Thursday, 27 June 2013
Matters of Public Importance
Labor Party Leadership
The Speaker has received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The urgent need for a clear and united plan to deliver a stronger Australia and a better future.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
Momentous events have taken place. This parliament, over the last 24 hours, has witnessed some dramatic events. A Prime Minister has been dragged down for the second time in three years, and one-third of the cabinet has resigned. I say that the people of Australia and this parliament deserve a full explanation as to why that was deemed necessary by the current Prime Minister. But what we have had is not a word, not a skerrick of the explanation that the people of Australia are owed. The now Prime Minister has given no interviews, he has held no press conference and he answered no questions whatsoever on this subject in the parliament in question time today. And the man who has been plotting for three years, for three long years, to bring down his predecessor as prime minister is now saying: 'Nothing to see here, nothing to see here. Move on, move on. Nothing to see.' Like St Francis of Assisi, the Prime Minister is innocent of this blood on his hands. Like Pontius Pilate, the Prime Minister is washing the blood off his hands.
Well, it is just not good enough. If the economy is as good as the Prime Minister claimed in question time today, why do we no longer have the Treasurer who was managing it? If the government and the country is in as good shape as the Prime Minister claimed in question time today, why was it absolutely necessary to drag down the Prime Minister who has led the government for three years and three days? The Prime Minister owes the country and he owes the parliament an explanation.
He obviously has not forgotten the events of three years and three days ago. The people have not forgotten the intervening period. We know how this government has struggled from division to disaster, and the Prime Minister needs to explain why it is that he felt it necessary to drag down this country's first female prime minister. Why was it necessary to do this? He owes us an answer, and I trust, I so trust, that he will come into this parliament and respond to the MPI today and give us the answers that this parliament and the people of Australia deserve. And if he does not, I trust that he will not be able to go anywhere in this country without the media subjecting him to the questioning that he deserves to face on this subject.
The truth is that after the events of last night, this Prime Minister's hands are just as dirty as those of his predecessor—that is the truth—but at least his predecessor had the decency, the honour and the courage to offer an explanation. It was not a very good explanation. She said back then, on 24 June, that a good government had lost its way. We know it was not true. We know it was a bad government that lost its way, because she subsequently told us. Why won't this Prime Minister at least have the honour that his predecessor had and offer an explanation to the Australian people? It is not too much to ask. Twenty-four hours ago we had one Prime Minister, now we have a different Prime Minister. Why has this been done? He owes us an explanation.
And while he is going about it, on behalf of the Australian people I pose two questions to the incoming Prime Minister. First, and most importantly, when will the election be?
A government member interjecting—
Yes, it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. The previous Prime Minister told us the date. And given that she had the courage and the decency to tell us the date, why won't her successor have equal courage and decency and tell us what the date is? End the uncertainty that the events of last night have created, and at the very least confirm that date previously mentioned.
While he is answering some questions, he ought to also tell us what is going to happen to the carbon tax increase on Monday. These are the material facts which the Prime Minister ought to come clean with the Australian people about: what is the date of the election and what is happening with the increase in the carbon tax due next Monday? But there is a larger question which he ought to address: how is Rudd recycled going to be different from Rudd previously rejected by his colleagues? I know the Prime Minister will say, 'There's the Leader of the Opposition being negative again.' These are legitimate questions. He wants the people to have amnesia about the past, but we should not accede to that self-serving request.
The person who said before the 2007 election that the reckless spending must stop then presided over the greatest spendathon in Australia's history. The Prime Minister who said he would turn the boats around did not turn a single boat around and instead began the greatest border protection disaster in Australia's history. The Prime Minister who said that climate change was not just important, was not just one issue, but was in fact the gravest economic, social, political and moral challenge of our generation then dumped the emissions trading scheme policy which he had previously said was so vital. The Prime Minister who originally said he would fix the National Broadband Network for $4.7 billion then said: 'No, that's not going to work; we've got to spend $44 billion on it'—and now it seems it is going to cost $96 billion, at least $60 billion more than it should. The Prime Minister who said he was going to fix fuel and grocery prices and then abolished Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch needs to give us an explanation. The Prime Minister who said he would deliver 263 childcare centres to end the double drop—remember the dreaded double drop—gave us 38. The Prime Minister who said he would give us 2,600 trades training centres actually delivered fewer than 10 per cent. He needs to explain to the Australian people how someone who was so inadequate and incompetent then that he was rejected by his own parliamentary team can somehow justify regaining the prime ministership.
He said he would insulate one million roofs and instead he started more than 200 fires in people's houses. He said he would begin an education revolution and instead he spent—wasted and overspent—some $8 billion on overpriced school halls. He said he would fix public hospitals and he would have a referendum on this if they were not fixed by 2009. Well, I have to say that public hospitals are in a better state today, all thanks to coalition state governments and no thanks to the incoming Prime Minister.
I know the Prime Minister wishes to gloss over previous failures. I know the Prime Minister wishes to say that this is ground zero and the clock starts from now, but the Australian people are not mugs. We remember; we do not have amnesia. The people who are submitting themselves to the judgement of the Australian people will be judged on their deeds, not on their words. This is a Prime Minister who cannot run on his record. The government cannot run on the record of its first term because it dumped Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and the government cannot run on the record of its second term because it has just dumped Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.
How is it that a Prime Minister who was chaotic and dysfunctional in office can suddenly be a Prime Minister of due process? He needs to explain how this will be. I have to say that the auguries are not good. He was 45 minutes late for his first press conference—the press conference at which he did not answer any questions. He said last night that he wanted to end the negativity and then all he could do was attack the opposition and its leader.
The point of being in this parliament is not to stop someone; it is to start something. What we on this side of the House want to start is a better government, a stronger economy and a prouder and more confident Australia. That is what we want to start, and that is what will happen if there is a change of government whenever the election is held. There is a clear choice between members on this side of the parliament and those opposite. Those opposite cannot help themselves. They believe in big government. We on this side support strong citizens. Members opposite cannot help themselves. They are obsessed with wealth redistribution. We believe passionately in wealth creation. Members opposite put their trust in officials. They cannot help themselves. We put our trust in the strong individuals that compose Australian society. They believe in the state; we trust the communities of this country. We want to build up the social fabric, not just build up ever bigger, ever more intrusive government.
The people of Australia know exactly what they will get from the coalition. We will stop the boats. We will scrap the carbon tax and the mining tax. We will put the budget back into the black. We understand that the families and households of Australia are doing it tough. That is why under the coalition they will get to keep their tax cuts and their pension and benefit increases without a carbon tax. That means that every Australian household's budgetary position at the end of the week, the fortnight or the month should be so much stronger. It is not just about building a richer society; it is about building a better society as well.
We know that the Australian people yearn to be their best selves and that is why, should there be a change of government, there will be a much greater engagement between this parliament and the government of our country and the Indigenous people of Australia. We know that the problem in Indigenous policy over the last generation has not been underinvestment so much as underengagement. That is why, should there be a change of government, I will spend at least a week every year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community, because if it is good enough for Australians to live somewhere then it is good enough for the Prime Minister and senior officials to stay there. And it is on this basis that we will pursue the real reconciliation that will make our country whole. It is fortified and informed by this: that we will pursue the constitutional recognition which will rectify our foundation document. We will not so much change our Constitution as complete it.
We want a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme because we think that the women of Australia deserve a fair go. They deserve a fair choice to have a career and a family at the same time, and we will give it to them. I am proud that the first political party to offer a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme that pays people their real wage, and not a welfare wage, while they are on parental leave will be the coalition that I lead.
We will not neglect the environment. Not only will we cut emissions with incentives, not penalties; we will send a permanent standing green army, 15,000 strong, to the rescue of our remnant bushland and our degraded waterways.
This has been a low and dishonourable parliament in many respects. And last night the prime ministership was debased yet again, to be traded by the faceless men rather than decided by the Australian people as it should be. The Australian people should control the prime ministership and the government of this country. That is why, Prime Minister, you should not run away, you should name the date. Name the date. Tell us when it will be. (Time expired)
I welcome this opportunity to speak in this matter of public importance debate. I note that the matter of public importance refers to a positive plan for Australia's future and I note that in the concluding remarks of Leader of the Opposition, the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, there was not a lot of positivity in those concluding remarks. Can I say to the Leader of the Opposition that we in the parliament have a big obligation to set something of a tone for the country. The Leader of the Opposition needs to go back to some basics—and we all need to—draw a deep breath and recognise that Australia is a very great country.
We have a rational base to be optimistic about our future. Let us look at the strength of the economy. Nearly 20 years of sustained economic growth. This is ultimately almost unmatched by any significant economy around the world. Low unemployment. Low interest rates. These are extraordinary achievements. Also, debt and deficit levels which are the envy of the rest of the world. I would say to the Leader of the Opposition: if he would like a debate at the National Press Club on debt and deficit levels then I will name the date when we will have it.
Opposition members interjecting—
No, we'll name the date for the debate. Did everyone hear that?
Honourable members interjecting—
So we are going to be debating debt and deficit at the National Press Club. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for responding so positively to my challenge to debate policy options for Australia's future economy.
Then you look at the remarkable strengths of the Australian people themselves. You know, you travel around the world and you see that in Australia we have remarkable social solidarity. We are a multicultural miracle to the rest of the world and as a result of which there is a huge dynamism in this country brought to our shores by successive waves of migrants over multiple decades. We are proud inheritors of that. So we have a rational basis to be optimistic about our future.
We have excellent relations with our neighbours. Our diplomatic relations with our neighbours in South-East Asia, East Asia and the rest of our wider region are in first-class working order. We have every basis for optimism for the future.
But, on top of that, I would say to the Leader of the Opposition and to those opposite that Australians, by instinct, are a positive people. We have always been that way. We have a can-do approach. If we see a problem, we get up, we fix it and we move on. The whole culture of our country is as a positive entrepreneurial country, and it is that sentiment which we on this side of the House intend to harness as we take the country forward.
In my experience in public life, Australians disdain a culture of negativity. They disdain the negativity which, regrettably, has become characteristic of this place. What I have said earlier in question time today is that the easiest thing you can do in Australian national politics is to use negative invective. The hardest thing you can do is to sit down, look at the facts, get briefed on the facts, look at the policy options—look at evidence based policy—make a decision, then implement it and then make sure that what you have implemented is actually working, and if it is not then reform it and change it.
That is the way you do public policy. Doing that properly in a positive way takes time and mental effort. Engaging in the politics of invective and negativity, frankly, takes about a nanosecond of time. This is another reflection I would leave to he who would put himself forward as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia.
The other thing that I would say about our people—the Australian people right across this vast land of ours—is how much we as a nation relish our unity as a people and how we instinctively resile from those who seek to divide us into one camp or another. I would say again to the Leader of the Opposition that this Australian people wants to see all sides of the political debate work together for the nation's future. So, if you have a genuine contribution to what we do differently on the economy, on asylum seekers policy, on national security, on education, on health, on what we do with housing or on what we do in Indigenous policy, we would like to hear about it!
That is why I said on the question of asylum seekers policy earlier today that, if the Leader of the Opposition would simply avail himself of the opportunity, we in the government would happily accommodate having him fully briefed by the national security agencies on every aspect of the circumstances which our brave men and women in uniform—the Australian Navy—confront on the high seas every day. That is the responsible approach. Then, once he has been briefed on the facts—one of them, of course, is public: the attitude of the government of Indonesia—he can then come and talk to us about what he thinks we should be doing differently, other than what we are. Because, other than that, it is just pure old politics.
Mr Dutton interjecting—
For those opposite who have trumpeted the 'Howard solution' as it was back in those days, I would say one thing: it was a staging post at Nauru, and 70 per cent of them all ended up back in good old Australia—an uncomfortable fact but a fact nonetheless. And do you know something? Facts tend to make our political opponents uncomfortable, because facts should form the basis of policy.
So Australians would like us to be positive in this place. They have a disdain for the politics of negativity and they also have a disdain for the politics of division and disunity. There is one other thing that I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, and I would ask the Leader of the Opposition actually to reflect on this: those in the nation who observe the deliberations of the parliament would like us to show some basic civility to each other as well—some basic civility, and I have not seen a lot of that in evidence in recent times in this place. These, I believe, are the sentiments and the attitudes which the Australian people bring to their expectations of how we as a parliament and how we as a national government and how you as an alternative government behave in this place.
In the Australian Labor Party, our view of political life is about building the house up. We believe in building the house up. It takes time: brick by brick, laying the foundations, setting the walls and constructing the roof. That is how we see the task of nation building; that is how we see our mission in politics.
There is an alternative approach to politics which, unfortunately, I have seen too much of from the Leader of the Opposition, and it is: how do you tear the house down? We build up the house; it seems, regrettably, that those opposite are more interested in tearing the place down. I could say to those opposite: by instinct, I and my colleagues are nation builders. We believe that the business of the nation and the business of the nation's government is to build roads, to build rail, not to walk away from building rail, and to build a first-class, world-class National Broadband Network, and not simply to engage in the very cheap politics of scorn and derision—which is what we hear from those opposite. Can I say on top of that that, when it comes to the foundations of the house, we on this side of the House have laid strong economic foundations for Australia's future. We have strong economic growth—2.5 per cent over the year to March, almost the highest across a troubled OECD—and low unemployment, 5.5 per cent. But here is the killer. Those opposite talk about mismanagement on the part of the government. We have added one million jobs, almost, to the national workforce.
Mr Robert interjecting—
But, when we say that, those opposite resort to the old politics of negativity and derision.
I also say to those opposite that, in laying these strong economic foundations, we have also brought about low inflation, at 2.5 per cent, well within the band set by the Reserve Bank and the regulators; record low interest rates; and strong public finances. I mentioned that during question time. We have a AAA credit rating, a productivity upswing and market sector labour market productivity up two per cent over the past year, though there is much still to be done with productivity in this country.
In education, we have been rolling out the platform for an education revolution these last several years.
Opposition members interjecting—
I noticed some interjections just then. Do those opposite oppose the 3,000-plus libraries we have built in the schools of Australia? Do they oppose them? Every time I have been to an opening, I seem to have run into members of Her Majesty's most loyal opposition. That is because they actually know, in their heart of hearts, that it is a very good thing. I have never run into a P&C or P&F that, when you are opening a school library, say, 'We don't want this library.' Do you know why? Because we want to build up the intellectual capital of the country. That is why we have also built 200 to 300 trades-training centres right across the country, in conservative held electorates as well as Labor held electorates, and for the Nats as well—Paul, good to see you up there. I salute you for your career in this place.
Mr Robert interjecting—
Can I say also, on laying the economic foundations, that it is an education revolution which has now seen 190,000 more young people in universities than there were when we came to office. Why? We took a policy decision to uncap places—
Mr Pyne interjecting—
so that more working families' kids could get university—people who are qualified to go but under the previous regime could not find a place. So you are going to have more kids at university; more opportunities for those pursuing the trades, through hundreds of trades-training centres; and wired libraries across the entire school system so our kids can be plugged into the best teaching facilities across the country.
Then my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, is laying out world-class infrastructure through a proper decision-making process called Infrastructure Australia for road, for rail, for ports—across the entire spectrum. Without basic economic infrastructure, the nation's economic fundamentals cannot be guaranteed.
That brings me, of course, to high-speed broadband, broadband which will be world class, 100 megabits-plus per second, in order to plug us into the information economy of the 21st century, to make sure, as I said in question time earlier today, that our brothers and sisters in the bush are not disadvantaged—every Australian, rich or poor, country or city, with access to the information superhighway. If you are a small business operating out of Wangaratta, you have as much opportunity to get your product or your service to market as you have if you are running a business in the central business district of Sydney. That is our belief in laying the foundations of the nation's house.
We have also been in the business of constructing the walls. We have been pursuing a vigorous and strong foreign policy. We have—through both the Minister for Defence, who is now retiring from politics, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and also through the actions of multiple ministers—built the best set of bilateral relationships in Australia's region that we have had in this country's postwar history. That is just a fact. And we have been building a robust defence. We have major capital ships rolling off the production line. We have them about to join the ranks of the Australian Navy. We have also, of course, been working to improve Emergency Management Australia. These are all about how we maintain the security of the house. We are building the walls to make sure that they are robust against those threats which may come against us.
Then, on top of that, we have been not just laying the foundations with the economy, not just building the walls in terms of security, but also, in completing the house, constructing a roof for the protection of all. And, by doing that, we are making sure that those suffering from disabilities are properly cared for so that all Australians can have proper protection should they suffer disability. We are investing $1 billion over four years to start rolling out the first stage of DisabilityCare Australia. In superannuation, we are raising the rate from nine to 12 per cent. In pensions, 3.5 million pensioners will be up to $207 a fortnight better off for singles and $236 better off for couples—the biggest pension increase in Australia's history. In health, we have invested $4.6 billion in dental care and we have invested some $16.4 billion in the hospital system. For the information of the Leader of the Opposition, the level of federal funding of national expenditure on hospitals at the time at which the government of which he was a minister left office was 38.7 per cent; we are now on track to raise that to 50 per cent. There is a simple difference—building a roof under which people can be protected should they fall ill. There is a $2.2 billion investment in mental health. In aged care, there is a $3.7 billion reform package by the minister who has been responsible for that.
Then, beyond our task of laying the foundations, building the walls and constructing a roof for the protection of all, we have also been concerned about the environment beyond as well. We have acted on the environment. My colleague today referred to the achievements that we have delivered in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This is the first time in the Federation's history that we have a plan to manage the most important ecosystem in the country's interior. I congratulate the minister for his work. It is a plan we took to the previous election in 2007. We have worked on it and done the hard policy work. We have acted on climate change. We have brought in a price on carbon. On top of that, we have also brought in a mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent. Australia's emissions are going down and, as a result of all that, we are ensuring that the environment surrounding the great house called Australia is properly protected.
So I say to the Leader of the Opposition as we enter this period leading up to the national election that our task in politics is to build the nation's house up—lay strong foundations in the economy, in education and in infrastructure; build secure walls through our Defence Force and a strong foreign policy; and construct a roof which protects all Australians when they get into strife, whether through disability or through mental illness or other forms of illness—and to look after the environment as well. But I would say to the Leader of the Opposition—
Mr Abbott interjecting—
Regrettably, he seems to scoff and mock throughout this entire presentation. I would say this to him: his politics is not about building the house up; regrettably, his comfort zone is tearing the house down. I welcome the debate I will have with him at the National Press Club soon. (Time expired)
The Australian people awoke this morning to the news that yet again the Labor Party had sacked its leader and changed the nation's leader. Yet again the Labor Party changed the head of government without so much as a fleeting concern for what the Australian people thought or who the Australian people wanted to lead the government. In fact, the Prime Minister has just spent 15 minutes telling us how wonderful everything is in his government. If that is the case, why is he refusing to explain the reason for sacking the former Prime Minister? Why have one-third of the cabinet refused to serve under the current Prime Minister? If everything is fine in the world of Labor, why have they sacked yet another leader, why have 45 members voted against this Prime Minister, and why have a third of the cabinet refused to serve?
The fact is Labor are using the office of Prime Minister as a weapon of retribution. They are using the office of Prime Minister to seek revenge for perceived past wrongs. They are using this office to get square with others because this is such a bitterly divided party. There is a civil war going on within the Labor Party. It is a bitter civil war and the conflict has not ended—in fact, the conflict is still writhing and festering and, until such time as the Australian people have their say as to who should govern this country, the civil war could continue. In fact, so dismissive are this party of the office of Prime Minister, they use it as a cheap game of pass the parcel. It is the nation's highest elected office and yet they are denying the Australian people the opportunity to have their say. All the while, while this civil war rages, the Australian people—together with their hopes, their dreams, their concerns and their needs—are being ignored by this government. In question time the Prime Minister was given many opportunities to explain why it is that they sacked yet another leader. As ministers stood up to laud the achievements of this government, not one of them could explain, if so much had been achieved, why they got rid of the leader who apparently achieved it. They are just consumed by revenge and driven by personal hatred.
There is an urgent need for stability and order in government. We have to have confidence restored to consumers, to business, to investors. The coalition is united; the coalition is ready to govern. The coalition can provide stable, certain and competent government—all we need is a date for the election. We have released a policy document—Our plan for real solutions for all Australians, which, at 52 pages, contains a wealth of information on our policies. It has solutions to deliver a strong economy in a secure nation.
But in contrast—whatever the Prime Minister tried to say and however he rehashed his old cliches and his old rehearsed lines—the failures of this government are writ large. The budget deficit goes for as far as the eye can see; it is the steepest descent into debt of any country apart from perhaps Iceland. Then there are the mining tax, which makes us vulnerable to charges of international uncompetitiveness; the largest carbon tax in the world, which is driving up the cost of doing business in this country; and the greatest policy failure of a generation, which is border protection. We are a less secure nation and we are more vulnerable as a result of this government and these two past prime ministers. Nothing that this current Prime Minister can say, and nothing that he can promise, will change the fact that it was his handiwork that found a solution to border protection and the issue of asylum seekers. He created a massive problem that has seen 45,000 people try to come to Australia via a revitalised people smuggling trade which has led to hundreds of deaths at sea. Not one of this lot will take responsibility for it. Shame on you! It is a monumental policy failure and at the core of it is this current Prime Minister's work.
As the Leader of the Opposition has so rightly pointed out—and you cannot argue with it—the government cannot run on its first term agenda, because they sacked Prime Minister Rudd for Prime Minister Gillard. The government cannot run on its second term agenda, because they sacked Prime Minister Gillard for Prime Minister Rudd. What is so troubling about this latest debacle is that Australia once had a proud reputation for stable and orderly government—an international reputation that was admired by so many others. Our predictability and our stability have been sullied. Last night I received messages from my foreign policy contacts in governments across the globe, who expressed their utter bewilderment at this turn of events. The Prime Minister's refusal to confirm the election date, and trying to weasel around when an election will be held, is creating even more uncertainty.
Some of those who are sitting in the chamber and some of those listening to this debate will remember the former Prime Minister's—that is Gillard, not Rudd—hand-picked foreign minister, in Senator Carr. Remember his first press conference last year—the first of his many gaffes—when he was asked about a potential delay in Papua New Guinea's elections? Do you remember that? In an extraordinary lapse of judgement, Senator Carr said that, if Papua New Guinea were to delay its elections even for a moment, he would have to mobilise the world opinion, isolate and condemn Papua New Guinea, and impose sanctions on Papua New Guinea. My colleagues will not be surprised to learn that some of my friends overseas have suggested to me that, should Prime Minister Rudd seek to delay the election, they will have no alternative but to impose sanctions on Australia and isolate and condemn Australia for its failure to hold an election on time. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword! Meet your own standards that you set for others.
As President Yudhoyono's spokesman said last night, this process of leadership change in Australia is 'beyond comprehension'. Yes, foreign investors are baffled by this. Business is dismayed. There is a deep yearning for a clear and united plan to deliver a stronger Australia, stronger borders and a better future for all Australians. They want to hear that a government will get rid of the carbon tax that is driving jobs, business and manufacturing offshore. They want to hear that a government will get rid of the mining tax, which is making our mining companies internationally uncompetitive. In fact, I met with a number of mining sector people today. They were telling me about their investments in other countries. I said, 'But what about Australia?' They said, 'You must be joking.' The instability that this government has provided—the massive increases in regulation, the massive increases in legislation, the massive increases in taxes and the duplication in approval processes—is driving investment offshore and it certainly is not attracting more foreign investment to this country.
That is why the coalition can provide strong, stable, competent and experienced government. The coalition is committed to restoring our international reputation and to reassuring the world that order can be restored to government in this country. The anarchy in the Labor Party is not reflective of the will of the Australian people and—most certainly, once the Prime Minister is honest with the Australian people and confirms the date—the Australian people will have their say.
In the area of international relations, I have outlined our policy position, our portfolio responsibilities, and our approach in trade and in foreign affairs in some detail. Should we be elected, we will move quickly to repair the damage caused by bans on the live cattle trade—which took away Indonesia's trust and confidence in us to be a reliable trading partner—and we will restore the standing of this country in the eyes of the international community. We will attract foreign investment to our shores, we will stand behind our mining and resources sector, we will build a stronger economy and we will be a government that Australia can be proud of.
It is a great pleasure to rise to speak on this matter of public importance. You can tell that, although circumstances change, the one thing that does not change in this country is the opposition's tactics—not one iota. What have we seen from them in this matter of public importance? We have seen unrelenting negativity. They have got an MPI that talks about a clear and united plan, a stronger Australia and a better future. But what did we hear from them? Unrelenting negativity. What did we hear from them? A sort of vicious dark partisanship. What did we hear from them? Rank opportunism.
It is because they have been the most disloyal opposition in the history of this country, because what they have sought to do at every single opportunity is to divide the country along partisan lines for their own interests. This is the most disloyal, most destructive opposition since Fraser. That is the truth of the matter. They come in here and talk about a better future and a stronger Australia and a clear and united plan, but all they offer to the Australian people is this unrelenting negativity, this dark partisanship, this rank opportunism. They are the most disloyal opposition in the history of the country, seeking to divide at every single opportunity. They come in here with their 53 pages of slogans—what they think is a policy document—and think that the Australian people will fall for that. We know that this has been their modus operandi; we know that, even though circumstances have changed, their tactics have not.
They have been running around this country talking the country's economy down, undermining confidence, damaging jobs. If we had adopted the policies that they advocated during the global financial crisis, 200,000 jobs would have been lost in this country. We would have had a recession, just like the rest of the world. We know what the opposition leader was doing when the great debates on the stimulus package were going on—he was absent for a number of votes. That is on the record of the parliament, and some of us know why. They have been missing from votes, and when they have engaged in the debate there has been unrelenting negativity, undermining economic confidence. If we had embarked on the policies that they advocated at the time and that they advocate for the future—the policies of economic austerity—we know where that would have led the nation.
We know where the economics of austerity took the rest of the world. It gave the United States of America a recession so serious that it has been labelled the Great Recession. That is what the Americans call it—the Great Recession, second only to the Great Depression. In the United Kingdom there has been a double-dip and almost a triple-dip recession. They adopted the policies that are advocated by this disloyal opposition. Prime Minister Cameron, a Conservative, adopted these policies and they had a double-dip recession. They missed a triple-dip recession by a whisker.
Who suffers from these polices? Mature-age workers and young workers—they are the people who are thrown on the scrapheap of unemployment. A whole generation of young people around the world are suffering the effects of unemployment. There has been a recession in Europe so serious that it has disabled the economies of the whole world. We have seen areas in Spain that have extraordinary levels of unemployment that have not been seen since the Great Depression. The global financial crisis ripped away one per cent of world economic growth. Very few countries avoided that whirlwind, and Australia was one of them. It was the member for Lilley and the member for Griffith and the cabinet who made clear and decisive policies to combat and avoid that whirlwind and protect Australia. The opposition would have plunged Australia into recession.
We know what the opposition want to do on industrial relations—Work Choices will always be in their DNA, and we know that, whatever they promise, that policy will be the first of many that they try to implement in industrial relations. They have shied away from it because they think they might lose a vote or two here or there, if they are honest about their intentions in that area.
They have been in deep denial about the problem of climate change. They are part of the flat-earth brigade that President Obama has referred to. They are funded by the flat-earth brigade. Their membership is the flat-earth brigade. We have heard the hysterical claims of people like Senator Barnaby Joyce, a person who is seeking to become a member of this House, telling us that we will have $100 lamb roasts—Australians will never eat lamb again. We heard the Leader of the Opposition say that Whyalla would be wiped off the map—I can assure him, as a South Australian, that Whyalla still going strong.
While we have been acting, while we have been making tough decisions for this country, the opposition have been playing politics with climate change
First it was under their previous opposition leader, the member for Wentworth, combining with the Greens to block the emissions-trading scheme in the Senate. We know that they are now committed to a policy of ripping away the institutional frameworks which will help reduce emissions in this country and replace it with a system where we give taxpayers' money to big companies as some sort of incentive to stop polluting. It is a ridiculous policy. They are great slogans, but once they are put to the test, they do not make it.
What this will do is make us a pariah in the world at a time when everybody else is acting on climate change. The Americans are acting on climate change, with President Obama making a very, very serious statement on that. The state of California is enacting an emissions-trading system and parts of China are doing the same. Europe, of course, has an emissions-trading system. So just as the rest of the world is starting to come to grips with what is a very complex global problem, what would the opposition do? Rip it all up and make us a pariah in the world.
We have seen their dark partisanship in the area of asylum seekers. You saw it today in this debate—using people's fear to harvest votes. Complaining, complaining and complaining, lauding Prime Minister Howard for solving a problem that actually occurred on his watch—9,000 people came here on his watch. The difference between Prime Minister Howard and the prime ministers in this era is that the opposition in Prime Minister Howard's era actually backed him—gave the government the ability to act. What has this opposition done? After complaining for so long, when they were given a bit of legislation to send asylum seekers who arrived through irregular maritime arrivals in this country to Malaysia, what did they do? They came into this House and voted with the Greens to stop it—to prevent the government from enacting its program. They went into the Senate and voted with the Greens to prevent the government from enacting its program. They just want to create a problem, because they feed on the vote harvest that comes from it. We know that that is their intention at every opportunity—dark partisanship and opportunism; this relentless negativity and this attempt to divide the country.
This next election is going to be about the future and it is going to be about fairness. It is about securing the economy in what are still tough economic times. You only have to look at Europe, China, the United States of America or the United Kingdom to know that we are going through very difficult times in terms of the world economy. We are all about securing our domestic economy during that period. The Labor Party has the runs on the board, because we secured the Australian economy during the global financial crisis. Our economy is now 13 per cent bigger than it was prior to the global financial crisis. Every time you grow your economy, you grow your ability to service your debt. The reverse is true, too: if you shrink your economy through the economics of austerity, you shrink your capacity to deal with debt—you shrink your capacity to keep people employed and your national productivity agenda.
We know that securing the economy is the most important thing to do. Labor has always been focused on the jobs of working Australians. We think that this election will be about the future, it will be about fairness and it will be won by the Australian Labor Party.
Listening to the Prime Minister on his matter of public importance today you could be forgiven for thinking that Rip Van Winkle had woken from a three-year-and-three-day-long sleep. Listening to the new Prime Minister speaking today, you could assume that three years and three days ago time stopped and nothing has happened since that time that anybody in Australia is allowed to remember, because Rip has woken from his very long sleep and all the apparent achievements that he has outlined today all occurred because of something linked to Rip Van Winkle, who has awoken from this deep sleep.
The Prime Minister has singularly failed in his address today to explain why the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had to be executed politically last night in this place. Listening to the new Prime Minister, you would think that we lived in a land of chocolates and roses, of wine and caring, and that in fact three years and three days ago time stopped on his watch and now he has been restored to his rightful place. Mr Smug is back and writ large—a condescending, patronising, smug, supercilious, sanctimonious, self-regarding new Prime Minister. That is who we now have as Prime Minister.
Mrs D'Ath interjecting —
We didn't interrupt anybody else, Yvette.
Speaker, on a point of order: firstly, I would like to be referred to by my correct title and, secondly, I believe the member should withdraw in relation to the comments he made about the Prime Minister.
An opposition member interjecting—
I am shocked that calling somebody self-indulgent and self-regarding is unparliamentary. But, as we are in the dying days of this dishonourable, horrible, low parliament, which sank to a new low last night when the Prime Minister was put to the political sword without explanation, I withdraw for the good of the House.
What we have seen in the last 24 hours is the most extraordinary display of delusion from a new Prime Minister. He says that there cannot be any negative politics—no negative politics. This is the man who sent out an email today saying:
Negative destructive personal politics has done much to bring dishonour to our parliament …
Well, someone needs to tell the member for Hunter, or the member for Reid, or the member for Barton, or the member for McMahon, or Chifley, or Corangamite—all of these members that have been sent out like a pack of wolves, for three years and three days, to tear down the member for Lalor down. She was never given a chance. I admire one thing about the member for Lalor: she was tough. But even she could not withstand the dogs of war that the new Prime Minister sent out against her three years and three days ago. Who can forget his teary farewell in the Prime Minister's courtyard? Butter would not melt in his mouth. He was shocked and amazed that he had been removed from the prime ministership. Today he is back, smug and self-regarding as ever and wanting everybody to put out of their minds, like a bad dream, the last three years and three days.
I felt sorry for the former Prime Minister today. I even smiled at her in the chamber in the dying days of this parliament. I said, 'What went wrong?' because, listening to the new Prime Minister, you would think she had led a great government that had made terrific achievements—forgetting all the terrible disasters of the last three years and offering no explanation as to why this apparently great prime minister, who led a great government, had to be torn down by the pack of wolves that he sent out to relentlessly and negatively campaign against her.
All of the headlines in the newspapers and all the leaking of polling that was done to destroy the former Prime Minister was orchestrated by Kevin Rudd and his supporters. Senator Carr from the Senate—Senator Kim Carr, I should say, rather than Senator Bob Carr—was one of the henchmen who was used to destroy Prime Minister Gillard. But Mr Rudd wants us all to forget these three years of relentlessly, negatively, personally denigrating and destroying the Prime Minister. All the terrible stories that were leaked to the tabloid press about the Prime Minister's partner—none of them could have been known by the opposition. They were all known by members of her caucus—
The MPI is how Australia needs a strong and stable government, and the first thing to deliver a strong and stable government is to explain to the Australian people why a prime minister had to be torn down by Kevin Rudd and his henchmen. The second way to deliver a stable country is to name a date for the election. One of the big stories today is that the Prime Minister is trying to slide away, like the snake in the grass that he is, from the election on 14 September.
I withdraw, Speaker. The Prime Minister wants to avoid at all costs an election on 14 September. He wants to leave the date open. The people of Australia want an election. They demand a change. The people of Australia want to put this horrible parliament behind them and to elect a new government. I am sure the Minister for Health would agree with much of what I have said, because she was loyal to the former Prime Minister to the end. She was not one of their henchmen sent out to tear down the Prime Minister, unlike the member for Hunter and his coterie of people who have woven a very tangled web.