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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4138

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:39): The Leader of the Opposition, who does not have the ticker to move this motion, is in no position to declare who should speak on this motion. I will answer the Manager of Opposition Business, Mr Pyne, and this absurd, pathetic attempt to suspend standing orders, and I will do it in a way in which every word is not written down, unlike the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

The Manager of Opposition Business said that this motion is in accordance with an orthodox reading of the Constitution. The Constitution, the standing orders and the House of Representatives Practice provide for a method of election of the Speaker and of the Deputy Speakers of the House of Representatives. They absolutely do not provide for resolutions to be moved at any time suspending standing orders so a person—any other member—can be appointed to a position to which they have not been elected above the person who has been elected, that is, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The implementation of this motion is not even possible because it is against the standing orders, it is against the House of Representatives Practice and it is against the provisions of the Australian Constitution that provide a legal basis for the running of this parliament. Well done, those opposite. We know they have contempt for proper procedure, but to come in here and suggest that the Deputy Speaker should be deposed—the person who they moved should be the Speaker of the House of Representatives just months ago—shows the hypocrisy which is there.

They do this for the 51st time in the 43rd Parliament, and they do it on the budget day. They do it on the most important day that occurs in parliament every year, the day on which a government puts forward its economic program, its social program, its education program, its health program and its plan for infrastructure investment. Yet what do we see from those opposite? They abandon question time without a single question about the economy on budget day—an extraordinary proposition from those opposite. The Leader of the Opposition's priority is to come in here, have a suspension of standing orders and then retreat into the budget lock-up without having any debate whatsoever about the processes.

The Manager of Opposition Business went to a range of issues in his statement. The fact is this, as the Speaker as indicated: there are allegations which have been made against the Speaker. If they are true they are completely unacceptable. But there is a proper process to hear that and we here are not the courts; we here are the parliament of Australia. And when the courts consider that matter I look forward to when the Manager of Opposition Business is called to talk about what he knew about these circumstances. I look forward to Mal Brough's evidence before that proper judicial process. I look forward to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knew about the process, what the shadow Treasurer knew about the process and what the Leader of the Opposition knew about the process.

What we have seen over the last couple of weeks, day by day, is the information coming out bit by bit. Remember, the Manager of Opposition Business could not quite recall the conversation. Then he knew there was a conversation. Then he could not quite recall the nature of it. Then he knew it was extensive, in the Speaker's office without the Speaker there. He said this is normal practice. I say this: there are former Liberal Speakers in Hawker and Andrew, as well as former Speaker Jenkins and Speaker Slipper, whom I have served as Manager of Opposition Business and as Leader of the House, but I have never sat down in private without the presiding officer present and had a chat over a drink for a couple of hours. I have never done that, ever. The Manager of Opposition Business would have it believed that this is normal practice. It is not normal practice, nor have I emailed the Speaker's office trying to get the private phone number, email and details of a staffer of the Speaker—not any one of them, Liberal or Labor. But it all came out bit by bit. We know from the way the same language was used. They all said they had 'no specific knowledge'. They all came out with exactly the same words for what they knew about these issues. There was Mal Brough who said, when it was raised, that the suggestion was nonsense. Then we found out that he did not have one meeting, he did not have two meetings; he had three meetings and he brought a lawyer along to some of the meetings. But he had dismissed it as nonsense just a week before. We look forward to this coming out, but the appropriate place for it to come out is under the appropriate judicial processes. As I said, I am of a firm view that if any of the allegations are right and if people have engaged in criminal behaviour then that is completely unacceptable and any member of this House would dissociate themselves from those actions; it is a simple case. But people are entitled to a presumption of innocence and people are entitled to have proper processes and assessments of any charges made.

Those opposite would have you think that what the Speaker, the member for Fisher, has done today is inappropriate. It is what they asked to happen! They asked that he step aside as the Speaker whilst these issues were being investigated. That is what they asked to happen. So it has happened but they cannot say yes; they have to say no. They have to find a reason to disagree with any action, even when it is completely consistent with what they asked for.

Today of all days—the day of the budget—the opposition have exposed themselves. They simply are not interested in policy. It is all about the politics. It is always the low road, always about attacking individuals, always about trying to present themselves as judge and jury. Let me say this: if every rumour in this place about the behaviour of individuals were accepted as being absolutely correct and acted on, then it would be a pretty empty chamber, because there are a range of rumours about people on that side of the chamber that we understand should not be taken to be correct because they are made.

The reason that standing orders should not be suspended is that, on budget day of all days, we should be having a debate about the economy. I know that there is a very fine matter of public importance today from the member for Fraser about the economy—about getting the budget back into surplus, about jobs, about education and about health. I know the member for Fraser will be advancing that matter before the parliament, and there will be an opportunity for the opposition to engage in that economic debate. But if this suspension is carried we will be throwing out the Constitution, House of Representatives Practice and standing orders as if 'it's just the vibe'—Dennis Denuto over here—and can just be dismissed and anyone can be replaced. We need proper process and we also need to be engaged in the economic debate. Those opposite run away from the economic debate because they have nothing to say about the economic future of this country and they are embarrassed by the fact that this government has delivered the strongest economy in the advanced world. Right throughout the world people are saying, 'There is no place we would rather be than Australia,' and tonight we will be delivering a budget surplus.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The time allocated for this debate has expired. The question is that the motion by the member for Sturt be agreed to.