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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 176


Ms KING (Ballarat) (16:13): Can I congratulate again, Mr Deputy Speaker, on the position and wish you all the best in it. It is unusual for an opposition to move an MPI like this on the first sitting day of parliament. It is unusual for us to do that, but we face some unusual circumstances. Normally, there is a bit of a honeymoon period where we start to see a government implement some of the things that it said it was going to do during the election campaign, but what we have actually seen is a government already paralysed—two months in already shutting down debate and trying to make sure there is as little information in the public domain as possible about areas that are not going too well for it. We have seen that already today with the gagging of the Minister for Immigration. In fact, the Minister for Immigration voted to gag debate on himself being able to provide information to the parliament—a mockery in question time with the Minister for Immigration believing that he does not have responsibility to answer questions in parliament or to provide information to the opposition or the Australian public.

We have seen ministers literally terrified of being the first ones to stuff up. Their tweets have stopped. They were prolific tweeters when they were in opposition, but now suddenly they are failing to engage at all in social media. The Minister for Health was one of them, but I do not think he has sent a tweet out for the last two months. They are terrified that somehow or other they are going to be the ones to stuff up first; they are going to be the ones to get the call from the Prime Minister's chief of staff. They are terrified that they are actually going to say something that may not necessarily be on message. They are not engaging in debate. That is what we are seeing. The media have been well and truly onto it. The media are sick of not being able to get answers to their questions. They are not getting their phone calls returned. They are asking us to respond on issues that normally a government would respond to—but the government is not. The media are not getting anything at all out of this government.

Even by the most modest measure, this government has failed to keep up with its own promise. It said that there would be no surprises. Let me tell you about some of the surprises that people in my own electorate and in the electorates of the new members have had. I see that the new members have not been told that they do not have to stay for the opposition speakers' MPI. It is great that your team is looking after you! I am so pleased that you are staying in here for the debate. It is great that your team is looking after you.

Let me tell you about some of the surprises that may not have necessarily made it into the media. In the area of health, we have seen the Advisory Committee on Infant Formula Marketing abolished overnight. It is the only committee that people can go to when they have a complaint about inappropriate marketing of infant formula. It is the only response Australia has to the WHO code on the marketing of infant formula. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is outraged by this decision. I am outraged by this decision. The government have not stated what they will be replacing that advisory panel with. They are not honouring what many members who are now in government who sat on a breast feeding inquiry wanted—that is, the MAF agreement strengthened. What we have seen as the first act of the Minister of Health is the abolition of the only committee which people could go to to complain about the inappropriate marketing of infant formula.

Then there is the schoolkids bonus. The Prime Minister in question time said, 'We were upfront up about that.' I do not remember any campaign literature from Liberal Party members saying: 'Yes, we're pretty proud of this decision. We're going to get rid of this schoolkids bonus. We're really going to campaign on this.' I do not remember any of you doing that in the campaign literature which you put out. You are, as I am, being inundated by emails. I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker: new members in the House are being inundated by emails from people in their constituencies—

Government members interjecting

Ms KING: just you wait—who have just realised that they are not going to get the schoolkids bonus. The impact that that will have on low-income families, including families who are on the disability support pension, will be enormous. If you say you want to support families, you have to do it. You do not do it by cutting the schoolkids bonus.

Ms Henderson interjecting

Ms KING: The member for Corangamite interjects. I have not seen you standing up for the millions of dollars that are being cut from the Golden Plains Shire for their important project to make sure that there are more jobs in and around Lethbridge. I have not seen you standing up to make sure that they get the money I signed off on as regional Australia minister for the Meredith community hub. I have not seen you out there, in the local media, standing up for that. There are cuts in your electorate. This is what we are seeing from this government. Shame on you. (Time expired)