Mar 19, 2009

Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders – Censure Motion

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House) (3.27 pm) – The only person in this chamber watching when the Leader of the Opposition rose to move his censure motion today was the member for Higgins. He was the only one who was smiling. What we have seen today with this weak censure motion is the last refuge of a dying Leader of the Opposition. We saw the same thing from the member for Bradfield as he was going out the door.

We saw the opposition come in with pre-prepared censure motions, typed out in great detail and signed in advance, regardless of what happened on the floor of this chamber. I have sat on the tactics committee of the great Australian Labor Party for many years in this parliament, and not once did we make a pre-decision that, regardless of what happened on the floor of the chamber, we would move a censure motion such as they did today. It is all they have left. Because of the inconsistency this week of their discredited, disorganised Leader of the Opposition, they have absolutely nothing left.

We saw it on the doors this morning when the Leader of the Opposition continued to say one thing on issues and say another thing later on. This morning he was interviewed on Alan Jones’s program on 2GB, and he was asked about the position on Work Choices.

What he said is a damning indictment of him as a person and the Liberal Party as an organisation. He was asked, ‘You said that the government had a mandate to get rid of Work Choices and therefore you wouldn’t be opposing the legislation?’ This was the response—and the member for Bradfield should listen to this:

Well Alan I—can I just cut you off there—let’s get the history straight here. The person who said WorkChoices was dead was Brendan Nelson after the election.

The only job that the Leader of the Opposition is concerned about is his own. He is prepared to roll back the clock and defend Work Choices in spite of the fact that he indicated that we had a very clear mandate after the election campaign.

They come into this chamber and they talk about jobs. The fact is that they are pleased when there are any job losses. They are a cheer squad for downturn in economic activity, because they would rather see the country fail than the government succeed. And the most obscene example of that comes from the member for Goldstein. The member for Goldstein and the member for Flinders have both recently said that Sun Metals Zinc Refinery in Townsville would shut down under a CPRS. The member for Goldstein, in a media release on 17 March, said:

it will … be made uncompetitive if Mr Rudd’s emissions trading scheme is allowed to go ahead as planned next year.

On Lateline, on 13 March, the member for Flinders said, ‘They will probably move straight to China.’ But yesterday a spokesperson for Sun Metals told the Australian the opposite: ‘I don’t know why Mr Robb would say these things.’ He also said:

We had a meeting with … Mr Greg Hunt three or four months ago and at that time there was no emissions-intensive assistance for zinc, but since then we have made significant progress and we will now get significant compensation, so I can say for sure there is no way we will shut down …

Everyone on this side of the House thinks that is good news; those on the other side of the House are opposed to it. Their inconsistency is mind-boggling. We have had questions today about the CPRS. The Leader of the Opposition, though, said on 21 May:

The Emissions Trading Scheme is the central mechanism to decarbonise our economy.

It is 10 years to the day, 19 March 1999, when the Australian Greenhouse Office released its first discussion paper on national emissions trading. Yet, for eight years after that was released the opposition did absolutely nothing, because they were dominated by the climate change sceptics. And that is exactly what they would do were they to come back into office today.

We have also heard some extraordinary comments about infrastructure. We know for a fact that, when it comes to infrastructure, the opposition simply does not support national action. The Leader of the Opposition has consistently opposed every one of the projects and every one of the interventions that we have put up here. Two-thirds of the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan is about infrastructure. It is the largest ever spend on education infrastructure, on every primary school, in our nation’s history, yet members of parliament are coming into this House and actually being critical of members who have been out there supporting this plan.

The fact is that whether it is jobs, whether it is nation building, whether it is action on climate change, or whether it is action to address the tragedy of alcopops and the impact it is having particularly on young women, those opposite simply fail to act. They are obsessed by one issue and one issue only. The issue that they are obsessed by is simply the job of the Leader of the Opposition. When it comes to the need to provide leadership to the nation, they are not concerned about that. It is all about their internals. We saw it again today, with this suspension motion.

We saw it when they came in here with suspension motions in their back pockets—probably 20 of them written by the 20 members of the tactics committee, each with a different idea to put forward—because they simply do not have the interests of the nation at heart. We have seen it with regard to their attitude towards ABIP.

Every single advanced economy in the world has had to intervene to take action to give support to the finance sector due to the global recession—every single economy in the world. But those opposite think that we should just sit back and watch and let the market rip, because when it comes down to it they are stuck in the ideology of the past: Work Choices, no action on climate change, letting free markets rip, and yet they have the hide to come into this House and ask some extraordinary questions.

Today they asked about the spending in terms of the stimulus package. Every time that they do that, what they are saying is that we should not have given money to pensioners, we should not have given money to carers, we should not have given money to veterans, we should not have given money to support low-income families.

I contrast that with the fact that they are prepared to give $1.6 billion to the big distillers who run the alcopops industry. It is an absolutely extraordinary position, but it is consistent with one thing, and that is that they have opposed every single major measure of this government: getting rid of Work Choices, taking action on climate change, providing support to make sure our financial system stays intact, making sure that we have stimulus, building on infrastructure—all of these programs have been opposed by those opposite and they stand condemned.