Page 2182 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2022
We will not be supporting this motion today. The first part contains many factual errors and information that is out of date—and will be by 5 o’clock this afternoon. The second part is effectively the outsourcing of the Liberal Party’s policy work to taxpayers. As for the idea that we would find someone independent, I know John Barilaro is looking for something to do at the moment, but he is not someone who we would appoint to such a role—and we will not be, to be very clear.
What we have we seen with the previous Liberal government audits—I think it was former federal Treasurer Peter Costello who was hauled in to do Campbell Newman’s—is that there is an interesting trend in all of these. They tend to be one-term governments that undertake these sorts of exercises, springing on the electorate, after an election, their agenda to cut public services and public service jobs. I will credit Ms Lee with being prepared to say it before the election—that that is what she stands for—but I will remind her now, and every day until the election, that if she does not provide these answers then it is very clear that she will be hiding what her true intent would be, were she to be the Chief Minister and Treasurer.
So from today, Ms Lee, you are on notice that you must outline in detail every single cut that you will make, or else everything that you have said in the first part of your motion, and all of the concern that you have expressed, is meaningless because you will not act on it. If you are concerned about debt and deficit, outline the cuts you will make. Do it now. You can start on Thursday in your budget reply. You will have two days to look at the budget. Tell the community and tell this place which funding you do not support, which infrastructure projects you do not support. Because in the end that is what it comes down to: what will you not fund, what would you sacrifice, in order to meet some arbitrary debt and deficit target that you have set? What will you cut? That is the question that every Canberran will want to know the answer to between now and October 2024. The government will not be supporting this motion today.
(3.53): I welcome the opportunity that Ms Lee has provided to discuss these matters today. I listened to Ms Lee’s remarks very carefully, and I felt that she blended the notions of transparency and policy decisions in an interchangeable and confused way. The reason I say that is that, certainly, in Ms Lee’s press release yesterday and in comments that she made, she talked about the need for the government to be transparent about its spending decisions and for there to be proper scrutiny of the way that the government is operating its fiscal strategy. I think that is absolutely true and absolutely fair.
In preparing for today’s discussion, I reflected on the many mechanisms that are available for that transparency and scrutiny. The budget will be published; there will be an annual estimates process in which members will have two weeks, 10 working days, and all of the hearings, to scrutinise both ministers and the public servants that work with them on the matters of substance in the budget. Of course, there is an independent organisation contracted every year to examine the budget on behalf of the estimates committee. In recent years, that has been a group called Pegasus, who has provided an economic analysis—maybe call it an audit—of the budget and has given the estimates committee an external, independent analysis to help them with their scrutiny of the budget process. All of these things already exist. When it comes to scrutinising the budget, we have a range of pretty effective mechanisms and, if there