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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3118


Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (15:11): We understand that, when we get to the Thursday at the end of a parliamentary week and when we have the 46th suspension of standing orders, the only thing those opposite—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! There is too much of a crescendo in the chamber. I cannot hear the Attorney-General and if I cannot hear the Attorney-General then other honourable members cannot either.

Ms ROXON: We understand why those opposite get so agitated about this. But on the Thursday at the end of a sitting week, when any of a range of important issues could be raised, the only jobs they want to talk about are jobs for Liberal Party members. That is the only thing they want to talk about. We could have talked about the hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, we could have talked about superannuation or we could have talked about the flood affected communities that are still under pressure. Instead, those opposite are only interested in talking about jobs for Liberal boys. Is that really the only thing that we can—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will be heard in silence for the balance of her contribution.

Ms ROXON: Obviously we disagree with the motion to suspend standing orders. We believe that there is a long list—a list that would run from here to the door—of issues that are far more important than talking about whether there should be a job for a Liberal boy who Mr Abbott thinks is better than Mr Gonski. The reason Mr Gonski was chosen for this job—

Mrs Mirabella: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I ask you to direct the Attorney-General to withdraw the offensive comment. I find the term 'Liberal boys' offensive and I ask you to direct her to withdraw it.

The SPEAKER: The offensive term, in your view, was 'Liberal boys'? I am all about civility but I think that is stretching it a little.

Ms ROXON: Let us be completely honest about this—everyone on this side of the House can understand why Mr Costello would be disappointed. He just cannot seem to get a leadership job, whether it is in here or whether it is anywhere else. It is absolutely understandable why he would be disappointed about it.

Ms O'Dwyer interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Higgins will remove herself under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Higgins then left the chamber.

Ms ROXON: But let us look at the issue that is being talked about here. We appointed an absolutely outstanding Australian, someone who is a leader in the business community. Not only do we think he is an outstanding Australian—he has held the chairmanships of not only boards of the biggest companies that operate in Australia but also the Australian Stock Exchange—but just one day ago, not even 24 hours ago, the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister issued a press release to say that they welcomed this appointment. It is now such an outrageous thing, from yesterday at two o'clock when they issued a press release to say that this was good news and that they welcomed the appointment, that we have to suspend standing orders.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for Health will remove herself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a). I have directed that all honourable members will listen to the Attorney-General in silence, and that includes the minister.

The member for Sydney then left the chamber.

Ms ROXON: It took them 24 hours to decide that they accidentally said yes to something, when they so often want to say no—that it is important that every other matter that is listed for debate in the parliament should take secondary importance. This is a nonsense. I could go through every member on this side of the House and tell you the top five issues they would think were more important to be debated in this House. I know absolutely for sure that if I went to the crossbenchers, particularly the National Party members and the Liberal Party members whose seats are still under water because they have been affected by the floods, I could pick any number of issues much more important for this House to be debating than this issue here now.

The SPEAKER: The Attorney-General will return to the specifics of the question.

Ms ROXON: I am addressing the suspension, Mr Speaker, and arguing that this particular issue does not merit the suspension of standing orders. I do not think that the appointment of an outstanding Australian, welcomed across the business community and welcomed by the shadow Treasurer and the shadow finance minister only 24 hours ago, could somehow be transformed into an issue of such importance that we should suspend standing orders to debate it.

Let us also look at the history here. We have never on this side of the parliament said that being a member of the Liberal Party or being a member of the National Party was a disqualifier for a job. In fact we have been incredibly generous as a government in appointing people who have been good and skilled, and recognised in the community as such, to many different positions. We have appointed people to represent us at NATO—he was in the House just a couple of days ago—and to represent us at the World Health Organisation. We appointed Mr Fischer to be Ambassador to the Holy See. We have appointed so many different experienced people across all sides of the political spectrum.

The SPEAKER: The Attorney-General will return to the motion.

Ms ROXON: Each time we have said, 'Who is the best person for the job?' On this occasion, we do not believe that it merits suspending standing orders when it is clear that it is an outstanding Australian, Mr David Gonski, who deserves the support of this chamber, who was the ASX chairman and who has chaired everything from the Sydney Theatre Company through to Coca-Cola, has been the Chancellor at the University of New South Wales and has provided advice to government on a range of different things from e-health to education. He is an absolutely outstanding individual and there can be no possible reason that we should call into question his appointment, and certainly no possible reason that we should suspend standing orders to do it.

We are not going to waste, and we ought not to waste, valuable time in this parliament when there are so many other issues in the community and a range of so many jobs in each electorate that people would happily talk about. Yet there is only one job that those opposite think is worth talking about, and that is a job for a Liberal. Why should that be the priority over any other job that should be discussed in this chamber? We know that employment is challenging. We know that in Victoria, for example, there are challenges in the manufacturing industry, and the industry minister talked about a number of those issues. We are working damn hard over this side of the House to make sure that those people get supported, but would you ever have a debate on those issues in here? Not once. Would you ever have a question on those issues in here? The only job that they can get worked up about is one for a Liberal colleague that they did not even support for the top job here. I think there has to be a bit of irony. The Leader of the Opposition—

The SPEAKER: Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired.

A division having been called and the bells being rung—

The SPEAKER: Because of the precipitate termination of question time, I did not have the opportunity to recognise in the gallery 16 of Australia's most talented young people, who make up our youth delegations to the G20, the Rio+20 Earth Summit, NATO and a visit to Israel. They are hosted by Global Voices. On behalf of all honourable members, I welcome those young people to the gallery.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

The SPEAKER: The question before the chair is that the motion moved by the honourable Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.