact. They will distort any quote from anybody anytime to completely and inaccurately portray the position of both the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the minutes.
The Reserve Bank and the governor—in their minutes today—are saying nothing different from what they have consistently said for a long period of time, and that is that interest rates, at their 50-year emergency lows, could not stay there forever. Those opposite have been running around the country trying to pretend that somehow they could and that there would not be a withdrawal of monetary policy stimulus by the Reserve Bank at any time in the future. They hate the fact that our economy has begun to grow. They simply dislike that because the one thing that they wanted, when they came into this parliament in February this year and voted against our Nation Building and Jobs Plan, was higher unemployment and they wanted it for base political purposes. They therefore resent the fact that our fiscal stimulus, working hand in glove with the monetary policy stimulus from the Reserve Bank, has produced one of the most outstanding results in the world. That is what they resent, and therefore they then go on to perpetrate a fiction that there is somehow some conflict between the Reserve Bank governor and the board and their minutes with government policy. There is nothing in these minutes that says anything other than the Reserve Bank is beginning to unwind monetary policy stimulus because the economy is beginning to grow. It is that simple. Of course fiscal policy and monetary policy are both working together. And the other thing that they refuse to admit is the fact that fiscal policy reached its peak in June this year and it will subtract from growth in every quarter of next year. But the reason they will not admit that is that they have got a policy of withdrawing stimulus—
Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order under standing order 90. The Treasurer has accused the opposition of distorting the minutes of the Reserve Bank and I invite him to prove where that is the case or apologise.
The Reserve Bank board minutes do not say that the fiscal policy of the government is imprudent. In trying to perpetrate that, he was continuing the lie in this parliament that somehow there was an impact—
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Treasurer has accused me of verballing the Reserve Bank. He has now accused me of lying about the minutes. I have quoted expressly from the Reserve Bank minutes—they speak for themselves—
The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The question was in order. The Treasurer is responding to the question. If there have been other grievances about the way in which words have been misinterpreted or misread into the record and a member feels aggrieved, there are other forms of the House than can be used.
On the point of order, Mr Speaker, to accuse somebody of verballing another is to accuse them of having fabricated a statement. That is what a verbal is. Verballing someone is making up a false statement about what they have said. I have quoted expressly from the Reserve Bank.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With due respect to you, Mr Speaker, as you well know a member who feels that they have been treated offensively has the right to ask for a withdrawal. The Treasurer on four occasions before today has accused us of voting a certain way in this House when the opposite is true. Now today he is accusing the Leader of the Opposition of verballing the Reserve Bank minutes. He is therefore a serial offender. I would ask you to ask him to withdraw for the good of the House.
Order! One of the standards might be to listen to the standing orders and not interject on everything and every matter. I just remind the member for Bowman of that. Regrettably, this is a discourse that is characteristic of this place where people can place greater emphasis on what might be considered as debating points and the like. We have already had in this question time another shadow minister being accused of verballing. If that was the case, then it would have been raised at that point in time. I am suggesting that the other forms of the House are the best way that this might be handled. On the point that has been raised further by the Manager of Opposition Business about where there is a necessity to repeatedly make personal explanations, this again is something that has occurred over a number of parliaments.
As I indicated to the member for Bowman, if we really were wanting perhaps to set some better standards for this House, interjecting especially on the chair, no matter what people might think of the occupant, might not be of assistance. But I am indicating that this point that the Manager of Opposition Business raised in his contribution has been a point that has vexed the House for some time where members have repeatedly had to make the same personal explanation. The Treasurer has the call and he will, I hope, conclude his answer.
The Leader of the Opposition was talking about the Reserve Bank board minutes. I would like to quote from those minutes to conclude my answer, Mr Speaker. The board observes that stimulus has already peaked and is tapering away, and it says this:
Staff estimates suggested that the impact of fiscal policy (including payments to households and other ongoing programs) on GDP growth was likely to have peaked in the June quarter and was now gradually declining.
This should be read in the context of statements that the Reserve Bank governor gave when he attended the Senate inquiry last month. He was talking about the inbuilt withdrawal of the stimulus when he had this to say:
Such an outcome would mean that fiscal and monetary policy would be acting broadly consistently, as they did when they were moved in the expansionary direction when the economy was slowing.
So the fact is the RBA is withdrawing monetary policy stimulus, the government is withdrawing fiscal policy stimulus; and both are working together.