Mar 22, 2012

Motion to suspend standing orders

ANTHONY ALBANESE – We have just seen, if we needed any reminder, why the Leader of the Opposition is simply not up to the highest office in this land.  What we saw when the Leader of the Opposition said across the chamber that the Prime Minister and I had targets on our foreheads – from the political party that quite proudly introduced John Howard’s gun laws – was an outrage.

Earlier on today we saw a Mark Riley moment from the Leader of the Opposition directed at the chair.  Day after day we see that he simply does not have the temperament required to be Prime Minister.

That is why we should not suspend Standing Orders, because we in this chamber have some big tasks ahead of us.  There are challenges ahead: the economy, the environment and social policy.  There are a range of issues that we could discuss and that we should be discussing.  Yet what we have had, on 50 separate occasions, is the Leader of the Opposition having a premeditated suspension of Standing Orders attempt, shutting down Question Time, with the consequential result that he is saying to the Australian people that he is not interested in trying to hold the Government to account on the issues of the day.

The Leader of the Opposition is not interested in debating the economy or jobs.  Did we have a single question today about the announcement by Holden, which is significant not just for manufacturing jobs but for all those who depend upon the manufacturing industry?  There was not a word.  The Opposition shut down Question Time after six questions.

In the 43rd Parliament we have already lost 27 hours of Question Time as a result of them shutting it down.  That is enough time to watch all the Harry Potter movies – all 18 hours – and the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well, another nine hours.  It is enough time to fly to Los Angeles and back and it is enough time to complete a course in basic Spanish or Italian.

Those opposite have wasted 27 hours and more than 230 questions have been abandoned.  No other opposition since Federation have said: ‘We don’t care about Question Time.  We’ll move motions to suspend Standing Orders day after day, because we’re not interested in holding the government to account, we’re not interested in debating the economy, we’re not interested in debating jobs and we’re not interested in debating climate change’.

They are condemned by their own actions, because it is all about the politics.  That is what this motion today is about and that is why we should reject it.  It is all about cheap political point scoring and there is no line that is un-crossable from the Leader of the Opposition, as shown by his comment ‘targets on foreheads’.

We know there are consequences behind that sort of language.  We saw it in the United States last year.  We should not see the sort of provocative language used by extremists from the Leader of the Opposition.  But, once again, there is no line incapable of being crossed.

Perhaps we should not be too harsh, Mr Speaker, because he is struggling.  He said himself, about losing office:

“We all need grief counselling.  It’s like a bereavement; not as bad as losing a child or a spouse, but up there with losing a parent.”

What we see in here day after day is motions for suspension of Standing Orders based upon spurious measures.  Today we have it yet again.  House of Representatives Practice makes it very clear that suspensions of Standing Orders happen when there is an urgent item before the Parliament, when there is some momentum – not worked out at eight o’clock in the morning, typed out, pre-signed and brought in here day after day.

In the past fortnight we have had this motion for suspension, motions for suspensions demanding a royal commission, motions for suspensions over police investigations and over issues of guns on the streets of NSW.  We have had all sorts of bizarre attempts at suspension.

I am only surprised that we did not get a motion for suspension blaming the Government for Ian Thorpe’s failure to make the London Olympics!  We have had everything else because everything is the responsibility of the Government and the responsibility of the carbon price – or perhaps the CIA.

In these motions to suspend Standing Orders we have an attempt to distract from their failure to engage in the real debates, their failure to engage in debates on the economy, their failure to debate issues of climate change and its substance.

We saw today the Leader of the Opposition trying to distance himself from some of the rhetoric of those who were demonstrating outside – not a demonstration against the Carbon Price but a demonstration called the ‘global warming hoax rally’.  They were the same people who demonstrated outside my electorate office.

The reason that we should not support this motion is that we might have got a question about that from those opposite.  They might have asked: ‘Why didn’t the Minister for Climate Change go outside and have a chat with the global warming hoax people?’  He might have been able to get a question.  I predict we might have asked him if they did not.

We are quite happy to debate issues of substance and not to engage in this nonsense day after day, because when you get into issues of substance you actually see how little those opposite stand for.  You see the extreme rhetoric that we saw today.  You see the connections that they have with the bizarre behaviour of those outside: Clive Palmer and the CIA-Greens conspiracy that is going on.  You see the associations with Lord Monckton, Mick Patel and others like them.  That is why Standing Orders should not be suspended.

What we want to debate in this House is issues of substance.  Earlier today we had a vote trying to shut down the Parliament rather than deal with issues of financial advisers.  A standard procedural motion was put on the blues that we move at the end of every session.  Never before has it been divided upon by those opposite.  Never before has it been voted against.  I have been in this place for 16 years, and it has never been against.  But of course there is nothing that those opposite are not prepared to say ‘No’ to.

At the start of this session the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said we have an economic debate.  We should not suspend Standing Orders, so that we can continue to engage in these economic issues.