Monday, 11 September 2023
Matters of Public Importance
There were a number of difficult decisions that the incoming Albanese government had to take to deal with the legacy of record debt and deficit left by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments—a trillion dollars in debt and nothing to show for it, much of that accumulated in a series of reckless spending decisions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a trillion dollars of debt over a decade.
We as a government have been up-front and transparent both about the global economic outlook and the headwinds that Australia confronts, and indeed the decision not to proceed with certain programs, including the National Space Mission for Earth Observation program. The industry minister has been absolutely transparent about all of this—all of it. The Albanese government ensured that the United States knew that the program wouldn't proceed ahead of the announcement. In fact, that's what the documents released to the coalition demonstrate—the steps that were undertaken in an adult way, in a procedurally correct way, to make sure not only that the appropriate government officials were notified at the appropriate time but also that partners in Australia who were engaged in these programs were notified, and it was done in a programmatically specific kind of way, a way that was entirely appropriate.
The carry-on from the Liberal Party about this is utterly extraordinary. The coalition characterised this as 'keeping Australian taxpayers and the United States in the dark'. Senator Fawcett just said that it 'severed the relationship'! What an extraordinarily preposterous thing to say, at a moment when the relationship between Australia and the United States is remarkably complex and deep. It is a relationship founded, in fact, by the Labor Party in government. The idea that you would say such a silly thing in the hope of getting a few column inches in one of our national newspapers just shows how cavalier your approach is—how cavalier your friends, Madam Acting Deputy President Chandler, over there in the Liberal Party, are to the national interest. This sort of smug sense of entitlement that you can say anything you want to try to damage the national interest is utterly consistent with your approach to transparency over the time. You say the wildest possible things.
And there's a history here around transparency. The former energy minister—or one of the former energy ministers—Angus Taylor hid electricity price rises from Australian voters on the eve of the May election in an utterly disgraceful way. Mr Morrison's office selectively leaked his private text messages to the French president, no less, ahead of the dumping of a defence contract, in the most nakedly partisan, disgraceful effort. It's never been properly accounted for. And who could forget Mr Morrison's secret ministries? We won't be lectured about accountability and transparency, and we certainly won't be lectured about the national interest, by that lot. (Time expired)