Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Questions without Notice
I thank the honourable member for his question. The centrepiece of the Liberal Party’s policy on fuel has, of course, been a 5c a litre cut on fuel excise. In fact, it is the only policy that the Liberal Party has announced since the last election. Costed by them at $2 billion a year, this policy would provide relief to motorists of about $2.50 a week if fully passed on to Australian motorists. We know that the—
We know that the Leader of the Opposition feels that this is bad policy. In fact, he even felt that when he was known as the humble member for Wentworth before he became Leader of the Opposition, because he sent an email to his good friend the member for Bradfield. And he was right—it is bad policy. When he was elected Leader of the Opposition, on his first day as Leader of the Opposition, when asked, ‘Will it remain Liberal Party policy?’ he said:
In terms of the fuel excise policy, we’ve made that policy commitment and we stick to it, we honour it, that is our commitment. We made it as a party.
That is what he said. Strong words—a rolled gold commitment from the Leader of the Opposition. But then, on Friday, the Leader of the Opposition walked away from that commitment. He told the West Australian that it was a promise ‘made in the context of a by-election in Gippsland’.
So, apparently, if a commitment is made in the context of a by-election it is not a commitment at all. Yesterday, we had the member for North Sydney nuancing the arguments a little further for the reasons for the backflip. He said the reason the opposition has changed its mind is that the government did not adopt the policy. He said that because we, the government, have not adopted the policy:
Therefore you’ve got to move on; otherwise, if you keep fighting yesterday’s battles you’re never going to move forward with a forward agenda.
So there you have it—a commitment from the opposition is only a commitment if we adopt it. That is a new definition of a non-core promise. Of course, it is right and proper that the Liberal Party drop this ridiculous policy, because it is bad policy. But what does it say about the credibility of the honourable gentleman who sits opposite when (a) he said it was bad policy, (b) he then supported it as a firm policy commitment and (c) he is now scrapping the policy—that is more flip-flops than you would see at Bondi Beach on a Sunday in summer. We see this continual backflipping and flip-flopping from the opposition, but that is what we have come to expect from the Leader of the Opposition.
I am asked about the importance of policy consistency. We have seen the same inconsistency from the opposition in relation to the government’s bank guarantee. When the Prime Minister announced the bank guarantee, the Leader of the Opposition said:
We welcome this measure, we support it and we will give the Prime Minister every assistance.
On 14 October he even came very close to claiming credit for the bank guarantee. He said:
… the deposit guarantee, we encourage them to take action there. They did, we’re supporting that.
Now, of course, he says it was a blunder and a failure. Our old friend the shadow Treasurer, in a doorstop interview yesterday morning, said the bank guarantee was causing ‘more dislocation in Australia than any other factor’—more dislocation than even the collapse of world financial markets. We know she did not plagiarise that; nobody else would have been silly enough to say that. The Leader of the Opposition told the Australian on Friday:
I place a very high premium on consistency and integrity in politics.
I do not question the honourable gentleman’s integrity, but he has all the consistency of a chameleon. If the Leader of the Opposition wants consistency, he could start by consistently asking and requiring the members for Goldstein, O’Connor and Canning to apologise to some of Australia’s finest public servants. It is just another reminder that, when it comes to the Leader of the Opposition, you have to look at what he does and not what he says—because what he says has no credibility.