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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 92

Ms GILLARD (3:19 PM) —I second the amendment.

The SPEAKER —Does the Deputy Leader wish to speak?

Ms GILLARD —I am more than happy to, Mr Speaker. Over there we have them carrying on as if offended by the allegation that they put together dirt files, as if offended by the allegation that they go after members of this parliament personally, when the evidence is there for all to see. Let us listen to the evidence. We have spent this week hearing about how a government staff member, a chief of staff to a minister, made one of the most repulsive allegations you can make against another human being—that is, to compare them to a Nazi, to someone who administered a concentration camp where thousands of people died. When we first raised that in this parliament, what action or what answer did we get from the Howard government? Not an answer about immediate action, not an answer about revulsion, not an answer about how they were disgusted by that remark—no. On the first occasion the minister walked to the dispatch box, he squirmed and said absolutely nothing.

Then, on the second occasion he walked to the dispatch box, he obviously thought better of it and sought to distance himself—ever so softly—from the remark. Of course, his chief of staff had been out that morning basically carrying on and justifying himself. It took absolutely hours for this matter to finally end up in an apology from the staff member involved and still, of course, no Howard government minister—not one of them—has taken any meaningful action about this matter.

Then on the matter that the Leader of the Opposition referred to, which dealt with me, what we know, on the public record, is that a journalist, Jason Koutsoukis, was invited down to a meeting in a ministerial suite for the purpose of being supplied with a file with my name on it which had been trawled through the press gallery as a dirt file. I am not saying, when we look at this, that we should be talking about the contents—I do not know what the contents are; the dirt file has not been supplied to me—but the suggestion—

Mr Downer —It’s never been used!

Ms GILLARD —It has been used, Foreign Minister, because someone in this government sat in a ministerial suite and gave it to a journalist.

Mr Downer interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Minister for Foreign Affairs!

Mr Downer interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Minister for Foreign Affairs is warned!

Ms GILLARD —For the members of this government to suggest that somehow they are mortally offended by the suggestion that they peddle dirt—how does anyone explain that? Whose office was it? Do we have an answer to that? Whose office was it, Prime Minister? You are so concerned about the reputation of your government, are you going to make inquiries about that? Are you going to make sure you find out the truth about that? That is all right, is it? Your little moral outrage only goes so far and under the moral outrage on the surface there is all of this unseemly conduct going on underneath that you avert your eyes from but you know is occurring—you must know is occurring. So do not come into this parliament with a holier-than-thou attitude when, beneath this modicum of moral outrage on the surface, underneath we have the trawling, the dirt and the carry-on.

We come to question time in this parliament and we ask questions for the purpose of getting answers. What do we routinely see from ministers in this government? We see evasion and we see personal attacks. Indeed, the only thing some government ministers do in this place during question time is make personal attacks—the only thing they do. When they are asked questions by their own backbench about government policy, they are lucky if there are two or three words about government policy and the rest of it is personal attack. This is the ordinary stock-in-trade of this government when it comes to the prosecution of its politics, and we know that this is just the start and that there are weeks and weeks of this to come in the future. It has been talked about. It has been rumoured.

Government members interjecting—Rumoured!

Ms GILLARD —Rumoured by this government and its members who have put out little teasers to the press about what is to come. We know that this is what they peddle under the surface. The truth is that you members of the government frontbench know it. Members of the backbench know it as well. So let us not fall for this overacting, absurd display. (Time expired)