Apr 4, 2007

Transcript of media conference – Treasury’s concerns over PM’s water plan

Transcript of media conference, Parliament House, Darwin, NT

Wednesday 4 April 2007


Subject: Treasury’s concerns over Prime Minister’s water plan

ALBANESE: It’s a pleasure to be here today with Damian Hale, Labor’s candidate for Solomon, who we are confident will join the Rudd Labor Government after the next election.

Today I am here to talk about the concerns that Treasury has expressed through the most senior economic adviser to the Howard administration.

The Secretary of Treasury, Dr Ken Henry, gave a speech recently in which he indicated his grave concern at the failure of the government to take into consideration proper economic costings, and to consult Treasury, over the $10 billion water plan.

If the government’s most senior economic advisor has concern over the Howard Government’s economic credentials on this plan, it is no wonder that Australians are concerned that the Howard Government is all about short term politics rather than long term policy development.

We can’t address the water crisis and climate change without addressing economic policies and the changes that are required.

The Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed Ken Henry’s concerns, saying that Treasury doesn’t know anything about water policy. We need to set in place economic mechanisms which encourage reform, such as water trading and emissions trading, if we are going to deliver solutions to climate change and have a solution to our water crisis.

The government’s arrogant dismissal of Dr Henry and Treasury’s concern about the lack of detail in their $10 billion plan shows that the Howard Government is arrogant, it’s out of touch and it’s out of ideas, and come the next election, it will be out of time.

REPORTER: Should voters be concerned that the Howard Government is not listening to its public servants?

ALBANESE: It’s a real concern that Dr Henry has outlined, not just on water and climate change, but also on John Howard’s nuclear fantasy, real concern across the board that the Howard Government isn’t listening when it comes to the advice that Treasury is giving.

Treasury is saying that we need to ensure that policies secure our economic prosperity beyond the mining boom. The fact that these criticisms have been dismissed out of hand by the Howard Government shows that not only is it not listening, but it is arrogant and it is out of touch.

REPORTER: Is the water policy simply a matter of too little, too late?

ALBANESE: What Dr Henry has outlined is the failure of this government, over a period of 10 years, to deal with the water crisis.

What’s clear is that more effort went into the crafting of a political speech by the Prime Minister on the 25th of January than went into gaining proper costings from Treasury and Finance, developing a timeline for that expenditure, and putting in place the economic structures that will drive the reform that is necessary to resolve our water crisis.