ANTHONY ALBANESE – I am very pleased to respond to the Member for Wentworth [Malcolm Turnbull] on this question. This is the guy who stood up here and just lectured us about relationships with the media and free speech, the same person who sued the Sydney Morning Herald over a piece involving allegations about an ex-girlfriend’s cat, the same person who settled with the Australian Financial Review in Court because of an article calling him “part polymath, part sociopath”. And he even tried to stop his political opponents questioning whether he was fit for public office.
We will not be lectured by the Member for Wentworth, who fits into a fine Tory tradition.
When this political mob was in government, Peter Costello put in a gag order on charities. As a condition of funding he tried to shut up the representatives of some of the poorest people in this country. This is the same mob that cut the Environmental Defenders Office funding to try and shut down its ability to take on government. This is the same mob who limited through Work Choices the ability to have freedom of association for working people. John Howard used conclusive certificates to prevent FOI releases – something that this government changed.
Look at what this same mob did in Victoria. Ted Bailleau’s denial of public access to large government contracts, which was done in secret.
This is the same Tory political tradition that had Jo Bjelke-Petersen throwing people in jail for demonstrating on the streets of Queensland, and that same tradition has been brought back by Premier Newman. Premier Newman has placed a gag order on community organisations, once again in order to stop them speaking out on government policy – and it is little wonder given what his Member Mr Driscoll is going through that he does not want community organisations talking about the performance of government.
So we will not be lectured to by that mob over there who represent not just years but decades of tradition of trying to shut down voices in our community whether they be community organisations or whether they be the trade union movement.
What we have seen today is a Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott] who could not resist going back to his roots, going back to just saying ‘no’ to everything, going back to negative Tony, back to nasty Tony. He has been sitting there stewing away. Every day we have seen the Mark Riley moments where he sits there trying to keep control of his temper; trying to calm down the anger every day and it has boiled to the surface. What we see with this motion to suspend Standing Orders is an attempt to release that pressure valve. We understand it must be difficult for a bloke with his character to stay in control for so long because we know what his character is about.
Today it fitted in with his general attitude to life because this is a bloke that has never seen a billionaire he did not want to embrace. This is a bloke who can be always relied upon to back-in the big end of town. We have here this legislation that will be debated later in the week but they did not wait to look at the legislation before they said they would oppose it. I reckon it was two words that turned them off: “public interest”. As soon as they saw that, they said, ‘Well, we know we are against that. We do not have to look at the detail. We do not have to wait for the committee processes. We know that we are against it.’
They are against action on Climate Change, they are against the NBN, they are against taking action against the big miners, they are against national hospital reform, they are against assisting the steel and car industries, they are against parliamentary reform and they are against the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Because of this ridiculous motion, we are not actually debating what we should be debating before this Parliament. Once again, they have shut Question Time down because they have no issues of substance to go to.
We had the hypocrisy of the person who employed David Oldfield standing up here. This bloke, when asked: do you welcome Pauline Hanson’s endorsement said “Look, I am happy to take votes where I find them”. That is what he said on Sunrise but he comes in here and attempts to lecture us about these issues.
The fact is that this side of the Parliament wants to discuss the real issues: our plan for a stronger, fairer and smarter Australia; our plan for the economy, for manufacturing and for protecting Australian jobs; our plan for education through the Gonski reforms; our plan for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And our plans are being rolled through this Parliament on issue after issue day after day.
Those opposite do not have a plan for the future. It is no wonder that his own colleagues see the Leader of the Opposition as a “policy lightweight” who cannot talk about issues because he starts off with a $70 billion black hole. All they offer are cuts and relentless negativity. We do not have to project into the future what they would stand for were they to succeed in September. We can see it with what state Tory governments are doing right around the country: sacking nurses, sacking teachers, cutting back on community services. We see their selfish position.
But today, they also don’t want a debate. We could have had a debate about the economy, but of course taxes, interest rates, unemployment and inflation are all lower today than they were when they were in office.
I was looking forward to Question Time continuing, because I predicted that I might have got a question. I could not get one from over there and, if I had got a question, I would have been able to talk about the Member for North Sydney’s [Joe Hockey] little trip down the Bruce Highway last week. He was asked: “You were talking about your drive north, and you would have spent a lot of time on the Bruce Highway.”
This is what he said:
“Well, it is improving. I mean, you know I’m not going to play games on this. I mean, there was a lot of work happening on the Bruce Highway.”
He went on and said: “Well, between Townsville and Cairns there was lot of work.”
And indeed there is.
That is consistent with what the Member for Herbert [Ewan Jones] said:
“I’ll give Labor a pat on the back and say they’ve spent more in their four or five years on the Bruce Highway than we did before.”
It is no wonder I can’t get a question on infrastructure and transport: because those opposite are endorsing us.
On the issues of substance, on the real policy debates that we should be dealing with in Question Time, we are quite happy to get questions. But what we do not get are questions of substance on policy from those opposite. What we get are personal attacks. What we get is relentless negativity. It is no wonder, increasingly, as you go round the country, as people take a closer look at the Leader of the Opposition, they say to themselves – as was said about another political candidate one time – ‘In your guts, you know he’s nuts’. That is what they say, because they know that he is so negative, so relentlessly negative, that he just says ‘no’.
Well, if you want to run the country, you have to put forward an alternative vision, and that has to consist of more than just slogans.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.