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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 13950


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:22): Believe it or not, the Leader of the Opposition is such a negative human being that that was his version of an unreserved apology. Let us be very clear about what this motion is about and what the Leader of the Opposition just spectacularly failed to do in a halting, nervous and ultimately content-less performance. Let us be very clear about what he failed to do. This morning the Leader of the Opposition went on to national television and accused me of committing a crime. That is what he did this morning.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: No amount of screaming from the opposition changes the transcript. The Leader of the Opposition was on the Today show and said I misled the WA Corporate Affairs Commission and that is obviously a very serious matter that would certainly appear to be a breach of the law. He then went on at the end of the transcript to accuse me by saying: this is a Prime Minister who made false representations, who gave false information to the Corporate Affairs Commission, which allowed a vehicle to be established which was then used for fraud. The Leader of the Opposition this morning was out accusing me of a crime; let us be very clear.

And then, at the behest of the Leader of the Opposition, the Manager of Opposition Business was calling for my resignation on the basis that I had committed a crime. Now there is a problem with all of this for the Leader of the Opposition. When leaders of the opposition overreach and go out and falsely accuse the Prime Minister of committing a crime, we have seen this movie before. If he wants to see how the movie ends, turn around and look at the member for Wentworth because we saw in the Godwin Grech affair what happens to a leader of the opposition who accuses the Prime Minister of a crime and cannot back it up. We see what happens to them in public esteem and we see ultimately what happens to them in the eyes of their own political party.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knew how bad it was to make an error and accuse me of a crime when the opposition had no material to back it up. In the morning she did that, in the afternoon she was denying she had done it and then she back flipped and said no she did not mean that at all. So the Deputy Leader of the Opposition engaged in a humiliating backdown. But there was no such backdown for the Leader of the Opposition today. He just went out and said that I had committed a crime. We have given the Leader of the Opposition 15 minutes to make this allegation good. Where the Leader of the Opposition got to out of his 15 minutes was 'conduct unbecoming'. That is where he has backed off to. Let me just explain to people exactly what has happened this morning. What has happened this morning is that—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order!

Ms GILLARD: No amount of screaming changes the opposition leader's conduct. No amount of screaming does that. What the opposition leader has done this morning is as follows: he has woken up, he has read a report in Fairfax newspapers, he has gone on television relying on that report with no other evidence or information at his disposal and, during the course of the morning, Fairfax corrected that report twice because it was wrong. The material the opposition sought to rely on this morning was an assertion about a transcript of interview between me and two partners of Slater and Gordon in 1995.

Let me actually take people to the transcript of the interview. Let us see what it says as opposed to the claims made by the Leader of the Opposition. The transcript of interview goes to a letter to a Western Australian government authority suggesting to the authority concerned that the association, which I provided legal advice on and the incorporation of, was a trade union and therefore ineligible for incorporation under that legislation and that we had prepared a response—that is, Slater and Gordon—submitted on Bruce Wilson's instructions to that authority suggesting that in fact it was not a trade union and arguing the case for its incorporation. Whatever view people take of the facts of this matter, I have never heard anybody contend that the association is a trade union. Saying it is not a trade union is a simple matter of fact. This was misreported in Fairfax this morning as me saying or writing that the association had no trade union links. This was backed down by Fairfax once on its website and then backed down by Fairfax again on its website.

If this was just a debate between me as Prime Minister and Fairfax that is something we would resolve outside of this parliamentary chamber. That is not the point of having a parliamentary debate. The point of having a parliamentary debate is that the Leader of the Opposition, who is a rash man, who has never worried about the facts of this or any other matter and who is a man who clutches for negativity and sleaze whenever he can, read the newspapers this morning and, without any further inquiry, without any skerrick of evidence, then went out and accused me of a crime. Based on a false report, the Leader of the Opposition accused me of a crime. Based on a false report, the member for Sturt called on me to resign. Based on a false report, the opposition has been involved in this blitzkrieg this morning.

The problem for the Leader of the Opposition is this: 15 minutes he has just had to outline the facts and allegations on which he relies and all of them are either spin or they are untruthful. Let us go through the things that the Leader of the Opposition has claimed in this place today, which are untruthful. The Leader of the Opposition today said in his parliamentary address that I told the commissioner the association was dedicated to workplace safety. There is no evidence of this in the Slater and Gordon transcript and he has not produced any letter to that effect. He says I was not honest in response to parliamentary questions about the letter to the commissioner. That is not true and I refer him to the Hansard.

Opposition members: What Hansard?

Ms GILLARD: Yesterday's Hansard. He says I knew the association could not be properly registered. That is false and unsubstantiated. He says I must have known there was wrongdoing but said nothing and that the fraud continued. He has not provided any evidence of that because no evidence could possibly exist—because I did not know of any wrongdoing.

The Leader of the Opposition, after all of these weeks, after all of these months of smear, has had an opportunity today to put up and he has not been able to do so. The Leader of the Opposition is now handcuffed to an allegation that I committed a crime and he is handcuffed to the fact that he does not have any evidence of that. A decent man would apologise for this course of conduct. A decent man would recognise that he has gone too far, that he has made an error, that he has relied on a false report and that he cannot prove what he has been saying. If the Leader of the Opposition were a decent man, he would have used his 15 minutes to say that he was wrong this morning. But the Leader of the Opposition is not a decent man and he is not a man who can be relied on to go to the facts of a matter.

Mr Pyne interjecting

Government members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: Yes, that interjection from the member for Sturt was very funny, given the campaign the opposition has been involved in. The Leader of the Opposition does not look to facts; he just looks to sleaze and smear.

Let us go right through this from the start. The Leader of the Opposition has accused me of a crime. He cannot evidence that. There is no evidence of it and the accusation ought to be retracted.

Mr Pyne interjecting

Ms GILLARD: The member for Sturt is yelling about a letter he has not produced.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms GILLARD: I know the opposition does not like dealing with the facts; they like sleaze and smear. The opposition is trying to make up allegations it does not have any evidence for. The Leader of the Opposition contended I committed a crime. He does not have evidence of that. He based it on a false report. He should have apologised for that today. The Leader of the Opposition has then gone on to make up material about my state of knowledge about the association, when I have been accurate and truthful about my state of knowledge of the association. The Leader of the Opposition has then gone on to make up allegations about the circumstances of the incorporation of the association and who was responsible for what. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the application to incorporate the association was signed by Ralph Blewitt—he took responsibility for it with that signature—the person the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now in regular contact with. So any questions about authority for the incorporation of the association is resolved by Ralph Blewitt's signature on that document.

After all of these months of smear, the opposition, after all of these questions, now stand today in the circumstance where they cannot say to me anything stronger than they think my conduct was 'unbecoming'—after all of these months of sleaze and smear. Any allegation beyond that they cannot substantiate, have not substantiated and have got wrong—and they have made things up. They have gone out into the court of public opinion and said that I am guilty of a crime and they cannot provide the evidence for it.

Where does this take Australians to? In my view, Australians need to think very carefully about what this course of conduct says about the opposition leader's ability to show judgement and to deal with facts. He races out the door this morning with the most serious allegation you can make about a Prime Minister—with no facts at his disposal. He comes into the parliament and, given an opportunity to back it up, cannot back it up. If this is the way the Leader of the Opposition would deal with an allegation as serious as this, what does it say about his ability to deal with all the public policy matters people look to their political leadership to deal with? Can anybody imagine the Leader of the Opposition, with his track record of negativity, with his conduct today, being the sort of person who could carefully produce a health policy, an education policy or a jobs policy based on the facts? Can anybody imagine him being the sort of person who would use his brain rather than his political brawn in the interests of the nation, the sort of person who would show policy strength instead of policy weakness?

The Leader of the Opposition, throughout his time as leader, day after day, has demonstrated to the Australian people that he is someone good at insults. But there is never a moment when he produces a positive policy in the nation's interest, never a time when he produces a file on health or education or jobs. All he ever has under his arm—or under the arm of one of his staff members—is a dirt file. That is who the Leader of the Opposition is.

The Leader of the Opposition is someone who is using sleaze and smear because his political business model of fear has been going out of business. The Leader of the Opposition had hoped that, after the 2010 election, if he caused enough chaos, he would be rewarded with the prime ministership. Then he had hoped that, if he caused enough fear about carbon pricing, he would be rewarded with the prime ministership. Now, because those things are, transparently, not working for the Leader of the Opposition the way he had hoped, here he is inserting sleaze and smear in this place even though he does not have the facts available to him to back up his claims.

The Leader of the Opposition has had his opportunity to put up. Having so frankly failed to put up, now he should be shutting up. The only thing which should be coming out of his mouth is an apology for the false and defamatory allegation he made against me this morning. The only thing I can imagine coming out of the mouths of Australians is dismay that this Leader of the Opposition is so entrenched in negativity and smear that he can never lift his eyes to say anything positive about the nation's future.