Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Doug Cameron (NSW) talked about the history of the economic failures within the Liberal National parties, here is some of what he said:
We can look back many years in this country to the time under Menzies when Menzies just kept plodding along doing nothing to expose this country to any international competition or any global capacity to build our economy or our industry. So do not come lecturing us about the great conservative economic legacy. The economic legacy is a legacy of neglect. …They were absolute failures.
… The situation is that they had Senator Joyce, the failed shadow finance minister—the Liberals got you, mate. They understood how bad you were. They sacked you fairly quickly.
… There were 11½ years of tax cut and spend, 11½ years of fiscal profligacy and 11½ years of John Howard standing over Peter Costello and forcing him into ignominious retreat on anything that was like a proper fiscal strategy for this country. The coalition have got a history of bad economic management in this country. We can go back to John Howard as Treasurer, which was an absolute disaster. Then we moved from John Howard to Peter Costello—absolutely hopeless.
… John Howard was one of the worst prime ministers this country has ever had. Peter Costello, a jelly-back, had absolutely no capacity to stand up to John Howard, who had no economic credentials. Peter Costello is still out there trying to pretend that he has got some economic credentials. What an absolute joke! You have got to have some backbone to be in finance or to be a treasurer. You have got to be able to stand up to the Prime Minister and to the ministers who want to spend, spend, spend. What did former Treasurer Peter Costello —jelly-back for short— do? He just capitulated; he just caved in. He caved in on every issue. When former Prime Minister John Howard and former Treasurer Peter Costello were there, it was like winning the pools—the money was just flowing in. But what were they doing when the money was flowing in? They were cutting taxes and they were spending.
Do not take it just from me that that is the position. Let us look at George Megalogenis, a very well-respected economic commentator in this country. He has just written a book. What does he say? Let us go back to Costello’s first budget. You want to talk about economic nonsense. He says: ‘Costello’s first budget involved no lasting sacrifice. Labor had reduced the size of national government from 27.3 per cent of GDP in 1984-85 to 22.7 per cent at the top of the previous boom.’
… I say to you that it is nice that we have at last got Senator Cormann saying are some storm clouds on the horizon. He has actually seen storm clouds on the horizon. Senator Cormann, the storm clouds have been battering the world economy and battering governments all over the world since 2008. But I am glad that, four years later, you have discovered there is a problem.
It is now 2012 and we have gone through the global financial crisis. The Labor government took us through that global financial crisis in a better condition than any other country in the world—absolutely better than any country in the world. And 210,000 jobs were underpinned by the policies of the Labor Party—a bit of Keynesian policy in there, ensuring that the government took up the slack. At the same time we had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition saying: ‘Don’t go down Keynesian lines. Let’s go back to Hayek. Let’s wait and see what happens. Just let the market rip and everything will be okay.’ Not another government in the world was looking at that position. We had banks failing all over the world. Our capacity to keep our industrial wheels moving were being jammed by the global financial crisis. …[The Coalition] have never recognised that the global financial crisis ravaged people’s jobs, economies and governments all over the world. Yet you pretend that there is nothing happening. But there are now storm clouds on the horizon. Whoopee, Senator Cormann, you are four years too late for that analysis and if that is the level of your economic precedent, then we are in a bit of trouble.
… The coalition were economic incompetents. That is the bottom line: you were economic incompetents. The drunk down the bottom of the garden could have had a surplus under the provisions you ended up having. He could have spent as much money on booze as he wanted and he would still have had money in his pocket. That is what you had. You had money flowing in, but what you wanted to do was to ensure you spent it as quickly as possible.
We have another interesting quote from Peter Hartcher. We have Senator Sinodinos being put forward as a great economic guru. He will probably take Senator Cormann’s job. What did Peter Hartcher say about Senator Sinodinos:
Howard’s former chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, was also a former Treasury official. He said the boom gave the budget process “a lucky dip feel” …
So what was your budget process? It was a lucky dip.
… The result was four successive years of tax cuts, six successive years with a budget surplus of between 1 and 1.6 per cent of GDP, and 11 successive years of real spending growth averaging 3.6 per cent.
You did not have the wherewithal or the economic understanding to build for the future of this country. What you did was throw out money in tax cuts; spend more than you should have spent on the wrong issues not build the infrastructure needs of this country … 11½ years of absolute incompetence of the Howard government. You also had an incapacity to look after pensioners. Pensioners were on the streets, screaming and yelling to get more money but the Howard government did nothing about it. You were an absolute rabble when it came to understanding what you need to do to build for the future of this country.
…I say: look at the historic facts. You were incompetent to the maximum. We had an opportunity in this country to build for the future. We had an opportunity to take action, to support the economic base of this country. When we were taking the opportunity to build the trades base of this country, you were throwing money out to kids and McDonald’s as your training agenda. That was your training agenda. You were an absolute disgrace. The only way that you saw to increase productivity was to introduce Work Choices and rip penalty rates and everything else from workers in this country. We know that if you get the chance you will rip penalty rates and every other benefit from workers in this country. You are a disgrace.