Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 16 May 2002
Page: 2368

Mr CREAN (3:04 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, and it is in relation to Labor's opposition to the government's measures in relation to prescriptions and disabilities. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the following comments:

All that the opposition is doing on this occasion is doing what oppositions almost for time immemorial have done in the Senate, and that is to exercise their right to vote against particular measures. ... We have resisted the attempt by the government to unfairly categorise what we are doing as an attempt to wreck the government's budget. All we are doing is voting against measures that your Prime Minister should have told us about six months ago, but he did not tell us about.

Mr Ross Cameron —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 142, ministers are required to respond to questions about matters within their portfolio responsibility. No minister here is responsible for Labor's opposition to this budget, and no minister ought to be required to give a rationale for it.

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition had a lengthier preamble than would normally be allowed; he had framed it in the form of a question to the Prime Minister. It is not unusual for questions to start with a quote, and for that reason I had not interrupted him. It is, however, for the information of members asking questions, a longer preamble—as he is aware—than would normally be allowed. The Leader of the Opposition has the call.

Mr CREAN —I will conclude the quote:

We would not be voting against these measures if your Prime Minister had been honest with the Australian people.

Prime Minister, do you agree with these comments and, if not, why not?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —If my memory serves me correctly, I may have said something closely resembling that.

Mr Crean —Opportunist!

Mr Swan —Opportunist!

Mr HOWARD —Let me say to the Leader of the Opposition that if I had not said something like that after the 1993 election, I should have. Let me take the Leader of the Opposition down memory lane on this subject. Let me take him back to the circumstances of the 1993 election. We remember the 1993 election. For the benefit of some of the newer members of this House—I know that they were actively following political affairs at that time—the 1993 election was fought on the issue of reform of the Australian taxation system. Despite the then Prime Minister and former Treasurer, Mr Keating, having been a champion—with my support, I might say, from opposition at the time, in the 1980s—and I might remind the House while we are talking about opportunism—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has the call. The member for Wills! There are a number of members on my left who clearly would like to leave the chamber, and I will accommodate them.

Mr HOWARD —I have to say that I did not realise that the Leader of the Opposition would be so generous at question time.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lilley is warned!

Mr HOWARD —I might remind the House that, at the tax summit in the 1980s, the then Treasurer, Mr Keating, had no stronger supporter in relation to some of his proposals for tax reform than his then opposite number in the opposition. But in 1993, that election was fought overwhelmingly on the issue of taxation reform. Every campaign utterance, every scare tactic, every misrepresentation of the Labor Party in that election campaign was about how villainous, unconscionable, wicked and absolutely morally bankrupt it would be of any government to introduce a broad based indirect tax. They ran around the country saying that it should never be introduced, yet, without so much as the tiniest warning during the election campaign, when the Keating government was re-elected, within a few months they systematically dismantled—

Mr Melham —`Never, ever'!

The SPEAKER —The member for Banks is warned!

Mr HOWARD —just about every single election commitment they had made. They dishonoured commitments they had made to pensioners and they increased, without any warning, the rates of indirect tax on petrol, on cigarettes and on alcohol. That is why we voted against those measures. There is absolutely no resemblance of any description between these circumstances and the circumstances that obtained there. I do not remember, during this last election campaign, the Treasurer or myself going around to the Australian people talking about l-a-w law tax cuts. The Leader of the Opposition knows that he is a cheapjack opportunist, and he belonged to a government that completely dishonoured the mandate it received in 1993.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Lingiari will excuse himself from the House.

Mr Latham —Don't wait till he's 64; he's gone gaga!

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Werriwa!

Mr Snowdon —Mr Speaker, could you just tell me why I have been asked to leave the House? I know you warned me earlier, but all I did was pull a face.

The SPEAKER —I will presume that the member for Lingiari is not defying the chair and seeking to be named.

Mr Snowdon —Not at all. I am seeking an explanation.

The SPEAKER —I will indicate to him then that, having been warned, he once again interjected and behaved in an unparliamentary manner and I require him to excuse himself from the House.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lingiari! I call the member for Farrer.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Members on my right! The member for Farrer has the call and is being denied the call by the participation of some members of the frontbench.