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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7300

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:03): The Australian people awoke this morning to the news that yet again the Labor Party had sacked its leader and changed the nation's leader. Yet again the Labor Party changed the head of government without so much as a fleeting concern for what the Australian people thought or who the Australian people wanted to lead the government. In fact, the Prime Minister has just spent 15 minutes telling us how wonderful everything is in his government. If that is the case, why is he refusing to explain the reason for sacking the former Prime Minister? Why have one-third of the cabinet refused to serve under the current Prime Minister? If everything is fine in the world of Labor, why have they sacked yet another leader, why have 45 members voted against this Prime Minister, and why have a third of the cabinet refused to serve?

The fact is Labor are using the office of Prime Minister as a weapon of retribution. They are using the office of Prime Minister to seek revenge for perceived past wrongs. They are using this office to get square with others because this is such a bitterly divided party. There is a civil war going on within the Labor Party. It is a bitter civil war and the conflict has not ended—in fact, the conflict is still writhing and festering and, until such time as the Australian people have their say as to who should govern this country, the civil war could continue. In fact, so dismissive are this party of the office of Prime Minister, they use it as a cheap game of pass the parcel. It is the nation's highest elected office and yet they are denying the Australian people the opportunity to have their say. All the while, while this civil war rages, the Australian people—together with their hopes, their dreams, their concerns and their needs—are being ignored by this government. In question time the Prime Minister was given many opportunities to explain why it is that they sacked yet another leader. As ministers stood up to laud the achievements of this government, not one of them could explain, if so much had been achieved, why they got rid of the leader who apparently achieved it. They are just consumed by revenge and driven by personal hatred.

There is an urgent need for stability and order in government. We have to have confidence restored to consumers, to business, to investors. The coalition is united; the coalition is ready to govern. The coalition can provide stable, certain and competent government—all we need is a date for the election. We have released a policy document—Our plan for real solutions for all Australians, which, at 52 pages, contains a wealth of information on our policies. It has solutions to deliver a strong economy in a secure nation.

But in contrast—whatever the Prime Minister tried to say and however he rehashed his old cliches and his old rehearsed lines—the failures of this government are writ large. The budget deficit goes for as far as the eye can see; it is the steepest descent into debt of any country apart from perhaps Iceland. Then there are the mining tax, which makes us vulnerable to charges of international uncompetitiveness; the largest carbon tax in the world, which is driving up the cost of doing business in this country; and the greatest policy failure of a generation, which is border protection. We are a less secure nation and we are more vulnerable as a result of this government and these two past prime ministers. Nothing that this current Prime Minister can say, and nothing that he can promise, will change the fact that it was his handiwork that found a solution to border protection and the issue of asylum seekers. He created a massive problem that has seen 45,000 people try to come to Australia via a revitalised people smuggling trade which has led to hundreds of deaths at sea. Not one of this lot will take responsibility for it. Shame on you! It is a monumental policy failure and at the core of it is this current Prime Minister's work.

As the Leader of the Opposition has so rightly pointed out—and you cannot argue with it—the government cannot run on its first term agenda, because they sacked Prime Minister Rudd for Prime Minister Gillard. The government cannot run on its second term agenda, because they sacked Prime Minister Gillard for Prime Minister Rudd. What is so troubling about this latest debacle is that Australia once had a proud reputation for stable and orderly government—an international reputation that was admired by so many others. Our predictability and our stability have been sullied. Last night I received messages from my foreign policy contacts in governments across the globe, who expressed their utter bewilderment at this turn of events. The Prime Minister's refusal to confirm the election date, and trying to weasel around when an election will be held, is creating even more uncertainty.

Some of those who are sitting in the chamber and some of those listening to this debate will remember the former Prime Minister's—that is Gillard, not Rudd—hand-picked foreign minister, in Senator Carr. Remember his first press conference last year—the first of his many gaffes—when he was asked about a potential delay in Papua New Guinea's elections? Do you remember that? In an extraordinary lapse of judgement, Senator Carr said that, if Papua New Guinea were to delay its elections even for a moment, he would have to mobilise the world opinion, isolate and condemn Papua New Guinea, and impose sanctions on Papua New Guinea. My colleagues will not be surprised to learn that some of my friends overseas have suggested to me that, should Prime Minister Rudd seek to delay the election, they will have no alternative but to impose sanctions on Australia and isolate and condemn Australia for its failure to hold an election on time. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword! Meet your own standards that you set for others.

As President Yudhoyono's spokesman said last night, this process of leadership change in Australia is 'beyond comprehension'. Yes, foreign investors are baffled by this. Business is dismayed. There is a deep yearning for a clear and united plan to deliver a stronger Australia, stronger borders and a better future for all Australians. They want to hear that a government will get rid of the carbon tax that is driving jobs, business and manufacturing offshore. They want to hear that a government will get rid of the mining tax, which is making our mining companies internationally uncompetitive. In fact, I met with a number of mining sector people today. They were telling me about their investments in other countries. I said, 'But what about Australia?' They said, 'You must be joking.' The instability that this government has provided—the massive increases in regulation, the massive increases in legislation, the massive increases in taxes and the duplication in approval processes—is driving investment offshore and it certainly is not attracting more foreign investment to this country.

That is why the coalition can provide strong, stable, competent and experienced government. The coalition is committed to restoring our international reputation and to reassuring the world that order can be restored to government in this country. The anarchy in the Labor Party is not reflective of the will of the Australian people and—most certainly, once the Prime Minister is honest with the Australian people and confirms the date—the Australian people will have their say.

In the area of international relations, I have outlined our policy position, our portfolio responsibilities, and our approach in trade and in foreign affairs in some detail. Should we be elected, we will move quickly to repair the damage caused by bans on the live cattle trade—which took away Indonesia's trust and confidence in us to be a reliable trading partner—and we will restore the standing of this country in the eyes of the international community. We will attract foreign investment to our shores, we will stand behind our mining and resources sector, we will build a stronger economy and we will be a government that Australia can be proud of.