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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8442


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (17:02): I was waiting for Senator Bilyk to cease her screeching. She comes into this place and says that she is sick of people screaming like banshees. You ought to listen to yourself, Senator Bilyk. Once again we have yet another one of the quota girls coming in here, preaching in unison, reading from the script—the same old script of lies and misrepresentation. Anyway, let me turn to the matter of public importance that is before us.

Senator Bilyk: Whatever happened to solidarity among the sisterhood?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Don't ever refer to me as the sisterhood, Senator Bilyk.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Senator Bilyk, if you are going to interject you need to do it from your seat; but you shouldn't do it from your seat in any case.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Perhaps you can ask Senator Bilyk to come to order. She is getting a bit carried away.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I think we should move on with the debate before us.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: The debate before us is in relation to the waste and mismanagement of the Australian Labor Party and their Greens alliance partners and how it is adding billions of dollars to what has already been wasted on failed schemes; plans that have gone absolutely, totally astray; and blatant, wanton misspending of taxpayers money with absolutely no regard whatsoever as to how the money is going to be paid back.

This is a government wallowing in red ink. Of course, the Australian Labor Party love red ink, because they have left a trail of it right across Australia at the state level where they have been ousted from power. Let us look at some examples of mismanagement and absolute wastage of money from the recent estimates hearings. Senator Furner was talking about Queensland. Perhaps he has not been to some of the places that I have been to. Let me give you an example, Senator Furner, and perhaps on your travels you might like to go and visit this place. It is in the seat of Flynn and it is a school hall that cannot be used. Do you know why it cannot be used? Because there are no toilets. So this green monstrosity just sits there, out in the back of nowhere, and it cannot be used. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been wasted because it cannot be used, because there are no toilets in this place. To me, that is a very good example of what an absolute debacle the BER was. Other examples have been eloquently exemplified and articulated by Senator Mason.

I now come to another example of waste and mismanagement which was given to us in estimates. Finally we started to see the cost of the protection racket for Mr Craig Thomson and the HSU investigation. I have of course traversed the innards of this scandalous and putrid episode in this government. Of course, now we know that Fair Work Australia has so far spent more than $1.8 million on outside legal and accounting advice for its investigation into the rorting of HSU funds: $1.3 million on external legal advice, $100,000 on external accounting advice, $430,000 on KPMG's review of the investigation, and, of course, the $1.8 million does not include the cost to taxpayers of Fair Work Australia's Federal Court action against Craig Thomson. That court action now follows Fair Work Australia findings that Mr Thomson has used HSU funds to pay for escort services and for other improper purposes.

I come to the Slipper matter and what was revealed at estimates last week. The Australian Government Solicitor admitted at estimates that there were 17 lawyers. Having been a former lawyer at the Australian Government Solicitor myself and having had a 20-year association with that office, as I said at estimates, I have never seen 17 lawyers working on a case at the Australian Government Solicitor's office. I will come to why that is the case. It was clear from the evidence that was given that the instructions in relation to this matter came directly from the Attorney-General, the quota girl in chief. The Australian Government Solicitor told us that, in addition to the 17 lawyers, there were also barristers. The bill was around $730,000, all for a case which finally settled for $50,000.

The revelations in the Senate last Tuesday evening show just how Nicola Roxon has acted in this matter. I have to question, as have other people questioned, the political instincts of Minister Roxon, the Attorney-General, which need to be curbed. She has done her high office, which ought to be respected, and her reputation no favours whatsoever. I quote from the Australian editorial of 18 October which says:

Ms Roxon has done her high office and her reputation no favours by becoming mired in the messy legal fallout of Mr Slipper's ghastly text messages that fit the definition of "misogyny" in any dictionary.

Clearly, the motivation for this was purely political, because it could not have been legal. I cannot see the legal advice that may have been given for this.

Ms Roxon sought to permanently stay Mr Ashby's claims four days after she was briefed on the lurid text messages, which, by the way, they had since May this year. It is very clear, and I think she has been damaged very much in relation to this matter. It is not surprising that we read about deep divisions. The Australian Financial Reviewof 18 October said:

Deep divisions have emerged in the federal government over the handling of the sexual harassment case against former speaker …with strong internal criticism of the role of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

Perhaps finally people have worked it out. After the disaster that this woman left in the department of health, now she is going to create a trail of disaster in the Attorney-General's Department as well.

Let's look at other examples—

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Mr Acting Deputy President, perhaps you could ask those women cackling over there to please cease their cackling because it is really quite annoying. If they want to make a decent contribution—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): If you are seeking protection of the chair, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, you will receive it. I require interjections to cease.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: You always tell me and others on this side to cease. Perhaps you might tell those opposite likewise to desist.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I just did that.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: But I note there have been interjections from both sides. Now that Senator Fierravanti-Wells has brought that to my attention, I will not allow any interjections.

Senator Siewert interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: That is right: she is not even doing it from her seat. Thank you, Senator Siewert.

In the time available, let me look at a couple of other things in relation to the costs. Defence officials confirmed at estimates that the $200 billion to $230 billion cost to buy the capabilities outlined in Labor's 2009 Defence white paper, Force 2030, is almost completely unfunded. In addition, the white paper promised three per cent real growth in funding every year to 2017-18 and 2.2 per cent real growth beyond that. Of course, these promises have fallen by the wayside, like many of the other things. Labor have siphoned off more than $25 billion from Defence, using the money to prop up their budget bottom line. Having said that, despite these cuts the Army has not been spared, because it will have to pay the carbon tax. The carbon tax is expected to cost the Army $20.3 million in increased energy costs.

I come to an item briefly in relation to the Pacific Highway. The duplication, from 2016 to 2020, will add at least $800 million to the cost of the project. The delay in the completion of the Pacific Highway will add those costs. Regarding asylum seekers, where do we start? The shambolic immigration system of this government has become an absolute policy failure. There was not just one policy failure. Who was the person who said 'one boat'? That is another policy failure. There have been thousands of policy failures by this government and the Prime Minister in this area.