ANTHONY ALBANESE – Today is the day the Liberal Party discovered misogyny. Before today it did not exist. Before today, on the nine separate occasions on which the Liberal and National parties preselected Peter Slipper they did not know anything about him.
In spite of the fact that we have a court case where the judge reserved judgement just last Friday, today they come into the Parliament and move this motion. It would be the first time that such a motion had ever been carried on partisan lines. They do this without any concern whatsoever for the standing of this Parliament and the precedents that are set.
What we have seen, though, is some consistency from those opposite. We saw with their attitude over the issues surrounding the Member for Dobell [Craig Thomson] and those surrounding the Member for Fisher [Peter Slipper], that when it is convenient they say no one should comment on matters before the courts. Remember that? Remember them out there — the Member for Sturt [Christopher Pyne], the Leader of the Opposition and others — being critical of me for making comments? Yet here they are, once again, setting up this Parliament to usurp the role of the courts.
The fact is these are matters of concern. I’ve been asked whether I am concerned about the comments by the Member for Fisher, and I stated unequivocally: yes, I am concerned about sexism in any form.
But that does not seem to be a precondition for holding the high office of Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, in an interview in the Good Weekend, made comments in a debate with Michael Costa in which he said:
“But what if men are by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue a command?”
When Michael Costa spoke about the need to deal with the underrepresentation of women, the Leader of the Opposition said:
“But now there is an assumption that this is a bad thing.”
He has also said “abortion is the easy way out” when it comes to the difficult choices that women, and only women, should have the right to determine.
The Leader of the Opposition has made all sorts of statements, not just over a year, not just over a term, but over decades in public life. We saw of course a historical linkage between the Sydney Uni Liberal Club – with the speech from Alan Jones – and his political origins at Sydney University where he engaged in the sort of campaign that has characterised the hard Right from the 70s through to the current day.
He could not drag himself to condemn Alan Jones for saying that the Prime Minister should be put in a chaff bag and dragged out to sea. Indeed, this week he rang up Alan Jones to console him and had a private conversation. The alternative Leader of the Opposition [Malcolm Turnbull], who has more leadership in his little finger than this bloke, was straight out there on the Sunday morning to condemn the comments relating to the Prime Minister’s father.
But the Leader of the Opposition could not bring himself to say anything. He had to wait for Alan to do his press conference because he didn’t want to upset him. That was more important than doing the right thing and showing a smidgin of leadership just once.
What we have seen since 2010 – and today is the logical extension of it – is the longest dummy spit in Australian political history.
During 17 days we saw statements from the Leader of the Opposition that he would dignify the Parliament; that he would respect whatever decision the crossbenchers made. Indeed, we had parliamentary reform that would have made it irrelevant who the Speaker was in terms of the partisanship in this Chamber. They agreed to it not under coercion, but voluntarily. It was signed up to by the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Prime Minister, me and the crossbenchers.
Yet straightaway, like a kid who does not get to bat first going in and trashing all the stumps, he begun trashing the parliamentary process. And he comes in here again today and trashes Question Time, as he does day after day, and engages in political debate and a strategy based upon wrecking the joint – or “destroying the joint” as his mate Alan Jones would say.
This bloke does it day in day out. His whole political strategy has been to wreck the Parliament. He has boasted about wrecking the Parliament, and he has tried to do it on issue after issue. That’s why more than 400 bills have passed this Parliament without a single defeat. Those opposite are the first opposition in history to not worry about the actual policy that’s going through the Parliament and the key policy debates of the day. That might be acceptable if they were a rump, but they are not. They are almost half the Parliament. In spite of the fact that they are in a position, with support from the crossbenchers, to make a difference to the way this nation operates, in policy terms they have not won a thing.
Why? Because they don’t care. It is all about political power for power’s sake. We saw it from the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke about how difficult it was to be in opposition. Remember what he said?
“It is not quite like losing a spouse; it is like losing a parent.”
That’s what he had to say. He then went on to talk about the tragedy of losing some of his salary, showing just how out of touch he is.
But we see this day in day out. You would have thought that the Manager of Opposition Business, the Leader of the Opposition and others who have spoken in this debate had not met Peter Slipper, the Member for Fisher. I tabled a reference from Tony Abbott to the Liberal preselectors in the electorate of Fisher. He said:
“The fact that Peter has chosen to stand in Fisher even though much of his existing electorate has become part of Fairfax is a sign of his determination to be a team player.”
He went on to say:
“Success in politics is hard won through long experience. I find it hard to imagine a better candidate to hold the seat.”
That is what the Leader of the Opposition had to say about the Member for Fisher.
We know the friendship is there because he went to the wedding, along with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition [Warren Truss].
Then we have the circumstances whereby the Leader of the Opposition is only sitting in that chair because he got the Member for Fisher’s vote when he won the leadership by one single vote. I did not hear him talk about it being “tainted”. He was happy to take that vote then.
Then we have the meetings of those opposite with Mark McArdle and the Manager of Opposition Business going into the Speaker’s Office to have a little drink with the Speakers’ staff, including Mr Ashby. There have been multiple meetings involving Mal Brough. Gee, he could not have an interest there, could he? He is running for preselection for the seat and trying to knock the bloke off, and he is meeting with the bloke’s staff about these issues! Joe Hockey, Mal Brough and Clive Palmer met at Coolum resort over Easter, from 6 to 9 April.
There was contact after contact in the lead-up to these allegations being made.
The Leader of the Opposition was a bit slow off the mark the other Sunday when Jonesy was in a spot of bother, but he was pretty quick off the mark on the Saturday morning when the Daily Telegraph splashed ‘spontaneously’. At 9.15am he was out there. He did another couple of press conferences the next day, and there were Coalition members splashed across the Sunday morning TV programs, something they normally avoid like the plague. You are more likely to see this bloke on Lateline, 730 and Q&A than Coalition member subjected to the scrutiny of a Sunday morning program. But that was all okay.
Then on 22 April, when the Speaker stepped aside from chairing the Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition had this to say:
“It’s good that the Speaker has stepped aside until these matters can be resolved…”
That’s what he had to say then. He argued that the process currently in place should be put in place, and ever since, he has continued to trash that exact same process. We know that throughout it all the “no specific knowledge” defence was there.
We also know that most of these alleged text messages took place prior to the Member for Fisher becoming the Speaker, when he was a member of the Liberal-National Party and the Leader of the Opposition was happy to accept his vote day after day.
What we are seeing here is just the latest in the Leader of the Opposition’s determination to trash proper processes in this Parliament. It is not appropriate that the Parliament just go along with this. We see this aggression every day.
Today, when I saw the Member for Indi [Sophie Mirabella] out there lecturing us on these issues I recalled the demonstration outside my office with a coffin. The Member for Indi used taxpayer funds to fly up to the demonstration and on TV for all to see was a woman grabbing my tie and saying that my dead mother would feel “ashamed” of me.
We remember the context of this. The demonstration outside the Parliament where the Leader of the Opposition prepared to stand in front of a sign which said “Juliar: Bob Brown’s bitch”. Do not lecture us about sexism when you did nothing to dissociate yourself from this group. When Alan Jones was promoting the demonstration outside my office with all of these signs still there, you sent a frontbencher interstate to Marrickville to engage in it, which required the mass presence of the Australian Federal Police.
If you light the fire, you should not be surprised that it occurs.
The Leader of the Opposition has called for a people’s revolt. He has engaged in language which is unprecedented in this Parliament, which has incited people. He has said that this is not a legitimate parliament. He has been a part of saying that, and he comes in here and gives it no respect whatsoever.
I say to the Leader of the Opposition: it is a step too far to go down this path of moving this resolution today without any notice whatsoever to the Government. But it is consistent with his attitude of wrecking and trashing everything that he touches and his failure to grant any common respect.
Can you try just one thing for the rest of the week? See if you can call the Prime Minister “Prime Minister” instead of “she” and you might have just a smidgin of credibility.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.