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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2802


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (15:40): 'Chaos' is the perfect word to describe the Gillard government and indeed the one before it. The dictionary describes 'chaos' as 'complete disorder and confusion'. But I think that it could be more simply redefined in just a single word: 'Labor'. This is a government in complete chaos and disorder. The Prime Minister is essentially being hired on an hour-to-hour basis while the sharks circle. The bodies of former leaders float around hoping that they will be resuscitated, and there is a whole line-up of new sharks who hope that they will be the next in line at the feeding trough. This behaviour—on again, off again leadership challenges and caucus meetings—is not the behaviour of a government in control that knows what it is doing. That is not the behaviour of a government with vision and direction; it is chaos, and chaos has been the symbol of this government.

Indeed, you do not have to ask us about the performance of the various leading players in this great leadership battle. You just have to ask those who are going to have a vote in the caucus room whenever it happens. The member for Corangamite said: 'Julia Gillard cannot take us to an election. She'll decimate the party if she does.' One of the alternative leadership candidates said, 'Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people.' That was said by the member for Griffith. One of the other leadership contenders, the minister for the arts, speaking about a fellow contender, Kevin Rudd, said, 'He can't be Prime Minister again, so the question for him is that he has to accept that.' The member for Bendigo tweeted, 'Only a psychopath with a giant ego would line up again after being comprehensively rejected by the overwhelming majority of his colleagues.'

Moving on to the minister for communications, a man who has presided over more chaos and mismanagement than most of his colleagues: his comment about the member for Griffith as a contender was, 'Kevin Rudd had contempt for the cabinet, contempt for the cabinet members, contempt for the caucus, contempt for the parliament.' What sort of leadership credentials does that man have? What about the minister for health, who had enough and decided that she would give it away altogether? She said: 'I think that we need to get out of this idea that Kevin is a messiah who will deliver an election back to us. That is just, I think, fanciful.'

This is the nature of the campaign. This is the attitude of the people who are supposed to be working together to deliver an agenda and a vision for the future for this country that brings prosperity. Australians expect their government to have a plan and to be capable of implementing that plan and ensuring that the plan serves the nation's interest. Is it any wonder that they look at Labor and this government and simply weep?

True to the drama of the self-inflicted chaos that we have come to expect, the Prime Minister has galvanised attention on this year's election some eight months out. And what has she delivered this year? Early in the year, she delivered her 'captain's pick', quashing the right of Labor's grassroots to vote for their own representative in the Northern Territory and parachuting in someone who was not even a member of the party and sacking a veteran of 15 years. Two senior cabinet ministers, both with experience as Attorney-General, pulled the plug. And the member for Fisher and the member for Dobell, upon whose tainted votes the Prime Minister depends, have got into deeper and murkier water. After all of this, when asked at a press conference if these events were a sign of a government in chaos, the Prime Minister herself asked, 'Why on earth would anyone say that?'

The member for Maribyrnong, another one of the contenders for the leadership at the present time, is the one who after being contradicted by the Prime Minister overseas on a policy matter told the media that he did not actually know what the policy was but that he supported it. He had something further to say on 5 February. When commenting on the Prime Minister announcing the election date, he told Sky News, 'The only thing unusual about that is that she has levelled with the Australian people instead of playing political games.' That would be unusual, indeed—to have this Prime Minister levelling with the people and keeping her promise. Anyone who thinks that the date of 14 September is set in stone should think about the nature of the person who made this commitment.

What else has happened this year? We have had the confirmation that the mining supertax has been a complete flop, raising just $126 million of a promised $2 billion in revenue. But in true Labor tradition it is actually worse than that. If you deduct the administration costs and the company tax offsets, the mining tax actually raised about $40 million. This was the tax that was going to share the proceeds of the boom. The tax has actually made sure we have much less of a boom than we otherwise would have, but it is not collecting the money that Labor promised it would to help the poor and deliver a whole set of new projects. The NDIS and the dental scheme that the previous speaker just spoke about are supposed to be funded by the proceeds of this tax, but it has not got any money. So what is the future for those schemes? You do not have an NDIS unless you have the money to fund it. You do not have a dental scheme unless you have the money to fund it. And this government does not have that money because its mining tax has been such a failure. That even includes the projects that the minister is about to announce for regional development, which are supposed to be funded out of the proceeds of the tax. There is no money there. Anybody who gets an announcement from the minister about having a regional development project in their electorate needs to remember that there is no money there to fund it. This has been so typical of this government's performance.

Now we have their bid to muzzle frank and fearless media coverage. Minister Conroy seems to think that the media should simply act as a proxy for his agenda without any critical assessment. I know that Labor might be used to a pretty compliant media, but in reality the facts are that any attempt to meddle with free speech and freedom of expression will create problems worse than the disease they are trying to cure.

This is a government that is acting irrationally. It is a mess. It has been from the very beginning. The current Prime Minister promised to fix three major policy failures of the Rudd era when she knifed the former Prime Minister in 2010. Those three agenda items that she set for herself were to fix the mining tax, fix asylum seekers and fix climate change. All three are now bigger problems than when she started. We have a carbon tax even though she promised we would not have such a tax. It is hurting families and businesses every day, but it is doing nothing for the environment. We have the mining tax that discourages investment and jobs in Australia but raises no revenue. There are 34,000 more asylum seekers since Labor abandoned control of our borders and no end in sight to the human trafficking. In fact, we have had three boat arrivals in the last 24 hours, as we heard during question time today. As was said earlier in the day, it is high time that Labor stopped counting the votes and started stopping the boats. Only the coalition has a proven plan to stop the boats and scrap the carbon and mining taxes to restore confidence and deliver certainty, investment and jobs, especially in regional Australia.

The Prime Minister wanted to reconnect with the heartland, so she visited Western Sydney. That was her Burke and Wills experience. She headed out into the barren centre of our continent and went as far as Western Sydney! There is probably a dig tree out there somewhere or other with all the relics of the visit. The reality is that during her entire time as Prime Minister she has never chosen to spend a week in regional Australia. She has never bothered to visit provincial cities and regional communities. She went on a big excursion all the way to Western Sydney—and even that proved to be something of a dud.

The people deserve a stable and responsible government that puts the national interest first, that does not pursue backroom deals just so that the Prime Minister of the day can hang on to power. People want a government that will focus on the issues that affect their daily lives. Sometime soon, perhaps on 14 September, they will get the chance to deliver one.