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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2968


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:09): I seek leave to move that this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Leave not granted.

Mr ABBOTT: I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion forthwith:

That this House declares no confidence in the Prime Minister.

This is about the decent, honest, hardworking people of Australia, who deserve a strong, stable and competent government. This is about reassuring the Australian people that we are a great people and we are a great country, just momentarily let down by our very poor government—an incompetent and chaotic government that just gets worse and worse with each passing hour, let alone each passing day. This is about the people of Australia, their welfare and what they deserve from government, which is competence and honesty, and that is what they have failed to get from this government.

Standing orders must be suspended to enable this matter to be discussed forthwith, because not only does the coalition have no confidence in this Prime Minister but, plainly, senior members of her own government no longer have confidence in this Prime Minister. We have just heard a remarkable statement from the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government—a decent, honourable man and yes, a political opponent of mine and of members on this side of the House—

Government members interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: I would ask members opposite to show sufficient respect for a former leader of their party and a decent, honest member of the extended Labor family for me to repeat what he said in this building just a short while ago: this is a government in deadlock. This is a government in crisis. This is a government that can no longer go on as it has gone on over recent days and weeks and months. What the minister for regional Australia has done is pronounce against this Prime Minister and against this government, while this Prime Minister happens to be leading it, the immortal words, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand'. That is the classic judgement that the minister for regional Australia has pronounced against his own government and the Prime Minister, and that is why standing orders must be suspended, because this cannot go on. The people of Australia deserve a strong and stable government, but what is absolutely crystal clear is that that cannot continue under this Prime Minister.

We know that these are difficult times for our country. There is a continuing economic crisis in much of Europe. We cannot be confident that economic growth in China will continue at the current rate forever. We have the Treasury itself indicating that budget deficits will continue at high levels at least until 2017. At a time like this, more than ever, our country needs strong and stable government, yet clearly it is never going to get it—at least not from this Prime Minister. If we look at just the last fortnight, at all the panicked measures this government has brought before this parliament—not for the good of our country but for the survival of the Prime Minister in particular—we realise that this is a government that has lost its way, not a good government that has lost its way but a very poor government that has lost its way, a government that, if the honest truth were to be known, most members opposite now feel embarrassed about.

We had the coal-seam gas changes rushed into this chamber without any serious consultation with the industry, without any serious consultation with the gas providers who, at least in some states, are running out of supplies. We had $300 million in borrowed money for childcare workers, we had $1.2 billion in borrowed money for aged care workers but—this is the interesting thing—not more money for poorly paid workers, which obviously no decent Australian would begrudge. The extraordinary thing is that this turns out to be conditional on an EBA negotiated with the relevant union. In other words, this is a taxpayer funded recruitment drive for the unions that this Prime Minister's leadership depends upon.

Then, of course, we had the disgraceful attack on the skilled migrants, who are so important for this country's present and future. Finally, we had the media changes that were absolutely vital for the national interest just a few days ago and have now been humiliatingly withdraw from the parliament because this Prime Minister was not big enough to declare that these were matters of confidence in her and confidence in her government and require the Independents who sustain her in power to vote for them.

Let me congratulate the crossbench members of this chamber for standing up for the sacred principles of free speech, on which our democracy does depend. Let us remind, once again, this House of the words of the Prime Minister that will haunt her to her political grave—along with the immortal statement, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'—'Let's hear no sanctimonious nonsense about free speech.' Is it any wonder that crossbench members of this parliament are losing faith in this Prime Minister? This is why standing orders have to be suspended.

There has been policy failure after policy failure from this government. There is the extraordinary disaster on our borders, with boat after boat. I think we have had something like four boats in 24 hours—it just gets worse every day. This Prime Minister has completely abdicated her responsibilities to control our borders. There is the live cattle trade suspension, jeopardising our relationship with our country's most important neighbour. There is the waste in school halls that cost double the price they should have. There is the National Broadband Network, a $50 billion-plus project way behind schedule and way over budget. Until recently, there were more paid staff for the NBN than there were paying subscribers.

There is the deception, the chronic, congenital deception, that we get from this government and this Prime Minister, whether it be the deception of the member for Denison; the deception and the betrayal of the former Speaker, the member for Scullin; the deception and the betrayal of the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith; the deception and the betrayal of the Australian public over the carbon tax that was never going to happen and then had to happen; the deception and the betrayal over the budget surplus that was going to be delivered, come what may—'No ifs, no buts; it will happen'—and now, of course, is not going to happen, according to Treasury advice, until 2017; or the betrayal of Labor values.

A decent Labor person would never put his or her own political survival ahead of good government and ahead of the best interests of a once great political party, the Australian Labor Party. As members of this House know, I have seen enough of politics and I have seen enough of good people on both sides of this chamber to have some respect for the Labor Party, of which it was once said: 'There is a light on the hill, working for the betterment of mankind, not just here but wherever we can lend a helping hand.' That once great political party is now reduced to being a political life-support system for just one person: the current Prime Minister. I say to the current Prime Minister: for your party's good, you should go. For our country's good, you should go. You should go.

We are a great people. We are a great country. I very much fear that we can never reach our potential under this Prime Minister and this government. I think it is time to give the people a chance to choose the Prime Minister and to choose the government. On the 50th anniversary of the faceless men being shown in a photograph in the Daily Telegraph, I say: let's get rid of the faceless men. Let's have a new Prime Minister and a new government.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?