Mar 1, 2007

Adjournment – Howard Government

ADJOURNMENT – Howard Government

1 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Manager of Opposition Business) (4.30 p.m.)—On 6 June 1995 John Howard, before he became Prime Minister, gave his first headland speech. In that speech the Prime Minister committed himself to parliamentary reform. He said:

For that reason I wish in advance of the election of a Coalition Government to commit the next government of this country to a series of reforms which will restore greater authority, dignity and meaning to our parliamentary institutions.

He went on to say that he hoped to see:

… a return of some respect and trust and a greater understanding of what occurs inside Parliament House.

Of course the reality is that a desperate government has chosen to trash the respect and integrity of the way in which discussion happens in this parliament. Indeed, last Sunday in the Sunday Age a senior Liberal strategist was quoted as saying:

“Rudd is on the examination table right now,” one senior Liberal strategist told The Sunday Age this week.

“And we have a team of physicians crawling all over him, tapping him here and prodding him there, testing his strengths and weaknesses. And don’t worry, we will find something.”

The article went on to say:

A significant part of the Coalition’s attack on Rudd, though, will be coming through the office of the Liberal Party’s sagacious pollster Mark Textor.

We all know about Mark Textor’s role in the Exclusive Brethren’s campaign and involvement in the last New Zealand election. The article when on to say:

Information of this kind—

that is, information from Mark Textor—

is fed in a daily briefing to the Prime Minister by federal campaign director Brian Loughnane, and sooner or later you start to see the research peppering Howard’s public rhetoric.

It is very clear that the government have determined once again in an election year to go down the low road in what they see as an opportunistic way to promote their electoral prospects. This is because they have run out of ideas. They have run out of ideas in this parliament and outside of this parliament. This week we have seen Labor take up a number of positive initiatives, taking on a tired government that can no longer hide 10 years of complacency, years and years of inaction on their watch.

On Monday we took on the issue of interest rates and the economy. The government is no longer in touch. The fact is that more household income than ever before is being consumed by mortgage repayments. The Prime Minister refused to answer the questions of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue even when Reserve Bank figures were tabled indicating that 9.1 per cent of household finances went on housing interest payments in September 2006 compared with 6.1 per cent in September 1989. The Prime Minister refused to address the question and the true interest rate reality being faced by families today.

On Tuesday the opposition had to ask seven questions during question time before the government admitted to having had discussions with Ron Walker and Australian Nuclear Energy Pty Ltd before commissioning the Switkowski report. This is a government that is happy to say that they support nuclear energy but want to pretend you can have nuclear energy without the 25 nuclear reactors actually being located anywhere in Australia. On Wednesday, time and time again, we heard how the government, after years and years of talk, have failed to act and deliver on a national curriculum for Australia’s schoolchildren. They have failed to act and deliver on supporting maths and science. They have failed to act and deliver on investing in education and training so that we can secure Australia’s prosperity. The fact is that they have even managed to ignore their own recommendations on the provision of early childhood education.

No matter how much this government is prepared to get down into the gutter and try to smear the Leader of the Opposition and others, that will not hide the fact that they have no ideas and they are ill-equipped to govern in the new century. This is also a government that has no respect for proper parliamentary processes and for democracy. It is a tired government that cannot hide 10 years of complacency. This is a government that is out of ideas. They are out of action and out of time. Australia is looking forward to a government that will actually prepare Australia for the future, rather than a government that has ridden off the back of the mining boom and squandered the opportunities created by the boom to maintain productivity growth.