Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (15:41): The Leader of the Opposition has moved his matter of public importance. This is something that he and his office and his team would have been planning all day. In it went just before 12 o'clock and the Speaker chose it. It is an MPI about jobs and the cost of living. But we did not hear the member for Chisholm mention the cost of living. She might have mentioned jobs once or twice in a cursory way. The first half of her contribution was relevant to yesterday's MPI on the environment. I have actually checked. I checked with my colleague here next to me. Someone wrote this MPI and Bill Shorten signed it. But he did not mention jobs or the cost of living. He did not mention the cost of living once. And do you know why? Because along with those opposite—
Mr Conroy interjecting—
Mr TONY SMITH: You are back. Are you rostered on? You are fantastic. It is this involuntary babble. That is why you are here. That is what we heard from the Leader of the Opposition for 10 minutes: a jungle of gibberish. It was a mixture of insults, corny jokes and populism. If there was one thread that held the Leader of the Opposition's speech together, it was pretending that budget surpluses do not matter, pretending that runaway deficits and debt do not matter, pretending that he can be populist, pretending, as we saw over the course of the last few months, that he can create jobs where he knows there are none—just pretending and hoping that he can stir up enough populism on any issue to get himself through. This is no substitute for serious policy.
We know that the whole time he was a minister—he was an Assistant Treasurer at one point—he and the former government at first pretended that the budget situation did not matter and then pretended for years that they would return the budget to surplus. The Leader of the Opposition, along with a few others in the opposition, actually declared at one point that the budget had returned to surplus. He put it out in a newsletter and said Labor had returned the budget to surplus. But, as the Treasurer pointed out during question time, we had more than 500 pledges of a surplus, but no surplus. Now, confronted in opposition with a runaway debt situation, their deep thinking has led them to pretend that it does not matter. We see it on policy issue after policy issue.
They have put in a matter of public importance mentioning the cost of living, and clearly what has happened is after it has been submitted they have thought, 'Hang on, we don't want to talk about that because we are the kings of cost of living pressure.' They were the kings of the carbon tax that racked up cost of living and racked up costs for business and for families. We went to the last election on a clear pledge to abolish it. We have abolished it against the opposition. And what do they want to do? They want to bring it back. They have the hide to put in a matter of public importance on cost of living when they do not even have the courage to mention it in the House of Representatives. That is the situation we face with those opposite.
We have heard them talk about higher education and pretending, like on the budget, that we do not need any reform. They have been pretending, even, that the Hawke and Keating reforms were not worthwhile. We even had the member for Wills wanting to roll back the Hawke and Keating reforms on higher education. When I was at university as a Liberal student I supported the Hawke and Keating reforms. But the problem is that all of those opposite have had their fingers crossed behind their backs the whole time they have been in public life. Now here they are in opposition and they will not confront a serious policy issue in any area.
The Minister for Education rightly pointed out that Paul Kelly in The Australian had this to say:
Labor has opted out of serious engagement, yet again.
Anyone following policy and looking at the need for reform knows the budget needs to be reformed, that higher education needs to be reformed and that tough and difficult decisions are necessary today for a brighter future tomorrow. But those opposite will just keep pretending, and the Leader of the Opposition is quickly making himself the great pretender— (Time expired)