Question Time – $900 stimulus cheques
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (14:40): My question is to the Treasurer. Is he aware that fruit and vegetable growers in Hinkler are continuing to receive $900 stimulus cheques for backpackers they employed years ago, who are no longer even in the country? What action is the government taking to end the waste and mismanagement of taxpayers’ money?
Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney—The Treasurer) (14:41): I know the member for Hinkler was not around when they were handing out $900 cheques, but they are still handing out $900 cheques. Five years after the stimulus was called for, nearly nine million $900 cheques went out—and they are still going out. We are going to stop them. What a waste of money. It was the member for Lilley who was the architect of that.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Ms Rishworth interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Moreton! The member for Kingston is warned.
Mr HOCKEY: He must be rather proud of that. I picked up on the weekend, in a report from his favoured journalist—
Mr Champion interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Wakefield will remove himself under standing order 94(a).
The member for Wakefield then left the chamber.
Mr HOCKEY: I picked up on the weekend that the member for Lilley is now writing a book. He said: ‘Mr Swan, who remains in the parliament,’—could have fooled me—’has signed a book deal with publisher Allen & Unwin with a working title Australian Treasurer. Let go, Wayne, let go!
Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, on a point of order: under standing order 104(a), there is no way this is directly relevant to the question.
The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will address himself to the question as asked.
Mr HOCKEY: The architect of the $900 cheques, the member for Lilley, sent 16,000 cheques to stimulate dead people. He sent 27,000 $900 cheques to people overseas, to stimulate the Australian economy. That should be a breakout in the chapter on stimulus.
Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I understand that you asked the Treasurer to return to the question, and he has not changed tack at all.
The SPEAKER: He certainly is answering the question. He was asked about $900 cheques and he is answering that question.
Mr HOCKEY: I was asked about the waste. I refer to an article from The Age, by Tony Wright. He said that talk-back callers proved a little more reckless with the money:
Someone called Denise said she’d spend the cash on a new tattoo to match the wolverine job she has on one foot.
This was from $900 cheque at work. I think that, in the book, there have to be pictures; it cannot be just a lift-out about Denise, whom the member for Lilley should track down—
Opposition members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Moreton!
Mr HOCKEY: We need to have pictures—
An opposition member interjecting—
Mr HOCKEY: The Tweed Daily News—
Mr Danby: What a stupid example! How many Australians did that?
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Melbourne Ports will desist.
Mr HOCKEY: I would refer him to the pictorial. You have to have pictures in a book, and I am sure there will be plenty in that book. I would ask him to take a photo of this:
Mr Cullen, who took over Number 33—formerly the Sanctum—at the start of the year, even ran cheeky newspaper advertisements about the stimulus package, encouraging people to “Get more bang for your buck”.
He said the economic downturn had certainly taken its toll on the sex industry.
“It is very quiet at the moment,” Mr Cullen said.
Thank God for the $900 cheques!
“The stimulus package helped a bit. Around the time the money started to come in business picked up.”
The problem is that it is taxpayers’ money that went out: $900 cheques—borrowed money from the next generation—that the member for Lilley and the Labor Party just splashed around without regard. It is only the coalition that is going to stop the waste. It is only the coalition that is going to stop the mismanagement. What a disgrace from Labor.