House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Questions without Notice


2:20 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Why is it important to ensure accuracy in public debate regarding fiscal policy in government programs?

Photo of Lindsay TannerLindsay Tanner (Melbourne, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Blair for his question. It is important to ensure accuracy in public debate regarding fiscal policy and government programs. As members may recall, I have made a number of critical comments in recent days with respect to some contributions by my opposite number, Senator Barnaby Joyce, with respect to some of the claims he has made in public debate about fiscal policy and government programs—for example, his suggestion a couple of days ago that it was possible that Australia might default on its debts. Therefore, I was delighted to wake up this morning and see in today’s Australian that the Leader of the Opposition had intervened in the cause of accuracy in public debate on fiscal policy and government programs.

According to the Australian this morning, he and Senator Minchin payed Senator Joyce a ‘friendly visit’ a couple of nights ago—the kind of friendly visit that is usually associated with violin cases, roses and things like that. As a result of this friendly visit, Senator Joyce told the Australian:

“Tony told me there was a campaign directed against me … “


“It was friendly,” Senator Joyce said. “He said I needed to be aware there is a campaign directed against me.”

He is pretty quick on the uptake, the old Senator Joyce! That, at least, I would consider a good start, because, in situations like this, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. The next step may be somewhat more difficult, because he will have to work out why this campaign is happening.

14:21:57 I was encouraged by this report and I foolishly commented to one of my staff, ‘Perhaps today would be a gaffe-free day for Senator Joyce’. A few hours went by and I was looking good. But, sadly, I proved to be wrong, because on the doors Senator Joyce alleged that the government’s solar panels program had blown out to the tune of $850 billion. Once again, he has got his trillions and his millions and his billions mixed up. Anyone can make a slip of the tongue but, unfortunately, this is becoming a habit with Senator Joyce, and this is a very serious issue.

As the Treasurer and I know only too well, the accuracy and the responsibility of statements that are made by the nation’s treasurer and finance minister are critical. They can influence market behaviour. They can influence investor decisions. They can influence the confidence of other nations and the confidence of international investors in the Australian economy. All that ultimately flows through into two things: jobs and economic activity in the Australian economy.

If we were to have a shambolic, incoherent, undisciplined finance minister like Senator Joyce, that would put at risk the Australian economy and Australian jobs. The Leader of the Opposition’s appointment of Senator Joyce, his continued support for him and allowing him to be the de facto No.1 economic spokesman for the coalition shows why he is a risk to the Australian economy, why he is a risk to Australian jobs and why he is not worthy of the trust of the Australian people.