Thursday, 16 August 2007
Matters of Public Importance
Everyone in this place should be honest about the reason we are here today in the federal parliament, where the Howard government in the end will just ram through any legislation it likes, including this legislation, not because it believes in anything but because of the electoral cycle. This is all to do with an election coming up soon. This is all about a Prime Minister in electoral trouble and what he sees as a political opportunity. Never in the 30 years that this Prime Minister has been in parliament has he done anything like this—supported democracy or championed any cause—unless there was a personal political opportunity for him. It has always been about him and nothing else. It is not because the Prime Minister has suddenly today decided that he wants to support or believe in democracy or to give people a say on anything at all. In fact, we saw in this place today government members doing everything they could to interject and disrupt the contributions by members on this side. In the end it is all about the political opportunity of the Prime Minister in trying to regain some traction in my home state of Queensland.
While many Queenslanders have given a lot of support to this coalition government —in fact, 22 seats at the last election versus only six for Labor—not much has been returned to them. I am sure many of the people who live in those 22 seats are starting to add that up. For all the support they have given this government, very little support has been returned. It certainly has not been returned in government funding for key programs in regional areas, for road funding or for anything else that would say, ‘We appreciate your support and vote.’ They will take the votes but they give nothing back.
On this side of the House Labor believe in democracy and giving people a say. That is why we will be supporting this bill. Even though we understand the intent, the reasoning and the spirit behind it, we will be supporting this bill because people ought to have a say. They ought to have a say in a whole range of areas. I would like to see that consistently done by the other side, by the government, and it does not do it. This is the government that is completely focused on itself, its own future and saving its own political hide. Not for one minute is it focused on the future of this nation.
Mind you, all the government members in the discussion have said they support the forced amalgamations. That is the great irony in this debate. They come in here passing legislation to purport to do something, but when it comes to the end they say: ‘We do support amalgamations. We just think we ought to take a political opportunity at this time.’ After 11½ very long years this is the record of this government. They have ripped billions of dollars out of our education system. They tore up the Commonwealth dental health care program. They gave us balaclavas and dogs as the new method of control. They allowed $300 million from Australia to go into the hands of Saddam Hussein. They have taken away people’s rights in the workplace. They have spent the greatest amount ever spent in Australian political history on advertising. They spent more than Coca-Cola and McDonald’s put together.
But when it comes to democracy, where were John Howard and this government when the Victorian Premier at the time, Jeff Kennett, decided to sack all of Victoria’s councils? He was silent. Not a word came from the Prime Minister. Where was he when Joh was setting up the gerrymanders to keep himself in power in Queensland? Nowhere to be seen. Where was John Howard on democracy when people wanted a say on the Iraq war—a real, big issue for this country and for the whole world? Where were this government and John Howard then? Nowhere to be seen. They were very quiet. Where was John Howard when the Liberal Party moved a motion in Queensland to stop the go-ahead of the Wolffdene Dam? They said that dam would go ahead over their dead bodies.
The reality is that the government is out of touch. If you want to talk about real democracy, why has this government just passed laws to shut down the electoral roll to legally prevent people from voting? It has ensured that hundreds of thousands of young people will not get an opportunity to vote in 2007. Every election year there is a five-day window of grace when the writs are called, when an election is called, which gives a lot of young people and people moving around the opportunity to enrol for the vote. That is the record. That is reality. That is what this government does. It does everything in its power to keep itself in power but at every opportunity takes away people’s right to democracy. (Time expired)