Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) – As it is the third anniversary of the election of the Labor government, I think we are all entitled to get a little nostalgic as we look back.
Mr Deputy President, I am sure that you would remember the member for Kingsford Smith’s first major contribution to public life.
You might be thinking I am talking about the Home Insulation Progra -although that was a significant contribution of his!-but I am actually referring to a conversation before the 2007 election that Mr Garrett had with radio journalist Steve Price in an airport lounge.
When Mr Garrett was asked how Labor would do all this that it had promised, he replied, ‘When we get in, we’ll just change it all.’
And Mr Garrett was a prophet: Labor did change it all, and they had good reasons for each of their decisions.
There were really three reasons for each policy area: basic failure of policy and administrative competence, lack of political will or just good oldfashioned
Incompetence is actually the biggest category. With the school halls, there was billions wasted; roof insulation, four deaths, 207 fires and 250,000 dodgy jobs; border security, almost 10,000 illegal arrivals and 190 boats; computers in schools, a million promised and less than half delivered; Indigenous housing, hopelessly delayed; trade training centres program,
with 2,650 promised, delayed; GP superclinics, 36 promised and four delivered; and the Green Loans scheme a debacle, with $275 million wasted.
Then there is the category of old-fashioned deceit, both the intention to never deliver and the lack of compunction about breaking commitments.
There was the commitment to childcare expansion, with 260 centres promised, and staff, but 38 delivered.
Then there was Fuelwatch, dumped-Labor knew they could not fix the petrol price; that was a fib.
GroceryWatch, with $7 million wasted and 30 staff employed, was abandoned-another policy hoax.
They said they would not means-test the baby bonus; they have done it.
They said they would not means-test private health insurance rebates; they have tried to do it.
Then there is the most laughable one of all, the new era of transparency: Operation Sunlight.
Yet, when it comes to a $43 billion program, the NBN Co., is there a cost-benefit analysis? No.
What about releasing the business case? No. There is no transparency, no ‘new paradigm’, just politics as usual.
For me the most condemning category for Labor is the absence of political will, or what is better known as good old-fashioned gutlessness.
The ETS, the answer to the ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’, was dumped.
Labor have a working majority in the other place and, after the middle of next year, with the Greens they will have a majority.
Why don’t they bring the ETS back? Bring it on. They cannot blame this side
of the chamber anymore. They are without excuse for what they truly believe in.
There is also the matter of fiscal discipline. You will recall the former Prime Minister saying that he was often called a fiscal conservative. In fact, he said:
… it’s a badge I wear with pride.
This government has never delivered a surplus and it never will. With this government, there is no fiscal discipline, there are no tough decisions.
Of all the savings the government have identified, half of them result from new taxes-increased revenue.
Even when their profligacy is putting upward pressure on interest rates, they still cannot take a tough decision.
On the front page of the Australian today we see Wayne Swan saying that actually there is a path they are following: ‘ALP must steer clear of Greens, says Swan’.
I would say to Mr Swan: it’s a bit late, sunshine; you have already had the civil ceremony. We all saw it.
I am not being critical of the Greens. They could see a sucker coming and they took full advantage of it.
This government’s support is ebbing away. At the heart of this government is fear.
We saw from the minutes of the last caucus meeting with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister that what is driving the Labor government is fear of losing seats.
There is no concern about bad policy or about betraying the Australian people.
This government has not lost its way; it never found it.
The government stands for nothing and believes in nothing.
This government will amount to nothing.