Feb 15, 2012

Motion to suspend standing orders

ANTHONY ALBANESE – There is some irony in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition [Julie Bishop] contributing to this debate given the content of her speech.  She gave a speech about loyalty.  She knows; she has been loyal to all three leaders she has been deputy to – Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott – and I am sure there will be more to come.

We also heard about loyalty from the Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott].  Ask Peter Reith about loyalty from the Leader of the Opposition, who put in him in a ballot, asked him to run and then ratted on him at the ballot – on TV!  And he has the hide to come in here and run lectures about loyalty.

This suspension of Standing Orders is the 39th attempted suspension of Standing Orders from those opposite.  That in itself tells you why we should not suspend Standing Orders.  The suspension of Standing Orders or a censure resolution is a mechanism available under parliamentary procedures for serious issues on serious occasions, not to be used every single day, as those opposite do, because quite frankly, they cannot get their act together to get a decent Question Time pack out of their tactics committee.  We know that that is the case because their tactics committee is bigger than their frontbench, and we know that they have 32 on their frontbench because two of them are currently scrambling around hoping they will make the top 30, given the legislation put forward to provide salaries for 30 shadow ministers not 32, under the Howard Government legislation.

What we have seen here today is a bid by the Member for Menzies [Kevin Andrews] to make the top 30.  What we have seen from the Member for Mackellar [Bronwyn Bishop] is the raising of points of order to see if she can make the top 30.  We know that those opposite have got an ambitious backbench.  We know that the Member for Higgins [Kelly O’Dwyer] and the Member for Mayo [Jamie Briggs] and all of the others are scrambling to get into that top 30 – they are hanging on.

It is extraordinary that we have had from those opposite a suggestion to suspend Standing Orders on matters that are erroneous.

What we see from those opposite, day after day in debates on legislation, is an attempt to scare workers and their families.  We know what the CEO of Alcoa has said about Point Henry and about the future of that plant.  But there is no factory and there is no work site – particularly in Queanbeyan, for the Member for Eden-Monaro [Mike Kelly] – that the Leader of the Opposition is not prepared to go to and run a scare campaign.

This Parliament should be about serious issues.  We had it this morning with the private health insurance legislation, this afternoon we will be debating the ABCC legislation and we have Question Time available to people.  The most serious thing that has happened today was about righting a historic wrong: the Closing the Gap statement by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.  Both of them are sincerely committed to making a difference when it comes to Indigenous Australians, as is the Parliament as a whole.  But what we saw today after the Closing the Gap statement, when the Member for Franklin [Julie Collins] was on her feet answering a question about Indigenous employment, was an ongoing chant from a senior member of the opposition of “Boring!”

I am directing my remarks to the sorts of issues that we should be discussing in this Parliament rather than moving these daily suspensions of Standing Orders.  Question Time is continually interrupted by those opposite to move suspensions of standing orders.  We heard a question about the Maldives yesterday from the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has moved this motion, attempting to make a joke of what is a very serious international issue.  This is from the party that a few weeks ago were making jokes about the Costa Concordia disaster.  They thought that was an appropriate comment to make on radio in Adelaide.  That is the sort of moral standard that we get from those opposite.

There is a little green book called the House of Representatives Standing and Sessional Orders and there is a big book called the House of Representatives Practice.  I suggest that just once some of their senior people have a look at them because I am perfectly relevant in talking about what this Parliament should be discussing.

Those opposite want to have a discussion about honesty and issues relating to the concerns they have which are all just about politics.  You never hear from those opposite a concern about the economy, a genuine concern about jobs and employment, a genuine concern about fairness and equity, a genuine concern about the policy debates before the Parliament.  We saw it today with the passing of the private health insurance legislation.  Those opposite now have to declare whether they will repeal that legislation and therefore add to their $70 billion black hole.

My attention is drawn to an op-ed piece by the now Leader of the Opposition, who had this to say in The Australian on 24 July 2009:

“Opposition, by contrast, tends to be a permanent debating society because even the most final decisions can sometimes be revisited in office.”

There you have their principle in writing – you know you cannot trust him unless it is in writing – ‘Don’t worry about anything that is said’.

These are the sorts of issues that we could be discussing in alternate circumstances.

So far today, those opposite have made three attempts to shut me down in the debate.  They had 10 minutes and they had five minutes but they cannot cop 10 minutes in reply.  When it comes to a one-on-one debate, anyone on this side versus anyone on that side, they lose.  In any debate there is simply no substance from those opposite.

We know that they choose to oppose no matter what issue is before us.

They come in here and try to assassinate the Prime Minister’s character.  Their only policy position is to talk down the economy and to talk down Australia, except when they are overseas and then the Leader of the Opposition acknowledges that Australia is the envy of the world.

We are not going to cop lectures from someone who is prepared to make jokes about the Italian cruise liner or from someone who was prepared to bag Bernie Banton, the asbestos campaigner, when he was on his death bed.

Then there was the great comment about John Brogden when the Leader of the Opposition said:

“If we did that, we’d be as dead as the former Liberal leader’s political prospects.”

We are not going to cop lectures from those opposite, who have no morals, no political strategy and no economic policy for the nation.