Thursday, 14 November 2013
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Amendment Bill 2013; In Committee
I have circulated an amendment which I flagged in my speech on the second reading. I move opposition amendment 1 on sheet 7441:
(1) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (line 6), omit "$500", substitute "$400".
I want to speak to that and also ask a couple of questions of the responsible minister.
The first point I would make is this: there was a lot of talk about certainty and stability in that contribution by Senator Sinodinos. There were a lot of things he spoke about with which I do not agree. I do not have the time, given that we will behave in a responsible manner and facilitate passage of the legislation with amendment as I outlined. But there was a lot of talk about certainty and stability, and I have to say I thought, as I was sitting here, there was not much certainty and stability with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia threatening to shut down government services—not a lot of certainty and stability about a Treasurer going out and threatening to shut down services Australians rely on, threatening greater cuts to blame on the Labor Party. What sort of approach to economic management is that?
We all knew Mr Hockey was prone to scaremongering and being a little bit loose with the facts, prone to making statements which he then regretted and tried to chuckle and charm his way out of and move on to the next question. We all know that is what he is like. He gets his facts slightly wrong but relies on his joviality or bluster to get out of it. This is the bloke who likened the cut to the baby bonus to the one-child policy in China, said how dreadful it was and then supported it. So we know Joe Hockey is prone to a bit of drama when he feels like it. But really—for a government to say, 'We're about certainty and stability,' and then to have the Treasurer threatening government shutdown and cuts to services that they will blame on the Labor Party and they will wear like a crown of thorns really exposes his true character and his true agenda. He simply does not want to take the responsible path; he wants to take the warpath. He wants a fight over it. The test of that really will be very shortly, because we have moved an amendment that increases the debt cap by $100 billion to $400 billion. If the government do not accept it and seek to oppose it, I think they really will be exposed. Their political strategy will be exposed because it is a responsible amendment.
Senator Sinodinos made a number of statements about the global financial crisis. I have to say I did find it sort of ironic sitting here listening to him make what I have to say was a very good contribution in some respects, like when he said we are still dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis and the economy is going through transition, all of which I agree with. But I have to say that, given the sort of behaviour we saw from Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott in opposition, where they said we were drowning in debt, these were just excuses and what a dreadful thing it was, it is now interesting to hear Senator Sinodinos essentially acknowledging that those are the circumstances the nation is in and that is why you have to manage fiscal policy sensibly—which is what the Labor government did.
I want to ask the minister a couple of questions. First, when will the $400 billion limit be reached? It is a very simple question. You are seeking support in this chamber for a $200 billion increase on the debt cap on the basis that the debt will reach $400 billion. When will it be reached?