For this Leader of the Opposition, his whole notion of leadership is the political equivalent of going the biff. That is his way of acting. He has done for political discourse in this country what the vuvuzela did for World Cup soccer in South Africa.
He is saying that his very first commitment, if he is elected to office, is to give a tax break to 30 of the wealthiest companies in this country—people who are having super-profits. These people are not only making these profits but saying they are prepared to pay the tax. They should pay the tax. We on this side of the chamber say yes to the minerals resource rent tax. The Australian public say yes to the minerals rent tax. The big miners say yes to the MRRT. The only people in Australia who say no are those opposite.
But there is something that is very interesting.
As everyone would know, there was no gagging of the debate last night. Everyone had an opportunity to make a contribution, but there is one person who did not make a contribution to the debate on the minerals resource rent tax – and that is the Leader of the Opposition.
He could not get to his feet: not yesterday, not the day before, not when we introduced the legislation. Not one word during the debate did he have to make, yet he says this is the most important issue facing Australia. He could not be bothered getting to his feet. He slept through the economic stimulus plan vote and last night had to have a person either side of him to nudge him and wake him up during the divisions. You had the Chief Opposition Whip on one side and the Manager of Opposition Business on the other nudging him every 10 minutes to get him to wake up, having slept through the economic stimulus plan.
But of course he has got form because he could not be bothered speaking on the minerals resource rent tax legislation. When the carbon price came to a vote in the Senate – remember the other big piece of legislation – he was on a plane to Europe where he told them that the Australian economy led by this Prime Minister and this Treasurer was the envy of the industrialised world. That is what he had to say overseas, and it stands in stark contrast to his behaviour in this House.
The fact is that this Leader of the Opposition is hoping to survive and get out of this place because he is looking forward to Christmas. He is hoping that Santa brings him a policy because what happened late yesterday in his own caucus room is that, one by one, they stood up and spoke about the National Party tail wagging the Liberal Party dog. They spoke about the pathetic failure of modern liberalism under this leader. Robert Menzies, the founder of the Liberal Party, had this to say:
“In other words, on far too many questions we have found our role to be simply that of the man who says ‘No’.”
A visionary was Robert Menzies: 67 years ago he picked this bloke, and this is what he also said about this bloke:
“There is no room in Australia for a party of reaction. There is no useful place for a policy of negation.”
That is what Robert Menzies said about this person who has led the coalition of yesterday into the ‘noalition’ of today—the ‘noalition’ who have just one policy to every issue: no, no, no, no, no. We heard it 32 times last night, and so desperate were they that we had the unprecedented action from the opposition of moving divisions and having counts on third readings of legislation. That is how strong they were in their opposition to big miners being taxed. That is how strong they were in making sure that they go to the next election.
They are going to say to the people who have had the income tax-free threshold lifted from $6,000 to $18,000 that they are going to bring it back in.
They are going to put a million people back into the income tax system, the lowest paid Australians in this country.
Why? So that BHP, Rio Tinto and the big miners who say they can pay more will get a tax cut. What a disgrace, and that is on top of the fact that they are going to increase company tax for Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses. That is the policy that they have.
Last night we saw the farce of them having a bit of a focus group – and maybe it came through: maybe they are being a little bit too negative. ‘Maybe we need to have a bit of a nuance’. So we saw the little nuance with regard to superannuation. They did not trust the Shadow Finance Minister, so he was out of the loop. But they made an announcement about superannuation about how they were going to support it, and guess what? Last night they voted against it again. They voted against the super changes last night.
This is a person who was saying no in his sleep. We know that is the case because we saw it last night. There he was asleep on the front bench. He only woke up to say no, no. It was unbelievable but that is what we saw last night for 2½ hours. This is someone who thinks that he will sleepwalk into office. I have got news for him: the Australian people are better than that. We are a country that believes in fairness. We are a country that understands the importance of superannuation.
We are a country that understands the importance of giving tax breaks to low-income earners and companies, of stimulating our economy. This is a government that is proud of the fact that we have created 770,000 jobs since we came to office, including 100,000 in the last year. But the hypocrisy: while they were out there voting against all this, this is what they say about regional infrastructure. Today’s paper in Gladstone, where we have announced a fast-tracking of funding for the Calliope crossroads, had this to say about the member for Flynn:
“Mr O’Dowd said the announcement was a direct result of representations by himself…”
I checked the records. He has not written me a letter. He has not had a meeting. He has not picked up a phone. I know who he is vaguely but I have never had a conversation with him in my life. I do not plan to have one soon, because this is the sort of pathetic performance they have of opposing all the funding.
They oppose everything, but then they try and get their snouts in the trough to get every bit of funding they can. Then they claim credit for it.
We have two years to go, two years of the relentless negativity of the Leader of the Opposition. The game is up. Your backbench know it and pretty soon you will know it too.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.