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Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Page: 2064

Senator ABETZ (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:00 PM) —My question is to Senator Evans, representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the election of the Labor government three years ago on promises to deliver conservative economic management, cheaper petrol and groceries, stronger border protection, a National Broadband Network that would cost only $4.6 billion, a referendum to take over public hospitals, a million computers in schools, 36 GP superclinics, 2,650 trade training centres—one in every secondary school—and 260 childcare centres. Which, if any, of these promises does the government claim to have fully honoured?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —Thank you very much for the question, Senator Abetz—it saves my side asking it later on, so I appreciate it very much. The government stands very proud of its record in providing leadership to the Australian people in the core function of a government, which is to provide security and economic prosperity for its people. On both fronts, the government has achieved those objectives. We came to office with an ambitious agenda and we are delivering on that agenda.

Senator Abetz —Very ambitious—none of it is being delivered!

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Senator, we are ambitious for Australia. We do have high aspirations for Australia, and, after 12 years of do-nothing, achieve-nothing government, we actually think there is a need for reform, both in our economy and in our society. We have set about delivering on that agenda, but it is also true that the major challenge this government has faced is the onset of the global financial crisis. That is what has taken up the vast majority of the government’s efforts over the last couple of years. The most important thing Australians needed was strong economic leadership. They needed protection from the worst impacts of the global financial crisis. We delivered the leadership the country needed. We delivered the stimulus and other responses that allowed us to come out of the recession and the global financial crisis in better shape than virtually any other economy in the world. The Australian people understand that that was one of our core requirements, and we delivered in spades. We protected Australian jobs and kept Australians working, which I think was a great achievement. We also ensured that the economy would now be growing at a very healthy rate with relatively low unemployment. Those are important deliverables that the government is very proud of. (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. When Mr Rudd met his unfortunate demise at the hands of Ms Gillard, she promised that her top priorities were to fix the mining tax, provide strong management of the nation’s borders and find a way forward on climate change. Does the minister admit that not one of these matters has been fixed since Ms Gillard became Prime Minister? Does this failure confirm that Labor is still lost and the government is still in a mess despite the change of leader?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —The senator may not like the fact that this government has been given the ability to govern this country as a result of the election result and the numbers provided in the Senate and the House of Representatives, but we are providing leadership and we are providing stable government. We are delivering on our election commitments, and we will continue to deliver on those election commitments. The government is methodically working through its agenda to deliver to the Australian people the commitments that we made. Central to that is delivering economic security, delivering jobs, delivering economic growth and delivering opportunities for young Australians. All of our efforts are designed to address those fundamental issues and to provide support so Australians can make the best of the opportunities arising from the strong economic growth we are experiencing. (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to the minutes of the special caucus meeting called to depose Mr Rudd. Mr Rudd said the reason for Labor contemplating a leadership change was that ‘many people here are frightened’. Does the leaking of these minutes, together with Mr Swan’s questioning of Labor’s adoption of the fringe issues of the far Left, indicate that many in the government are still frightened that the government is lost?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations) —The Australian people share with the Labor Party a fear, that is true—a fear of the Liberal Party returning with its agenda of Work Choices. The reason the Australian people supported this government is that they do not want to return to the far Right politics that seek to undermine the wages and conditions of ordinary people in this country. That is where we get the ideological obsession of the Liberal Party. Australians were frightened because they did not want to see a return to those harsh, extreme laws that the opposition supported. The opposition may want to run away from it now, but the Australian people understand that the moderates of the Liberal Party have long since been banished and the extremists continue to argue for policies that are totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Australians. (Time expired)