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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7293

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:31): Momentous events have taken place. This parliament, over the last 24 hours, has witnessed some dramatic events. A Prime Minister has been dragged down for the second time in three years, and one-third of the cabinet has resigned. I say that the people of Australia and this parliament deserve a full explanation as to why that was deemed necessary by the current Prime Minister. But what we have had is not a word, not a skerrick of the explanation that the people of Australia are owed. The now Prime Minister has given no interviews, he has held no press conference and he answered no questions whatsoever on this subject in the parliament in question time today. And the man who has been plotting for three years, for three long years, to bring down his predecessor as prime minister is now saying: 'Nothing to see here, nothing to see here. Move on, move on. Nothing to see.' Like St Francis of Assisi, the Prime Minister is innocent of this blood on his hands. Like Pontius Pilate, the Prime Minister is washing the blood off his hands.

Well, it is just not good enough. If the economy is as good as the Prime Minister claimed in question time today, why do we no longer have the Treasurer who was managing it? If the government and the country is in as good shape as the Prime Minister claimed in question time today, why was it absolutely necessary to drag down the Prime Minister who has led the government for three years and three days? The Prime Minister owes the country and he owes the parliament an explanation.

He obviously has not forgotten the events of three years and three days ago. The people have not forgotten the intervening period. We know how this government has struggled from division to disaster, and the Prime Minister needs to explain why it is that he felt it necessary to drag down this country's first female prime minister. Why was it necessary to do this? He owes us an answer, and I trust, I so trust, that he will come into this parliament and respond to the MPI today and give us the answers that this parliament and the people of Australia deserve. And if he does not, I trust that he will not be able to go anywhere in this country without the media subjecting him to the questioning that he deserves to face on this subject.

The truth is that after the events of last night, this Prime Minister's hands are just as dirty as those of his predecessor—that is the truth—but at least his predecessor had the decency, the honour and the courage to offer an explanation. It was not a very good explanation. She said back then, on 24 June, that a good government had lost its way. We know it was not true. We know it was a bad government that lost its way, because she subsequently told us. Why won't this Prime Minister at least have the honour that his predecessor had and offer an explanation to the Australian people? It is not too much to ask. Twenty-four hours ago we had one Prime Minister, now we have a different Prime Minister. Why has this been done? He owes us an explanation.

And while he is going about it, on behalf of the Australian people I pose two questions to the incoming Prime Minister. First, and most importantly, when will the election be?

A government member interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: Yes, it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. The previous Prime Minister told us the date. And given that she had the courage and the decency to tell us the date, why won't her successor have equal courage and decency and tell us what the date is? End the uncertainty that the events of last night have created, and at the very least confirm that date previously mentioned.

While he is answering some questions, he ought to also tell us what is going to happen to the carbon tax increase on Monday. These are the material facts which the Prime Minister ought to come clean with the Australian people about: what is the date of the election and what is happening with the increase in the carbon tax due next Monday? But there is a larger question which he ought to address: how is Rudd recycled going to be different from Rudd previously rejected by his colleagues? I know the Prime Minister will say, 'There's the Leader of the Opposition being negative again.' These are legitimate questions. He wants the people to have amnesia about the past, but we should not accede to that self-serving request.

The person who said before the 2007 election that the reckless spending must stop then presided over the greatest spendathon in Australia's history. The Prime Minister who said he would turn the boats around did not turn a single boat around and instead began the greatest border protection disaster in Australia's history. The Prime Minister who said that climate change was not just important, was not just one issue, but was in fact the gravest economic, social, political and moral challenge of our generation then dumped the emissions trading scheme policy which he had previously said was so vital. The Prime Minister who originally said he would fix the National Broadband Network for $4.7 billion then said: 'No, that's not going to work; we've got to spend $44 billion on it'—and now it seems it is going to cost $96 billion, at least $60 billion more than it should. The Prime Minister who said he was going to fix fuel and grocery prices and then abolished Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch needs to give us an explanation. The Prime Minister who said he would deliver 263 childcare centres to end the double drop—remember the dreaded double drop—gave us 38. The Prime Minister who said he would give us 2,600 trades training centres actually delivered fewer than 10 per cent. He needs to explain to the Australian people how someone who was so inadequate and incompetent then that he was rejected by his own parliamentary team can somehow justify regaining the prime ministership.

He said he would insulate one million roofs and instead he started more than 200 fires in people's houses. He said he would begin an education revolution and instead he spent—wasted and overspent—some $8 billion on overpriced school halls. He said he would fix public hospitals and he would have a referendum on this if they were not fixed by 2009. Well, I have to say that public hospitals are in a better state today, all thanks to coalition state governments and no thanks to the incoming Prime Minister.

I know the Prime Minister wishes to gloss over previous failures. I know the Prime Minister wishes to say that this is ground zero and the clock starts from now, but the Australian people are not mugs. We remember; we do not have amnesia. The people who are submitting themselves to the judgement of the Australian people will be judged on their deeds, not on their words. This is a Prime Minister who cannot run on his record. The government cannot run on the record of its first term because it dumped Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and the government cannot run on the record of its second term because it has just dumped Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.

How is it that a Prime Minister who was chaotic and dysfunctional in office can suddenly be a Prime Minister of due process? He needs to explain how this will be. I have to say that the auguries are not good. He was 45 minutes late for his first press conference—the press conference at which he did not answer any questions. He said last night that he wanted to end the negativity and then all he could do was attack the opposition and its leader.

The point of being in this parliament is not to stop someone; it is to start something. What we on this side of the House want to start is a better government, a stronger economy and a prouder and more confident Australia. That is what we want to start, and that is what will happen if there is a change of government whenever the election is held. There is a clear choice between members on this side of the parliament and those opposite. Those opposite cannot help themselves. They believe in big government. We on this side support strong citizens. Members opposite cannot help themselves. They are obsessed with wealth redistribution. We believe passionately in wealth creation. Members opposite put their trust in officials. They cannot help themselves. We put our trust in the strong individuals that compose Australian society. They believe in the state; we trust the communities of this country. We want to build up the social fabric, not just build up ever bigger, ever more intrusive government.

The people of Australia know exactly what they will get from the coalition. We will stop the boats. We will scrap the carbon tax and the mining tax. We will put the budget back into the black. We understand that the families and households of Australia are doing it tough. That is why under the coalition they will get to keep their tax cuts and their pension and benefit increases without a carbon tax. That means that every Australian household's budgetary position at the end of the week, the fortnight or the month should be so much stronger. It is not just about building a richer society; it is about building a better society as well.

We know that the Australian people yearn to be their best selves and that is why, should there be a change of government, there will be a much greater engagement between this parliament and the government of our country and the Indigenous people of Australia. We know that the problem in Indigenous policy over the last generation has not been underinvestment so much as underengagement. That is why, should there be a change of government, I will spend at least a week every year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community, because if it is good enough for Australians to live somewhere then it is good enough for the Prime Minister and senior officials to stay there. And it is on this basis that we will pursue the real reconciliation that will make our country whole. It is fortified and informed by this: that we will pursue the constitutional recognition which will rectify our foundation document. We will not so much change our Constitution as complete it.

We want a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme because we think that the women of Australia deserve a fair go. They deserve a fair choice to have a career and a family at the same time, and we will give it to them. I am proud that the first political party to offer a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme that pays people their real wage, and not a welfare wage, while they are on parental leave will be the coalition that I lead.

We will not neglect the environment. Not only will we cut emissions with incentives, not penalties; we will send a permanent standing green army, 15,000 strong, to the rescue of our remnant bushland and our degraded waterways.

This has been a low and dishonourable parliament in many respects. And last night the prime ministership was debased yet again, to be traded by the faceless men rather than decided by the Australian people as it should be. The Australian people should control the prime ministership and the government of this country. That is why, Prime Minister, you should not run away, you should name the date. Name the date. Tell us when it will be. (Time expired)