Monday, 24 June 2013
I rise tonight to provide clarity for those who might have questions about the 43rd Parliament—questions about agreements reached at the start, questions about its work, questions about ongoing confidence and questions from anyone who might feel the need to make decisions or assumptions on my view about the future. At the start of this 43rd parliament, a comprehensive agreement was reached with the now commissioned Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It sought a commitment from her to do what she could to ensure this parliament would run its full term and to deliver $10 billion of project funding for regional Australia, an emissions trading scheme, the NBN and greater equity in education, particularly for regional students, low socioeconomic status and Aboriginal students. No will win a gold medal for this, but we have made it to a full term in this 43rd Parliament. I make this point out of respect for our parliament as an important institution. Every single Australian who walked into the ballot in 2010 expected a three-year term would follow the poll. This has been delivered, despite the tight result at that time—50.12 per cent for Labor and 49.88 per cent for the coalition, two-party preferred nationwide. The ballot box has been respected.
This is more than a debating point. Everything we do in politics either follows or establishes precedent. No act occurs in isolation or can be expunged from future records. This period from 2010 to 2013 could have seen a revolving door of leadership change in our parliament. It could have seen all sorts of constitutional uncharted waters. I, along with colleague Tony Windsor, consciously chose to focus on this issue at the start of this parliament, and I am pleased, for the sake of precedent, that we have made it through to a full term in this 43rd Parliament, despite both major parties doing what they could to make this a greater challenge than it needed to be.
I also share with the House the fact that the vast majority of what was agreed in program funding for regional Australia as well as the key national policy items of an emissions trading scheme, the NBN and education have been delivered or are in the process of being delivered. I and many others in this place campaigned on an emissions trading scheme at two elections. The framework for an ETS is now in place and Australia will move to an open trading market in just two years. And as a firm believer in the principle of equity for all Australians, I am pleased that the deepest fibre infrastructure possible combined with education funding formula changes at secondary and tertiary levels, known as Gonski and Bradley, are finally tackling the intolerable disadvantage that had previously been accepted in public policy and is now accepted no more. Australia will be much stronger as a consequence of these two policies being delivered in full.
We have made it through a full term of the 43rd Parliament and the programs and reforms have been delivered from the platform of a full parliamentary term. And from this—yes—stable parliamentary platform, the statistics of the past three years are now compelling evidence for those interested in the facts. We have passed a near record amount of legislation: more than 500 pieces of legislation, many that were unable to be passed in majority parliaments in the past. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this means the parliament has given the green light to anything and everything—
Please listen—as happens with majority governments, we also have had a high number of bills that were withdrawn by the government and did not progress. We also have had government legislation amended on the floor of parliament and government ideas that, frankly, did not even make it to the floor of the House once conversations had occurred. All of these are important indications of a parliament that is alive and doing its job.
It is also instructive that 87 per cent of all government legislation has been bipartisan, with both the Labor Party and the Liberal and National parties in agreement. Importantly, this includes all three budgets from 2010 to 2013. Committee work is now at record highs, and adoption of recommendations from committee work is also at record highs. This is because of agreed reforms at the start of this parliament, and these reforms at a committee level have proven to be successful when not abused. I hope MPs value these changes for the better, even though it has meant more work. Hard work on the detail and being busy for the nation is, after all, what voters and taxpayers expect of us. Private members' business has also reached record levels. More than 300 private members' bills and motions have made their way to the House, more than 100 motions have been successful, seven private members' bill have become law and one private member's bill, the Bali bill, was voted down in another place despite passing the House. I am honoured to have sponsored two of those eight bills.
All of this backbench activity has at times been difficult for the Leader of the House and executive government, but I for one say, 'So what!' The parliament should be a house that welcomes all ideas and does not fear debate or a vote on the most contentious of ideas. It is a dead and dull den of executive command and control if we give up the important voice of the backbencher, and it will further separate government from the people if this important avenue of the people is lost.
The voice of the House of Representatives does matter and does often challenge the rhetoric and spin of the day. Look at the full passage of all three budgets from 2010 to 2013. Outside the parliament we hear of and read about a budget crisis, yet we see on the Hansard record, for the years to come, a House of Representatives which voted for all three budgets in this tight parliament, including budget 2013. We hear of and read about a politicised Treasury and Finance, yet only last week the full confidence of the House was expressed in Treasury and Finance. Full confidence was expressed in the apolitical job of Treasury forecasting and confidence was shown in the words of the Secretary of the Treasury that PEFO on budget day would have been no different in substance. The House itself has blown the rhetoric of some and blown the opinion commentary of others. Likewise, only a fortnight ago the House of Representatives expressed full confidence in the science of man-made climate change and that it is not a con or a conspiracy but a real and known threat to Australia that deserves a detailed and serious response. This is an important historical marker, to make sure the 44th Parliament and beyond continue to focus on best policy for the nation when dealing with this very real, acknowledged science advice.
To those in the community who think the 14 September ballot is somehow going to elect people who do not believe in climate change, or do not have a policy on climate change that costs taxpayers money, all I can say is that you have been successfully fooled or are indeed a fool. No-one in the centre of the public square denies the science and everyone in the centre of the public square has an economics policy in response to the science. This 43rd Parliament has made it and has delivered more than ever before.
To those who choose not to see, those who view their politics through the emotion of a personality or a leadership contest of some sort, and those who are so wedded to their party of choice that they opt to hate their parliament if their party does not control it, then frankly I question their loyalty to their nation. Since when has disrespecting a parliament rather than respecting a parliament been an act of loyalty? I would say never, so why now? Since when has disrespecting the office of a Prime Minister rather than respecting it been an act of loyalty? I would say never, so why now? And since when is reinventing an elector's vote, that they somehow got it wrong in 2010, anything other than a disrespectful, patronising disregard for our democracy. I would say it has never been so, so why now? Of course, none of these are acts of loyalty or respect at any level. They are the acts and views, in my view, of radicals.
I therefore, in conclusion, make a point about the future. There is talk again of rumours, formally or informally, of the stalking of Julia Gillard as commissioned Prime Minister. I am not going to buy into a personality contest and I am not going to buy into party politics. I will make decisions, as I have for the last three years, on policy. I have a full list of those policies for anyone who wants to see them but they are pretty well all on the table now. That will be decisions made by me. I have felt it a great honour to work with the commissioned Prime Minister on all of them. I would encourage the parliament to do the same. We have made it—I am pleased we have. Hopefully, after the ballot, in 2014 the 44th Parliament can do the same.
Order! The time for the grievance debate has expired. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192(b) the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Federation Chamber adjourned at 21:58