Mar 29, 2007

Adjournment – Howard Government Policies

ADJOURNMENT – Howard Government Policies

29 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (4.30 p.m.)—After 11 years in office, the Howard government has run out of ideas. Today and yesterday, the Main Committee had no government business to debate. The Main Committee did not sit today as usual, and yesterday it sat for only 90 minutes of three-minute members’ statements. It considered no government legislation. This is a government that has run out of steam. In contrast, over the past 12 weeks, Labor has announced a raft of new policies: a $4.7 billion plan to deliver a national broadband network to Australian households; Labor’s education revolution; Labor’s new directions in clean coal; Labor’s green car innovation fund; and Labor’s support of solar energy in Australian homes.

One would think the Leader of the House would busy himself with ensuring that there is a rich and full parliamentary agenda—but we do not have it. Instead, we have a government that is clearly out of touch, out of ideas, out of legislation and out of time. We know that it has been obsessed by the Work Choices legislation. For years the Prime Minister has wanted that to happen, and finally he got it through. This week the Prime Minister told us that working families in Australia have never been better off. These are the same working families that are under more financial pressure, the same working families that are struggling with four consecutive interest rate rises, the same working families trying to break into an unaffordable housing market, the same working families who, on AWAs, have had at least one protected award condition removed—for example, the families that we heard about today who are working at Darrell Lea and whose conditions are being cut back and their wages frozen for five years.

The Prime Minister has shown us that he is dangerously out of touch, because he has simply gone too far. When it comes to these industrial relations laws, the Prime Minister has gone that one step too far. Indeed, he has changed. Ten years ago on 27 May 1997, the Prime Minister said to the then Leader of the Opposition:

… you will never get from this Prime Minister an arrogant dismissal on the basis of ‘You have never had it so good’ …

That has gone the way of the ‘never ever’ GST promise.

This week coalition members, including the Prime Minister, have been desperate to say that industrial relations was not on the minds of voters when they cast their vote at the New South Wales election on the weekend. Perhaps most extraordinary is the member for Hinkler who, in his adjournment speech last night, said:

The other thing I want to talk about is the myth that floats around this place about the New South Wales state election, that somehow this was a defeat for the coalition.

He actually said that, Mr Speaker. He went on to acknowledge ‘In technical terms it was’. No, it was not. The coalition was soundly defeated. The Liberal Party failed to win a single seat off a Labor government that had been there for 12 years.

It is clear that the new Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations does not even know the detail of his legislation. This week parliament has also seen a significant step forward in the debate on climate change with the visit here by Sir Nicholas Stern. Sir Nicholas Stern has been saying that, according to the most comprehensive economic analysis, the cost of inaction on climate change will be the same as that of both world wars and the Great Depression combined. It will be the Great Depression but with a lot worse weather.

Sir Nicholas Stern suggested that it was time for action, that we have a window of opportunity in the next decade. Stern says ratify Kyoto. Labor will; the Howard government will not. Stern says cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Labor will; the Howard government will not. Stern says introduce a carbon emissions trading scheme. Labor will; the Prime Minister will not. The fact is that John Howard is not listening to the message of not just Sir Nicholas Stern and other prominent economists but also businesses here in Australia.

The Prime Minister has failed to meet the challenges of the new century. He has failed completely to take up the great challenges of dealing with a fair workplace, climate change, our water crisis and our skills crisis. That is why it is so significant that today for the first time— (Time expired)