Thursday, 27 June 2013
Questions without Notice
Labor Party Leadership
My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wong. Before I ask the question, might I also congratulate Senator Wong on her election. I remind the minister of her statements about Mr Rudd in February 2012, when she said 'there were a lot of challenges' during the time she served in Mr Rudd's cabinet. She further said:
I did serve in Kevin Rudd’s cabinet, and I want to continue serving in Prime Minister Gillard’s cabinet. I’ve made a judgement based on the time I’ve spent under both leaders about who I think is best to govern the country. And that is why I’m supporting Prime Minister Gillard.
Minister, what has changed?
I have to say I find it interesting that Senator Brandis would actually be wanting to raise comments about leaders, because I seem to recall some 'rodent' comments that got quite a lot of press at some point. Senator Carr is urging me to remind the chamber of what was said, but I am far too polite to return to the issue of—
Honourable senators interjecting —
Order, on both sides!
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Order, Senator Cameron! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed. You will get an answer to your question when there is silence. It seems that people are more interested in entertaining themselves than listening, which is quite disorderly. When there is silence we will proceed.
Thank you, Mr President. I suspect some of the comments were more entertaining than I am. It is true, I am not an entertainer. I thank the senator for his congratulations. I was about to fall off my chair, but I did appreciate the graciousness. In relation to the decision that was made by any individual caucus member, we have made that decision and some of us have chosen to make our reasons for that public, and I am one of them. I have nothing to add to that.
The approach that the Labor Party and the Labor government continue to make is simply this: as I said, we believe in an Australia where there is greater opportunity for all Australians. We believe in a fairer Australia. We believe in growing our economy and continuing to support jobs. We believe in improving our education systems and our apprenticeship systems. We believe in making sure that we steer the economy through some significant and important transitions which are occurring at the moment. These are the priorities of the Australian Labor Party and they will never change. The values will never change. Those opposite might want to get into a lot of politics about this issue. What the Labor Party is focused on and what the country is focused on are the plans for the future. The country is focused on the policies that the government are delivering, and that the alternative government seeks to put forward. That is what the country is focused on. We, as a government, are focused on implementing our plans today for a stronger, brighter future for Australia tomorrow.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the minister about her comments regarding the Labor leadership last year when she said:
My view is you need to think about who do you think is the best person to be Prime Minister? Who has the temperament, who has the character, who has the determination and the discipline? And my view is that person is Prime Minister Gillard.
Isn't her decision to abandon Ms Gillard and to support a person, whom she previously considered inadequate, to the office of Prime Minister all about her own self-interest and nothing to with the national interest?
The answer is no. I again would say that the opposition do have the opportunity in question time to question the government of the day about our policies and our approach. I think it says something about the complete vacuum that is the coalition's policies for the future, the complete vacuum of any substantive ideas about how to meet the challenges of today for tomorrow, and the complete absence of any real plans to deliver outcomes for Australians. They continue to focus in this question time, when they ask questions of government ministers, not on any policy issue and not on any issue that is of relevance to the economic wellbeing or the personal and social wellbeing of the people who elect us and put us here but on personal and political issues with their usual relentless negative frame.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note that the minister does not consider her decision to sack an incumbent Prime Minister a matter of sufficient note to be the subject of questions in question time. I refer the minister to her statements this morning and her decision to support Mr Rudd.
I refer the minister to her statements this morning that her decision to support Mr Rudd was 'a wrenching personal decision', and 'the most difficult decision of my political life'. Isn't it the case that her decision to change to Mr Rudd was entirely due to the opinion polls, not the good of Australia?
Thank you, Mr President. That is why we abolished Work Choices, something I know Senator Abetz is still smarting over. That is why we focused, during the global financial crisis, on ensuring that we supported jobs and growth, and, as a result of that, that is why we have an economy that is continuing to grow and is 14 per cent larger than it was in 2007.
Senator Brandis interjecting—
Senator Brandis, I will take that interjection. I know that he loves Mother England, but I would remind him that the British economy is, in fact, smaller than it was in 2007. I would make the point that we are focused on things like delivering disability care— (Time expired)