Senate debates

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Agricultural and Related Industries Committee; State Government Financial Management Committee; Housing Affordability in Australia Committee; Establishment

11:22 am

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | Hansard source

I was referring to the senator’s party, but I will withdraw it if she believes I was addressing it to her. I actually hold her in high regard. It was her party that I was referring to, and they are gross hypocrites. The Australian Greens are grossly hypocritical in relation to these matters.

I now return to the issue of state government financial matters. The Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate has quite rightly, in my view, asked for the establishment of a select committee to look into state government financial management. If Prime Minister Rudd—who I think called himself a fiscal conservative during the campaign and beforehand—is serious about this and if he is a fiscal conservative, how can Mr Rudd stand back and watch what has happened with the state governments around his country, who are spending like drunken sailors? The last reports I saw showed that in the out years there will be some $80 billion of state government debt—in the next three or four years. Is Mr Rudd going to impose on the states the same fiscal restraints that he is apparently going to impose on himself—we will see if that occurs—or will he let the states go off as they will?

The only reason that he is not prepared to let this Senate—a bipartisan committee—look at the state governments’ financial management is that they are all Labor. I can tell you now, if there were coalition governments around the country the government would be jumping over the chairs to support this. You would have to beat them back with a stick. But as soon as the pressure is turned back onto the government in relation to their state Labor mates, what do they do? When this Senate and a bipartisan committee had the opportunity to look at the sort of fiscal rectitude that they have been talking about, they roll over. They stand condemned for that.

This is just a churlish and childish payback for our decision this morning to insist on the Senate looking appropriately at the industrial relations laws. You said, before the federal election, that it was the most significant issue. As the Manager of Opposition Business said today, it is a significant issue. But what do you do when asked by the Senate to have a proper and full inquiry in relation to this matter that you believe is so important? You try to cut it off for your own cheap political purposes. This openness and transparency which we heard about for 12 months before the last election is a complete and utter farce. The farcical response of Senator Carr yesterday to a question put to him is an indication that you will do and say everything that is required to maintain the position you have found yourselves in at the moment.

Why haven’t you got a level of support and trust for this Senate to allow it to look at housing affordability? You cannot talk about the people around Australia who have very significant housing affordability issues—renters, those with mortgages and those who desire to build the accommodation that is required to make up for a deficit of some, I think, 40,000 houses a year to address this situation—when you are not prepared to let the Senate look at that.

The Australian Greens stand up here and say they are not prepared to let the Senate look at that. You cannot have it both ways: you cannot cry crocodile tears when you go on television and then, when asked to form part of an inquiry, not do so.


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