House debates

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Matters of Public Importance

Gillard Government

3:20 pm

Photo of Jason ClareJason Clare (Blaxland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Defence Materiel) Share this | Hansard source

The fourth pillar on which modern Australia is built is access to health care. The Whitlam and Hawke governments built the Medicare system, and every step of the way the Liberal Party tried to destroy it. They opposed it when Fraser was in opposition, and then when Fraser got in they got rid of Medibank. We introduced Medicare under the Hawke government. They opposed it at every election ever since. It is this government that is building access to health care, and we are doing it now, building on that pillar. We have increased hospital funding by 50 per cent and provided the biggest increase in mental health funding in Australia's history, and we are now developing the National Disability Insurance Scheme that is underway.

The fifth pillar on which Australia is built, of course, is an education system that gives access to everyone. The Whitlam government made university available for many Australians for whom it would never have been available before. During the Hawke and Keating governments, the number of people that finished high school jumped dramatically, from the 50s to the 70s per cent. It is this government that is building on that as well by making sure that more people get access to university and more people finish school, increasing participation rates at school from 75 per cent to 90 per cent. What drove all of these Labor governments in the past are the same things that drive the men and women behind me now. It is the purpose that has always driven the Labor Party to improve the lives of ordinary working people and to build a stronger society, a stronger economy and a fairer country. That is what this Labor government is about. That is what Labor governments have always been about.

The Leader of the Opposition, in his constant stream of bile and unrelenting negativity, talks about policies. Maybe we need to talk about not just better policies but better judgment. In the Australian last month the Leader of the Opposition said:

Napoleon said that one quality he wanted in his generals was luck. Well, I think the one quality the public want in their Prime Ministers is judgment.

Too right. The problem is that the Leader of the Opposition does not have any. In particular, he does not have any economic judgment. Remember: this is the bloke who in his first big speech on economics a few years ago said that the stimulus that stopped us from going into recession 'wasn't necessary'. This is the bloke who said Work Choices was 'one of the greatest achievements of the Howard government'. This is the bloke who made Barnaby Joyce his chief financial adviser. It is like putting Homer Simpson in charge of the nuclear power plant. And this is the bloke who still opposes the mining tax even though BHP and the other big miners support it. His economic judgment is worse than that of Herbert Hoover. At least Herbert Hoover was awake. At least Herbert Hoover was not asleep when he made the worst economic decisions that caused the Great Depression. When the greatest economic crisis since the Depression hit, where was the Leader of the Opposition? He was not on this side of the chamber voting for the stimulus that stopped a recession. He was not on that side of the chamber voting against it, which would have caused a recession. He was upstairs in his room asleep, sleeping through not one division but five. He topped it this week by almost sleeping through 32 divisions. As the Leader of the House said, he only woke up to vote no and that is all he did.

His judgment on other things is no better. Look at health and education. When he was Minister for Health and Ageing, he ripped $1 billion out of our hospital system. What was his promise on education at the last election? He promised to rip $2 billion out of education. His personal judgment is not much better either. Remember: this is the bloke who told people to donate to the Liberal Party during the Queensland floods instead of donating money to help the people of Queensland. Remember: this is the bloke who attacked Bernie Banton during the 2007 election just weeks before he died of asbestosis. This is the bloke who tried to stop an expectant father from being at the birth of his own child only a couple of months ago. The Leader of the National Party may not like it, but he knows it is true and he must pose in his own mind—like the member for North Sydney, a man who did not agree with that action—what sort of a man would try to stop another man from being at the birth of his child.

The problem that the Leader of the Opposition has as well is he also stands for nothing. Remember John Howard used to say, 'Love me or loathe me, at least you know where I stand.' You cannot say that about this Leader of the Opposition because he flips and he flops. He changes his position on everything. One minute climate change is crap; the next minute it is real. One minute he has a policy that says he will cut it by five per cent; the next minute he says that is crazy. One minute he says Work Choices is one of the greatest achievements of the Howard government; the next minute he says it is dead and buried. Apparently, one of the Leader of the Opposition's favourite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist. Emerson said:

… consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

His former boss John Hewson used to say of the Leader of the Opposition that he was all over the place—black one day, white the next. He got that right. The Leader of the Opposition said that superannuation is a con job 15 years ago. Now he says he is going to support it. He said paid parental leave would only happen over his dead body. Remember that one! Now he says he has his own scheme. He bags the Australian economy here in this place and then he goes to London and says that we are the envy of the world. He calls on the Australian government to establish the Nauru solution and then when we put legislation in that would allow him to do that he votes against that too.

How has this disciple of John Howard ended up opposing the policies of John Howard? Because he is a man who does not believe in anything. When you do not believe in anything you get things wrong. He has come into this place and said that the carbon price would be the death of the coal industry. He said the mining resource rent tax would kill the mining boom stone dead. Last time I was here I reminded the House that one in six members of the opposition have bought shares in coal and resource companies over the last few months since we made that announcement. I have had the Stasi in my office check. There is a sudden silence from the opposition about buying shares. I wonder how that happened. (Time expired)


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