Mar 19, 2012

Suspension of standing orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:15):  This is the 49th suspension moved by those opposite and the third attempt at suspension today. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition would not associate himself with those sorts of tactics by having the Manager of Opposition Business and the Deputy Leader do it. Today the Leader of the Opposition had the Leader of the National Party ask the first question. They started low and they got lower—and they got lower as the day went on. In the last contribution they hit a nadir; they hit the bottom of the pit.

Those opposite will do anything rather than discuss the issues that are of importance to the Australian people, and that is why standing orders should not be suspended. It should not be the case that this parliament gets distracted because those opposite have absolutely nothing positive to say about the economy, about employment, about the environment, about social policy or about the mining boom. And it is on a day when the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill will go through the other place and will become law as a result of that. But they want to discuss anything rather than a suspension of standing orders.

Mr Pyne:  Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the motion that is before the House is why the suspension of standing orders should be carried in order to debate the motion I moved—a very serious motion about matters to do with the member for Dobell, Fair Work Australia and the Prime Minister’s involvement. It was not about the minerals resource rent tax, and there is no basis upon which the Leader of the House could be debating the minerals resource rent tax.

The SPEAKER:  Firstly, it is not about the motion he proposes to move if standing orders are suspended. The Leader of the House was straying, and he is aware of that. And he will return to the substance of the suspension motion.

Mr ALBANESE:  I will outline before the House what we should be debating. That is why this suspension motion should not be carried. That is what I will do, and that is what I will do every single time those opposite raise these daily stunts. I was once Manager of Opposition Business, and I sat down in the tactics room in the opposition leader’s office day after day. We discussed, when it came to a suspension of standing orders, whether there was momentum, whether it was significant, whether it was a big issue. What we did not do was walk in here with a motion like this one moved by the Manager of Opposition Business—pre-typed out, pre-signed, pre-ordained and with no momentum and no ability whatsoever to get traction. That is why it was not even taken seriously by their own backbench.

Mr Pyne interjecting—

The SPEAKER:  The Manager of Opposition Business will remain silent.

Mr ALBANESE:  So why should we take it seriously on this side of the House? We should not suspend standing orders, because what we should have had was question time. But those opposite had the hide, when earlier on today we were discussing the motions of condolence, to say, ‘We’ll miss out on question time.’ On 13 out of 15 days they have come in here and moved a suspension of standing orders—not on the issue of the day, not on anything in which there was any urgency whatsoever, but just so they could get back into the gutter to do anything whatsoever to avoid debating the economy. This afternoon I would like to have a range of debates that are on the Notice Paper.

Mr Pyne:  Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER:  This had better be a genuine point of order, because I have been listening to the Leader of the House, and he appears to be in order. But I am listening to the point of order.

Mr Pyne:  Mr Speaker, with great respect, I beg to differ. He was reflecting on members of the opposition by describing us as ‘getting down in the gutter’. And as I was asked to withdraw matters to do with the member for Dobell in which I was accused of reflecting on the member, I regard that as offensive and I would ask you to ask him to withdraw it.

The SPEAKER:  I would ask the Leader of the House to assist the House by using more moderate language.

Mr ALBANESE:  Mr Speaker, thank you. The fact is, those opposite have absolutely nothing to say about the economy. They have absolutely nothing to say about the big debates that are before this parliament. Just before question time we passed the safe rates legislation. I was hoping there might be a question from those opposite about safe rates for truck drivers and why it was important. If we had not had this suspension of standing orders moved we might have got it—unlikely, but possible.

I was hoping beyond hope, when the Leader of the National Party stood up at the beginning of question time, that I might get a question. They had been critical about safe rates, which is about justice for those hardworking truckies and ensuring safety on our roads. There might have been a question about the shipping reform that we have got forward. Those opposite are saying they are against that as well. Of course, that is shipping reform that, had we not suspended standing orders, we could have had a question about. I could have explained how we are introducing a zero tax rate for Australian shippers, how we are introducing a tax exemption for Australian seafarers, how we are making sure that the Australian flag can once again be used on the back of Australian ships.

But of course those opposite are against it because they have never seen a tax reduction that they could support, whether it be in the area of company tax or whether it be in the area of shipping. The only tax policy that they have got is to oppose company tax reductions and they have a policy of putting it up—

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

Mr ALBANESE:  It is not surprising that they want to suspend standing orders rather than debate substance because we know that if they have to debate substance they might have to debate their $70 billion black hole. They might have to discuss the comments of Senator Sinodinos, who said just today that ‘there has been a bit of untidiness in this area’. That is what he thinks about their economic performance. They cannot even agree about which of their promises are real or aspirational.

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

Mr ALBANESE:  That is why we should not suspend standing orders, because I want to discuss these issues. I want to discuss their policies on PPL, tax cuts, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the national dental scheme because it appears they are just all over the shop on all of those issues. They have a $70 billion black hole. I was hoping perhaps that I might even get a question about infrastructure. We know that it is unlikely—I have not had one for years—but we were hoping that we might get one if we did not suspend question time. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition had a blog in the Daily Telegraph recently where he promoted support for the M4 East, the F3 to M2, the M5 East widening, the North West Rail Link and the road tunnel under Mosman.

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

Mr ALBANESE:  That is $50 billion of promises in a blog, and they have already got a $70 billion dollar black hole. It is no wonder they do not want to discuss the issues of substance. That is why they try to suspend standing orders every day. They come in here, but they do not put any time or effort into their questions in question time. There is no probing of the government as to the policies of the day. There is no probing of the implications behind, for example, the safe rates legislation, which they say is so terrible. There are no questions about the detail of that legislation because they are simply not interested in it. What we saw them doing last Thursday is a new thing. Not only do they waste time with the suspension of standing orders, they now waste time bobbing up like Jack and Jill up the back there giving five-minute grabs so that they avoid voting on legislation and avoid going down on that legislation.

This is a good day for the parliament. We had safe rates carried by this House and the MRRT will be carried by the other house. That is why we should not waste time with a suspension of standing orders. They do not talk about why standing orders should be suspended, but they put a whole lot of slurs out against members of parliament, statutory authorities and anyone else who stands in their way. We on this side want to talk about our plans for enhancing opportunities for nation building, for returning the budget to surplus and our positive vision for the future. That is what we are focused on and that is what this parliament should be focused on. It should not be focused on the longest dummy spit in Australian political history, which we are seeing from those opposite. It is no wonder when you see the sorts of performances from those opposite that people know in their guts that he is nuts. That is what they know, because those opposite just engage in relentless negativity day after day.