Senate debates

Friday, 22 June 2012


Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012; Second Reading

2:29 pm

Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012 is not a bill that we are intending to oppose; in fact, we support it in principle. This is the 10th bill designed to improve aspects of the financial framework under which the acts of Australia operate. In fact, the program of going about repairing the financial framework when issues arise has been ongoing since 2004 and therefore is something that was begun under Treasurer Peter Costello. This particular bill would amend 21 acts across six portfolios to regularise Commonwealth payments. In the main it is about overpayments and underpayments of funds to people who receive payments from the Commonwealth. Certainly in regard to nine acts there is provision for authority for the inadvertent overpayments of some benefits and for their recovery in line with the duty to pursue recovery of a debt under the Financial Management and Accountability Act.

Whilst we certainly do not object to this bill, whilst we support it in principle, we do of course suggest that there must be great vigilance exercised here, primarily because of this government's inability to implement or legislate its way out of a paper bag. The fact that we are actually here having this debate today demonstrates part of the government's inability to manage its schedules, to manage its programs and to manage its legislation. The fact that all week the number of speakers on each bill has been seriously curtailed by the government-Greens decision to apply a guillotine to legislation once again demonstrates that there is no reason for anyone to have any confidence in this government's ability to implement and legislate in a way that is actually for the benefit of the Australian people or not likely to cause them harm. It simply demonstrates their complete incompetence.

When you think about the cost of having this building operating today, the cost of having so many politicians here today, the cost of having so many staff here today, you realise that the government do not have financial management ability. That is what it comes down to. When Senator Joyce spoke earlier, he gave us a long list about the fact that, if they were a small business coming into the local accountant's office, he would put them in the basket-case category. That is where they belong. That is where they will end up. Unfortunately, it cannot happen soon enough.

I am constantly bemused by their attitude of: 'Why aren't people in Australia happier? You've never had it so good.' Apart from anything else, that is a complete and utter falsehood, perpetrated by Treasurer Swan, who dishonestly persists in claiming that the economy is wonderful and not making the point that, if you are in manufacturing, if you are in tourism, if you are in retail or if you are in the construction industry in any way, you are probably doing it tough.

I watched Treasurer Swan smirking his way through his announcement about the improved GDP figures a week ago. At the same time, within a couple of hours of that, I had had news of two young men who had lost their jobs that day. One worked as a flooring contractor in a company that relies completely on the housing industry being buoyant. It is not. Has anyone noticed that the housing industry is a disaster at the moment? The other one worked for a small business that relies on the retail industry to survive, and he was a deputy manager. The owner of the business could no longer afford to employ him. The owner of the business had been waiting and waiting for the wonderful world that Treasurer Swan is promising but could no longer afford to keep this guy on. In fact, as the owner of the business is currently not making a profit and has not done so for some months, it is quite possible that the business itself will have to close. Yes, it is all very well to talk about the pain of restructuring, but for this government to sit and smirk and carry on and try to pretend that everything is all right for everybody is dishonest. But why would we be worried about the government being dishonest when they have been dishonest since the day in 2010 that they came into existence? They have been dishonest and awful.

The reason that most Australians are not leaping with pleasure over the state of the economy, despite all those wonderful markers that suggest they should be, is that life is not just about the economy. Life is also about having a government that you can trust and a government that performs. I spend a lot of time with people who ask me, some of them quite aggressively, 'When are you going to get rid of that government?' People hate the Gillard government. They do not trust it and they have now got to the stage where they expect it to behave dishonestly. They are completely cynical about politicians, about government and about the ability of Australian MPs to perform in a way that they see as being in the public interest. So it is no wonder that despite the best efforts of Treasurer Swan—despite even the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens talking about the glass being half full—Australians see the glass as being half empty. Because it is not just about where you live; it is about how you feel, how proud you feel of your country and the way it functions, and right now Australians are ashamed of their government, completely and utterly ashamed of their government.


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