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Wednesday, 8 April 1998
Page: 2792


Mr BEAZLEY —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, didn't the member for Casey resign as Speaker because, despite your promise of an independent Speaker, you broke your word? Didn't the member for Lowe resign because he grew sick and tired of your broken promises, saying that your promises are not worth the paper they are written on? Hasn't the member for McPherson resigned because he disagreed with your government's stance on nursing homes, Wik and the stolen generation, amongst other issues?


Mr Ross Cameron —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Each of the propositions advanced by the Leader of the Opposition relies on an attribution of motive to a member on this side, and each of them is beyond the limit of ministerial responsibility under standing order 142. I ask you to rule the question out of order.


Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is responsible for ministerial arrangements within this place. While the question implies motives, the Prime Minister is responsible for the appointment of ministers. Consequently, the question at this stage is still in order.


Mr BEAZLEY —How many more of your colleagues are going to jump ship? Prime Minister, how many more resignations will it take before you finally get the message that many Australians, including a growing number of your own supporters, find you a divisive, confrontational Prime Minister and have lost faith in you?


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition needs to be very careful.


Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question clearly has inferences and I ask you to rule it out of order.


Mr SPEAKER —I have considered the question carefully. There is within standing order 144 a number of restraints which the Leader of the Opposition went very carefully around. I am afraid that, while there were areas that I thought may have been questionable, I think the overall purport of the question is clear and within the Prime Minister's responsibility. I therefore call on the Prime Minister.


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I of course reject the basis of the question that has been asked by the Leader of the Opposition. But, because he has raised the subject of general political attitudes in Australia, it gives me an opportunity to say a few things. The first remark I make is that they left the waterfront by 2.35 this afternoon. They walked off. The waterfront gave themselves a rostered day off at 2.35 this afternoon. I remember reading some of the columns before the parliament resumed. We had all of these columns about how they could not wait to get us back to ask us about Dubai. Were they going to ask us difficult questions about Dubai. Were they really going to put my colleague the minister for workplace relations in the dock on Dubai.

Of course, the reality is that they are petrified to pursue the issue of reform on the waterfront. The reason they are petrified to pursue it is that the ordinary men and women of Australia back us on the waterfront. The ordinary men and women of Australia know that the waterfront has been rorted for years. The ordinary men and women of Australia are fed up with the abusive tactics of the trade union bosses. The ordinary men and women of Australia know that the Leader of the Opposition is bound hand and foot to John Coombs on this issue.

As for the Leader of the Opposition talking about division and standards, the Leader of the Opposition does not have the courage to pursue somebody himself. He gets his muck-raker in the Senate, Robert Ray, to trawl through the sewers. He does not have the guts to discipline the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He has been prepared to allow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to invoke and incite racial hatred in this community. He has been unwilling to control that motormouth, the apology for a Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who sits behind him. I think the Australian community see the Leader of the Opposition as a weak, wimpish, lap-dog of the trade union movement.