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Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Page: 1508

Dr NELSON (2:30 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the response given by the Leader of the House this morning on the 2UE Steve Price program to a question. The question in relation to the payments for carers and seniors was this: ‘So the commitment is that the $1,600 carers allowance and the $500 pensioners bonus will be paid as cash this financial year.’ The response by the leader of government business was: ‘No, that’s not the commitment.’ Prime Minister, will the 400,000 Australian carers and the two million seniors receive their lump sum cash bonus this financial year?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. Of course they will, consistent with my previous answer. I really think that, when the Leader of the Opposition asks questions in this place, he should do so accurately. The question which was put to the Leader of the House in the interview—I have the transcript here—says: ‘The commitment is that the $1,600 carers allowance and the $500 pensioners bonus will be paid as cash this financial year’—that is where you stopped. The actual question goes on to say ‘and for how many years ahead?’ to which Albo responds, ‘That’s not the commitment.’ Then he goes on to say, ‘That any carers and seniors payment—

Mr Randall —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that the Prime Minister—

Mr Albanese interjecting

Dr Nelson interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! I might give the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to have a discussion outside the chamber. I just ask them to be quiet. The member for Canning has the call.

Mr Randall —Mr Speaker, I ask that the Prime Minister be guided to refer to members by their seat.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will refer to members by their titles.

Mr RUDD —Three or four lines later, the member for Grayndler, the minister for infrastructure and Leader of the House says, ‘I’ve given you the commitment, Steve, which is that, when it comes to the carers and seniors bonus payment, carers and seniors won’t be a dollar worse off and, secondly, that any carers and seniors payment the government makes this year will be paid up-front.’ They are the commitments that there are. That is quite clear-cut. If the Leader of the Opposition is going to stand at the dispatch box and misrepresent a transcript when putting a question to the parliament, frankly, I think he should hang his head in shame. When it comes to the certainty which is required by carers and pensioners with their bonus payments, we will make sure that those carers and pensioners will not be a single dollar worse off and, beyond that, that that payment will be made in a lump sum within the financial year.

What I find remarkable about this entire exchange is that the newborn party of compassion, which lodged its birth notice last Friday, registered its death notice with its earlier remarks, when the member for Wentworth said that working families do not deserve a decent outcome when it comes to the minimum wage.

Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that statement. His memory is not so defective as not to be able to remember what I said.

Mr Albanese interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the House! Because of the hubbub, I honestly did not hear the latter part of the response from the Prime Minister and I am unsure what it is that—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Whilst I am reluctant to invite the member to explain to me what the remark was, that is the position I am in. The member for Wentworth might explain what it is that he wishes to have withdrawn.

Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister, at the conclusion of his answer, said that I had just said that Australian working families did not deserve a fair wage. It is absurd!

The SPEAKER —I simply say to the member for Wentworth that there are other forms of the House that he might use.