Mr Albanese (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:17): I rise to speak to the 40th suspension motion moved by those opposite in the 43rd Parliament. Every single day they come into this chamber and they move a suspension of standing orders that allows them to stand up and heckle, explain their negativity, hector and not put forward anything positive whatsoever. They do not participate in the constructive debates. They do not take the opportunity that question time provides to try to hold the executive to account. They simply stall for time until they can give their preprepared suspension motion, typed out in the morning and moved in the afternoon—day after day after day.
What are the consequences if we suspend standing orders? The consequences are that we will knock off the discussion of the matter of public importance from the member for Throsby, which is about jobs, employment, the economy and the manufacturing sector. The member for Throsby cares about jobs and the economy. All those opposite care about is one thing—being able to go from a shadow minister to a minister and from Leader of the Opposition to Prime Minister. That is their only concern. The only job that this man sitting here is concerned about is the position of Prime Minister. He does anything at all—there are no limits to what those opposite are prepared to do—to try to drag down the economy.
Today, on a day when we have more Australians in work than at any time in our history, we hear nothing from those opposite. The only people disappointed by today’s employment figures are those opposite. There were 46,300 jobs in January—
The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the motion before the chair.
Mr ALBANESE:These are the issues that we should be discussing. These are the issues that Australians should be concerned about, and that is why we should reject this suspension motion. The fact is that unemployment has fallen to 5.1 per cent. I heard a prediction this morning on the radio that it would go up. That was the prediction—that is what those opposite were hoping for—yet today we have outstanding figures. It is the largest monthly employment increase in over 12 months. But it is not surprising. We on this side of the House want to discuss the economy. We want to discuss jobs. We want to discuss the future. We want to discuss hope. All those opposite want to discuss is fear, driving everything down. Those are their only concerns—fear and scare campaigns.
Today we had the question of Qantas. Any loss of a job is one too many, but Qantas’s changes are in its heavy maintenance, which is to do with its international fleet and what is happening with the 747s. Its international fleet is not subject to a carbon price. Of course, we know the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations when Ansett collapsed and 15,000 Australians lost their jobs. That is what he presided over. It is little wonder that those opposite want to avoid a discussion about jobs on a head-to-head basis. It is of little surprise.
In the parliament this week we have had important debates. We have had the legislation to make fairer private health insurance carried by this parliament. Today we had legislation on the ABCC, restoring fairness to the workplace. They were opposed by those opposite, like everything else has been opposed. Mr Speaker, 269 pieces of legislation have passed this parliament in spite of the relentless opposition of those opposite and in spite of the fact that they come in here and move suspension motion after suspension motion. The shadow Treasurer actually had the hide to stand up during his contribution to this debate and say, ‘They can pass bills through this place.’ That is what he said, as if to say ‘big deal’. The fact is that we are getting on with important legislation—15 pieces of legislation in the last fortnight, including as I have said changes to make sure that working Australians do not pay for health insurance of politicians and changes delivering on our commitment to have a fair but tough cop on the beat in the construction sector.
The fact is that there are choices to be made. There is the choice to be made between standing still and getting ready for the future.
The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the motion.
Mr ALBANESE: There are choices to be made between making changes that are better for us and putting off the hard decisions. These are the issues that we want to discuss in this parliament. There are choices between building the future economy and dealing with the $70 billion black hole that those opposite have in their budget costings. This week we saw the debate before this parliament on the PHI legislation, which was resisted by those opposite, who say they will restore it in office when they can. The Australian resources sector, as the Minister for Resources and Energy knows, is pretty innovative. But I tell you, the biggest hole in Australia is not at Olympic Dam; it is in the costings of those opposite.
We have choices to make and we want to discuss them. We have choices between helping families make ends meet and clawing back tax cuts. We have choices about whether you deliver tax bonuses to Gina Reinhart and to the other mates they have at the top end of town. They are the issues that we want to discuss. I know that the shadow Treasurer would rather discuss defending the interests of Clive Palmer, but that is not the position that we on this side of the House hold.
There are choices to be made between managing the economy for working people and letting it run for the benefit of a select few. There is a fundamental choice between enhancing opportunity and entrenching privilege. Those are the issues that we want to discuss. Those opposite just want to get down in the gutter and discuss personalities. They themselves said that they had asked 54 questions of the Prime Minister—their questions were essentially about issues that are of no concern to the Australian people or their future. Today their lack of discipline was on display. Not only were they interjecting from the front bench and the back bench; they were interjecting from the advisers box. When the appropriateness of having an adviser in the advisers box heckling across the chamber was raised with you, Mr Speaker, they interjected at the person raising the point of order. No wonder there is such concern on their front bench about some of the structures that have been put in place by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister nailed the answer completely when they were so silly as to come in and suggest that the issue of contacting the leader’s office over media was something unique to the Labor Party. That says it all. Fundamentally, we say day after day that those opposite believe that they were born with a right to rule. They think that the prime ministership was stolen from them after the last election, because of their incapacity to negotiate with people.
Dr Emerson: And their born-to-rule mentality.
Mr ALBANESE: They have a born-to-rule mentality. Ever since then we have been suffering from the longest dummy spit in Australian political history. We know that the Leader of the Opposition has modelled himself on Barry Goldwater. We know that, because they use the same beginning for their speeches: ‘I will offer a choice, not an echo.’
The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the motion.
Mr ALBANESE: Those are the issues that we should discuss, because, as the critique of Barry Goldwater said, ‘In your guts, you know he’s nuts.’ That is what Australians know about the challenges that are before us. That is why we should have serious discussion in this House and not this suspension of standing orders. (Time expired)
Mr Pyne: I did not want to interrupt the Leader of the House, unlike the interruptions that I faced.
The SPEAKER: I am sure the Leader of the House appreciates your consideration.
Mr Pyne: My point of order is this: it is highly offensive for the Leader of the House to cast a slur over people with a mental illness, which is what he did in using the phrase he used. It is a slur. As a former parliamentary secretary and then minister for mental illness in the Howard government I find it to be tremendously offensive. I ask you to ask him to withdraw it and not use it again in the future.
The SPEAKER: The question before the chair is that the motion be agreed to. I will put that question.
Mr Pyne: I asked you to ask him to withdraw it. To describe somebody as ‘nuts’ is unparliamentary.
The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. Whether what the Leader of the House said was desirable, it was not unparliamentary. The question is that the motion to suspend standing and sessional orders moved by the member for Sturt be agreed to.