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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6614


Ms JULIE BISHOP (4:07 PM) —Today is a historic day, as many commentators will contend. This is a historic day as the backroom operators and the union heavyweights of the Labor Party have achieved their goal of taking control of the Labor Party and installing one of their own as the Prime Minister, a person who is now beholden to their interests. This was a day of betrayal and naked ambition, a day that an elected Australian Prime Minister was brutally assassinated before he was able to complete his first term in office.

What a destabilising few months this Labor government has put the country through, with the then Deputy Prime Minister professing undying loyalty to her leader but all the time preparing to do the union bosses’ bidding. Thankfully, it is not often that the Australian public gets an insight into the ugly internal politics of the Labor machine, but today it was exposed in all its shocking glory. The union bosses decided that the elected Prime Minister would no longer serve their interests, so they installed their own Prime Minister. There is no place in the Labor Party for the national interest. Regardless of how many times the carefully scripted lines are repeated, ‘whatever it takes’ is the Labor way.

Labor shot the messenger but, sadly, for Australian families and the Australian people Labor’s message will remain the same. It is clear, as my leader said, that the ugly politics of state Labor have now come to Canberra. This poll driven party knifes its leaders rather than face the judgment of the Australian people. If history is any guide, the new Prime Minister needs to turn the polls around immediately and significantly or she will have to look over her shoulder for the inevitable knives from the backroom boys—the union bosses.

It is interesting to read the feedback from Labor’s very own website. I managed to print off just 25 pages, but there were hundreds of emails in just under an hour from people expressing their outrage that the union bosses have taken over the Labor Party and thrown out—assassinated—an elected Labor leader. People are giving their names, addresses and email addresses. One email from Queensland said:

What a bunch of cowards to slit the throat of an honest, hard-working Prime Minister just because things get tough.

Another email from Victoria said:

A very shameful day for Australian politics. The appointment of Australia’s first woman Prime Minister should have been a memorable and forward-looking occasion, not a backstabbing of the man elected by the Australian people.

Another email, again from Queensland, said:

Until last year, I was constantly disappointed that I wasn’t old enough to vote Labor. This year, with my first election, I am able to vote in this looming election and I was excited at being able to support Kevin Rudd and its honest Australian policies. Today I became a Liberal.

It goes on. This next one is again from Queensland and it reads:

I am so sad today I have actually resigned from the Labor Party. The first female Prime Minister is a great achievement if it had been obtained through an election and Julia Gillard would have had my support. Kevin Rudd did what he believed was the right thing for Australia. He’s been bullied out by his own party. It is a disgrace he was not allowed to face an election.

But that is the Labor Party. The losers from Labor’s brutal and damaging process will be the Australian people, for the change of leader does not change Labor’s policies. It does not change the mining supertax, which is causing so much damage to Australia and which will drive up the cost of electricity and the cost of building materials, cost jobs, hurt small businesses and hurt family businesses. The new Prime Minister has decided to retain the tax in all its damaging glory and has continued the same flawed rhetoric of her predecessor in claiming that mining companies have been ripping off the Australian people. This is about funding Labor’s continuing spending splurges.

The grand gesture of cancelling the government funded advertising campaign was a decision based on the fact that the advertising was not working. The Australian people had seen through it. What courage the new Prime Minister demonstrates in cancelling advertising that was actually hurting the government! This is the brave new Labor world under this Prime Minister. She lacks the courage to make the decision that must be made and that is to scrap the mining tax. We know the Labor way. Graham Richardson told us the Labor way: consult, consult, consult, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate and then do exactly what you intended to do in the first place. That is the Labor way.

The new Prime Minister has also sought to claim the moral high ground on the question of asylum seekers but has exposed her rank hypocrisy and her fake moral outrage. How does she reconcile her statements today with her infamous media release of April 2003, when the now Prime Minister described every boat of asylum seekers as a policy failure—the screaming, scare-mongering headline ‘Another boat on the way, another policy failure’? That was a year when only one asylum-seeker boat came to our shores, because the Howard government’s policies had stopped the people-smuggling trade. Yet the now Prime Minister could not resist the fear mongering—‘Another boat on the way, another policy failure’ she said in 2003. Yet, having promised in opposition to stop the boats, this government changed its policies, changed the laws, weakened our border protection and damaged the integrity of our orderly immigration program. The people-smuggling trade was reinvigorated under the gang of four and 140 boats have made the dangerous journey across the dangerous Indian Ocean to our shores. So, according to this Prime Minister, 140 boats means 140 Labor government failures—140 policy failures by this Labor government.

But the defining features of the Labor government have been waste, mismanagement and absolute disregard for evidence based policy. Among the numerous examples of ludicrous, staggering waste and mismanagement, the standout would have to be the Building the Education Revolution and that is a program for which this Prime Minister was personally and directly responsible. This Prime Minister will have the ignominy of being the minister responsible for the most wasteful spending in any federal government program in federal government history.

This was fundamentally flawed from its needlessly rushed inception and yet the now Prime Minister stuck her head in the sand and refused to take ministerial responsibility for billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds being wasted. It began as a $14.7 billion program to provide libraries and halls for schools, but it blew out by over $1½ billion. In a competent government, a minister who was responsible for a $1½ billion blow-out would have been sacked, but in this government incompetence is rewarded. The Prime Minister justified it at the time by saying, ‘It’s hugely popular. It’s a runaway success.’ But we now know that the Prime Minister was covering up the huge rorts, the rip-offs, the incompetent management and the massive waste. It has been estimated that taxpayers and schools will probably get less than $8 billion in actual value from an over $16 billion program. That is a disgrace. The Prime Minister admitted that there was no cost-benefit analysis undertaken to look at whether this program would be effective or have any long-term benefit, and no consideration was given by this Prime Minister as to whether this massive expenditure would have any impact on the quality of teaching and education or whether it would lift educational standards.

Another defining, stand-out policy that has been an absolute disgrace is the $2½ billion Home Insulation Program. It has been nothing short of disastrous. This government is incapable of implementing a government program. There have been four deaths and more than 170 house fires, and 240,000 homes have substandard or dangerous insulation. But it should not escape anyone’s attention that this Prime Minister was the senior minister responsible for the training component of this disastrous pink batts scheme. The government has to find hundreds of millions of dollars to fix this scheme, but this Prime Minister was responsible for the training component that failed young people in Australia so disgracefully. It was this Prime Minister’s responsibility to ensure that a proper training program was put in place. She failed the Australian people, as this Prime Minister has failed the Australian people with her record over the last two years.

We can list the blow-out in the school halls program, the dumping of her commitment to build childcare centres, the dumping of the computers in schools program and the promises there, and the delivery of only a couple of trade training centres out of the 2,650 promised. Given this pattern of failure, why would Australia trust this Prime Minister? (Time expired)