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Monday, 25 October 2010
Page: 585

Senator ABETZ (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. I quote the Prime Minister:

I think when you go to an election and you give a promise to the Australian people, you should do everything in your power to honour that promise.

Has the government done everything in its power to honour the promises it made to the Australian people at the last election?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —The re-elected Labor government is very committed to proceeding with its commitments to the Australian people and is looking to implement those commitments. That has been a focus for us since—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Well, Senator MacDonald, you may call it ‘hanging on to power’; it is called a decision of the House of Representatives about who should form a government in accordance with our democratic traditions and the rules of our Constitution. That decision having been made, the government has set about looking to implement its commitments to the Australian people and working through those over time as we settle back into a second term of government. Clearly, these will be difficult times in the parliament and managing legislation through the parliament. Not having a majority in either house will put particular strains on the government in delivering its agenda. But we have indicated we intend to work in a very positive way with all parties in the parliament to try and achieve our objectives and the commitments that have been made to the Australian people.

We include in that the coalition, who we expect to act responsibly and assist the government in passing legislation that is in the national interest and helps us deliver on the commitments made. We are very much focused on delivering. We are aware that there will be certain constraints placed on us as a result of the balance in both chambers of the parliament, but we will work with everyone to try to make sure that we are able not only to deliver stable government, which we are committed to, but also to deliver on our commitments to the Australian people.

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer again to the Prime Minister’s statement that governments should do everything in their power to honour their election promises. Given the statement, does the government agree that it misled the Australian people during the election campaign in relation to: its intentions for new or expanded detention centres; addressing the unprecedented flow of boat arrivals; ruling out a carbon tax; and, indeed, promising to be open and transparent?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I am very happy to say no to that. That is not the case at all. We were very clear in relation to our commitments. In terms of the announcement about new immigration centres, as the minister at the time I can assure the Senate that all the statements made during the election campaign and in the lead-up to it were accurate in terms of government decision making. There were inquiries being made and contingency plans being developed inside the department, but in terms of government decision making, comments made by myself and the Prime Minister during the election campaign and prior to it reflect accurately on the position. As you know, in relation to a carbon tax, the government have made it clear we are working through processes to try to ensure that we end up with a carbon price as part of our effort to deal with carbon pollution, and we will continue to pursue those. (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain to the Senate why the government is failing to implement the policies it took the election but is now implementing policies it did not take to the election, some of which are in direct contradiction to those solemn election promises made by them to the Australian people?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I reject the assertion in the third part of this rather confused question. I gather it is supposed to be very clever. Can I just make the point that the opposition will go a long way to determining whether or not this government is capable of delivering on its election promises. If we see the sort of obstructionism we saw in the last term of parliament then it clearly will be difficult for us. The opposition have it in their hands to assist the government in delivering on its commitments as we bring legislation forward to implement them. I look forward to the opposition giving the government that support in seeking to have legislation passed in this chamber which gives effect to the commitments we made, because if we are able to get legislation carried of course we will be able to deliver on the commitments made to the Australian public.