House debates

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Labor Party Leadership

2:54 pm

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion:

That this House calls on the Government to end its internal arguments and actually govern the country and if it can’t, to restore the selection of the Prime Minister to the people in an election, where it should be.

I move this motion as standing orders must be suspended because right now in this building no-one is interested in the proceedings of this parliament; everyone is interested in the conversations that are taking place in corridors and the plotting that is going on inside offices.

What that is all about is yet another deal inside the Labor Party—yet another deal between the faceless men to try to work out which particular leader is going to give them the best chance of winning the election. I say that the public are sick of the deals behind closed doors. The public are sick of the incompetence. They are sick of the deception. What they want is their chance to determine the future of the country. What they want is their chance to vote for a government and to decide who should be the Prime Minister of this country—and they deserve it sooner than it will happen under the current Prime Minister. The poison inside the Australian Labor Party is paralysing government in this country, and every hour, every day, that this is not resolved, the paralysis inside the government just gets worse and worse. That is why standing orders should be suspended.

We saw today indications that the strongest supporters of this Prime Minister—the member for Lyne and the member for New England—are not going to contest the election. We see the tremors of leadership change shaking the foundations of this parliament. Well, I say: let's debate it honestly in this chamber. Let the Prime Minister say honestly why she should retain the job. Let the member for Griffith say honestly why he should be given the job. But, above all else, let the Australian people have their chance to decide who should be the Prime Minister of this country and let that chance come as soon as possible.

We deserve so much better than this. I say to the Australian people: do not think that what you have seen over the last three years is the best that this parliament can do. We can do so much better for you than this Prime Minister and this government have done for you—and we will do it if we are given the chance at the forthcoming election. Let's bring on the election and let's put the future of this country in the hands of the people rather than allowing it to continue to be traded by the faceless men in their ceaseless quest to come up with a less unpopular Prime Minister than the one we currently have.

Standing orders must be suspended, because this is the only question that is really consuming the members of this parliament right now. The only question that can plausibly and credibly be before the parliament right now is: how can we get a better government and how can we resolve the problems facing our country? The only way to get a better government is to have an election. The only way to resolve the problems facing this country is to get a better government, and the only way we can do that is with an election.

It gives me no joy to say in the course of this motion to suspend standing orders that we all wished the Prime Minister well when she came into office on 24 June 2010. I was very conscious, as the father of three daughters, of just what a milestone in our national life had been achieved. I was conscious of the significance of the occasion. And, while I deeply regretted the sustained plotting and treachery that had resulted in the change of leadership, nevertheless, I thought that it was an opportunity for our country to make a new beginning.

A good government, she said, had lost its way. But what we now know from subsequent statements by this Prime Minister is that even she knew that it was a bad government. It was not a good government that it had lost its way; it was a bad government, paralysed by chaos and dysfunction, because the member for Griffith was incapable of adequately leading it. The trouble—and this is why the standing orders should be suspended—is that every single problem has just got worse in the three years since that 24 June. She said she was going to fix the climate change issue. What did we get? We got the pre-election declaration 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead' and the post-election decision to have a carbon tax.

So the Prime Minister's leadership was paralysed from the outset by two acts of deception, two acts of treachery. That is why standing orders should be suspended. First of all there was the betrayal of the member for Griffith, the former Prime Minister, then there was the betrayal of the Australian people through the carbon tax that was never going to happen.

But the betrayal went on. There was the betrayal of the member for Denison, Mr Wilkie, who was going to get poker machine reform but he did not. There was the betrayal of the member for Scullin, the former Speaker, whose speakership was terminated because it suited the political convenience of the Prime Minister to do so.

There has been the sheer incompetence of a government and a Prime Minister which cannot get its spending under control, which is why standing orders should be suspended. There was the mining tax that was going to raise $30-odd billion but, instead, has raised a tiny, tiny fraction—some five per cent—of the promised revenue. That is why standing orders should be suspended.

Then there is the disaster on our borders, and whether the member for Lalor or the member for Griffith is the Prime Minister of this country and is leading the Labor Party for the time being, neither of them have a clue how to resolve it. That is why standing orders should be suspended, because the only way to resolve the disaster on our borders is to put in place a strong government led by ministers who know what they are doing.

This is such a great country. We are such a proud people. We have such a great future, but it is time the people of Australia were allowed to choose their government. It is time the people of Australia were allowed to choose their Prime Minister. We have seen three years of minority government. We have seen enough. We know it does not work, and why should we limp on for another 80 days of confusion and paralysis under the current regime?

One of the things that the Australian people find so humiliating at this time is that they know their future is at least as much in the hands of unelected union leaders as it is in the hands of elected members of parliament. This is why standing orders should be suspended. Don't we know that in the end all of this for the last three years has been about the unions? The AWU boss went on Lateline on that famous night to say that the Prime Minister's polling had collapsed, therefore he should be replaced. Now, of course, the same gentleman goes on Latelineand this is why standing orders should be suspended—to say, 'Sure, the Prime Minister's polling has collapsed but, above all else, we must keep the current Prime Minister.' It is all about the unions.

I say forget the unions. Let's think about the people. Let's give the people a say in who should be their Prime Minister and who should be their government. I say what we should have in this country is democracy of the people by the people for the people, not of the people by the unions for the unions. Let's support this motion. Let's have an election.

3:04 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I say that I do so much more in sorrow than I do in anger, because I do feel sorry for my country. I feel sorry that this country has had to put up with a government that has become such a shambles, such a dysfunctional embarrassment, that has made us the laughing stock of our region and in some quarters in the world.

I am sorry that our Prime Minister and our government have such contempt for the Australian people that they have so internally focused all their attention that standing orders need to be suspended today because it is more important to air the issues surrounding the Labor Party leadership again than it is to do any other item of business. The parliament, the media and the public are paralysed by the ongoing train wreck that this government and this country have become.

I am sorry for the Australian people. I am sorry for them that they have had to put up for three years with the division, the dysfunction, the chaos, the bitterness and the poison that is the hallmark of this terrible, shambolic, embarrassing government.

I am sorry that we have had to move this motion today, because what we are seeing at the moment in Australia is a Prime Minister who has gone from being the hunter to the hunted. She started as Lady Macbeth three years ago, and this week we see her in the role of Madam Defarge, who thought she was going to an execution and it turned out to be her own.

Today or tomorrow the Labor Party appears to be moving against the Prime Minister. Yet again, three years later almost to the day, the faceless men of the ALP in their desperate attempt to scramble onto any floating boat, any floating device, believe that if they execute the Prime Minister politically they may save themselves and the little bit of power that they have in the Labor caucus.

But what are they changing to, if they do indeed change? What have they said about this apparent white knight riding over the hills to save the Labor Party—one of the worst governments in Australia's history? Who could serve on the frontbench under a government that is headed by the member for Griffith? A litany of ministers have said they would not serve: the Treasurer, the minister for communications, the minister for schools, the minister for early childhood, the minister for trade, the Minister for Health, the minister for resources. Seven ministers, most of them cabinet ministers, would immediately be forced to resign if the Labor Party returns to the member for Griffith—a worse day of knives than the one that saw the Prime Minister seeing off the putative challenge in March this year.

And what if the member for Griffith becomes the Prime Minister again? How could he lead a party that has refused to be led by him before? The Treasurer said about the member for Griffith:

The Party has given [the member for Griffith] all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including [his] caucus colleagues.

He also said:

He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership, and now he undermines the Government at every turn.

The Treasurer said:

The truth is that Prime Minister Rudd was deeply flawed.

Steve Gibbons, the retiring member for Bendigo, said:

… only a psychopath with a giant ego would line up again after being comprehensively rejected by the overwhelming majority of his colleagues.

The minister for water said:

… the stories that were around of the chaos, of the temperament, of the inability to have decisions made, they are not stories.

Stephen Conroy said—

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member at the table needs to refer to the motion before the chair.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Standing orders need to be suspended, Madam Speaker, so that we can air the conversations publicly that are happening in the corridors of the parliament as we speak. Conversations like this one, where the minister for communications said:

Kevin Rudd had contempt for the cabinet, contempt for the cabinet members, contempt for the caucus, contempt for the Parliament. And … the Australian [people] worked out that he had contempt for them …

Madam Speaker, standing orders should be suspended because the country deserves so much better than we are seeing from this government. And only a proper debate that airs all of the grievances that the Labor Party has about the member for Griffith can clear the air this afternoon and allow an election to be held on 3 August to give people the chance to decide, not the faceless men.

3:09 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise for the 81st time in this parliament to oppose a suspension of standing orders moved by those opposite. What we have seen from those opposite in recent times is an attempt by this bloke to remake himself into 'human' Tony. 'Human' Tony, standing up and moving a suspension of standing orders—allegedly more in regret, more in sorrow, than in anger. 'Angry' Tony has been put aside. That Mark Riley moment, the death stare, we have not seen for some time.

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member will refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

What we should not do is indulge this Leader of the Opposition and that is why we should not suspend standing orders.

What we did hear from the Leader of the Opposition was the complete absence of a single policy idea. Here we are, the second last sitting day of this term, and not a single policy idea from the Leader of the Opposition or from the Manager of Opposition Business. I will tell you what: over coming months, up until September, they will not be able to get away with having no education policy, having no health policy, having no detailed policy whatsoever. We on this side of the House have a plan for the future of the nation. Those opposite exposed themselves early on when the Leader of the Opposition stood up at the beginning of this debate and he said, 'No-one's interested in the parliament.' He is right that he is not interested in the parliament, but that does not excuse his projection.

What we have had in this parliament today—today the Australian education bills passed the parliament—is a significant reform for the future of our young people. Earlier today, just prior to question time, we had the first stages passed—the second reading—of the 457 legislation. It is important legislation saying simply this: that before a 457 is applied for, we should advertise and see if Australian workers are available first. Not a radical proposition, one would have thought, but of course opposed by those opposite.

The fact is we have engaged for three years in having to put up with the longest dummy spit in Australian political history, because they do not see—it is not that they do not see this government as being legitimate because it is Labor; they do not see any Labor government as being legitimate. They are born to rule, these Tories opposite. Born to rule, so they believe they have a right to the government benches, which is why they failed so dismally during the 17 days of negotiations with the crossbench.

Those opposite also said, 'We know it doesn't work.' Really? Five hundred and ninety pieces of legislation, important reform: putting a price on carbon; the Australian education bills; disability reform; in the area of the environment, the largest ever marine parks in the world; the Tasmanian forestry reforms; aged-care legislation. Right across the whole spectrum we have seen reform pass this House because we have been prepared to engage in serious policy debates. The future is not assured, it cannot be taken for granted. That is why you have to do the hard work.

And we on this side of the House do have a philosophical difference to those opposite. We believe that government has the ability to empower people and opportunity. We believe that government can play a positive role in people's lives. Those opposite think if government just gets out of the way and leaves it to market forces, it will all be okay. There is the fundamental difference. However, the carbon sceptics have also become the market sceptics. On the other side of the House they have no plan for the future, only three-word slogans. They are policy lightweights. They have no costings of any policies—they are trying to skate through to the election—and yet we have criticism from them of this government's performance.

Well, let's just see. Let's do a comparison of how this Treasurer has delivered in terms of the Australian economy. Have a look at this: federal Labor, 5.1 per cent; under Howard, 6.4. That was the monthly average. That sounds better. Inflation: 2.5 per cent under us; 2.6 under them. That sounds better. Home loan mortgage rate: 6.4 compared with 7.3. That sounds better. Household savings: 8.9 per cent compared with 2.3. That sounds better. Tax as a percentage of GDP: 22 per cent rather than 23.4 per cent. It reached a high of 24.2 under those opposite. That sounds better as well. Government spending: average annual growth under us, 2.9; under them, 3.3—larger government spending under the Howard government. The investment pipeline is $560 billion under us; it was $213 billion when we took office. That sounds better as well.

On infrastructure, my portfolio, we were ranked as a nation 20th out of 25 OECD countries when I got sworn in as the minister. Now we are second in the world, creating future productivity growth. Those opposite are not quite sure whether Infrastructure Australia is a good idea or whether they should claim it and say they are going to create it—a farcical situation!

Why shouldn't we suspend standing orders? Why do I raise those figures? Because they are trying to knock off their own MPI, which would have been raised if they had just sat there and is from the shadow Treasurer on the 'adverse impact of the government's economic policies on confidence'. No wonder they do not want a debate about economic policy. They come in here and move a suspension rather than have an MPI debate on economic policy, because we know that they have absolutely nothing to say.

What we saw from them today, on the day that Barack Obama made a historic speech about tackling climate change and just after China started an ETS that is bigger than ours, was bizarre. In that context, and on the second last day here, you can imagine their tactics committee this morning: 'I know—we haven't had a crack about climate change for a while, let's have a go.'

Well, let's have a look at what the figures are, because the markets were going to collapse! The stock market is up 17.5 per cent. The value of shares on the ASX is up $200 billion. The official cash rate is down by 0.75 per cent. Employment is up 164,000. House prices are up 1.7 per cent and the value of housing stock is up $68 billion. Success after success.

What they tried to do today was have it both ways. They tried to again move a disruptive suspension of standing orders, but they tried to have 'polite' Tony and 'not quite as polite' Chris—because Chris doesn't do polite! They are trying to wipe from history the actions of the suspensions of standing orders and the fact that this bloke 'brutal' Tony went outside to that disgraceful demonstration with those signs about the Prime Minister and was prepared to stand out there and demand an immediate election. And that is what we have seen for three years from those opposite.

They said this parliament would not work. They are still saying that now even though, demonstrably, it has, and it has a proud legislative record over the last three years. But now, instead of standing in front of those signs that none of them noticed, instead of 'agro' Tony in here, they are trying in the lead-up to the election—

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member will refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

to see him go into a very small ball, a very small target, and sneak through without any policies and without any focus. Well, I tell you what: during this coming election campaign this Leader of the Opposition will have to put forward his policies—he will have to find them on education, on health, on aged care, on infrastructure and on the environment. It is not good enough to say, 'No, no, no, no, no,' for all the weeks of an election campaign. He will have to actually stand up and put forward his alternative vision. We are happy to take on that debate today, tomorrow, next week, next month right up to September. (Time expired)

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion to suspend standing orders be agreed to. On complete indulgence, I welcome my mum to the chamber!

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.