Jun 16, 2011

Motion to suspend standing order

Motion to suspend standing order

Parliament House

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure & Transport

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

16 June 2011

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I am indeed, Mr Speaker, and I am very pleased to speak in opposition to this motion, which is a motion to suspend the standing orders.

This is indeed a suspension of standing orders, the 12th this year. This is the 12th out of 28 Question Times that have been disrupted by those opposite. It is now up to 45 per cent and this is two out of three this week where we have had suspensions of standing orders moved. But those opposite show their contempt for the Parliament in not even knowing what it is that they have moved before the chamber.

The fact is that there are procedures in place in which you can move a censure. You stand up and you seek leave and you either get it or you do not. Then you move to a suspension. What those opposite have done is defy 111 years of history, as they have done in Question Time after Question Time this year on 12 separate occasions; when they have been the only opposition in history to have walked away from the opportunity of Question Time, the opportunity to hold the government to account.

This is indeed an extraordinary suspension that they have moved. They have moved a suspension on the basis of the resolution of the Member for Melbourne [Adam Bandt] that he moved in this chamber earlier today and that the coalition supported. I will say this about the Member for Melbourne: I believe he was very sincere in his advocacy of that resolution. That is more than I can say for those opposite, who rant and rave about stopping the boats but do not have any real solutions to put forward.

The position that this Government is putting forward is about breaking the people-smuggling business. But what those opposite are worried about is not just that the people-smuggling business will be broken; it is that their cheap slogan business will be broken as well. They actually are not interested in solutions. That is why this absurd position they have put forward. There has been nothing positive carried by this chamber or by the Senate but simply opposition. They want to jump on board and say that that should be the basis for policy making on an issue which they say is vital for Australia.

There can be no greater example of how the Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] is all opposition and no leader – no greater example than that. There is no greater example than the walking vuvuzela out there once again saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no!’ even when his inconsistent rank opportunism, which has no bounce whatsoever, considers him to attach himself to the Greens asylum seeker position. I mean, for goodness sake!

They have gone on for month after month, week after week, day after day, and they would have it that this Parliament’s position is the position of the Member for Melbourne. I say with due respect to the Member for Melbourne, I do not think even he would argue that he has the support of the entire Parliament for his position on asylum seekers.

They cannot even follow a script.

The Leader of the Opposition said that this Parliament had not expressed a view on Nauru. He said that repeatedly. He consulted the Manager of Opposition Business [Christopher Pyne], he consulted the Deputy Leader of the Opposition [Julie Bishop] on her position and he consulted the Shadow Minister [Scott Morrison].

On 28 October debate resumed on the motion by Mr Morrison, that was moved on 18 October. The Member for Cook says it was last year. The Leader of the Opposition said it never happened. Let me read you the bit of it that was rejected by this Parliament:

“…the re-opening of a third-country processing centre in Nauru for irregular maritime arrivals to Australia rejected by the House of Representatives.”

And now the Member for Cook maintains that it was good policy. It was defeated by this House but it was good policy. But the position that this Government is advocating, with a real solution to break the people smugglers’ model, they say is not relevant. The fact is that not only was it defeated, not only did members of the Government oppose it, not only did members of the crossbenches oppose it, but members of their own party opposed it.

The Member for Pearce [Judi Moylan] and the Member for McMillan [Russell Broadbent] indicated very publicly and in the caucus room that they would not vote for this position. So they had to pair them out, and the Hansard of 28 October 2010 indicates that. I await the personal explanation from the Member for Pearce saying that it is not true what I am saying. She will not do that because she has more integrity than the Member for Cook, who is engaged in this cheap-jack opportunism that we see before the Parliament here today.

The fact is that there are a number of issues which should be debated in this Question Time. There are a number of issues which should be able to be asked by all members of the Parliament. We had the challenge of climate change. We had the reintroduction of a form of Work Choices by their NSW Liberal Party colleagues. We have ongoing issues in terms of job creation and the economy. We have a budget with major initiatives, including mental health reform, superannuation, infrastructure development, child care, family assistance.

All of these issues could be asked about if Question Time had not ended prematurely as it has been yet again today, for the 12th time. The fact is that we are now up in the order of 120 questions lost because of the failure of those opposite to value Question Time – the failure of those opposite to regard parliamentary procedure with the respect that it deserves.

So we are not going to be lectured by those opposite about resolutions of motions that are debated and voted upon in this House.

The extraordinary proposition is that a resolution of the Senate should be binding on the government. I well remember before they got control of the Senate and introduced Work Choices and went too far, which resulted in us sitting on the Government benches, the Senate day after day, week after week, carried all sorts of resolutions, without any consequences whatsoever. No-one in the Howard Government ever noticed what resolutions were being carried by the Senate.

This suspension should be rejected because we should return the Parliament to the processes and the orders which should take place. Question Time has been ended today as a result of this, and that is simply because those opposite are not interested in holding the Government to account.