Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of her statement last June that the government had lost its way. Given that over the past fortnight her East Timor solution has been rebuffed, her refugee-processing system has been ruled invalid, the midyear budget update avoided hard decisions and the banks have yet again ignored her with excessive interest rate rises, isn’t this government finding its way a bit like Burke and Wills finding theirs?
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question, and I think anybody hearing the Leader of the Opposition’s question can no doubt sympathise with him that he is obviously looking forward to a Christmas break. Can I say to the Leader of the Opposition, who appears to have brought question 11 from yesterday’s question time pack, that the government is of course getting on with the job of methodically delivering reforms in this country because we want this nation to build for the opportunities of the future. I know that the Leader of the Opposition finds this quite hard to intellectualise. He finds it quite hard to accept.
Famously there was a supermodel who said that she did not get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. Well, the Leader of the Opposition does not get out of bed without a focus group report for the day. He puts the alarm clock off, gets out of bed, grabs for the focus group report, sees what three-line slogan he has for that day and then, like a ventriloquist’s doll, he goes and repeats it mechanically time after time. And is it only me who wonders why every one of the Leader of the Opposition’s three-word slogans always starts with stopping something or ending something? This is a man who is always keen to tell you what he is opposed to but can never tell you what he would do or support. He is completely unable to define a vision for the future for this country. Well, the government has a vision for the future for this country. We understand that it requires a strong economy. We understand that it requires being ready for the challenges of the future. We understand that it requires governing for all Australians. We understand that that means investments in things like education and health to make a difference for the opportunities of Australians right around the country and irrespective of the circumstances of their birth. We understand that it requires keeping Australia safe and secure in the world. So we will leave the Leader of the Opposition with his bitterness and negativity and we will get on with the job.
I ask a supplementary question to the Prime Minister. Given the reforms that the Prime Minister mentioned, in the light of the fact that in just the past week the government’s national curriculum has been deferred by New South Wales, cash for clunkers has been deferred, the Murray-Darling water plan has been delayed, the diabetes plan has been delayed and the population review has also been delayed, I ask: is this what the government means by finding its way?
Opposition members interjecting—
Once again we have the Leader of the Opposition in this place puffed up with his negativity, always there ready to tell you what he is opposed to. It is completely impossible for him to say what he supports. Let us go through the Leader of the Opposition’s list. Education reforms: I am proud of what this government has achieved given the 12 long years of neglect we inherited from a government that the Leader of the Opposition was a part of and that did not care that kids in this country were disadvantaged—
Order! The member for Canning will resume his seat. The generosity that I have shown with both the original question and the supplementary question may have a downside, and the downside is that there is greater scope given for direct relevance in an answer. The member for Canning stretches any friendship with anybody when he makes comments like that. He made his point of order. He has used the point of order now for this question and he will sit there in silence. The Prime Minister has the call.
I am proud of this government’s education reforms given that we inherited, after 12 long years, a circumstance where the federal government, of which the Leader of the Opposition was a part, had not stopped to think once about educational disadvantage in this country. It had not even bothered to locate the most disadvantaged schools, and I will—
Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. The member for Sturt’s inability to understand standing order 65(b) is breathtaking. He is warned and he knows that a warning is a precursor to naming. He cannot expect to interrupt continually without being in danger of being put outside the services of this House for longer than one hour.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on the statement that you have just made. I ask you: how can the opposition be expected to not respond to the slurring, smearing and attacking of us by the Prime Minister?
The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his place. As I have said before, as much as some people in this House, and as much as some people outside this House, think that question time is a debate, it is not a debate. I simply say to the Manager of Opposition Business, who I understand believes that he has a duty to do something on behalf of his side of this House, that I absolutely regret the generosity given in the way in which the questions have been framed today. He does not take from anything in the conduct of the House that he can, as I have used the word before, prattle on incessantly. I do not care how aggrieved he feels. There are other avenues and devices that he might like to use if he wants to have a debate if he feels aggrieved, but he is warned for his disruptive behaviour.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is a very important issue. I put to you that the propositions advanced by this side in the questions that have been asked to date are all statements of fact. Facts may provoke the other side, but the responses have been highly provocative—
to deliver the national curriculum. It is not easy, but it is a reform that fell to us in the interests of children because, after 12 long years, the government in which the Leader of the Opposition served—
did absolutely nothing about this profound reform. Of course, the education policy he took to the last election was basically, ‘Rip off apprentices.’ There are three words for you.
When it comes to health, I am also proud of the health reforms of this government. I am proud that we are dealing with the challenges of sustaining quality health care in an ageing society. We are addressing the fact that under the Leader of the Opposition funding from the Commonwealth government as a percentage of healthcare funding was going down. We are addressing those challenges. Once again, it is not easy. But I stand by this government’s proud track record of reform in stumping up to those difficult problems, compared to the Leader of the Opposition’s—
policy when it comes to health, which is always, ‘Cut health funding.’ There are another three words for you.
When it comes to climate change we are a government that is dealing with this issue through pushing energy efficiency, through dealing with renewable energy and through setting targets. Despite all of the twists and turns, shenanigans and lack of unity in the opposition about this question, we are getting on with the job of the difficult question of pricing carbon. Meanwhile, what does the Leader of the Opposition do? I will give you another three words: denies the problem. He does not think that the globe is warming. He stands in the face of every major scientific opinion on this fact and he would rather look for political advantage than do anything in the national interest on this question.
Day after day, despite the Leader of the Opposition’s cheap performances and insults, we will get on with the hard job of the reforms that this country needs in order to have a strong economy in the future, in order to have an economy that is ready for the challenges of the future and in order to govern for all Australians so that they can get the fairness and decency that they deserve. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition sits there in denial about the past and his poor track record as a minister and without any vision for the future.