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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15624

Mr PYNE (4:43 PM) —I grieve for the standard of parliamentary debate and disavow the abuse of parliamentary privilege. On 12 February 2002, the Leader of the Opposition had this to say:

I believe we have to improve the standards of this place and I admit that I have been part of the problem in the past ... I am prepared to turn over a new leaf ...

He has not so much turned over a new leaf as polished his switchblade and driven it into the standards of this place. Last week in parliament, the Leader of the Opposition engaged in over-the-top attacks on the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, using language that even he did not understand. He accused the Governor-General of moral turpitude. When asked on the ABC's Lateline program on 26 May by the host, Tony Jones, whether he knew what it meant, he could not tell the interviewer, even though he was given the opportunity on five separate occasions.

So we had the Leader of the Opposition calling the Governor-General depraved, wicked, base and shameful, when he did not even know himself what he was doing. It was an extraordinary example for the Leader of the Opposition to give. What hope do we have for standards in this place and for the misuse of parliamentary privilege if that is the example that the Leader of the Opposition gives his frontbenchers and backbenchers? Not much, judging by the activities of some other members of the opposition.

The member for McMillan, in his maiden speech, said of Liberals, `What can you expect from a hog—except that it will grunt?' That was in the maiden speech by the member for McMillan. The member for Grayndler shouted, `Sieg Heil!' at another MP in this chamber. His hypocrisy is vomitous. Listen to what he had to say in his maiden speech, quoting Martin Luther King:

There is no progress in hate ... like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity.

Well said, but unfortunately he is not practising what he preaches. And this week and last week, we have seen the member for Reid and the member for Lalor's disgraceful, low attempt to smear the minister for immigration.

But the worst follower of the Leader of the Opposition's example is the Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, or `Comical Ali', of the parliament, the member for Werriwa. Like `Comical Ali', he is very quick to shoot his mouth off with rhetoric, but the rhetoric does not match the record. I have known and watched the member for Werriwa for 10 years in this place, and there was a time when he revelled in having considered, thoughtful debates outside the square and in making useful suggestions. Some of them were quite good ideas. He should return to those days when he gave considered speeches about policy issues; he would do himself a lot more good. He is letting himself down, he is letting his party down and he is letting this parliament down by engaging in his self-described `maddie' behaviour.

How mad is that `maddie' side of the member for Werriwa? Only last week, he was glorifying the assault on the Treasurer by Red Bingham when the Treasurer was at university. I wonder if taxi drivers do U-turns in Melbourne to avoid Red Bingham like they do in Sydney to avoid the member for Werriwa. He has slandered, defamed and traduced many good Australians with his abuse of parliamentary privilege—as well as the Queen Mother and George W. Bush. He has attacked in this place in the last few years Malcolm Turnbull, Anne and Gerard Henderson, the Sydney Institute, Greg Lindsay, Peter Saunders, the Centre for Independent Studies, Janet Albrechtsen, Piers Akerman, Christopher Pearson, Paddy McGuinness, Andrew Bolt, Brian Toohey, Miranda Devine, Michael Duffy, Phillip Adams, Laurie Oakes, Michelle Grattan, Jack Waterford, who is the Editor in Chief of the Canberra Times, Kerry Packer, Tony Staley, Tony Abbott, Andrew Parker and the entire Liberal Party in general. It is quite a list of people who cannot defend themselves that the member for Werriwa has slandered in this place.

Outside parliament, he has plenty to say about his own colleagues—Laurie Ferguson, Martin Ferguson and particularly the man he calls `knucklehead', Kevin Rudd. But I digress.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—The member for Sturt will refer to members by their electorates.

Mr PYNE —The member for Werriwa and I regularly appear on the Lateline program on the ABC, and as a consequence I am no stranger to his style. As he himself said in the House of Representatives on 23 September 2002, `I am not adverse to a bit of muscling up.' But how true is that? Bob Carr offers us an insight in the new book by Marilyn Dodkin, Bob Carr: the reluctant leader. When the member for Werriwa was dudded for preselection in the safe New South Wales seat of Liverpool, Bob Carr wrote in his diary:

As soon as I got the news I summoned Peter [Anderson] and did a news conference in which I boldly endorsed him as my choice. Earlier I'd had a phone conversation with Mark Latham, unsuccessful right-wing candidate and staff member. He in tears. Hung up on me. He later phoned in to resign. Bugger him. He failed to do the grassroots organisation that was necessary for a clear cut, unambiguous win. We bled on the canvas for three weeks as a result.

What? `He in tears.' Did I hear right when I read it out? So it is true—the member for Werriwa does have a yin and a yang. Obviously, while Balmain boys do not cry, Liverpool boys do! Labor's self-styled hard man, head kicker and bovver boy is, after all that, really just a bit of a Caramello Koala—soft in the centre. By way of contrast, what Bob Carr had to say about the Prime Minister is also indicative:

To my intense relief [Howard] says he won't—cannot—overturn a recommendation of the Grants Commission unless the States are unanimous. Strong. Fair. I won't hear ill of this man.

Bob Carr got it right on both points.

Parliamentary privilege has a purpose in this place. It is designed so that MPs can raise issues of real concern that they could not otherwise raise without facing potentially expensive legal action. It is not supposed to be used to make this place degenerate into a slander house. It has a specific purpose, and the member for Werriwa constantly breaches its purpose. The member for Werriwa, ironically, has himself written about raising the standards of public life and of his dedication to ethical ideals. I wonder if he would be so courageous if the Privileges Committee of this House actually facilitated members of the public to use the right of reply that was granted to them in 1997 under the changes to the standing orders that we passed at that time. Under those changes, members of the public can apply to the House to have their side of the story placed on the public record. Since 1997, how many do you think have applied and been granted permission by the Privileges Committee? Not one has been granted permission by the Privileges Committee to appear and have their side of the story placed on the record in the Hansard. In the Senate, it is commonplace; in this place, the Privileges Committee has never let it happen—not once.

I know that some of the people whom the member for Werriwa has sullied in this place would like the opportunity to respond and to apply to have their story recorded in the Hansard, but they do not do that, because they do not see any point, because they think the Privileges Committee will not allow it, since the record is zero since 1997. I hope that, if applications are made to the Privileges Committee in the future by people who feel that their reputations have been traduced, defamed and slandered by members of this House, the Privileges Committee will take a much more open-minded view to allowing people to have their stories placed on the record so that they can protect and defend their reputations. If the Privileges Committee were to do so, it would send a clear message to members of this House like the member for McMillan, the member for Grayndler, the member for Reid, the member for Lalor and the member for Werriwa that using parliamentary privilege as a weapon to attack one's colleagues was not what parliamentary privilege was intended for in the first place and that parliamentary privilege has been seriously undermined by the actions of some of our colleagues in recent years.