Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Matters of Public Importance
It has been a particularly unedifying spectacle over the last few days to see those members opposite lecture members of this government about integrity. It has been hypocritical on so many levels. Let us go through a few of them. The member for Casey and his colleagues fulminate, they belt their chests, about election commitments which have not been honoured. They say it is a matter of integrity that the government must fulfil its mandate. They say that it is disgraceful that the government has not met all its election commitments completely and in full. These are the people whose colleagues sit in the upper chamber and block us from implementing our election commitments. These are the people who say, ‘You went to the election promising an ETS; yes, we know you are upfront with the Australian people about that, we know it was part of your mandate’ —and, by the way, it was part of their election program as well—‘but we are going to stop you from implementing it.’
The ETS is a particularly germane example because this is where the integrity, or lack of it, of those members is on display because it was only two months ago that the then Leader of the Opposition came out of the party room and said that the Liberal Party had met and had endorsed the government’s ETS. He told us that a majority of those opposite supported an emissions trading scheme and supported letting the government’s election mandate through. These are the same people who, with a straight face, now stand at that dispatch box and in front of television cameras across the country and call this a great big new tax. It is part of their great big new scare campaign. These people, who in the privacy of their party room argued that we must let the ETS through, are the same people who say to the Australian people that the ETS must be stopped at all costs.
If the member for North Sydney had won his diabolical mini-election campaign to become Leader of the Opposition, he was going to allow a conscience vote and then we would have seen where they really stand. But, of course, he did not win and so they hide and argue in the privacy of the party room that Australia really needs an ETS and that Australia must deal with the climate change challenge; but, to suit their own tawdry political purposes, in the contest between complex truths and simple lies they choose simple lies. That is what the honourable members opposite do. So they sit in the Senate and block us from implementing our election commitments. The dental scheme is another one—a clear and transparent election commitment from the Labor Party in opposition seeking to be implemented in government. Those opposite say, ‘No, we will block you in the Senate from implementing your election commitments.’ Let us have none of this hypocrisy about election commitments being sacred, about governments having to implement every election commitment to the letter, when the opposition sit in this chamber and the other chamber and stop us from doing just that.
But, as I said, there are a number of levels on which this matter of public importance is hypocritical. The member for Casey raised the matter of jobs for Labor mates, jobs for the boys. He was, of course, a member of the Howard administration: a junior member, I give him that—he was not senior—but nevertheless a member of the Howard administration which used the diplomatic corps of this country as the retirement village of the Liberal Party, the administration which appointed so many former Liberal and National Party ministers to diplomatic posts which I do not recall being advertised that it was an embarrassment. As my friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reminds me, the diplomatic corps faces a great challenge in Italy, for example. When a government minister visits, they have to decide: do we greet the minister at the airport with Amanda Vanstone or Tim Fischer? That is the challenge for the government with the diplomatic posts of those opposite. They appointed Andrew Peacock, they appointed Amanda Vanstone, they appointed Richard Alston—the list goes on—and they appointed Michael Baume.