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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2966

Labor Government

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree with the minister for regional Australia that the government is in deadlock and no longer capable of discharging its duty to the Australian people?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:01): I most certainly do not, and the suggestion is absurd. As the Leader of the Opposition well knows, during the course of today he and I, in a bipartisan spirit, have been engaged in some very important business for the Australian nation. He should also be aware that during the course of this parliamentary week, even while all eyes have been on the media debate, we have continued to govern in the interests of the nation by pursuing the legislation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. At the same time, as a government we continue to work with Australians around the nation in making sure that we keep our economy strong and offer people the benefit of work. And it is during the last fortnight that we received the news that more than 70,000 jobs were created in our country in a month, bringing to more than 900,000 the number of jobs created since this government came to office, meaning we are well on our way to creating a million jobs.

During the course of this week and last I have pursued what is the transformative opportunity agenda for our nation, and that is making sure that we better fund schools, that we improve schools and that we have new improvements and new resources that truly mean every Australian child gets a great education and gets the benefits of the opportunities that are coming for our nation during this the Asian century of growth and change.

As the Leader of the Opposition may also be aware—we were certainly talking about it in question time yesterday—we have determined to keep supporting families with all the stresses and strains they face today, including cost-of-living pressures. We did that as recently as yesterday by securing new increases for 3.5 million pensioners around the country who need the support of government and would not get that support extended to them in the same way, at the same dimension, if the government were to change and if the Leader of the Opposition ever became Prime Minister given that he has said very, very clearly that he is committed to cutbacks for these Australians who need care and support the most.

The government will continue to pursue the agenda that we have set for ourselves and the Australian nation. It is about being smarter. It is about being stronger. It is about being fairer. It is about making sure that a strong economy is ready for this century of change and growth. It is about making sure that a strong economy offers benefits to all, rather than the enrichment of just a few. And it about supporting modern families with their everyday pressures. This is the agenda that drives us, and it continues to drive us even today. We will make progress on it, so I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the answer to his question is no.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:04): How can the Prime Minister expect the Australian people to be convinced by that answer and that litany when plainly she has not been able to convince the minister for regional Australia in the case she has just argued, someone who is not just her minister but an elder statesman of the Labor Party and a former leader of the Labor Party?

Ms Plibersek interjecting

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:05): My colleague the Minister for Health points out the irony of that remark, indicating that you have not said too many charitable things about the member for Hotham in the past. Can I say too before the Leader of the Opposition gets too carried away with eulogising former leaders that he might want to make an assessment about what some of the former leaders of his political party say about him. Maybe the member for Wentworth might be able to elaborate for us on that very topic.

The government has been continuing to pursue its agenda and continuing to resist the opposition's plans for cutbacks for Australian families which would undermine their opportunity to share in the life of our nation and hold them outside the benefits of prosperity and growth. This has been, and always will be, the fundamental divide between our political parties: us committed to jobs, you having opposed jobs; us committed to fairness and ensuring that the benefit of a strong economy flows to all, you opposing each and every day those benefits and saying that, if you are ever elected, they will be very directly ripped away. This is the political debate in our country. This is what drives the government today and will drive us in the days beyond today.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:06): Speaker, I ask a further supplementary question, again to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree with former Prime Minister Bob Hawke that if you cannot govern yourselves you cannot govern the country?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:07): I certainly believe that as a government you have to keep your focus on the things that matter to the Australian people, and that is where my focus is. As Prime Minister my focus is and continues to be on those things that make a difference for families around the nation. Certainly when I speak to families around the nation it is crystal clear that nothing is more important to them than having the benefits of work so that there is a pay packet, or more than one pay packet, coming in the door. They certainly want to keep as much of that pay packet as possible, which is why our reforms in taxation have made such a difference. They want their child to get a great-quality education. They want to know that there is a doctor in their community and a hospital that can function for them if their family is in need. They want to see the new benefits that would come with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They want to see us as a nation continuing to grow ever stronger but also sharing that prosperity with all.

That is the government's mission. I understand that it is resisted at every level by the Leader of the Opposition, but in our democracy that is the nature of contests. We stand for a strong economy; you have stood for weakening it. We stand for supporting modern families with the pressures they face; you stand for taking away benefits from them. Such is the contest, and the government will continue to join that debate as we continue to guide the nation to a stronger, fairer and smarter future.