Feb 9, 2012

Motion to suspend standing orders

ANTHONY ALBANESE – This is the 37th failed suspension from the Opposition in the 43rd Parliament.  Of those, 22 have been to suspend standing orders to allow a motion critical of the Prime Minister to be moved.  Up until this week, 20 out of 20 of them had been moved by the Leader of the Opposition [Tony Abbott].  But today, just like earlier this week, this is based on such a flimsy approach that he has not had the ticker to move it himself.  He has had the Manager of Opposition Business [Christopher Pyne] stand up and do it for him – and then they have the gall to say, “Where’s the Prime Minister?”

The Prime Minister has been in here this week answering question after question about the economy, because that is what we are interested in on this side of the House.  But it is no wonder that again today, after a couple of questions up the front to talk about the economy, the Opposition went straight in the gutter, straight in the dirt, because today their plan in terms of surplus is in shreds.  Today, indeed, they have the Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Finance Minister [Andrew Robb], the Shadow Treasurer [Joe Hockey] and Senator Abetz, their leader over in the Senate, all saying different things.  Senator Abetz now calls surplus “an extravagant promise”.  They have a Leader of the Opposition whose policy is down to “aspirations”.

They are happy to ask question after question.  I will tell you what.  I would like an answer to this – maybe someone will ask them whether the office of this Leader of the Opposition has ever told anyone in the media the whereabouts of the Prime Minister.  I would be very interested in the conduct of the office of this Leader of the Opposition, because if it is good enough to go down these roads then we will go down these roads.  This Prime Minister showed the standards that she had and that she expected of her office when she took action against Mr Hodges.  So I look forward to an answer about that.

Just like we know they have the hide to come in here and ask about contact with regard to the investigation into the Member for Dobell [Craig Thomson].  We all know, have they forgotten what they were doing at the end of last year: ringing people in the police, ringing NSW ministers and interfering in investigations directly.  The Shadow Attorney-General [Senator George Brandis] was ringing NSW officials in a completely inappropriate manner – and they have the hide!

We would be really interested in the contact they have had with Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart about giving them a tax break.  We would be very interested in that, because we know that the LNP fly around in Mr Palmer’s jet during election campaigns.  We know about the record amounts of donations that go in there.  We would be very interested in answers to all of those questions.

They will do anything but debate the economy and jobs.  At the beginning of this year – after last year, when the Leader of the Opposition was parodied as the walking vuvuzela, the bloke who stands for nothing, who just makes one noise, who has turned the coalition of yesterday into the ‘Noalition’ of today – I think we could have expected that there would be some change in strategy when we came into the first week of the Parliament this year, but we have had nothing but the same old muckraking over old issues.  We have had nothing but the same old personal attacks against the government and, in particular, the personal attacks against the Prime Minister.

We have had nothing but the same old negative approach of all those opposite.

You get a few interjections.  There has been a bit of an issue, Mr Speaker – you might have noticed – about American presidents.  Certainly I am now aware of the movie, but I have also been aware for a longer period of time about American presidential campaigns.  I have been an observer of them.  I note that it is not unusual, as you look at the Republican contest that is going on here, a fight between the extreme Right, the very extreme Right and the completely-off-the-planet Right.  There is precedent for that.  There is precedent for these conservative campaigns.

Barry Goldwater was an extreme right-wing candidate in 1964.  He went around and appealed to fear.  He ran a campaign trying to divide the great nation that is the United States of America.  He did that under a slogan trying to appeal to all the worst elements.  He never appealed to the better that mankind is capable of.

His slogan said: “In your heart you know he’s right”.  That was the slogan when appealing to that sort of prejudice, just as the current Leader of the Opposition tries to do; pressing every button that he can on every single issue.  The Democrats very successfully parodied the Goldwater campaign, and it is something that I think fits with this Leader of the Opposition.  Their response was:

“In your guts you know he’s nuts.”

That is exactly what this Leader of the Opposition shows himself to be in the way that he conducts himself in public life.  He has indeed done for public discourse in this country what the vuvuzela did for World Cup soccer in South Africa.  He runs around; he says no to everything; he tries to divide the community; he tries to scare people; he has nothing positive to say whatsoever.  They had three months after we finished in November, right through December, right through January, through February, to come up with an alternative plan.  Anything will do, anything at all – an alternative plan on the economy, on trade, on infrastructure, on health, on education.

But what they have is a blank sheet, the blank sheet that we saw with the ‘Fix the Bruce’ plan.  That would apply to every one of their policies.  Their fix the health system plan is the same – a blank page.  Their plan to fix the education system is the same – a blank page.

Mr Speaker, the reason why the suspension should not be allowed is because we want to debate issues of substance.  What they are doing in moving this motion today is knocking off their own MPI again because they are not interested in debating any real policy issues.

Then he has the hide to say we do not want to talk about the economy.  I have got news for the Shadow Treasurer: the debate finishes at 4.30 when we go to adjournment.  They are not aware of that; they are not too good on Standing Orders.  Old or new, any of them, they do not seem to get it.  They come in here and they just have one policy.

I will say this: on this side of the House we are the builders, we are the nation builders; they are the wreckers.  We are the people who are interested in enhancing opportunity; those opposite are only interested in entrenching privilege, entrenching privilege of the big end of town.  That is who they represent.

The Leader of the Opposition runs around and says he is the friend of the workers but he is trying to smash the auto industry, he is not prepared to support the steel industry, he is not prepared to support the changes to the economy that we need as we move to a carbon constrained future that will ensure that we continue to be the envy of the industrialised world.  Those opposite have a $70 billion black hole.  Those opposite cannot talk about anything positive because they do not have any money: they are at minus $70 billion before they start – and that is before you take into account all the other commitments that they have made.

The fact is that it is only this side of the House that has a plan to govern.  We are getting on with the job of governing.  Those opposite just have hissy fits, complaints, negativism and no plan for jobs, no plan for the economy, no plan for social policy, no plan for infrastructure, no plan for the nation.

The Australian nation is better than that and it is a lot better than those opposite, which is why we remain on this side of the chamber and why in the lead-up to 2013 we will still be on this side of the chamber as well as after the next election, because you stand for nothing.