Treasurer not up to the job

08 September 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:43):  Well, there is five minutes of our lives that we are never getting back, unfortunately. On this side of the House we have our differences with the foreign minister of Australia. We have our differences with her over policy. We have our differences with her in question time from time to time. But if there is one thing we agree with the foreign minister about it is that the Treasurer is not up to the job. And we know she thinks this, because she went to see the Prime Minister late last year, in December, in a Sydney summer, and said, 'Look, I don't think the Treasurer is up to the job; a lot of our colleagues don't think the Treasurer is up to the job.' So we should start by accentuating in this place where we agree.

We agree with the foreign minister that the Treasurer of Australia is hopeless. Since that meeting in December of last year, the Treasurer has staggered around and stumbled around for another nine months. But I think we probably agree that it will not be long now before that side of the House put the Treasurer out of his political misery. When the Treasurer speaks in question time, there is this respectful silence that descends over that side of the House. I was thinking during question time today, when the respectful silence descended, that it was a bit like the respectful silence you get when you make a valedictory speech in this place, and then then I thought that is no coincidence, because it will not be long now before the Treasurer gives that valedictory speech.

On the one hand, it is a bit rough to single him out. It is a competitive field when we talk about economic incompetence over on that side of the House. When I woke up during the trade minister's speech on the FTA today, I thought I had accidentally flipped over onto The Muppets or something like that. You have the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia in question time saying that a question about Australian jobs in our shipping industry was a trivial matter. That is a disgrace.

So on one hand it is a bit rough to single the Treasurer out, but on the other hand it is really hard to go past the guy who says that in his electorate of North Sydney they have some of the highest rates of bulk-billing when in reality they have some of the very lowest; a bloke who smokes a cigar and dances to Best Day of My Life on the day that he brings down a horror budget; a guy that says there would be more bulk-billing in this community if people drank a bit less beer; a bloke who, as the Treasurer of Australia, does not understand what marginal tax rates are in this country. You do not need a PhD in economics from the ANU like my colleague here to understand marginal tax rates in this country. Our Treasurer does not have a clue. This is a guy who said that, if we change the indexation for pensioners and extend out the eligibility, the pensioners will be somehow magically better off; a bloke that said that poor people do not drive cars; a guy that said that, if you do not like the house you are in or you cannot crack the housing market, what you need to do is go down the street and put your hand up for a higher paying job, as if there are lots of those littered around; and a guy that lectures the G20 about growth and says, 'Look, if only you all had a GP tax, all of these problems would just be a distant memory in the global economy if you did what I'm doing , which is slug people to go and see a doctor in the best health system on the planet.' You cannot make this staff up. It is extraordinary.

The Treasurer of this country is the Britney Spears of Australian politics: oops, he did it again and again and again and again, raining his gaffes and his misjudgements like confetti on the economic debate and this country. This would be a comical thing if there were not consequences. If we could just dismiss him as sort of a lovable buffoon, some sort of endearing clown, we could dismiss this. But the problem is that, as the shadow Treasurer said and as others have said, there are consequences from the Treasurer's incompetence. Every day of the two years and one day since they were elected, he has gone out of his way to smash confidence in our economy. As others have said before me, consumer sentiment is 11 per cent below where it was at the election, after they promised an adrenaline surge on their election. The NAB Business Survey, which only came out today, is down 11 points—that is us compared to them. When it comes to consumer sentiment, there was a 5.8 per cent hit just in the last week since we had those very weak growth figures come out from the ABS. The Australian economy is stuck at below-trend growth of two per cent. Annual growth has trended down since the Treasurer's damaging first budget last year. We have soft growth in this country because confidence has been smashed by this Treasurer. The consequences of smashed confidence and slowing growth are that unemployment has increased from 5.7 percent to 6.3 per cent, to be at 13-year highs. Eight hundred thousand Australians are out of work. That is why the Treasurer is not up to it.