Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Turnbull: here's how I'd start to fix things, by Phillip Hudson - The Sydney Morning Herald - 16th September 2008

Malcolm Turnbull has used his first press conference as Liberal leader to accuse Kevin Rudd of policy recklessness and displaying a failure of economic leadership.

Mr Turnbull also said that, while Opposition policies would be under review, he would keep Brendan Nelson's plan to cut petrol excise by five cents a litre, oppose the Government's Medicare changes and maintain the policy on an emissions trading scheme.

He began the battle to claw back the Liberal's economic credentials by attacking Labor's claim to be fiscal kings.

He said the Government was not dealing well with the fallout from the economic crisis in America and the "massive collapse" on Wall Street.

"Labor claims to be superior economic managers. We are presently facing, probably, the gravest economic crisis globally in any of our lifetimes," Mr Turnbull said.

"We are seeing a collapse in global confidence. All year, from my very beginning as shadow treasurer, I have said to the Government their role is to lead.

"What Australia needs is real leadership. It needs strong leadership. It needs leaders that say this country is strong and can do anything. But we need confidence.

"We are suffering from a global collapse in confidence and instead of having a Government which talked up Australia, which spoke of our strengths, which spoke passionately about what we can do and why we are different, we've had a Government all year that's talked this country down."

He said that, when the subprime crisis started to hit and caused credit problems in Australia, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, mismanaged the response.

"He begged the Reserve Bank to put up rates," Mr Turnbull said. "He created an environment where the Government of the day - and this is unique in the history of our country or indeed any country - exacerbated inflationary expectations. We have had a total failure of economic leadership in this country."

On emissions trading, Mr Turnbull said the Coalition's policy would remain to support a properly designed system to begin in 2011 or 2012.

"What we've seen from Kevin Rudd so far ... is an emissions trading scheme that will destroy Australian jobs. It will do economic harm with no environmental benefit," Mr Turnbull said.

He said the focus on the Liberals' position was "a little overdone" and what would matter was the position it took to the next election.

He said Mr Rudd was asking the public "to buy an emissions trading scheme without telling them what it will cost".

"Kevin Rudd is forming an emissions trading scheme for purely political grounds without knowing what will happen at the Copenhagen summit in 2009, without knowing what the new US president will do. It's an extraodinary act of political recklessness."

Mr Turnbull said the Liberals would stick with Dr Nelson's policy to cut petrol tax by five cents a litre - a policy he did not initially support.

He said the Liberals would also oppose the Government's Medicare levy surcharge changes, saying it was a Labor "act of retribution" designed to undermine the private health insurance industry and would most hurt those on lower incomes.

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Malcolm Turnbull