Sep 24, 2008

Questions without Notice – Economy


Ms GEORGE (Throsby) (3:15 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Will the minister advise the House on the importance of the government’s nation-building agenda and any recent endorsements from international organisations of this approach? Why is consistency in economic policy important for a strong economy?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Throsby for her question and for her ongoing interest in infrastructure. Last week I spoke about the widespread support from the business community for the government’s infrastructure agenda. Today the highly respected IMF have become the latest body to endorse the Rudd Labor government’s approach. The IMF have said in this report—

Opposition member—Is that what they said?

Mr ALBANESE —This is exactly what they have said. I will quote directly from them—and attribute the quote to them. They said:

Directors welcomed the establishment of three new funds for longer-term spending on health, education, and infrastructure, with contributions to come from the 2007/08 and 2008/09 surpluses.

They went on:

Saving some of the revenue from the commodity price boom in three new funds will take pressure off monetary policy in the near term and enable increased infrastructure investment over the medium term.

There you have the IMF acknowledging that Labor have put in place our surplus with a purpose.

But I am also asked about the importance of consistency in economic policy making for the Australian economy. Earlier in question time we had a question to the Treasurer from the shadow Treasurer. In her question the shadow Treasurer referred the Treasurer to a speech by the Assistant Treasurer dated 4 June and published on the Assistant Treasurer’s website. She then went on to refer to a speech given by the Treasurer in the House on 18 June 2008, thereby clearly giving the impression that there was no connection between the two. She indicated that the Treasurer’s speech was made in the House but the Assistant Treasurer’s speech was just available on the website. If the shadow Treasurer was being fair dinkum she would have stated—

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I seek to table the speech from the Assistant Treasurer’s website and the speech that I referred to.

The SPEAKER —Order! That is not a point of order. The Leader of the House has the call.

Mr ALBANESE —It’s called Hansard! Both speeches were for the same bill. It was a bill from the Treasury—a Treasurer’s bill. As is absolutely standard procedure, as the Treasurer was not available at the time to give his speech the Assistant Treasurer gave the second reading speech on behalf of the Treasurer. That is why you have an Assistant Treasurer!

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. This defence of the Treasurer’s plagiarism does not go to the question that he was asked.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat. The Leader of the House is responding to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —I am responding to the issue of consistency of economic policy, which is not understood by those opposite. So you had a speech given by the Assistant Treasurer on behalf of the Treasurer, and then in the summing up of the bill the Treasurer also gave his own speech—nothing extraordinary there at all. Both speeches, on 4 June and on 18 June, were on behalf of the Treasurer of Australia. Not surprisingly, they were consistent—just as the Assistant Treasurer in the former government used to give speeches to bills on behalf of the Treasurer in this House. The fact that they tried to pretend that there was no connection between the two, the fact that they did not try to table the said speeches, is very interesting. They have been caught out.

You can understand why they are worried about a debate about consistency in economic policy. You can understand why they have been so defensive, because this is now the sixth gaffe in some three days—two a day is the average of the member for Curtin. When it comes to plagiarism, when the member for Curtin became the shadow Treasurer she did not ask for extra staff—she asked for an extra photocopier in her office! The fact is that the shadow Treasurer was caught out—caught out plagiarising, and then caught out doctoring Hansard. This is what the Australian online says today:

Today Coalition sources confirmed the offending paragraphs of background were provided for her speech from the leader’s office—

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, on relevance. He was asked about consistency in economic policy. This has nothing to do with the question.

The SPEAKER —I will listen carefully to the minister for infrastructure and I suggest that he brings his answer to a close.

Mr ALBANESE —The fact is that consistency in economic decision making is important, because they have none over there. When caught out, the shadow Treasurer has attempted to shift blame to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. If this is a matter relating to Hansard, then the Leader of the House asked a question of you earlier this morning. You are reporting at a later hour. Therefore, surely, this anticipates your decision.

The SPEAKER —Order! I will be listening carefully to what the minister for infrastructure says—to the relevance to the question—and, as I said, I suggest that he brings his answer to a close.

Mr ALBANESE —That is another offence that I have not raised here. The fact is that the Australian report says:

Ms Bishop was understood to be “ropeable” about the error but willing to take the public flak …

No, not willing to openly say that it was the opposition leader’s fault—just willing to background it. And the opposition leader’s—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will bring his answer to a close.

Mr ALBANESE —statement has been ‘no comment’ about the responsi