House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Member for Dobell

9:42 am

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

There are many things about the so-called new paradigm that make this chamber a more challenging place. Some of them are interesting in a positive way. For example, the additional time private members in this place have available to them to make important contributions—not only about important matters of national policy but also about matters in their own constituencies. There are other aspects that are dragging this chamber down. You have to be asking yourself what those in the electorate are thinking about the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition today. Some of those changes, of course, include the denial of question time, for example. These days we have fewer question times because of the Leader of the Opposition's propensity for stunts. Question time is the most important feature of this chamber. It is the period each day when members of the executive are held to account. The Leader of the Opposition does not think that is all that important any more. He prefers the sound bites; he prefers his 10 minutes on ABC television every day. He takes the view, and uses that opportunity to promote it, that if he cannot run the country then no-one can. If he cannot be in charge, he will simply wreck the place and therefore, by definition, wreck this country.

This matter before the House today is about the member for Dobell. The member for Dobell is entitled to natural justice, the rule of law and the presumption of innocence. We should not sit here as a Star Chamber, particularly given that the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House have pointed out this has not been the approach of oppositions in the past and, of course, this was not the approach of former Prime Minister John Howard. It was not his approach when the member for Moreton was in trouble, it was not his approach when the member for Bonner was in trouble and it certainly was not his approach when the member for Bowman was in trouble.

The Australian people expect high standards of us. They expect us to behave in this place, they expect us to maintain legal standards and they expect us to respect one another. More particularly, they expect us to run this place in the interests of the country. No-one on the other side—and I note so far we have not heard from anyone on the other side on this matter—could possibly argue that what is being played out in this place this morning is in the national interest. But the Leader of the Opposition sees another political opportunity. This is one of the great features of the so-called new paradigm. Every time the Leader of the Opposition sees an opportunity to muster 76 votes in this place, to wreck this place and to get his political message out there to promote his political message, he does so despite the consequences.

On this occasion, the consequences are very grave indeed. They set a very dangerous precedent in this place. I note the Leader of the Opposition has chosen not to speak on this matter—not surprising—has chosen not to cast judgment on the member for Dobell—not surprising because he does not know what is around the corner. On many occasions, members of his party have been in trouble—sometimes guilty, sometimes innocent. The fact is you do not know until the court has come to its conclusions. In this case, Mr Thomson has a number of legal processes under way. He maintains his innocence. It is a very dangerous game for this place to sit as a star chamber, as I said, and to begin to cast judgment on those processes before they have run their course.

I am not surprised that Leader of the Opposition is not on his feet this morning. I am not surprised the Leader of the Opposition has not cast judgment, very wisely, on the member for Dobell. Having said that, it is not surprising he has come in here once again and used this place as a way to promote his stance. They say people in glass houses should not throw stones. The Leader of the Opposition should be reflecting on that old adage. He should start looking behind him and think what might be sitting behind him now and in the future. Mr Thomson paid a heavy price yesterday when he stood down as Chair of the Standing Committee on Economics. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the motion ( Mr Pyne's) be agreed to.

The House divided. [09: 52 ]

(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)

Question negatived.


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