Aug 24, 2011

Motion to suspend standing order

ANTHONY ALBANESE – In moving this motion before the House, I wish to draw the attention of all honourable members to the way that this Parliament functions in a mature way and in the national interest.

Today there is a funeral of a great Australian, Margaret Olley. The Australian Government was to be represented at that funeral, as is appropriate, by the honourable Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, and also represented by the opposition by her friend Malcolm Turnbull.

Last week in this chamber we acknowledged Margaret Olley’s passing. In that, the Prime Minister moved the motion of condolence. It was supported by the Leader of the Opposition. That Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] had this to say:

“I rise to support the eloquent words of the Prime Minister. She — that is, Margaret Olley — did habitually what we all find difficult: doing good without being found out.”

The Member for Wentworth [Malcolm Turnbull] gave an extraordinary contribution. His eloquent words are, I think, worth quoting for all members. He said:

“I do not know whether death surprised Margaret Ollie or indeed that anything could surprise her, but when death came to take her, they took her as full of life as she had been when William Dobell painted her, working right to the end — a great Australian never to be forgotten…”

It is indeed extraordinary that the Australian Government will not be represented at her funeral today. I say to the Opposition that they should have a good look at themselves for the way that they are determined to wreck proper processes, wreck parliamentary conventions and wreck common decency, when it comes to their behaviour.

Also, this morning we have the visit of the President of the Seychelles. The Prime Minister will greet the President, as is normal practice for our nation, and yet, just as the pair for the arts minister was withdrawn, despite it being agreed to in writing, the pair for the Prime Minister has also been withdrawn.

Why has this occurred? This has occurred so that the Manager of Opposition Business can yet again engage in part of his grubby and hypocritical attempt to tear down proper parliamentary processes.

The Government believes in due processes. We know that there is only one member of the Australian Parliament currently under charges — well, that we know of, because we do know that that member was charged in May and no-one found out anything about that until July. So much for the transparency nonsense that those people opposite argue. Of course, we know that there is a history on that side of the chamber. They lost nine ministers and parliamentary secretaries over various issues and scandals while they were in office.

Indeed, there were multiple police investigations into members opposite, including the great ‘printgate’ affair, with the Member for Bonner [Andrew Laming], the Member for Bowman [Ross Vasta] and the [former] Member for Moreton [Gary Hardgrave], over allegations of misusing public money.

Indeed the standing orders should be suspended because I should be permitted to make a statement about exactly what is at stake here in terms of the proper functioning of the parliament.

People would be aware that we have processes of pairing such as the Australian Government and Opposition sending a representative to the United Nations in New York, and yet the opposition’s representative, the Member for Moncrieff [Steve Ciobo], has been told that he will have to come back from that visit representing Australia.

I would hope that he would have the decency to not suggest that Australian taxpayers’ funds should be used to fly him back for a vote on the carbon price, in which the outcome has already been made clear because 76 members of this chamber have indicated their support for it, and then fly back over to New York. I would hope he would have the decency to not even request that taxpayers’ funds be used.

The fact is we have had a history in this House of people arguing due process. The Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] said this about the Member for Bonner [Andrew Laming]:

“The matter is really now before the police and perhaps the Criminal and Misconduct Commission in Queensland, and let’s let those authorities make their investigations and come to any conclusion.

“He’s a backbench member of parliament and I think he’s entitled to stay in the parliament until these bodies have come to their conclusions.”

The former Prime Minister [John Howard] had this to say:

“…a lot of people who are under investigation end up having nothing to answer for. It’s a police investigation and the appropriate thing for me to do is to let the police investigation run its course and then if it is appropriate I will have something to say.”

I will indeed because the reason I should be permitted to make a statement about pair arrangements, which are agreed to, and the reason given by the Opposition for breaching those arrangements and the reason why we should have a debate about it is the Opposition’s obsession in a hypocritical way with the issue in which they have indicated publicly they want to move a motion this morning.

[Senator] George Brandis had this to say in the past:

“I think people who let us remind ourselves [that we] are entitled to the presumption of innocence… Particularly since these people are Members of Parliament…”

That is what George Brandis said. Brandis on Brandis — he likes quoting himself in terms of his legal advice to his own political party as Shadow Attorney-General. He had that to say on ABC online on 5 September 2007.

That is appropriate because we know that those opposite are just driven by this relentless negativity.