Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Bonner for her question. The government’s budget has been pushed into deficit by the global financial crisis. As a result of that, the government has adopted a number of rules with respect to committing to get the budget back into surplus. One of them is to match new spending with savings. Those who care to look at the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook papers at the end of last year will see that that is precisely what has occurred. Unfortunately, there are some in this House who think the government is not doing enough and that the fiscal settings should be stricter. Sadly, their actions are very different from their words, because at the same time as they are indicating that the government should be tougher and should have more savings, over in the Senate they are blocking major savings legislation, defending millionaires’ private health insurance subsidies at a cost of $9.5 billion to the budget, and they are announcing new spending initiatives. The other day they announced $750 million a year to help save the Murray-Darling Basin, and yesterday they announced a new spending initiative with respect to climate change: $3.2 billion over the forward estimates with no savings whatsoever—no explanation as to where the money is coming from to pay for this policy.
The policy they announced was straight out of the John Howard songbook: pretend you are doing something, splash a lot of taxpayers’ money around, set up a big pork barrel slush fund for the National Party, and make sure you do not upset anybody by declaring business as usual. There are a couple of critical questions about this. How is it that the half the Liberal Party who think that climate change is either a scientific fraud or a communist conspiracy are prepared to support spending $3.2 billion to address it? And how is it that the other half of the Liberal Party, who voted for the government’s emissions trading legislation to be supported, now say that it should not be supported? The most significant question about this commitment is: how is it that the nations of the world gathered in Copenhagen only weeks ago to consider how to deal with climate change, and they were unable to come up with this brilliant solution that the Leader of the Opposition has somehow stumbled upon? They did not realise that if you commit to spending a quarter of a percentage point of the government’s budget over a few years it will fix climate change—Dr Abbott’s miracle cure for climate change. There it is in a little bottle; it is just a little bit of dirt, a few trees and a few solar panels. Mix them all together and you have got Dr Abbott’s miracle cure for climate change. Can we perhaps expect that we will have delegations descending upon Australia from all around the world to see the magical miracle cure for climate change from Dr Abbott? Both the Leader of the Opposition and I are probably waiting for his hair restorer product to come out, and there will be a few other customers around the House today.
Last night, my fourth opposition number, Senator Barnaby Goose or whatever his name is, let the cat out of the bag about where the money is coming from.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders specifically require that members refer to people in this place and in the Senate by their proper title and not degrade members of the other place. I would ask him to withdraw that stupid remark.
Order! The member for Sturt should not extend his case in the way he does sometimes, because I sometimes change my mind when I have some sympathy. Even though I think that the aspect about protecting the fragile petals over in the other place—
I withdraw, Mr Speaker. I will refer to him henceforth as my fourth shadow finance minister. Last night on Lateline Senator Joyce was asked how the coalition was going to pay for the spending that it just committed itself to with respect to climate change. His answer was that he could not say and had to wait until the Henry report on taxation emerged. That can only mean one thing because, by the time the election arrives, the government’s taxation decisions with respect to the Henry report will be in the bottom line. Whether they impact this year, next year or the following year, they will be in the bottom line. So any changes that Senator Joyce proposes to make with respect to taxation will be above and beyond that. Were such changes to reduce taxation, that would not be able to pay for the $3.2 billion, would it? In other words, there is only one logical outcome from Senator Joyce’s statement—that is, the opposition, if it is elected to government, is going to increase taxes in order to pay for its climate change policy.
Further, this morning on the radio program AM, when Senator Joyce was asked a similar question, ‘Can he guarantee there won’t be any tax increases?’ he responded, ‘That’s a very hard question to answer,’ and then said, ‘Wait for the Henry report.’ The truth is that the opposition’s climate change policy is simply a giant con job. It is straight out of the Howard songbook. It is pure John Howard: splash money around, set up a National Party slush fund, pretend you are doing something and meanwhile hope you can skate through. Those days are over. This government and this nation are committed to dealing with the serious challenge of climate change. That involves tough decisions, not the kind of nonsense that we saw from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask the minister for finance to table the page of Hansard that shows that the coalition voted for the government’s emissions trading scheme.