Government Achievements

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

Government Achievements

SPEECH

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Defence Materiel) (16:15): That is 15 minutes we will never get back. For 15 minutes I waited for something positive; for 15 minutes I waited for one positive idea—I did not hear it. All we got was negativity; all we got was bile and invective. As the Prime Minister said in question time today, it was just ‘a mouth full of insults and no ideas.’ The people watching in the gallery must be thinking, ‘Gee, I wish I could have that 15 minutes back.’ It was that bad they must wish they had been watching the Senate for the last 15 minutes. People listening to the broadcast must be thinking, ‘I want that 15 minutes back—I could have washed my hair; I could have walked the dog,’ because all they got was bile and bluster. They got no ideas, no policy, no vision, just toxic negativity, just Dr No—the man who says no to everything—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CLARE: The man who says no to almost anything. He could not find the positive side to a battery. It is no wonder, because every time he opens his mouth he gets it wrong.

This is an MPI about competence—from a man who could not even competently pull off a political stunt this week. Talk about competence! This is the man who put Barnaby Joyce in charge of finance. That is like putting Homer Simpson in charge of the nuclear power plant. Remember that this is the opposition leader who, on his website, told people to donate to the Liberal Party, not to the people of Queensland, for the flood recovery. This is the Leader of the Opposition who rips his policies off the One Nation website. This is the Leader of the Opposition who ripped $1 billion out of the health system. This is the Leader of the Opposition who said that Australia’s circumstances were ‘not dire’ during the global financial crisis. This is the same man who slept through the divisions to decide whether we were going to stimulate the economy to stop Australia going into recession—it was not just one division; there were five divisions, so it must have been a deep sleep. This is the Leader of the Opposition who, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, 21 December 2010, opposes the NBN because he sees it as ‘essentially a video entertainment system’. On all the big calls, it is this Leader of the Opposition who has got it wrong—and he has the gall to come in here with an MPI about competence.

Being Prime Minister of Australia requires more than just the ability to say no. Australia has been made great by people who had the courage to say yes, not those who are too incompetent to do anything other than say no. When you look at the history of Australia, whether it is over the last 12 months or over the last 100 years, it is the Australian Labor Party that has made the big reforms that have made this country what it is. Whether it is the establishment of the old-age pension or workers compensation, whether it is building the foundations of the ANZUS alliance or APEC, whether it is Medicare or native title, whether it is the Racial Discrimination Act or the Sex Discrimination Act or whether it is the big economic reforms responsible for two decades of uninterrupted economic growth such as floating the dollar, competition policy, tariff reform or compulsory superannuation, it is the Labor Party that has done it—more often than not opposed by the Liberal Party. And that is still the case today.

On the last 12 months, it is this Prime Minister who has structurally separated Telstra—something the Liberal Party never had the courage to do; it is this Prime Minister who has negotiated the historic health agreement with the states—something the Liberal Party were incapable of doing; it is this Prime Minister who is helping the people of Queensland to rebuild after the floods—something the Liberal Party are trying to stop us from doing; it is this Prime Minister who has got the big mining companies to agree to pay more tax; it is this Prime Minister who is putting the budget on track for surplus in 2012-13; and it is this Prime Minister who is putting a price on carbon. On every single one of these, the Leader of the Opposition just says no.

He talks in this MPI about competence. The most important job of the Australian government is to keep the economy strong, to keep Australians working. Let us have a look at the Australian government’s record. Unemployment today in Australia is 4.9 per cent. Compare that with the United States, where unemployment is 9.1 per cent. In the last three years we created 700,000 jobs. Over the same period in the United States they lost 6.6 million jobs. If the most important job of the Australian government is to keep the economy strong and to keep Australians working, then by any measure this government has been extremely successful. Compare that with the opposition, who opposed the stimulus and who, if we had followed their advice, would have plunged the Australian economy into recession and forced 200,000 Australians onto the dole queue.

But that is not the only thing the opposition have opposed. We are increasing the superannuation of Australian workers, and they oppose it. We are building the National Broadband Network; they want to rip it up. We have increased hospital funding by 50 per cent. When they were in government, they ripped $1 billion out of the hospital system. We are rolling out the biggest funding increase ever for mental health; they would increase funding for mental health by cutting other health services.

We have introduced the biggest pension increase in 100 years—an extra $128 a fortnight for singles and an extra $116 for couples. In 11 years they did nothing to deliver a permanent increase in the pension. We have introduced Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme. It started in January and, in the first five months, 65,000 families have benefited. The Liberal Party are now talking about scrapping their own paid parental leave scheme to pay for their own climate change plan. Let us take education. We have doubled the funding for schools. They might be interested in this one: we built 3,000 libraries in schools; the Liberal Party built 3,000 flagpoles. We are building trade training centres for every high school to train students to become apprentices; the Liberal Party have promised to scrap them.

The difference between the government and the Liberal Party is no clearer than when it comes to climate change. The government is determined to take on this big reform and the Liberal Party, as on most big reforms that have come before, have no ideas, just an increasingly desperate, increasingly unbelievable scare campaign. Have a look at the scare campaign that we have seen over the last few months. In April, the Leader of the Opposition went to Whyalla and said that a carbon tax would wipe Whyalla off the map. It got better. In May, he went to Geelong and said that the carbon tax would be the final nail in the coffin of the motor industry in Australia. He said that it would spell the end for Australia as a First World economy. In the same month, he went to Weet-Bix and said it would kill breakfast. Three weeks ago, he said that it would kill the manufacturing industry in this country. Two weeks ago, he said it would be the death of the coal industry. Last week, he said that the steel industry would disappear. All of it, of course, is just nonsense.

Let us have a look at some of the claims, some of the scare campaign, and a look at some of the facts. First, let us have a look at the claim that it would cause the death of the coal industry. Treasury have modelled the impact of the CPRS on the coal industry and they found that coal industry output would continue to grow by 66 per cent over the next 40 years—so much for the death of the coal industry! Interestingly, the planned investment by the resources sector over the course of the next few years sheds a few more interesting facts on this matter. It shows that the industry does not believe this nonsense either, because there is now $430 billion in resource investment either underway or on the drawing board as at April—up from around $380 billion in October last year. Interestingly, $70 billion of that work is in coal related projects.

Let us have a look at one of the other ridiculous claims. Two weeks ago, in another MPI from the Leader of the Opposition, he came in here and predicted hundreds of thousands of jobs around the country would be lost and the end of Australia as a First World economy. That is interesting again, because Treasury has done some modelling—

Government members interjecting—

Mr CLARE: He did say it—believe it or not. The Hansardrecords it. That modelling shows that a carbon tax of $20 a tonne would not have any impact on the number of jobs created. According to the modelling, in the next nine years there will be 1.6 million more jobs created in Australia, with or without the tax. This is just how ridiculous it gets, because it was not just the coal industry and it was not just the steel industry and it was not just jobs he was talking about. Two weeks ago, he went to Visy in Brisbane, where he said that the carbon tax would cause the cost of beer cartons to go up. This is a serious matter! Unfortunately, on this matter he is right; it would cause the price of beer cartons to go up—

Government members interjecting—

Mr CLARE: I will give you the information. The price will go up by $0.0003, or three one-hundredths of a cent.

Mr Bowen: It’s a scandal.

Mr CLARE: It is a scandal. I have done the calculations because I like my beer. Based on the former CPRS, you would have to buy 3,000 beer cartons before it would cost you an extra dollar—a serious scare campaign! I think the people of Australia deserve better than that. I think they deserve better than 15 minutes of bile. They got 25 minutes of bile from the Leader of the Opposition today. They deserve better than the 18 months of incompetence that we have seen from this Leader of the Opposition and they certainly deserve better than another dodgy Liberal scare campaign.

When it comes to the Liberal Party, we know they have form when it comes to dodgy scare campaigns. In the 1950s, it was reds under the bed. In the 1970s, it was China. The Liberal Party said that Whitlam’s engagement with China was ‘a daemonic game of mahjong’. In the 1980s, the great scare campaign was Medicare. This is what they said at the time about Medicare: ‘A total and complete failure; a financial monster; a human nightmare.’ That is what the Liberal Party said about Medicare in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it was native title. They said that you would lose your backyard. In the 1990s, it was compulsory superannuation as well. They said that the introduction of compulsory superannuation would destroy the economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. On all of these counts, whether it was reds under the bed, China, Medicare, native title or compulsory superannuation, they were wrong, and it is all not so scary anymore. Medicare is now the cornerstone of our health system. Native title did not take anyone’s backyard. Superannuation did not destroy jobs; it actually created them. Instead of the 100,000 jobs that the Liberal Party feared would be lost, the superannuation industry created 60,000 jobs. It was one of the most important economic reforms of the 20th century. The same arguments are being made by the Liberal Party now that were made then—that it would destroy the economy, that it would kill jobs. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. On all of the big calls, the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition have got it wrong—yet they have the absolute gall to come into this House and raise a discussion about competency.