May 24, 2012

Motion to Suspend Standing Orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:10):  We are not going to take lectures about parliamentary behaviour from this Leader of the Opposition, who is the only member of parliament to ever be thrown out of parliament for physically confronting a Vietnam vet with no legs, for marching across the chamber, when he was out of control, to Graham Edwards. The Leader of the Opposition is not able to control his temper. He does not have the temperament to be the Prime Minister of this nation. He does not have the character to be Prime Minister of this nation.

Ms Julie Bishop:  Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the House is not speaking to the motion. He is telling false statements—in fact, telling lies about the Leader of the Opposition.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The Leader of the House has the call.

Mr ALBANESE:  Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is a Leader of the Opposition who is into the politics of confrontation, aggression and conflict. That is what defines him; he’s very meaning, because he does not want to engage in a debate about substance and policy. Here we are, one week after the budget and the coalition are moving a suspension of standing orders, not to debate the economic policy and their alternative—which he gave on the Thursday night, which had no substance at all—not to debate the economic impact of what is occurring in Europe, not to debate the impact of what is happening with employment, climate change, social policy, transport policy, health policy and education policy. No. On 58 separate occasions they have moved a suspension of standing orders. That is why you just cannot take them seriously.

The opposition said before, ‘This is a suspension of standing orders to have a censure debate. We don’t do that very often.’  Thirty-four times they have done it—they are delusional, and the parliament is only halfway through the term—out of the 58 suspensions. They are so delusional.

It is as though they go into the office of the Manager of Opposition Business for tactics every morning. They ask: ‘What will we do today?’ The 30 of them who sit on the ‘tactics committee’ have a debate and they all disagree, so they end up settling on: ‘I know, we’ll do what we did yesterday.’ It is groundhog day because, no matter what is happening in the economy, today we had a few questions about the company in Kurri Kurri. You would think the opposition would want a debate on it. No, no. The Leader of the Opposition—the workers’ friend—will be up there on Saturday, with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink, saying that it is all a result of the carbon price, but he is actually not prepared to debate the substance.

I will tell you what I have been doing today, as a minister of the Crown: I have introduced five pieces of legislation, including legislation to create a national maritime regulator benefiting the economy by $30 billion over 20 years. I have introduced legislation to reform the Navigation Act. The act has been there since 1912 and still has provisions in it to allow a master of a ship to shoot someone and to be immune from prosecution. It still has provisions in it that the master has to be informed if a lunatic is coming on board. That could be appropriate! But we have reformed it—done major reform. We have announced a $20 million package to help exports in Tasmania, with my Tasmanian Labor colleagues and the member for Denison, who lobbied for this project. What did they do about it? Nothing. I will tell you what we have done. We are continuing to work on the Pacific Highway. What are they doing? Sledging it and saying no to it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke):  The Leader of the House will return to the motion.

Mr ALBANESE:  The reason why standing orders should not be suspended, Madam Deputy Speaker, is because they are the issues of substance.

That is why I went into politics. I went into politics to make a difference—to make a difference to the people who I grew up with, to the vulnerable people in the community, through things such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the education refund and through measures such as the industrial relations reforms we have brought in to get rid of Work Choices and, most fundamentally, to make sure that we have a strong economy.

And there is no stronger economy anywhere in the world. For the first time in 40 years, under this Prime Minister and this Treasurer we have unemployment, official interest rates and inflation all under five per cent—for the first time in 40 years. No wonder they do not want to debate us on substance. If you want to have a debate about those issues, bring it on. But if you just want this self-indulgent, blood-lust for power that we see from this megalomaniac opposite, then we will say no to that, because what we are seeing day after day in this parliament is a trashing of the pillars of democracy, a trashing of the separation of powers, a trashing of the presumption of innocence, a trashing of the rule of law.

It is fundamentally important that we meet the challenge which is there in this hung parliament. A hung parliament is different. It does bring with it different characteristics. It brings forward a challenge for the maturity of our democracy. It is the case that, for the first time since the Second World War, the government does not have a majority on the floor of this parliament. That is an opportunity as well as a challenge. It is an opportunity to have a far more consultative parliament. It is an opportunity to be far more inclusive than the traditional system whereby a government has a majority and uses its numbers to crunch through. It is an opportunity to change that. But what we are seeing from those opposite is the longest dummy spit in Australian political history—a refusal to accept the result from the Australian people in 2010. We see every single day a refusal and a challenge to the legitimacy not of this government but of our democracy. That is what has made them angry. And that is why you have the extraordinary proposition that people should just be told to resign and people should just change the outcome. We even had, last week, the Manager of Opposition Business put notices on the motion—notices on the paper—

Mr Pyne:  Motions on the Notice Paper.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The member for Sturt! The Manager of Opposition Business is being petty.

Mr ALBANESE:  that people could be suspended from the parliament. He withdrew that this week. He withdrew it. So what is this all about? The idea that, in the future, a government that has a majority would use that majority to change the make-up of an elected parliament. These are precedents that have consequences for the future. This is taking the politics of destructiveness to a very dangerous level indeed. And that is why senior people such as Nick Minchin have warned against the approach of this Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him.

I know that many of them are very uncomfortable with the actions of the opposition—very uncomfortable indeed. There was even the issue of the disclosure of the committee that met last night, where you had, to his great credit, Mr Secker agreeing with Yvette D’Ath, the chair, in terms of the reference on that issue. So you have people who have stood up for integrity of process, as did the member for Canning, to his great credit. But what we see continually is a preparedness to trash any rule whatsoever. This bloke is not a conservative; he is just a reactionary.