Senate debates

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009; Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009; Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2008-2009

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 23 June, on motion by Senator Sherry:

That these bills be now read a second time.

4:50 pm

Photo of Julian McGauranJulian McGauran (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the Senate would be aware, notice was given by Senator Guy Barnett last week of a motion to disallow item 16525 of regulations that provide Medicare funding under the Health Insurance Act 1973. The aim of the disallowance motion is to withdraw Medicare funding for second trimester abortions. The effect of the disallowance motion will be to trigger a debate on the subject of late-term abortions when the parliament returns in the spring session.

Equally, this is an overdue debate in society. It is an issue that has been successfully hidden away, wrapped in society’s acceptance of early-term abortions. But it is a much worse procedure, as are the reasons for it. I believe it is time to put the brakes on the runaway culture of violence that has developed in our hospitals and within the medical profession. It is as easy to get a late-term abortion as it is to get an early-term abortion. As is the case with such moral issues, the matter will be a conscience vote—a time when parliamentarians are released from their party obligations and are left alone to rely on their conscience to decide their vote.

For those who believe that life begins at conception—that is, that the body grows and the soul exists, and I am one of those who hold such a belief—then what choice do you have but to support a pro-life stance and reject the aid or promotion of abortion? On voting patterns, the pro-life position has not held sway in past parliaments. One in four of the conscience votes that could be considered a pro-life position have been successful in the past decade. However, the merit and substance of this coming debate surely warrant even greater moral attention than before. There seems to be a greater horror and an even more distinguishable human right of the child when discussing late-term abortions.

Perhaps when talking about legislating RU486, as this parliament has done, it can be said that it is just a pill that is available. Perhaps when discussing embryo experimentations, as this parliament has also done, it can be said that it is just an embryo in a tube or that cloning is just a single cell. But, for late-term abortions, the gravity of the issue is clearer. We are dealing with a fully formed, viable baby. If you are a pro-choicer, within the confines of past debates you have only dealt with embryos or early life. Where there are completing rights between the adult and the baby, a clear choice is available. The answer the pro-choicer gives is: the woman’s right reigns. However, the question is not the same for late-term pregnancies—there are no competing rights between the mother and the baby. The baby is viable at some 20 weeks and can live away from the mother. So the question in the debate on late-term abortions is: do adults have an unfettered right over the child? That is the basic human rights question that will be presented to the parliament in the spring session.

The woman’s health and life are often used as a reason for termination. I accept that, where the mother is in imminent danger of her life, abortion is a choice; however, we are all only too aware that that is not the source of the majority of the some 100,000 abortions in Australia every year. Moreover, this argument put up to justify early-term abortions does not relate to late-term abortions because here the baby is viable. Any danger to the mother can be attended to by evacuating the baby. That is a medical fact. The debate is therefore brought back to the sole question of: is the adult entitled to an unfettered right over the child? That is all that a vote against the disallowance motion can amount to.

With regard to the medical process of late-term abortion, it must be distinguished clinically from an early-term abortion. The method is a more invasive and difficult surgical procedure. The doctor must undertake a greater physical and mental intent to terminate the baby. The Victorian Crimes Act, section 10, describes late-term abortion after 28 weeks as ‘child destruction’, which is a measure of what I mean by a physical and mental intent. The truth of the matter is that these babies are strong and fight for their lives. The latest figures from Victoria indicate that 47 out of 309 post-20-week abortions performed in 2005—the latest figures available—resulted in the delivery of a live baby who died shortly after delivery. Late-term abortion, therefore, is clinically different because the foetus is more mature and consequently larger, has recognisable human appearance, a solid bone structure, a well-developed cardiovascular and central nervous system and is responsive to painful stimuli. It has been well featured in pictures and documentaries that a baby in the womb responds to an invasion by a probing needle by placing its hands in front of its face to protect itself.

We cannot debate this issue and give it the gravity it deserves without knowing or acknowledging the methods undertaken to terminate the late-term baby. There are three methods and each requires delivery: firstly, killing the baby in the womb with a solution injected into the heart of the baby; secondly, dismembering the body in delivery; and, thirdly, a partial birth abortion—and the controversy of this method has been the subject of debate in the congress and the Senate of the United States and consequently banned.

In Australia the partial birth abortion method is certainly undertaken in the private clinics of the most prolific abortionist in Australia, Dr David Grundmann, and there is nothing to say that, at least to some extent, it has not been undertaken in Australian hospitals. Shockingly, this method, which would be known to most people who understand the gravity of late-term abortion—that is, partial birth abortion—does attract Medicare benefit.

There is no running from the facts. What this method means to the unborn warrants the absolute truth. I will therefore quote from the Washington Times, on 29 February 1996, when the newspaper described in detail the partial birth abortion method as follows:

Partial birth abortion is a gruesome procedure that is even opposed by many who support ... legal abortion. In the procedure, which commonly takes place after the foetus is about 6 months old, the foetus’ feet and torso are delivered ... while its head remains in the birth canal. The abortionist then stabs the base of the foetus’ skull with scissors and inserts a catheter into the opening. The catheter is used to suck out brain matter, which kills the foetus and allows the skull to collapse for easy delivery.

As I say, this shocking method does attract Medicare benefit.

The landmark case in 1969 entitled the Menhennitt ruling, which effectively legalised abortion on demand in Australia, never contemplated late-term abortion, nor it was contemplated by society until recently. This is evidenced by the fact that, in my own state of Victoria, late-term abortions have been illegal. Section 10 of the Crimes Act specifically states that an abortion after 28 weeks is termed ‘child destruction’ and is a criminal offence. However, the Menhennitt ruling is being used to justify the hundreds of late-term and, consequently, illegal abortions that occur in Victoria. The laws are contradictory in the eyes of those who seek legitimacy for late-term abortions; however, they are not contradictory for those who believe there is a line in the sand to be drawn at late-term abortions.

As evidenced by the much publicised late-term abortion case of 32 weeks at the Royal Women’s Hospital in 2001, no responsible Victorian authority would enforce the law that is on the statutes. Although that law may be dormant, under the current gaggle of state authorities, while it exists, it still acts as some form of deterrent to doctors and hospital administrations. The Menhennitt ruling referred to abortion as ‘a necessity to save the health and life of the mother’. So the word ‘necessity’ is crucial, given that, if the mother’s health is in danger in a late-term pregnancy, the baby’s viability is not in conflict with the rights or life of the mother. Basically, that negates the Menhennitt ruling; in other words, there is no necessity to abort but rather to deliver a life.

What of the question of life itself? When does life begin? That question, once central, is still relevant to this debate today. In 1969, when Menhennitt ruled, the common belief of pro-choicers was that the foetus was not life, at least at anything less than 12 weeks. In this regard, over the past decade, science has been the instigator of a major shift in attitude. Science has proven that all senses and early body form exist within seven days, and the rate of growth of the embryo between one and seven days is as fast as it is during any other term of the whole human experience. In other words, the embryo is hurtling towards its human existence and selfhood.

I make this point to show that the old debate of whether or not the foetus is a life is over. Society and even pro-choicers now accept that it is life; the science is too compelling. Then, if that is the case for early term, how could personhood be denied of the baby in late term—the second and third trimesters? As I said at another time in this place, to leave this new wave of child destruction unchecked will place us on a roller-coaster ride to the outer limits.

5:03 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

In this debate on the appropriation bills, I want to speak about what I consider to be a quite disgraceful attack on the incumbent Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, in the national media yesterday. His Excellency Major General Jeffery has been an outstanding representative of Her Majesty in Australia, both during his original vice regal appointment as Governor of Western Australia from 1993 to 2000 and during his subsequent appointment as the 24th Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. He has also been a very mature and experienced part of the process of governance, both in Western Australia and in the Commonwealth. His Excellency was a distinguished and decorated senior Australian Defence Force member. He served with distinction in Malaya, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. I am pleased that the former Prime Minister, Mr Howard, thought fit to nominate Major General Jeffery for the position.

I particularly want to thank His Excellency Major General Jeffery for the very visible visit he made to Townsville earlier this year, principally to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Royal Australian Regiment of which he was a distinguished leader at one stage of his military career. I thank him for the way that he interacted with the Townsville community during the visit. It was, I think, representative of the way His Excellency has interacted with all Australians in all of his dealings in his role as Governor-General. During that visit to North Queensland, he and his wife were very gracious and the Governor-General demonstrated the sort of interest that he has taken in all things Australian since becoming our leader.

I understand from media reports that the allegation of Major General Jeffery leaking documents some years ago was made by what was described as ‘a former Labor minister’. The former Labor minister, who clearly did not have the courage to put his name to the accusation, was quoted as saying:

We never found any evidence, but if I had caught him leaking I would have executed him ...

I think that is a fairly despicable revelation—and all the more so, given the Labor Party’s concession that there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Major General Jeffery had engaged in such conduct. I note that His Excellency has described the allegation as repugnant and defamatory—and it is, I suggest, repugnant, defamatory and quite despicable.

I find it degrading that the Governor-General, who has maintained strict political neutrality and brought great honour not only to the vice-regal role but as a distinguished and decorated soldier, should be subjected to the vindictive spite of former Keating government ministers. Given that the media reports quote three senior members of the ALP, it is clearly a concerted attack on His Excellency’s reputation. The Prime Minister has a responsibility to ensure that his senior party members are not going around rubbishing the Governor-General or spreading false rumours, particularly when they are acknowledged as being false.

When Their Excellencies retire in early September, I wish them all the best and look forward to Major General Jeffery, in the long tradition of former Governors-General like Sir Zelman Cowen and Sir Ninian Stephen, continuing to make a distinguished contribution to the nation as a former Governor-General.

While I am on this subject, I also want to congratulate Queensland Governor and Governor-General Designate, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, on her appointment by Her Majesty as the 25th Governor-General of Australia. I think that Her Excellency will be a great Governor-General, and I look forward to her taking up her new vice-regal appointment. I note that both the Governor-General Designate, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, and Governor-General Jeffery are former or soon-to-be-former state governors. I want to congratulate the current government on following the previous government’s precedent in elevating a distinguished state governor to the post of Governor-General.

Her Excellency is widely respected in Queensland. She is a very, very gracious person and has carried out her duties as Queensland Governor in an exemplary fashion. I am particularly pleased to see that someone who hails from country Queensland has been chosen as our nation’s next Governor-General. Her Excellency comes from Ilfracombe, which is a very little town in Central Queensland, out near Longreach. Her elevation was a great delight to the people of that small town of about 270 people. I think it is a great indication of Australia and being Australian that someone from a small country town right out in the centre of the bush can rise to be the leader of our nation, taking on the most significant role in the governance of our nation. I do understand the role and the constraints that there will be on the new Governor-General, but I certainly look forward to Her Excellency highlighting the plight and also the potential of country Australia in her new role.

5:10 pm

Photo of Grant ChapmanGrant Chapman (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am feeling nostalgic today. This will be my last speech on a budget; indeed, my last speech in the Senate. I first came to this parliament in 1975, at the tender age of 26 years old. Nothing takes me back to those days like a good, old-fashioned, class warfare Labor budget, a bash-the-rich budget, a budget that punishes people’s aspirations, a budget with the politics of envy and payback. Ah, the days when—to use taxidermy terminology—Labor always stuffed the economy! Here we go again. As Treasurer, Wayne Swan is Jim Cairns without the charisma. This budget, cobbled together by a work-experience Treasurer, is based on two things and two things alone: Labor Party ideology, as deeply embedded as a mutant gene that is passed from one generation to another, and a shameless appetite for the approval of the left-leaning media. The sad reality is that neither of these priorities addresses the best interests of the Australian economy or the very working families who entrusted their future to the Rudd Labor government at the last election.

I ask Treasurer Swan: what do the following have in common—prickly pear, cane toads, the soursob, the rabbit? Give up? They are all examples of unintended consequences. Mr Swan has brought down a budget riddled with unintended consequences. The boys from Brissie have smuggled a few cane toads south of the border. They claim they are drafting a budget to control inflation, and they deliver a budget that fuels inflation. Did I say fuel? I bet the blood drains from the faces of those opposite when I mention fuel. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation runs about for months like Edward Scissorhands, promising to cut expenditure to the bone. Labor present a budget that increases government spending and, as a consequence, pushes inflation higher. They promise a budget to improve the lives of working families. They bring down a budget that they blandly admit will increase unemployment—the first budget in 11 years to do so. Labor claim to represent working families. They ensure that there will be fewer families working. Unintended consequences indeed.

Let me offer some specific examples. Labor’s budget increases the income threshold for the Medicare surcharge from $50,000 to $100,000 a year income for singles and from $100,000 to $150,000 for couples. This is a policy based not on economic common sense but entirely on ingrained Labor ideology. It will have a devastating impact on our public health system, which is already suffering under the mismanagement of state Labor governments. The reality of this policy is that it will drive people and, more importantly, working families out of private health cover and force them back into the public hospital system. Here is the irony: while this policy herds more and more people back into the public health system, it simultaneously ensures that fewer and fewer people will be paying the surcharge which funds that very system—unintended consequences.

The government’s own budget papers and the Treasurer himself have confirmed that they expect 500,000 people will leave private health cover—that is, half a million extra people will rely on the public system, which is already buckling under Labor’s state-by-state mismanagement. Include their families, and Labor have added over a million extra patients to the public hospital queues, which are, of course, already obscenely overstretched. What makes it even worse is the sheer hypocrisy of Labor’s scare tactics. The Prime Minister, Treasurer Swan and their spear carriers have been playing the politics of fear in the media by talking up a so-called inflation crisis. There is no doubt that we are currently experiencing a period of rising inflation. But, if their rhetoric is correct and we face an inflation crisis, why would any government introduce a policy which encourages people to withdraw from private health cover—effectively putting an extra $50 to $200 per month of disposable income back into those people’s pockets?

The Rudd government cannot have it both ways. Either consumer spending needs to be constrained or it does not. Either the public health system needs more funding or it does not. Labor cannot spend an entire election campaign and its first six months in office saying one thing and then deliver a budget that is creaking with policies that deliver the exact opposite. These are very real objections. These are sound economic arguments. The government simply confronts them with spin. When I say ‘spin’, I mean the googly, the flipper and the doosra all rolled into one. The Labor Party operates under an entrenched ideology which, at its heart, proclaims free universal health care for all. It emerges in this screwball budget as a resentment and disdain for private health cover. Do not get me wrong—we all agree that universal, free, high-quality health care is an admirable goal. But we on this side of the Senate—the Liberal and National parties—are realists. We know that someone actually has to pay to achieve that admirable goal. If you massively reduce the number of people paying the surcharge and propping up the system, those with even a basic grasp of economics—and here I am magnanimously including the Treasurer—know what the consequence will be: less funds to service those who already rely on the system, let alone the huge influx of people enticed back into the system. The inevitable flow-on result will be higher private health premiums—cane toads!

Then there was that other well-orchestrated leak, the increase in the tax on luxury vehicles from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. The luxury car tax currently kicks in when a car costs $57,000. But here is what Treasurer Swan has failed to consider: this figure has not been indexed to account for inflation since its inception in 1999. His statement that individuals who buy these cars can afford it is spiteful, insulting and dangerous.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

And wrong.

Photo of Grant ChapmanGrant Chapman (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is wrong, Senator Macdonald. A major factor pushing up the price of vehicles in this range is the increasingly sophisticated safety and environmental features they offer. This new measure will result in car makers reducing state-of-the-art safety features or environmental advances in their vehicles simply to scrape in under the tax threshold. The unintended consequences of this class-warfare policy may prove fatal for some Australian motorists, leaving the government with blood on its hands.

As if families have not suffered enough under this budget, you would not want to be a working family with three kids and about to have your fourth. You will now find the family Tarago is even more expensive, and that is before the cost of filling it with petrol. I forgot about Fuelwatch, or, as Minister Martin Ferguson calls it, ‘fuel botch’. Minister Ferguson went off to apply the blowtorch to OPEC. I will say this: they were impressed when he addressed them in Arabic, until they realised he was not speaking Arabic. Let’s take bets: how long before Kevin 07 becomes Kevin 03.8c a litre off? Closer to home for me, you would not want to be a blue-collar worker on the assembly line of Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia building Statesmen that will now fall foul of this threshold. Can Treasurer Swan guarantee that no Australian car-manufacturing jobs will be lost?

Now let us jump into one of those luxury cars that so offend the Treasurer. Let us mortgage the house to fill it with petrol. Let us drive to rural and regional Australia, to places and people abandoned by Labor. Those people have suffered terribly under this budget. At the end of his budget speech, the Treasurer asserted:

It is a Labor Budget for the nation. For Australia’s future. For all Australians.

Well, this was certainly a Labor budget—and that is hardly a compliment in economic circles. But it was not a budget for all Australians, and it damn well was not a budget for the future of rural Australia and the people who are already doing it tough after years of record drought. We rightly condemn the callousness of the Burmese generals in the face of their people’s current tragic suffering from natural disaster. Labor’s Burmese corporals have similarly reacted with uncaring neglect for those who are suffering in the bush and enduring long-term hardship. Labor has chosen to abolish the Regional Partnerships program and the Growing Regions program. It will rip $436 million out of our regions and abolish programs which are aimed at developing our regional centres and communities, creating and maintaining jobs in regional Australia and keeping our farming families on the land. Do we start to see where Labor’s admitted increase in unemployment will happen? Do we see who it targets and punishes? This government for all Australians has chosen to pull $334 million out of existing agriculture programs and replace them with entirely different programs worth $220 million, which is far less.

In the process of kicking rural Australia while it is down, Labor has chosen to cancel the OPEL contract, which would have enabled access to high-speed broadband for 99 per cent of Australians. It has provided no funding for an alternative other than to extend the Howard government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee. Enough is enough. The bush has been the backbone of this nation since Federation. The government’s own budget papers show that. They confirm that rural and remote Australians account for over one-third of the population and generate two-thirds of Australia’s export income. But regional Australia is suffering. It suffered terribly in recent years under one of the worst droughts on record. How does this cynical Rudd Labor government respond? It sticks the boot into rural Australian families again by reducing exceptional circumstances funding. This is not a government for all Australians; it is a government for all Australians who conform to the 1950s ideology of the Labor Party. This is a budget that panders to Labor’s supporters and punishes anyone it myopically sees as its class enemies.

I am wondering what schools and the environment did to alienate this government and get onto its enemies list, because they are not left untouched by this work experience budget either. I would have thought that, with this government’s AEU mates funding its election campaign and the Greens preferencing Labor, the environment and education would be two areas spared the ideological idiocy of this budget. Think again. The green voucher program introduced under the Howard government, which enabled schools to apply for up to $50,000 for rainwater tanks and solar hot water systems, was also neutered by Treasurer Swan’s budget for all Australians. This program has been replaced by a new one that caps the available funding at $30,000, which leaves schools—and that essentially means parents—to raise the missing $20,000.

I have seen the green vouchers program in action. Schools like St Martin de Porres in the electorate of Kingston, and many others in South Australia, welcomed their green voucher with open arms when I presented it to them. These schools work hard at fundraising, not just to improve their own facilities but also for a range of charities. Their parents are not the so-called wealthy that the Prime Minister and Treasurer Swan were going after in this budget; they are ordinary working Australians, and most of them are in families with both parents working. Without the $50,000 green voucher, parents like these will be forced to sacrifice more time and find more money so that their school and their children can set an environmentally responsible example. As one unintended consequence after another of this budget is considered, one begins to ask: what are the intended consequences, if any, aside from sinking the boot into those that Labor hates? Did I mention that St Martin de Porres is a private school?

In this instance, schools will prioritise. With the Labor states critically underfunding education, schools already have to fundraise to provide basic infrastructure and services. Now Treasurer Swan’s king hit means that, while they would love to pursue practical, environmentally responsible measures like solar hot water and rainwater tanks, without the former government’s green vouchers they cannot put these items ahead of sports facilities, shade shelters and IT equipment. What a fine message to send to the next generation of Australians while you are signing the Kyoto protocol with the other hand! The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, should be blushing to the point of his bald head about such senseless false economics. But then, he may have used up his quota of embarrassment after decimating the Australian domestic solar panel industry inside a fortnight with another stroke of Treasurer Swan’s poison pen. You have to wonder how much midnight oil was burned dreaming up those idiocies in the name of budget savings. Now Minister Garrett is off to the International Whaling Commission, having already been harpooned by his Prime Minister’s capitulation to the Japanese in order to save his own face after gratuitously snubbing our major Asian ally. Anyone who saw Prime Minister Rudd’s meeting with the Japanese royal family will have noticed that our emperor was wearing no clothes.

The frustration for parents and schools does not end with the abolition of green vouchers. During the last election campaign, Kevin 07 spouted another slogan, for this is a government of slogans, mantras and empty catch phrases: education revolution. He would be the Che Guevara of the classroom. If elected, he would provide one computer for every high school student in the country—one computer in a box, terrific! But another definition of a revolution is ‘going around in circles’. He had not thought about what happens when you take the computer out of the box. Who is going to pay for all the stuff you need to make a computer a useful teaching tool—basic stuff like rewiring all the high school classrooms in the country, all those extra power points and electricity bills, software purchasing and licensing, equipment maintenance and repairs, internet access, virus systems, mousepads, disks, USB drives, printers and all the extra training for all the extra teachers? Who is going to pay for those things? Guess what, schools and parents of Australia: you are. The Prime Minister is not going to. There is no provision in this budget for all the essential extras without which the computer stays in the box and gathers dust.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Quite right.

Photo of Grant ChapmanGrant Chapman (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Indeed, Senator Macdonald. Maybe your school’s fundraising committee can scrounge a few extra dollars after you have paid for the solar hot-water system and the rainwater tank. Then there is this government’s ill-considered plan for trade training centres in every school, which was developed just to be different from our plan for specialist trade schools. Treasurer Swan has announced $2.5 billion in this budget to honour that promise. I am sure our schools will be delighted, until they divide the allocated funding by the number of schools and discover that each of them can now purchase a lathe or a welder. Of course, there will not be anyone to teach the kids how to use them. If your child wants to be an electrician, or pursue any other trade, then they might have to change schools. But look on the bright side—they can now take their new computer with them because it will still be in its box.

Of course computers and trade equipment are commendable, but if they are misdelivered then they are of no use. You cannot provide a quality education for the leaders of tomorrow, you cannot even begin to reverse the effects of the global dumbing down of education systems everywhere, without high-quality teachers dedicated to the future of Australia’s children. While this government has ploughed billions of dollars into headline-grabbing programs of dubious long-term impact, they have cut the Howard government’s summer schools, which were designed to inspire and further educate our teachers. Minister Gillard should go and sit in the corner. She is a class hater Arthur Calwell would have embraced, just as she laid one on Treasurer Swan on budget night.

Now Foreign Minister Smith is reinventing nuclear policy on the run in India. Next it is a seat on the UN Security Council, instructing South Africa on how to fix Zimbabwe and an Asian version of the European Economic Community—all of it the politics of hubris and distraction. The Prime Minister just does not get it; it is the economy, stupid. Budgets set a framework within which a government will work for the next 12 months. They are the clearest outline of what a government stands for. They define in dollars and cents a government’s vision for the future of the nation. In this case the budget serves to expose hype and hypocrisy.

For the last 11 years I have sat in this place and been inspired on budget night by the direction our nation was taking. Budgets were presented with vision and responded to economic and social challenges with innovative and responsible solutions. Sadly, this year I was left with a sense of emptiness. We need more than spin and empty rhetoric from a federal government. This cannot be a budget for all Australians when our rural Australians are delivered yet another raw deal. You need to understand that, when you sit behind a big desk in Canberra, you need to get out into the community, and Labor failed to do that. So this budget fails to deliver. It is a sad budget that squanders the inheritance from the previous government. As I said, it is a budget of unintended consequences. I am confident that in two years time, or possibly less if the rumours are true, the Australian people will see the Rudd government and dismiss it for what it is—an unintended consequence.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to the order of the Senate agreed to earlier today, the debate is now interrupted.