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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 1948

Abbott Government


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:01): My question is to Senator Abetz, representing the Prime Minister. I refer to reports that the Prime Minister has recently met with the leadership group and raised the possibility of a double dissolution election.

Senator Cash: You don't want that!

Senator Cameron: Roll out the disposable nappies for you lot!

Senator Wong: A double dissolution with Tony Abbott as leader!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just a moment, Senator Sterle.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my right and my left! On both sides, or I will start naming senators!

Senator Conroy: Bring back Peter! Tony Abbott unplugged: it's a disaster!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Sterle, would you like to commence your question again? We will start the clock again.

Senator STERLE: Thank you, Mr President. As I was about to say, through you, Mr President: was the minister present? And is the Prime Minister considering a double dissolution election?










Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:02): Mr President, I can fully understand why Senator Sterle is so exercised about this issue, given that the Labor Party struggled to get one Labor senator elected at the last Senate election!

Of course, if there were a double dissolution our friend, Senator Sterle, may well be struggling to come back. And, given my great friendship—

Senator Jacinta Collins: No, no! He wants one!

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Kim Carr: Sean says, 'Bring it on!'

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock! Minister, just a moment.

Senator Conroy: Yes—Sean Edwards says, 'Bring it on!'

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Both sides! Senator Bilyk and Senator Collins!

Senator ABETZ: And, Mr President, given my genuine affection for Senator Sterle, and not wanting him to be displaced from this place, I can assure him that I will do everything I can to ensure that this Senate does the right thing by legislation so that the situation for a double dissolution is completely and utterly academic.

I am genuinely concerned for the future of Senator Sterle. And in relation to things that may or may not be discussed at leadership, my—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock! Senator Cameron—a point of order?

Senator Cameron: Yes, Mr President. My point of order is on relevance—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Just a moment, Senator Cameron.

Senator Conroy: It's not far to Yarralumla in the car—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy!

Senator Cameron: My point of order is on relevance. The key issue that was asked was: was Senator Abetz present in a discussion on a double dissolution?

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cameron. I think you rose to your feet as the minister was answering that particular aspect. Minister—have you concluded your answer?

Senator Abetz: Yes, Mr President.

















Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to observations by a cabinet minister, who said:

We would need to be on crack to go to a double dissolution …

And the Minister for Agriculture said—through you, Mr President:

We'll have someone from the Bully Bushwacker party and they'll end up having three seats and we will go mad.

Does the minister share these views, or is he in the Prime Minister's camp?

Senator Williams: Leave me out of it!

Senator Birmingham: We've already got 'Wacka'!

Senator Kim Carr: The National Party is at it again!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just a moment, Minister. Order on both sides! You are eating into your own question time.






Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:05): Sometimes I think you have to be on crack to read the gossip columns and then take them seriously, like Senator Sterle does, to regurgitate them in this place!

I do not intend to use my days and hours reading these gossip columns. They are simply of no interest to me. What that question shows, yet again, is that the Australian Labor Party and its senators—fond as I am of Senator Sterle—dedicate themselves not to policy and a new direction for our country but on reading gossip columns and then thinking they can construct clever questions around—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock! Senator Moore—a point of order?

Senator Moore: Yes, Mr President, on direct relevance. The minister has been talking around the question. The question was particularly about the double dissolution question. He has—

Senator Abetz: Oh, come on!

Senator Moore: Yes it was, Minister.

The PRESIDENT: Order! No argument across the table. You are directing your comments to me, Senator Moore.

The PRESIDENT: Mr President, the question itself was around the double dissolution election. The rest was argument.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Sterle asked a question which I think, in all assessments, has an element where the minister has been answering directly to the question. He raised some direct quotes out of the media. The minister has been responding to those direct quotes out of the media.

Senator ABETZ: Allow me to repeat: we, as a government, are determined to concentrate on the policy issues facing this country to reduce the cost of living for Australians and to create as many jobs as possible. Whilst we are doing that, the Labor Party reads gossip columns and asks questions about them.










Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:07): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to comments from another minister, who said:

Given his increasing desperation, there could be a rush to the governor-general.

Will a double dissolution election be the next captain's call?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:08): I repeat: I can understand why Senator Sterle is so excited about the possibility of a Senate election, because I daresay he and some of his colleagues may well be in for the high jump. I say to the honourable senator that I will seek to do everything I can to protect him from that fate by ensuring that we have a good, working, orderly parliament. I would invite him and his colleagues, like we are doing on this side, to concentrate on the issues facing this nation and to deal with the issues of cost of living and with the issues of job creation. That is rather than worrying about unnamed sources in gossip columns in the newspapers of our country.