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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2379


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:58): The motion that Senator Abetz has moved is the most serious motion that a parliament can consider—that is, a motion to enable the discussion on whether the government continues to have the confidence of the parliament. It tells you everything you need to know. It tells you everything you need to know about the flippancy and about the contempt for the institution of parliament by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Conroy and the Leader of the Greens, Senator Milne, that they would characterise the most important business that can ever be brought to a parliament—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my left and on my right, and at the other end of the chamber—Senator Brandis is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator BRANDIS: They would characterise the most important, the most solemn, motion that can ever be considered by this chamber as a stunt. It was not the opposition, it was not Senator Abetz or Mr Tony Abbott, who called a press conference in the Mural Hall two hours ago to declare that this government was so riven, so dysfunctional and in such disarray that Mr Simon Crean, an elder statesman of the Australian Labor Party, a former leader of the Australian Labor Party and a senior member of Ms Gillard's cabinet, called for there to be a party room ballot—which I understand there will be in an hour and a half's time—to terminate the Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard. Furthermore, not 20 minutes ago, there occurred on the floor of the House of Representatives an event with few precedents in Australian political history, when a motion moved by the opposition received 73 affirmative votes and 71 negative votes, with Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor—and Mr Wilkie, but in particular Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor—the people who have kept this government in being for three tawdry years, deciding that even they had had enough. So they voted with the opposition and the government was defeated by 73 votes to 71. Now, Mr President, as you know, under House of Representatives standing orders, a motion of that kind requires an absolute majority of members to pass it and therefore, because fewer than 76 people voted for the motion, it was not passed. But, nevertheless, the government was defeated. It is the first time since the fall of the government of Stanley Melbourne Bruce in September 1929 that a government has been defeated on a substantive issue on the floor of the House of Representatives.

We have, in our democracy, a way of resolving these disputes. It is called an election. If Mr Tony Windsor, Mr Andrew Wilkie and Mr Rob Oakeshott—who have kept this government in power—have at last said to their constituents and to the Australian people, 'Even we have had enough,' then wouldn't you think, out of decency and out of self-respect, the ministers who remained in this government would say, 'Well it's about time we let the people choose'? Our government has lost the confidence of the House of Representatives, it has lost the confidence of the people who agreed to support it and sustain it in office, and the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of senior minister after senior minister—not just Mr Simon Crean. She does not have the confidence of Senator Kim Carr; she does not have the confidence of Senator Penny Wong, who sold her out for 30 pieces of silver. We have a situation now in which the government is split wide open and in disarray, and whatever the outcome of this ballot today —coincidentally a ballot being held on the 50th anniversary to the day of the famous faceless men photograph outside the Kingston Hotel on 21 March 1963—the faceless men will have made the call. The fact that there are two sides of faceless men in a faceless civil war against each other does not change the fact that the faceless men made the call. They got rid of Kevin Rudd and they are getting rid of Julia Gillard—it is time to get rid of the faceless men!