ANTHONY ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:59): — This is an extraordinary position being put by the Opposition. Earlier today the Member for Cook [Scott Morrison] said that he did not want to politicise the tragedy. Yet, on the same day that this has occurred, the Opposition interrupt Question Time to bring on a motion about business in the House.
What’s more, the Leader of the Opposition, who has continually used extreme language about a range of issues, today, the day of this tragedy, spoke about the Government “dying of shame”. The sort of language and political discourse created by the Leader of the Opposition does no credit to his great party, does no credit to this parliament and does no credit to this nation.
This motion has been moved in the context of attempting to shut down Question Time yet again. It was done at a quarter to three so that when Play School comes on, about now, they will have had their 10 minutes from the Leader of the Opposition and five minutes from the Member for Cook. They did it because they have put the Member for North Sydney [Joe Hockey] in witness protection. We asked two questions in a row about his melting down on the 7.30 program last night, so they shut Question Time down. And the reason they should not have shut down Question Time is that we were just getting started! We were just getting started about what they knew.
The person [Christopher Pyne] in charge of their strategy and tactics in the parliament does not know that this is a suspension of Standing Orders. What I am arguing is why Question Time should have continued and not been shut down by those opposite.
This is absurd – they are moving a motion to bring on a bill that they do not support. Absurd!
By their behaviour they show how fair dinkum they are about this motion. They are worried because they would rather discuss anything than workplace relations and their attitude towards it. That is why we should have been allowed to have Question Time continue today, because there are questions to be answered had they not shut it down.
There are questions to be answered about what they knew about the proposals that Qantas had to lock out its workforce and shut down the airline, with the consequences for travellers and the consequences for the national economy. In all of their statements over this issue since Saturday there has not been one word, not a syllable, of criticism against Qantas. On this unilateral action by the board of Qantas to lock out its workforce, not a word is uttered because they have form.
They would have you believe that what they expected was earlier intervention from the Government, but let us have a look at what people have said about it.
This is what they said in Battlelines:
“The new system requires businesses to engage in ‘good-faith bargaining’ – a misnomer – with, potentially, all unions that have workers at an enterprise. A new industrial regulator-cum-arbiter, Fair Work Australia, is to make binding rulings in the event that the parties can’t agree. This is compulsory arbitration by the back door. It means that decisions vital to the survival of businesses and their employees will be made by officials rather than…”
They will do anything rather than discuss their obsession with WorkChoices and their antiworker attitude and they will do anything to shut down Question Time rather than discuss the Minerals Resource Rent Tax that was introduced into the Parliament today. What is in common with those two issues is that those opposite will always stand up for the big end of town; they will always stand up for the few not for the many; they will always stand up for privilege; and they will always stand up for an abuse of rights.
We have seen it writ large. Have a look at the vox pops about what people think about the grounding of Qantas. People think that their rights were impugned by the management of Qantas. Yet there is not a word from those opposite. They pretend that they think we should have intervened, but we know that ideologically they are against arbitration. They are against fair bargaining. It is there in black and white, written down. We know that we do not have to believe him if he just says it but he told us on 7:30 that you can believe things that are written down. It is there in his book, Battlelines. He did not do much as a shadow minister, but he did write a book. It is there for all to see.
Today, the day we have introduced the Minerals Resource Rent Tax that will lead to better superannuation, less company tax and better infrastructure in regional communities. Once again what are they doing? Standing up for Rio Tinto, BHP and all the big companies who say that they can afford to pay this tax. That is the extraordinary thing. They are saying: ‘We can afford to do it. We want to make a contribution to the national economy’, and even that is not good enough for them.
Qantas says they want to negotiate with their unions. That is not good enough for them either. They are in favour of lock-outs not negotiation.
This is an antiworker party standing up for privilege. It is what they have stood for for decades, but they have got worse as they have wheedled out one by one all the moderates from their party so that what remains is a hard-right ideologically antiworker party driven by the sort of extremism that we have seen in recent days.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.