Sep 19, 2012

Motion to Suspend Standing Orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:20): This is a leader who has hit a brick wall.  The pugilist is out there swinging away.  But they are air swings.  He has not landed anything.  He is like the pugilist who goes out there all macho man: swinging away but not landing a punch.  Is that all you have got?  After 1 July we know that that is all he has got.

He comes in here and is like a robocall – press button 1: scare campaign on the Carbon Price and the economy; press button 2: scare campaign on asylum seekers.  That is all they have got.  They have no alternative agenda whatsoever.  They have just the low road of fear.  They do not worry about any of the facts when they go down that road.

This is a Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] who ran from the Parliament but also runs from himself.  This is a Leader of the Opposition who goes day after day without giving a press conference.  He talks about accountability.  This morning he gave a press conference at 6.15 am in Fyshwick.  It was at 6.15 am.  People turned up, so I suspect that tomorrow it will be at 5:30 am in Queanbeyan.

And then of course when he gets a question that has a simple answer like we saw last Friday from Karen Middleton, a yes or no question, he runs from it.  He runs from his own press conferences.  Not as fast as the gazelle, but run nonetheless.  But when he has to take some responsibility and show leadership as the Leader of the Opposition, we see that the leadership comes from the other side but not from this Leader of the Opposition. 

We saw Malcolm Turnbull show leadership earlier today, after Corey Bernardi engaged in such a disgraceful, reprehensible attack last night.  Corey Bernardi resigned; he did not apologise.  The Leader of the Opposition could not bring himself to condemn the latest comments made by Senator Bernardi, who is shadow parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the Opposition.  He just does not get it about respect for other people.  The problems with the comments were not that they were ill disciplined; the problem is that they were bigoted and they were disrespectful.  The Leader of the Opposition should have shown leadership today.

The fact of the matter is this.  They want a debate on the economy.  This economy is 11 per cent larger than when we came to office, impressive growth, and a low unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent.

The Leader of the Opposition is not man enough to discipline his own side.  It is as simple as that.  In the meantime, we have engaged in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.  You do not have to believe me  Believe him because the Leader of the Opposition had this to say:

“…Australia has serious bragging rights.  Compared to most developed countries, our economic circumstances are enviable.”

That is what he had to say in London.  Yet here he comes and talks down the economy, when all the economic fundamentals show that this Government has a record we can be proud of.

Compared to the former government, taxes, interest rates, unemployment and inflation are today all lower — and they raise the issue of the assessments overseas — along with a AAA credit rating from all three of the world’s leading ratings agencies for the first time ever.

It is no wonder I have lost a bet in our tactics room because this morning what I said around the room in the Prime Minister’s office was that today the Leader of the Opposition will not come back and move a suspension because they are onto him and his destructive negativity.  Today they will try to put forward a policy argument, which is why we should not suspend Standing Orders.

They are going to suspend Standing Orders when their MPI has been put in by the Shadow Treasurer [Joe Hockey] on the same issue.  So they are knocking off the MPI debate, moving it forward, in order to have the same debate twice.  This morning the Treasurer was right.  The Treasurer said to me, ‘No, he can’t help himself.  He’ll go down the destructive, negative road.’

What we have seen today is just that.

In spite of the advice he has got: “Abbott told, ‘We want policy, not negativity’”.

This is what they have said in the party room:

“We need to be balancing the negative stuff more and looking at greater fleshing out of policy,’ a member of the opposition said.”

I suspect it might have been one of the backbenchers up there who said: “’There’s a lot of passengers in quite a lot of senior positions’, said one MP backing a reshuffle’”.

And indeed there is.  Not only does this Leader of the Opposition not have a plan for Australia’s future, he doesn’t even have a plan for a three-year term in opposition.  Every day he has engaged in a strategy which is based upon the election being called tomorrow.

That is why he has not put forward constructive suggestions.  That is why 407 pieces of legislation have been carried in this parliament.  Not only have the Opposition failed to knock one off but they have failed even to get an amendment up without the government’s support.  Here in this Parliament, one in which the crossbenchers have a particularly critical role to play, the Opposition have not even been able to achieve that.

The words of Robert Menzies were right.  He said:

“On far too many questions we have found our role to be simply that of the man who says ‘No’. … There is no room in Australia for a party of reaction.  There is no useful place for a policy of negation.”

That is what we are seeing and that is why this Leader of the Opposition is the most unpopular Leader of the Opposition in Australia’s history.