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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 290


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:24): I rise to talk about why this motion to suspend standing and sessional orders should not be agreed to, and I remind the House what this motion is about. It is about giving priority to parliamentary time. We say something to this nation about how we use our time in this parliament. We say something about what drives us, we say something about what we stand for and we say something about what we care about in how we use the time of this parliament. In that regard, I note that the time we are taking now is time that would normally go to the debate on a matter of public importance. And I note that today's matter of public importance, from the member for Lyne, is about the natural disaster relief payments for flood damage in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland and the assistance being made available urgently by governments. I do wonder what Australians looking at this chamber would be thinking about when they see members of the opposition—but not the Leader of the Opposition, because there are some things that are even too grubby for him—coming to the dispatch box with a stream of abuse, holding up debates about important national questions like dealing with flood damage in our nation.

More broadly, it is of no surprise to me that this is the opposition's topic today. They walked into question time today knowing that because of unwise statements by their economic spokespeople their economic strategy, which was always a shambles, has now been revealed as a shambles to the Australian people. They were determined to do anything today to distract from the real debate before our nation—the debate about the economy, about jobs, about running the economy in the interests of working people and getting them a fair share, about making sure that our nation is ready for the future. They knew that if the parliament focused on that today it would devastate them. We came into this parliament today and saw from the opposition inconsistencies everywhere about things that truly matter to our nation's future. The first inconsistency the nation should be focusing on today that matters to the nature's future is the incredible inconsistency across the opposition frontbench over the slashing of benefits to working families and over how many billions of dollars they intend to slash them by.

We have seen the spectacle of the shadow minister for finance on more than one occasion verifying upfront that, yes, they are going to cut $70 billion out of the budget—$70 billion that could only come out of the services that families need. Then we were treated to the spectacle of the shadow Treasurer, who originally adopted that figure and was then on the run from it, denying he had even said it whenever he was asked. Finally, today the shadow Treasurer actually managed to burble out that, yes, he had said that figure but it was a mistake.

I would say to the opposition frontbench that in its plans to cut $70 billion out of services for working families—whether they are plans to slash Medicare, cut the pension or slash family payments—it needs to answer these questions. But they did not want the spotlight on that today. They did not want the spotlight on their inconsistencies about how much of an attack they plan to make on working families if they are ever elected. And then, of course, they walked into this parliament today with a huge inconsistency.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my left will remain silent. There is too much audible conversation that I can hear.

Ms GILLARD: The Leader of the Opposition went to the last election campaign talking about one of his most fundamental commitments. The Leader of the Opposition is very fond of making allegations about honesty and election pledges. So what was one of his fundamental commitments during the election campaign? It was to bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13. In fact, he was going to deliver a bigger surplus than the government would. Where is this fundamental commitment today?

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt the Prime Minister, but I was interrupted. For five minutes we have waited for the Prime Minister to address the motion under debate, which is that standing orders should be suspended.

The SPEAKER: The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: I remind the House of what the motion is, even if the Manager of Opposition Business does not understand it. In terms of the priority for the order of business of this House, here we have the opposition walking into this parliament in a shambles about one of the things that the Leader of the Opposition described as one of his most fundamental commitments during the election campaign. We now know, courtesy of the shadow minister for finance, backed by the Leader of the Opposition, that if they were elected to government they cannot promise a surplus for the first five years. That is in very stark contrast to this government, that is determined in May to bring a budget into this House that gets us a surplus in 2012-13 exactly as promised, because that is the economic step that our nation needs now.

Then of course these inconsistencies continue. We have seen the shambles across the economic frontbench of the opposition about whether or not there would be tax cuts if they were ever in government. The Leader of the Opposition goes to the National Press Club and basically says: 'You know how I promised tax cuts? Well, I am not really sure anymore. During the first term, I could not possibly say that.' Then they send out the clean-up squad, because they know he has made an error, and the clean-up squad comes out—the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, for example—to say, 'Oh, yes, we will have tax cuts during our first term in government if we are elected.' Then there is some confusion about whether there is one round of tax cuts or two. The opposition is in a shambles.

This would all just be argy-bargy in politics except we are in a situation where what is at the core of our national interest today, at the core of our national interest for the Australian people, is approaches to the economy. Whether you stand for jobs, whether you stand for car industry jobs, the reckless approach of the opposition, even though they are only in opposition, is weighing heavily on the minds of the car industry today. There is the half a billion dollar cutback, there is the lack of certainty for the future and there are 46,000 Australians worried about their jobs because of the statements of the opposition, because of the recklessness of the opposition.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Indi will remain silent and will cease pointing.

Ms GILLARD: And of course their refusal to put jobs first just goes on and on. We have seen it with the approach to the minerals resource rent tax, where they are determined to take money away from small businesses and other businesses and away from supporting superannuation and give it back to some of the most profitable mining companies on earth. There is the irresponsible approach they are taking to carbon, where they are peddling snake oil and a plan that would cost working families $1,300. There is the irresponsible approach they are taking to the National Broadband Network, with their plan to rip the National Broadband Network out of the ground and deny Australians the technology of the future. And the list goes on and on and on.

Here is the opposition looking for every distraction. Although the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, 'Make my day,' and that he wanted to have a debate about the economy, he knows that if in this chamber we are debating the economy then he will lose, because his economic plan is one of cutbacks for working families, of no support for jobs, of giving benefits to the biggest miners in this country at the expense of other businesses, of the most costly carbon plan and of standing still as we need to build the economy of the future. These are fundamental choices about who you stand with and who you stand for, and of course the Leader of the Opposition never wants to debate them.

We are very clear about who we stand with and who we stand for. We stand for running the economy in the interests of working people and supporting them and their families today, and the opposition frontbench will never stand for those things. They will only ever stand for the privileged interests of a few.

On the question of the matters of Australia Day, I have answered the questions put to me. I would refer the opposition to my transcript. Their muckraking and recklessness and their petty politics do them no good. Get involved in the big debate around this nation—get involved in the debate about jobs, about budget management, about preparing for the future—and if you are not capable of doing that then just come clean and say to the Australian people, 'We don't care about these things,' because that is what your conduct today is reeking of. You care about your petty politics; the national interest just passes you by.

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion moved by the honourable member for Sturt be agreed to.