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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 9061

Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (17:34): by leave—I also wish to speak to the report of the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee on the welfare of international students. I support the comments of the previous speaker, Senator Mason, whose knowledge of this area is second to none. That was a typical contribution from the honourable senator, who spoke about matters for which he has great passion. Being a regional representative, for want of a better word, I know the enormous damage that was done to regional universities through this very difficult period. Rightly or wrongly, there are many regional universities that rely on international students. They are made very welcome by those institutions and by the communities in which they are placed. In my hometown of Ballarat, the University of Ballarat has long encouraged and has long welcomed international students, and we very much hope that those students will return.

I also take up some matters raised by Senator Macdonald in his contribution earlier on. The fact that we are again subject to another week of guillotines, another week when we are unable to debate government documents and a large number of reports, again shows the utter hypocrisy of the Australian Greens in relation to this matter. I remember full well when in the days of the Howard government the Greens used to bleat about guillotines. We get these sanctimon­ious speeches day in, day out from Senator Bob Brown about the gag, and here they are complicit with the Australian Labor Party in the most outrageous set of gags that we have seen over the last month. The worst, of course, was the gag on the toxic carbon tax, and I cannot believe that anyone in the Australian Labor Party can be proud of what we have seen in this chamber over the last month. The fact that their fellow travellers, the Australian Greens, are driving this constant and ongoing gag is a disgrace.

We know why this has been gagged. We know why these debates have been gagged. It is because those opposite, including the Greens, want to go home. They think they have fulfilled their responsibilities to the Australian parliament and to the Senate this year. I invite them to go back and look at the program. What does the program say? If required we will sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week. It is required. It is required to have appropriate levels of debate in this place. It is required to enable us to articulate the views of those who put us here and to stop us being cut off at the knees by some dirty, grubby deal by the Labor-Greens coalition government, which is what they are. Who is wagging the tail with this? We are seeing it over in the other place as well. The tail is wagging the dog but never has it been worse than it is in this particular chamber.

I have said this before to the Australian Labor Party: if you go to bed with dogs, you wake up with fleas. This arrangement between the Australian Labor Party and the Greens will be the end of you. If you do not realise that, I cannot tell you any more. I am trying to save this great party of yours, and you are not listening to me. I am trying to save you, but you will not listen. You go to bed with these people to your eternal electoral detriment. They are pulling the heart out of the Australian Labor Party and you cannot see it. What they are doing to you is as plain as the nose on your face. They are destroying you. They will destroy you. You hear what they are saying. You see what they are doing. They are only using you for their own devices. They are using you and they will chew you up and spit you out when they are sick and tired of you. They will move onto the next dog when they are sick of you, when they have sucked every bit of blood out of the great Australian Labor Party. I am philosophically opposed to you, but I support your continuation because you are needed. The Australian Greens are certainly not needed. They are sucking the blood out of you and you cannot see it. They will jump to the next dog and you will not see it.

I think there are some opposite who actually do realise how dramatic this is. I think there are some opposite who realise what is happening. I think ultimately they will be proved right. I look forward to Labor reunions in due course when those who will not say it now stand up and say: 'I knew we were making a dreadful mistake when we were seduced by the Greens. They chewed us up and they spat us out.' You have got an opportunity next year. This year has bolted. I say to the Australian Labor Party: you have an opportunity next year to make sure that you represent the people who put you here. You have the opportunity next year to cut yourselves loose from this alliance from hell. It is an alliance from hell. You can do it. I encourage you to do it. Australian democracy needs you to do it.

I say to the Greens: please at least be consistent about what you say you believe in. I would love to go back and pull up the speeches from the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens about the gag, about cutting off legislation, about cutting off an appropriate level of debate and about cutting off our representation of the people who have put us here. I will throw that back on the table for you to have look at. Then the Australian Greens can make some value judgments about what they really do believe in, what they really do stand for.

Senator McLucas: International education.

Senator RONALDSON: I just heard the parliamentary secretary talk about 'international'. The sooner the Australian Labor Party wakes up to the fact that those who you are in bed with are indeed part of an international political movement—

Senator McLucas: Mr Acting Deputy President, a point of order: I bring your attention to the question of relevance. We are debating a response from the government to a report about international education numbers. We are usually fairly generous in these sorts of debates, but this has gone a bit too far.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Furner ): Senator Ronaldson, I draw your attention to the matter before us—that is, debating the government response to the committee report on the welfare of international students.

Senator RONALDSON: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I obviously accept that. I do not know how long I have been talking for, but I would have thought it was all about education. It was about educating the Australian Labor Party that what they are doing is not a terribly smart thing. I would have thought it was an education lesson well delivered. What you need to do, if you are really sensible, is actually take it on board, study it, listen to it and then make a decision about where you want to go. I will finish as I started. International students in this country deserve the support of every single senator in this chamber. They are extraordinarily important for our international relations and they are extraordinarily important for the longevity and strength of Australia's educational institutions, particularly those in the regions.

Question agreed to.