Feb 13, 2012

Motion to suspend standing orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:25): The motion before the chair is yet again for a suspension of standing orders—the 38th time in the 43rd parliament that we have had question time disrupted in order to hear those opposite essentially have a dummy spit about the fact that they are still on that side of the House. Ever since August 2010 we have had the longest dummy spit in Australian political history.

We should not suspend standing orders to accommodate such a dummy spit. We have important business before the House. In total, more than 10 question times have now been lost as a result of these suspension motions. Time after time, those opposite have moved these suspension motions without building any case whatsoever. In this particular case, the PHI legislation is actually before the parliament. So what they are saying is, ‘Suspend standing orders and stop the debate on private health insurance so we can have a debate on private health insurance.’ How absurd. For that reason alone we should reject this motion to suspend standing orders.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke about class war. This is a guy who has declared class war on working families on behalf of Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart. This is an opposition which comes in here day after day to defend the entrenchment of privilege rather than promote the enhancement of opportunity. Day after day, issue after issue, you can see it. It comes from their guts—and I will come back to that term later. In their guts, they defend the entrenchment of privilege—because it is all about who they are, where they have come from and where they want to stay. They have a born-to-rule attitude, which is why we see these dummy spits time after time—always defending the top end of town.

I am not surprised they want to suspend standing orders rather than have question time. No matter what issue you look at, they are out of touch. Look at the issue of the banks. The shadow Treasurer had an absolute shocker last week and I would have thought it had to get better this week. But today he said, ‘If the banks are under funding pressures, if you look at their funding profiles and if you speak to people in markets, you can get a feel for what is happening.’ That is what he is saying today. He is out there defending the banks for putting up their interest rates last Friday. Over the weekend he was complaining, but today we get the opposite.

That is the position that they have had. The shadow Treasurer, the shadow finance minister and the Leader of the Opposition have been all over the shop on all of these issues. And yet the Leader of the Opposition has the hide to come in here and speak about honesty and trust. Indeed the suspension motion they have moved here today would go to that. This is a guy who said, in a speech to the Sydney Institute:

One man’s lie is another’s judgment call.

That was his position on 5 June 2007. In September 2003, he told the Herald:

… there are some things the public has no particular right to know.

Of course we know that in May 2010 he said this:

… sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark. Which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks.

That is what he had to say, in his own words—do not believe him unless it is written down, unless it is scripted.

There are some big debates before the nation—there is one about a return to surplus, and one about fairness and opportunity. Those opposite, who speak about truth, said during this debate that 3.5 million Australians earning under $35,000 a year would be impacted by the legislation before the House. They know that is not true.

The SPEAKER: Order! I counsel the Leader of the House that the question before the chair is that the motion be agreed to. I draw him back to the motion to suspend the standing and sessional orders.

Mr ALBANESE: Indeed, Mr Speaker—the reason we should not suspend standing orders is that in order to receive no support as result of these changes a single person has to earn above $124,000 a year and for a couple it is $248,000 a year. If we do not have a suspension of standing orders, we can get all those facts out there, with the scare campaign ending. Those opposite do not want members of this House to have an opportunity to debate these issues in full, in substance, because they always lose debates of substance. Those opposite are just reduced to saying no to absolutely everything—unless it is something to help the big end of town, in which case they say, ‘Yes; how high can we jump?’ That is the position they take.

We have a debate here about manufacturing. There were two or three questions about the economy today before those opposite got back in the gutter, which is the place they are most comfortable. The facts are that between 1996 and 2007, under the former government, manufacturing’s share of GDP fell from 11.5 to 9.4 per cent—nearly a fifth. Its share of total employment declined from 12.8 to 9.9 per cent—from one in eight workers to less than one in 10 workers. They would have you believe that companies seeking to go offshore is a new phenomenon, but the former Prime Minister was happy to open the offshoring of Australian jobs. At the opening of BlueScope Steel in Vietnam, on 20 November 2006, he said it was a happy occasion, he hoped the company did well and hoped it made lots of money, paid taxes, as it would, repatriated money back to Australia and employed lots of Vietnamese people. That is what he had to say when he was opening a facility that would take jobs offshore from Australia.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the substance of the motion.

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Speaker, those opposite want to suspend standing orders so they can have more yelling, more rhetoric—but not debate of issues of substance. They oppose absolutely everything, which is why they engage in this behaviour. Because of their $70 billion black hole, they will not even repeal the means test. They say we should suspend standing orders to debate these issues but they will not even regard the issue as significant enough to commit to repeal the changes that are in the legislation. They cannot, because if they did that the $70 billion black hole would just get bigger and bigger and bigger. That is why they are reduced to this negativity. That is why the opposition leader defined himself, when he became opposition leader, as follows:

The job of the opposition is to be an alternative, not an echo; to provide a choice, not a copy.

I thought to myself that that was a bit familiar. I know I have likened the Leader of the Opposition to Barry Goldwater, and Barry Goldwater said this when he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination:

I will offer a choice, not an echo.

That was on 3 January 1964. The Leader of the Opposition has modelled himself on Barry Goldwater, which is why ‘In your guts, you know he’s nuts’ is so appropriate for this Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader will return to the motion under discussion.

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Speaker, he has modelled himself on Barry Goldwater because—

Mr Secker: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the House should withdraw that comment. It is totally unparliamentary to refer to people with mental health problems like that.

The SPEAKER: Would the honourable member state what he considers unparliamentary?

Mr Secker: Using the term he has, about being nuts.

The SPEAKER: It would immensely assist the chair if the Leader would withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Speaker, I was just quoting Democrat Barry Goldwater, who he has modelled himself on.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader will withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE: I am not sure what I am withdrawing, Mr Speaker, but in deference to you I will withdraw.

The SPEAKER: The Leader will withdraw absolutely, without the words ‘in deference to you’.

Mr ALBANESE: I withdraw, Mr Speaker. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question before the chair is that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.