Jun 22, 2009

Question without notice – Business of the House

Mr MURPHY (3:21 PM) —My question is to the Leader of the House. Will the Leader of the House outline the government’s priorities for the programming of the business of the House and the considerations that the government will take into account in setting those priorities?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I certainly thank the member for Lowe for his question. Of course, the government do have a big legislative agenda, because we have got a big vision for this nation. We have got a vision which is about dealing with the global economic crisis. We have got a vision which is about returning fairness to the workplace. We have got a vision which is about taking action to avoid dangerous climate change. Day after day, we come into this House and we put forward our vision through our legislative program. Indeed, this morning we had a series of bills to be introduced to this House. One of those was what has become known as the alcopops legislation. It was here, ready to be introduced by the Minister for Health, but of course that was not possible because, as usual, the opposition are not actually interested in a policy agenda.

They tried a scare campaign over the economy, a campaign of fear about debt and deficit, a campaign of fear about the CPRS. Their strategy—or tactics, because they do not really have any strategy—changed on 3 June, when the national accounts revealed that the government’s economic strategy had prevented Australia from going into a technical recession. So, from that point on, it all changed. They avoided questions on the economy, they avoided debate on the big issues facing the nation, and still they decided to go the low road: the low road of smear against the Prime Minister and against the Treasurer. Ever since that day, 4 June, they have been running around the gallery and running around talking to anyone who will listen, saying that they have a smoking gun, saying that there is an email that proves that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer misled this parliament.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on a point of order on relevance. The Treasurer was asked about the government’s legislative program—fair enough, answer that question, but not the one he is now proceeding to answer.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the House was asked about considerations that are taken into account about the program priorities; he should relate his material to the question.

Mr ALBANESE —Mr Speaker, I am certainly doing that, and I will continue to do that. We on this side of the House have a positive agenda for the nation. Those on that side of the House have a campaign which is to stop the government from pursuing our legislative program by pursuing a program of smear against the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and fear about the government’s legislative agenda.

Today we saw the extraordinary circumstances whereby the Leader of the Opposition came into this House and moved a motion—he was granted leave to move that motion—and, before that same debate had concluded, he came back into this House and changed his position. He came in and spoke again and changed his position and then called for a judicial inquiry—completely different from the position which he moved in the parliament today. He cannot hold a position for a matter of hours, let alone for what is needed given the circumstances of the government’s position.

But of course those opposite want to engage in this smear campaign. Last Friday, we had the Leader of the Opposition standing up and calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister, calling for the resignation of the Treasurer—

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, reluctantly—and this is on relevance: he has been going for four minutes and he has not been relevant at any time to the question he has been asked.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the House will respond to the question, relating his material to the question. The Leader of the House.

Mr ALBANESE —We on this side of the House would prefer to have a debate about our legislative agenda and our plans for nation building for recovery. That is what we on this side of the House want. Those on that side of the House are blocking this because they have nothing to say about the future of this country, because they have no policy alternative, no policy vision, which is why they have gone down to the politics of smear. The fact that they cannot even hold a position—the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has to speak twice in a debate, giving contradictory positions—says it all.

The fact is that they came in and promised a smoking gun. Well, there was no chk-chk boom in the parliament today. There was nothing at all. The Leader of the Opposition has fallen flat on his face. His smear campaign has no credibility. He should table the email. And he should resign.