House debates

Tuesday, 16 October 2018



12:16 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | Hansard source

The government will not be agreeing with this motion to suspend standing orders. So far we have seen a pathetic case of overacting from the shadow Attorney-General and the Manager of Opposition Business. If there were an Academy Award for overacting, the Manager of Opposition Business would have won it today. This is one of the most embarrassing cases of over-egging the pudding that I've seen in a very long time.

The idea that the government would have done anything other than make an administrative error on this matter is quite clearly ridiculous. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, had a press conference this morning at 9.13 Australian Eastern Standard Time, and everybody on the Labor side knows it. The idea that the government has not come out today and disassociated itself from this motion is clearly untrue. Senator Mathias Cormann, I think, ate humble pie. He recognised that it was a mistake, and he took full responsibility for it in his press conference this morning, and everyone in the Labor Party knows it.

This is clearly just an attempt at another stunt from the opposition, ahead of the Wentworth by-election, to try to muddy the waters, to try to make sure that their candidate, Kerryn Phelps, gets elected on Saturday. We all know that's what this is about. This motion is about supporting Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth against Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate for Wentworth replacing Malcolm Turnbull, hopefully, in the by-election on Saturday.

Mathias Cormann said this morning, and I quote from Senator Cormann:

"There was a vote in the Senate yesterday in relation to a motion put forward by senator Hanson which the government should have opposed …

"When the motion was first put forward in September, and we considered our position on the motion, we made a decision to oppose that motion and to make a statement in our words that as a government we deplore racism of any kind, but not to actually support the motion.

"Yesterday, as the result of an administrative process failure the government senators in the chamber ended up, on advice, voting in support of the motion.

"As the leader of the government in the Senate I take responsibility for the error and I'm sorry that that happened. It is indeed regrettable.

"As I indicated when this motion first came up, we made a very clear decision to oppose that motion. It wasn't voted on in September, it came back up yesterday and it slipped through. It shouldn't have and I take responsibility for that."

There could not be a more clear statement from Mathias Cormann that there was no support from the government for this motion yesterday in the Senate and that it was because of an administrative failure—which happens in this place just like it happens in every place of work around Australia, in schools and hospitals and all sorts of institutions; errors are made and they are fixed. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said he was asked whether he was embarrassed and he said: 'Yes, I am. Yes, I am embarrassed.' He went on to say: 'I do not support the form of words that is in that motion and, indeed, the government made a decision not to support that motion. We deplore racism of any kind. There is no question in my mind that the decision that we made in September to oppose this motion is the decision that should have been implemented yesterday. As a result of an administrative process failure, that did not happen and I regret that.' So it could not be clearer from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that this was an error made yesterday in the Senate that has been corrected by the statements of the Leader of the Government.

Nobody on this side of the House, or, I'm sure, on the crossbench or on the Labor side of the House, supports racism of any kind. Nobody in the parliament supports racism of any kind, in the Liberal and National Party party rooms.

But we are not going to fall for Labor stunts designed to distract people from the real agenda that people are concerned about in this country. They're concerned about their jobs, and that's why we're creating jobs in the Australian economy. They're concerned about growing the economy, and we are growing the economy so well, we're doing better than any other G7 country. They're concerned about housing prices and they're concerned about the cost of living. They're concerned about putting their parents or family members into aged-care facilities, and so we have the royal commission into aged care. They're concerned about the tax rates, and that's why we should be debating in this House today—and we will be, hopefully, before too long—the bringing forward of the small business tax cuts that the Treasurer is about to introduce, which I'm sure has the support of the Labor Party, so we can bring about tax relief for small businesses and medium-sized enterprises in this country so that they can invest in their own businesses, creating the jobs in our economy. So we're not going to be distracted.

The reason we're not supporting this motion being brought forward is that we're not going to be distracted by a Labor Party that will do anything to distract people from the real issues that people care about. In the bubble that is Canberra, there may well be members of the opposition and of the press gallery who think that the most important issue facing Australia today is an administrative failure in the Senate yesterday which led us to vote, incorrectly, for a motion that we didn't support, which we'd decided, in September, we would oppose, and that slipped through because of an administrative failure. There may be some people in the opposition and in the press gallery who think that that is the most important issue facing the parliament today. Well, I can tell you: it isn't.

The most important issue facing the Australian parliament today is reducing taxes on small businesses and medium enterprises, and that's the issue we want to get on with today. The most important issues facing Australia are economic security and national security—the defence of the nation. We're living in a region in a world that is much more unsettled today than it was at the end of the Cold War, and yet the Labor Party come into this parliament and want to waste our time with point-scoring and stunts. This is not the first time. It's what oppositions do. But we in the government are not going to fall for those pathetic stunts by the Labor Party.

We've apologised. The Leader of the Government has apologised. He has eaten humble pie in a press conference this morning. Everyone knows it. This issue is over. We don't support that motion. We regret the fact that an administrative failure led to voting for that motion. And, honestly—if we really did support that motion, why would Senator Cormann have gone out this morning and made that admission? Why would he have apologised and said that he was embarrassed? If we really supported that motion, we wouldn't be promoting and publicising the fact that we supported it by mistake yesterday. We're apologising for it because it was a mistake.

One of the worst things that could happen in this country would be for the bipartisanship—


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