Dean Smith

In Parliament

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Abbott Government

December 03, 2014

Can I also share festive greetings with Senator McGrath and others in the chamber.


We have been having a debate this afternoon about so-called barnacles and so-called broken promises. But let us be clear: what we have heard are carping and cliches from the other side. What we have not heard is an alternative. What we have not heard is a different plan. What we have not heard is one new idea from those opposite about how we can put this country on the best fiscal path possible—that has been missing from the contributions of Labor senators today. They would like you to believe that we should erase from our memory the last six years of Labor rule across this country—six years dominated by poor policy, poor implementation and a string of budget deficits. They would like you to ignore that from the current fiscal challenge that faces our nation. They refuse to admit that the country has a debt and deficit disaster. They refuse to admit that it is a disaster of their own making. Importantly, they reject what four Labor leaders have said. And I will come to that in a moment. But let me start with the commentary from a distinguished Australian businessman. Let us hear from Maurice Newman about what he thinks about the challenge.


Senator Cameron interjecting—
Senator SMITH: Thank you, Senator Cameron. I cannot wait for the interjection when I get to the commentary of four former Labor leaders about the budget problems and what they are saying about your failure to meet the challenges of the budget problems that we have. Let us hear from Maurice Newman, a distinguished business leader. He said:
The Shorten opposition still fails to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem. It plays semantic games questioning whether our deteriorating fiscal situation is a genuine budget emergency. It ignores the copious evidence that a political tipping point is reached long before an economic crisis becomes a reality …
He further said:


By playing to welfare dependence, class envy and the notion that there is nothing serious to worry about, the illusion has been created that there is a painless growth option—
a painless option in terms of getting the budget back to surplus. Of course, we know the truth: there is no pain free way, unfortunately, to correct the economic vandalism and recklessness of the former government.
More critically than what Maurice Newman has had to say is Labor's repudiation of what Bob Hawke has had to say, Labor's repudiation of what Paul Keating has had to say, Labor's repudiation of what even Mark Latham has had to say. It is not good enough that they reject the distinguished commentary of Australia's business leaders; they are rejecting the commentary of their own former Labor leaders. Let us turn to that.
What did Bob Hawke and Paul Keating say in The Australian on 1 January this year? The Australian states:


Bob Hawke and Paul Keating—
Senator Bilyk interjecting—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Senator SMITH: That is your Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, Senator Bilyk and Senator Cameron—
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating have urged the Abbott government to slash spending and speedily repair the budget bottom line—

things that you are stopping the government from doing—
arguing they faced up to a similar challenge in 1986-87 when the terms of trade collapsed and the dollar plummeted.
… … …
You've got to have a prime minister and treasurer, and a competent ministry which understands the issue and is prepared to make hard decisions.
Senator Bilyk interjecting—
Senator SMITH: You are repudiating one of your most distinguished parliamentary leaders. I do not mind saying that the economic stewardship of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating was not bad. I do not mind saying that. I am not too proud to say that and you too, Senator Bilyk, can embrace what Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are saying, and be part of the change that is necessary to get the country back on track.
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Senator SMITH: What did Bill Hayden have to say, another distinguished Labor leader that Senator Cameron and Senator Bilyk would like to ignore and erase from history? Again, from The Australian, this time just last month, 8 November:
Former Labor leader Bill Hayden has urged the party to be build 'economic credibility'—
he urged Labor senators in this place to build economic credibility—
with the voters and stressed the need to reduce the influence of factions to reform its internal structures and overhaul its policies to regain government.


It is to be expected that Labor might reject the commentary of distinguished business leaders, but when they start to reject the commentary of their own former Labor leaders about the importance of establishing economic credibility, that is the bottom of the barrel. Unfortunately, Labor senators in this place have reached the bottom of the barrel.