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Order In The House -

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This program is not subtitled

THEME MUSIC 'Welcome to Order In The House - in Federal Parliament.' a review of the week's business ..they sit on a $22 billion surplus baked beans and jam sandwiches. while Australian pensioners live on about the Member for Bradfield ..and it says everything I think is not much longer with us. and why the Member for Bradfield this morning, of the parliamentary Liberal Party Mr Speaker, at a meeting

I was elected leader. Struggle Street in Point Piper... The Leader of the Opposition from Government is entirely intimidated Mr Speaker, I understand that the by the new Leader of the Opposition. and a jar of jam - 'A can of baked beans

those were Brendan Nelson's props refusal to increase pensions.' when he attacked the Government's why are pensioners worse off Prime Minister, the Rudd government? since the election of we brought down in May, Mr Speaker, in the budget that three additional things. the government provided of $500 a year, The first was a one-off cash bonus the previous government, and I contrast that to financial years on a one-off basis which did that for the previous three their term in office did not do that. but in the preceding eight years of That is the first point. the government also increased The second is this - $107 a year to $500 a year the utilities allowance from into the future. and made that permanent government in previous budgets. That was not done by the previous the telephone allowance, The third thing was to increase

prior to the election. as we foreshadowed the overall increases to payments The consequence of this is that

for pensioners in that budget $900 per year were something in the order of additional payments together. once you put those various $20 per week. That is a figure approaching

has already indicated, Furthermore, as the government put forward by the Senate inquiry consistent with the recommendations on pensioners, into cost-of-living pressures government and opposition members, which was supported by both therefore a full review that there should be pension payments into this country, into the long-term structure of that is what is currently under way. the Prime Minister. My question is to the latest economic data I refer the Prime Minister to six months of his government, showing that under the first bread has gone up 3.2%, tea and coffee has gone up 3.6%, lamb has gone up 4.1%,

electricity has gone up 4.6%, has gone up 7.6%, butter and margarine HUBBUB gas... ..gas has gone up 5.3%, pharmaceuticals have gone up 12.1%

and petrol has gone up 14.6%. living expenses have also gone up. In addition, rents and general take immediate action Why won't the Prime Minister these increased bills? to help pensioners pay Hear! Hear! The Prime Minister. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

for McPherson for her question. I thank the Honourable Member I would assume that the point is making in her question that the Honourable Member problem in Australia today is that there is an inflation that is affecting pensioners, carers across the country. and working families the Honourable Member One of the things I would ask in asking that question to reflect on a lot? is what is it that drives inflation is where you have What drives inflation a lot out of control. government expenditure

the previous government, What we had with took over, as of when this government running at some 5.3%. was annual expenditure growth expenditure out of control, If you have government it adds to the fuels of inflation the cost of living which in turn affects the effect of putting and which in turn has upwards pressure on interest rates, including small businesses. which affects all working families, has a clear-cut strategy That is why the government the inflation challenge, for dealing with anchored in the budget surplus that we brought down in May. Because the Government's objective is to make as much room as possible for the Reserve Bank to put downward pressure on interest rates. The Leader of the Opposition.

My question is to the Prime Minister. Given the Prime Minister believes that he could not live on the single age pension of $273 a week, how much more does he think that single pensioners need in order to survive? The Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, the Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister and I... ..and I believe others in response to that question - have been straight up and down about this.

We have been clear-cut in our language... Order! And that is I would say to those opposite, saying that there is a massive problem

in terms of the ability of aged pensioners to live on the current age pension. That is what we believe. What the Leader of the Opposition has done opportunistically, is reach into the tin, challenged as he is on the leadership front, and said, "How can I get myself a headline while Malcolm is away in Milan?" or wherever he was. Order! Order! And so he did this without any reference to the 2.2 million pensioners who were left out, without any reference to the widows, without any reference to the carers and without any reference to those who are disabled. He simply went for one category of pensioners in order to get himself a headline. But where the real rub in this lies is this, Mr Speaker, is this - if the Leader of the Opposition was fair dinkum, he would have demanded action when they had the power to do this when it was before their cabinet only last year. And you know something?

This Leader of the Opposition is not fair dinkum about this. He is just not fair dinkum. The member for Wentworth is not fair dinkum about it because he slapped down the Member for McPherson when she raised it only three months ago. None of those opposite are fair dinkum about this. As the Treasurer just said, the Australian Labor government is proud of its history

in looking after those Australians

most in need of support from government. We have done it for 100 years. If you look at the debates on the introduction of the age pension 100 years ago, it was the conservatives who said it will be the ruination of the economy. We have constantly stood by those Australians who need help. We will do that now and we will do it into the future. Those opposite, led so particularly by the member for Bradfield, are simply playing short-term politics with this, rather than long-term reform. Because if any of them had a skerrick of sincerity about this,

when Mal Brough brought this to the cabinet, you would have acted. None of you did. None of you raised your voice - not one of you - when you had all the money available to do it. In nine months we have turned this around in terms of the process we have now got under way. We intend to act responsibly on this. And if I look at the, can I say,

the examples on the part of those opposite as they now confect moral outrage.

Having had 12 years to act on this, they now say to us, after nine months, "Why have you failed to address what we were not interested in dealing with in our 12 years in office?" Do you know something?

The Australian people actually see through what you are up to. They actually see what you are up to. Member for North Sydney. It says everything, I think, about the member for Bradfield and why the member for Bradfield is not much longer with us. Australia's pensioners and carers remember that prior to the budget this year,

we had a lengthy debate in this parliament about lump-sum payments.

For five days the Prime Minister would not confirm that he would deliver a lump-sum payment to Australia's pensioners. It was only under pressure from the Coalition, from the opposition,

that he finally admitted that he'd deliver a single lump-sum payment. We then had the spectacle of the Budget speech. We now know that

who is the chief bureaucrat of the country, not the Prime Minister - we know that shortly after that debate said to his officials, "Gee, I'd better write a letter to the Treasurer." He said, "I'd better write a letter to the Treasurer. There's going to be a problem with these pensioners." So he then gets an 83-page report that tells him precisely what the options are going to be and what the Government could do to improve the position of Australian pensioners. Develivered, no less, than by Dr Jeff Harmer. What's his response to that? What's the Government's response? It's got all the options, it's got 83 pages.

Cost-of-living pressures have gone through the roof under Rudd. What does he do? He says "I know, we'll form a committee. The committee is going to be chaired by the same bloke that's just given me an 83-page report." So then the Australian pensioners sit down with their processed sausages and their jam sandwiches for dinner to watch the Budget to find what's going to happen to pensioners in the Budget? So we get the Budget speech from the Treasurer - that nervous bloke that is in charge of our $1.1 trillion economy - so the pensioners wait to find out what was going to be delivered for pensioners. In a 30-minute speech on the budget, the word pensioner appears once. Once in 30 minutes, he mentions the word pensioner.

But thanks to The Hollowmen, that ABC documentary about the Prime Minister's office, the term working families appears, in contrast, 12 times. 12 times working families, once for pensioners, Mr Speaker. It's also important, Mr Speaker, that the Prime Minister appreciate just how desperate the situation is for Australian pensioners. This is a Prime Minister that next week is not going to be in Australia. He is not going to be in the Australian parliament. He is going to visit his 16th country since he has been the Prime Minister. So at the same time that this parliament will be debating the issues of Australian pensioners trying to live on $273 a week - not $273 an hour - the Prime Minister of the country is going to go to the United Nations. He has got a plan for the world, he's got a plan for Asia, but he has got no plan for Australia and no plan to do anything other than wait for a committee to tell him what he has got to do for Australian pensioners. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister needs to understand something, and that is - to live on $273 a week under a Rudd Labor government is the most distressing and hardest thing that close to 900,000 Australians are doing. I have received, for example, Mr Speaker, an email from a lady in Woodcroft, South Australia, who says and I quote today, "I am appalled at Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan's response to suggestions for an immediate increase for single pensioners. Does this not indicate a complete disregard and lack of understanding for the plight of pensioners or is it simply a contempt

for a section of the Australian community that are unable to give Kevin Rudd the global kudos he appears to crave? And I have to go to the supermarket to buy packets of toilet rolls,

bread and a can of Homebrand baked beans plus any visits I might have to make to my local GP.

So, Mr Speaker, I say to the Prime Minister, that is reality for Australia's pensioners - baked beans, jam sandwiches. That is what they're living on when you're at the United Nations at the General Assembly and the parliament sits at the cost of $1 million a day.

So, Mr Speaker, it is time that the government made a decision, instead of having a committee to organise a committee to tell him what to do. I say, Prime Minister, these are the men and women who have made this country what it is. It is their sacrifices that gave our generation what we have. They did not buy something until they had saved up for it. They thought their responsibilities to one another and their country were more important than their rights. They thought that values were more important than the value of things. Thanks to the previous coalition government, they sit on a $22 billion surplus while Australian pensioners live on baked beans and jam sandwiches. Prime Minister, the whole idea of being the prime minister is to make decisions, make decisions in the interests of Australia. The pensioners of this country are diminished, you are diminished. Your government is diminished. You have demeaned our country by not delivering an immediate increase in the single-age base pension. It is disgraceful! 'That was Brandon Nelson's last appearance on the Chamber as Opposition Leader. On Tuesday, he was on the back bench with a new leader in place.' Mr Speaker, at a meeting of the parliamentary Liberal Party this morning, I was elected leader. The member for Curtin will continue as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal party. And I will advise the House of changes to the Opposition front bench in due course. SPEAKER: Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, on indulgence, could I extend on behalf of the parliamentary Labor Party and the Government our congratulations to the Member from Wentworth for being elected

as head of the Liberal Party and as Leader of the Opposition. It is a rare privilege to be elected to a position of one of Australia's leading political parties

and it is a great honour which has been accorded you. We, on our side of the House look forward to working

with the opposition and with yourself as much as is possible in this great and robust democracy of ours on a bipartisan basis. I am fully mindful of the fact that there are a few things we will probably disagree on. And if I could also say to the member for Bradfield how much we have appreciated his services as Leader of the Opposition during the course of this year, and we wish both himself and his family all the very best. ALL: Hear, hear! 'But the niceties didn't last long. Malcolm Turnbull's efforts to portray himself as an ordinary bloke came under sustained attack.'

The Member for Wentworth is smiling. He's up there, orchestrating and supporting in the Senate vandalism of the budget on important measures like alcopops. Of course, the Member for Wentworth, you know, he hasn't got a great affiliation with those sorts of everyday goods,

he thinks alcopops is the noise that is made when he uncorks the Moet! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business. Mr Speaker... This could not be relevant to the question that he wrote for his own side to ask him. I ask you to bring him back to the question that he was asked,

otherwise everyone will continue to consider him a joke. Order.

I would have thought that the new Leader of the Opposition would understand the importance of our nation-building agenda. Because in the past he has had a history of being attracted towards the Labor agenda. We know that it's common knowledge in the Labor Party that the Leader of the Opposition went to Kirribilli to meet the then Prime Minister Keating about getting the casual vacancy in the Senate for the Labor Party in 1994. The minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order. Isn't that interesting, Mr Speaker, that at the beginning of question time, the Prime Minister was offering congratulations and now the dirt-raker from the government gets up and makes up stories. North Sydney will get to his point of order. You want a debate? Bring it on. The member for North Sydney will resume his seat.

And I indicate to him my tolerance about those types of points of order which are not points of order. I will listen carefully to the Minister's conclusion of his answer. The Minister.

Thank you. Look, this was Graham Richardson's casual vacancy in the Senate. In the Senate, Malcolm Turnbull the Leader of the Opposition had a discussion with Prime Minister Keating. Resume his seat. at Kirribilli. The Minister will resume his seat.

The Leader of the Nationals. Mr Speaker, this response from the Minister is not in any way relevant to the question, which was about infrastructure.

On the point of order, the question went... broad terms to Labor history. Order. (LAUGHS) Order! Order! Order!

Order. Which I acknowledge, which I acknowledge... ..should have been code for being very careful. I will listen to the Minister concluding his answer

quickly. Mr Speaker,

the Leader of the Opposition clearly understood at that time that infrastructure was important. Only Labor could be trusted to the job of building

the nation. Hear, hear! Because what we have seen is a former Labor Party member replaced by someone who wanted to be a Labor senator. That's what we've seen today. The Leader of the Opposition has been on a spring-loaded device. The Leader of the Opposition. I wish to make a personal explanation. Does the member claim to have been misrepresented? Yes, I do. The Leader of the Opposition. Order! has the call. Order. The Leader of the Opposition. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I refer to the remarks by the Minister for Infrastructure who suggested that I had sought Labor Party preselection for the Senate,

that is, as he knows, quite untrue. Now, I note, Mr Speaker, that the leader of the opposition has been seeking to cast a bit of cover on who he really is in recent times and indicate that because he lived in a flat for a time as a kid or something that he's the great representative of Struggle Street and the battlers. The Minister for Finance... Unfortunately... Minister for Finance resume your seat. Minister of Finance The Member for Cowper on a point of order. On relevance, Mr Speaker,

I would ask you to bring the Minister back to the question. Order. The Minister knows that he is required to be relevant to the question, the Minister. I am afraid this is entirely relevant, Mr Speaker. Unfortunately for the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Speaker, the Australian people are less interested in whether you come from privilege than whether you represent privilege. And that is the truth of the Mr Speaker, that is the truth of the Opposition Leader's position, because in spite of pretending to be the man from the battlers -

The Member for Dixon. The Member for Dixon.

In spite of pretending to be the man of the battlers - Oh. The Minister for Finance, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Order.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Mr Speaker, I understand that the Government is entirely intimidated by the new Leader of the Opposition ? absolutely intimidated by him but, Mr Speaker, the personal denigration and attacks on successful Australians does not answer the question he was asked. Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat. The Minister for Finance. Thank you, Mr Speaker. In spite of portraying himself as the new-found friend of the battlers, of course, the Leader of the Opposition was very recently an integral part of a government that gave the Australian people Work Choices ? an industrial relations regime that tore away their penalty rates, their overtime and all the protections that lower-paid battlers rely on in the workplace to give them some bargaining power. He is also part of an opposition ? as shadow Treasurer and now as the Leader of the Opposition ?

that is engaged in an exercise in the Senate of blowing a very large hole in the budget surplus in order to fight for lower taxes for Ferrari buyers, and Porsche buyers and Rolls-Royce buyers. He is also engaged in an action in the Senate of ripping apart

the budget surplus to defend the interests of big alcohol companies so that teenage girls can buy cheaper alcopops. He is also engaged in a vandalism exercise in the Senate to maintain a tax lurk that was put in place for big oil companies 30 years ago as a kick-start to new projects. So the man who says that we are in the biggest economic crisis globally

in our lifetime is at the same time engaged in an exercise to rip apart the budget surplus, which is one of the key buffers for the Australian government and the Australian people in dealing with the consequences of the international crisis in the Senate. Why? Because he is defending the interests of privileged, well-off Australians. 'In the Senate, there was a much quieter leadership coup.' Senator Joyce. I want to, would like to inform the Senate there has been a change in arrangements with the National Party and as of an election this morning, I'm now leader of the National Party in the Senate.

I'd like, right at the outset, to thank Senator Scullion for his... ..the way he's conducted himself and for the fact that we managed

to keep this thing quiet. (ALL LAUGH) And...(LAUGHS) And efficient. And I'd really, I'd like to commend all of you for the words of encouragement that you've given to me. I hope that between all of us, we manage to do an exceptionally good job for this Senate, for our nation. Can I congratulate Senator Joyce on his appointment

as Leader of the Nationals and the Senator, I wasn't in the Chamber when... I understand, when you made that announcement this morning. So on behalf of the Government, can I congratulate him on his election, wish him well and hope that his independent mind continues to be on display in his new role. Can I also acknowledge the... ..Senator Scullion's performance in the job previously, his contribution, no doubt, in the Senate will continue but I do appreciate the leadership he provided and the constructive way he did his duties. Mr Deputy President, can I join with Senator Evans in warmly congratulating Senator Joyce on his election as the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate.

He has been a very strong advocate for rural and regional Australia in the three years that he has been in this place.

He's made a big contribution to our coalition both in government and on opposition. And I'm sure will be a great ally to us in our opposition to the great many faults of this Labor Government. I look forward to working with him in opposition. I also join with Senator Evans in congratulating Nigel Scullion on his leadership of the National Party in the Senate. I thank him for his co-operation with us, both in government and in opposition. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Scullion

in his continuing role as Deputy Leader of the Federal National Party, a role he performed superbly. Senator Joyce, to the front bench and to the... (ALL LAUGH) And he's a great advocate. Order! Well, I don't know why uh...(CHUCKLES) (ALL LAUGH) ..there should be such merriment about this. But Senator Joyce is a great advocate for rural...

Order! ..and remote Australia. And...I think all Australians recognise also his ability to be very independent and adjudicating on decisions

in this place and he needs to be congratulated for that and I hope he enjoys the role he's now been given.

'The Attorney-General was attacked for making public comments about a terror trial before all the defendants had been dealt with.'

Is the Prime Minister aware of the comments of the Attorney-General on Monday, when he described the terrorism trial of Abdul Nacer Benbrika and others

as "the most successful terrorism prosecution that this country has seen?" Does the Prime Minister agree with the Attorney-General? The Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, when we deal with terrorism in this country we in the government ? and I presume those opposite ? believe in taking an absolute hard line. We support our law-enforcement agencies,

we support the independence of our judiciary and, on the question

of terrorism, there should be no political rancour among us. ALL: Here! Here! Order! Order! Order, the Member for Sturt. I warn the Member for Sturt. I refer the Prime Minster to his previous answer to the question from the Member from Sturt where he defended the Attorney-General. Does the Prime Minister accept the criticism of the Attorney-General by the trial judge, Justice Buongiorno and I quote - "It's abundantly clear, it would have been to the enhancement of justice in this country if the comments had not been made, they were unnecessary and had the potential

to cause difficulties in this trial"? The Prime Minister. Thanks very much, Mr Speaker. As I said in response to the question from the member from Sturt, the Government's view on terrorism is hard line and that means through the prosecution agencies, it means in supporting the independence of our judiciary. Obviously, members of the bench are going to take exception from time to time with statements from members of the Government, or members of the public or for that matter members of the Opposition. I stand entirely by this government's position which is that we will take

a hard line on terrorism in the future without fear or favour. ALL: Hear! Hear! How can the Prime Minister credibly claim to be tough on terrorism when he has today defended the Attorney-General's reckless remarks, which put at risk the outcome of an ongoing terrorist trial, and then brushed aside, as mere commentary, the grave criticisms of his own Attorney-General by the trial judge himself? ALL: Hear, hear. The Prime Minister. Nothing like the Member for Wentworth rising in high dudgeon, I always say.

It is a piece of theatre Order. Order! a piece of theatre from central casting as confected as the Member for Wentworth's recent discovery of compassion for pensioners, which did not exist as of four months ago. Order. The Prime Minister resume your seat. The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order.

Mr Speaker, the question relates to an ongoing terrorist trial and the Attorney-General putting its outcome at risk. Order. The Prime Minister might return to the substance of the question. ALL: Hear, hear. Order. Order the House. The House will come to order. Before giving the Prime Minister the call,

the Prime Minister is aware that he has to be relevant to the question. And I just, I just indicate that independent of these things, if this is an ongoing trial, well, I just want to clarify that.

The Member for North Sydney. I can assist the House, I know where you're going here, Mr Speaker. I can assist the House... Order! Order! No, order! This is a serious aspect for the House. The trial has concluded but it may be subject to appeal. All right. And therefore, the comment to the Attorney General

are very relevant and do not represent sub judice. ..this is the matter that I wish to raise and what I want to indicate to the House, that they should be careful

about transgressing the sub judice conventions of the House, because as I indicate to the House, I was just trying to determine at what stage we were at, and so far, I've been satisfied that in the narrow way in which the answers have been put, and the narrow way in which the questions have been -

the answers have been directed to the question,

and the narrow way the questions have been put, that it satisfies the Convention so far, but the House should be careful. Prime Minister? Thanks very much, Mr Speaker, and the benefit of your intervention just now is to underline the absolute hypocrisy of those opposite,

because here we are, debating a matter which they believe or argue, is of such sensitivity that it should not be the subject of political comment, and what do they do? Make it the subject of political comment. I find it remarkable. Has the Prime Minister sought legal advice on the consequences of the Attorney General's remarks, and in particular, on the possibility that those remarks will provide a ground for appeal against the convictions of Benbrika and his co-accused? The Prime Minister? Thanks very much, Mr Speaker. Obviously, the matter raised by the Honourable Member is one that's been dealt with by the court, and as the Attorney himself indicated on Monday, his comments were not directed at matters which were still before the Court. And as Attorney General, it is his role to assure that the community, that all agencies are working hard to protect Australians. Order! The Leader of the Opposition has asked his question. I would say to the barracking new Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, this - on the question of terrorism, this government makes no apology for taking a hard line. The Member for Sturt? Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Attorney General.

I refer to the Attorney's remarks on Monday, regarding the Benbrika and others' trial, and I ask the Attorney, weren't those remarks made prior to the conclusion of the jury finishing its deliberations,

hence the criticism by Judge Bongiorno? Do you accept the criticisms of the trial, Judge? The Attorney General? MAN: Hear, hear! Thank you. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the member's question. What I said at the outset in my press conference on Monday, was "The jury is still deliberating", to answer the Member's question, "the jury is still deliberating on charges against two individuals and the court orders remain in place, in respect of those matters, so as such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on detail relating to those matters", so that's an answer to the question. I went on, "However, I welcome the convictions that have been handed down today, and they were in respect of six individuals." For the record, might I say, in respect of the Leader of the Opposition's comments about reckless comments, the Defence Counsel - in a submission that went all bar two pages of transcript - challenged, as I understand it, these two comments, is my understanding. Where I said, "Successful prosecutions are, of course, important, vitally important in sending a clear message to those who may be influenced by violent extremism." That was one quote Defence Counsel took objection to. The second statement that Defence Counsel took objection to - "The seriousness of the offences involved in this case highlights why we must do all we can to ensure the public's security." So they were the two comments that the Defence Counsel, as I say, took exception to in some two pages of transcript. Now, in terms of the member's question, can I say ? and it should be put on the record that we certainly appreciate the work of the Court. Tremendous pressure on the Court, the Judge, the staff and the jury. We recognise the tremendous work. It went from February of this year, over 50 witnesses, 6,000 pages of evidence ?

a tremendous workload undertaken by the - by the Court, but as I indicated in my comments on Monday ? as I indicated in my comments on Monday, as I've indicated in the quote, and I will table it shortly ? I appreciate it and I recognise, and I specifically stated that my comments were not directed at matters still before the Court.

And while Defence Council, I might say - while Defence Council, Mr Speaker - while Defence Counsel, Mr Speaker, has an obligation and a professional obligation to defend the interests of his client, my role as Attorney-General is to ensure public safety. MAN: Hear, hear!

and in the face of six convictions being handed down, I saw it as my role to assure the community that all agencies are working hard to protect the safety of all Australians. The other point I made, and the other point I made in my statement on Monday -

it was and it is important to recognise the role played by members of the Muslim community

in assisting with the investigation. INTERJECTIONS: Hear, hear! In other words, Mr Speaker, while, yes, certainly individuals have been convicted in these proceedings of very serious offences,

this does not reflect upon the Australian Muslim community, generally.

I thought it important to make those points in the context - in the context of widespread media reporting that was inevitably going to occur. Attorney General, resume your seat.

The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order? Mr Speaker, relevance. The Attorney General has been asked - asked about - about the Judge's comments - he's been asked about the Judge's criticism of him, and he has not responded to that, at all.

The Leader of the Opposition will resume his place. The Attorney General? Thank you. I won't not be long in concluding, but it was important to reassure the community. It was also important to specifically acknowledge the assistance provided by Muslim Australians, a fact specifically acknowledged by ? what's it got to do with it? What's it got to do with the issue? In the context where there was to be widespread media coverage of very significant, very alarming events, it was very, very important to ensure that we - we took steps to ensure that the integrity of our vibrant and multicultural society was protected, and it was important, in both respects, to reassure the community. Isn't it the case that by rushing out to get a headline prior to the end of the Benbrika trial, instead of waiting

for its conclusion? MAN: A headline? The Leader of the Opposition has the call. Order. Mr Speaker, I'll start again. The Member for North Sydney's not assisting. The Leader of the Opposition? Order.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Attorney General. Isn't it the case that by rushing out to get a headline prior to the end of the Benbrika trial, instead of waiting for its conclusion, he has put at risk

the outcome of the biggest terrorism trial in our history, and needlessly given a ground of appeal to those convicted? The Leader of the House? Than you, Mr Speaker. The question - it was in contravention of standing order 100(d) (ii), (iii) (v). Order. Many of the questions that are asked in this place contravene a number of those subsections of that standing order, to the extent that the core of the question is order, I call the Attorney General. Thank you, Mr Speaker. For a start, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question, Mr Benbrika's convictions had been confirmed at the time of my statement. If I can refer to - if I can refer to the submissions from the Crown, in our submission, these were made before His Honour -

it is clear from the context of what was said by the Attorney General, that he was there speaking in respect to those counts in which a verdict of guilt had been returned, that is, concluded. In any event, nothing in the passages where he expressed the views he has in our submission,

could reasonably be taken as being in any fashion, an observation upon those counts which were yet to be decided. It is clear enough, we would submit, from the introduction of what he has to say, that he recognises the jury is still deliberating, which I did, and in respect of those,

"It's inappropriate for me to comment on the detail relating to those matters", from myself. It is expressed from what he is saying that he is speaking in respect of counts

that the jury have delivered, and that was most certainly the case. His Honour dismissed the application by the Defence, who I might say, had made a number of applications during the course of these proceedings for the discharge of the jury, and made, in all bar two pages, a submission - two pages of transcript - a submission here.

We have seen the great challenge of terrorism, upon which you would think all sides of this house would be united in a common cause of taking on terrorism. We've seen a prime minister claiming that a sign of his government being tough on terrorism is an attorney-general who stands up and gives a press conference, commenting on a trial the day before the jury has concluded its deliberations and, in so doing, provoking the defence counsel to apply for the jury to be discharged,

results in getting a caning from the trial judge and completely needlessly provides grounds of appeal to the convicted persons. This sort of incompetence is cited by the Prime Minister as an example of being tough on terrorism. Is it tough on terrorism to give appeal points to people convicted of terrorism? I don't think so. A government committed to taking on that challenge ensures that the security services, the police apprehend those persons suspected of terrorism, brings them to trial, sees them convicted and dealt with in accordance with the sentences handed out. What it does not do is provide appeal points for the accused persons having been convicted. Needlessly done so, out of pure incompetence, the Attorney-General put a headline ahead of taking on the challenge of terrorism, and he has been defended today by the Prime Minister, who claims his government is tough on terrorism. 'The Government had a minor victory, when the Senate agreed to again debate the proposed luxury car tax increase. The Greens and Family First both want to make amendments.' Since we have had this legislation before us, I understand that a number of agreements have been reached by the Labor Party and the minor parties in this place in relation to a whole host of things. But when you examine what is being proposed, these people they seek to champion will, in fact, be sold down the creek and some of the amendments are absolutely contradictory. Allow me to go through just some of the examples for the Senate. First of all, we are going to have, according to Family First, an amendment to exempt primary production business. That is very interesting, because primary production as I read it and as defined by this amendment will mean you have to be a registered primary producer under the Income Tax Assessment Act. So if you live in rural Australia

and you happen to be a primary producer - and we all know how hard the times are there - cash-strapped, drought-stricken. They will have to borrow the money to pay the luxury car tax

and then seek a rebate later on and get the money back a month or so later. What a silly, bureaucratic system. How stupid. Why not just exempt them right up-front? This is the sort of nonsense we get when the Labor Party are making policy on the run to try to cobble this together. Then they think rural Australia, farmers - could only be primary producers out there, surely. The problem is that the Labor Party's Primary Industries minister has never set foot in the country areas of Australia. He represents a Sydney outer suburban seat. Has no idea, And, of course, it's clearly shown in this legislation. In rural and regional Australia, you do not only have farmers and primary producers who need four-wheel drives to gain their income. What about the Australia Post contractor that has to get the mail through? What about the vet who has to drive on to the farm to be able to access a cow or a horse that is down?

What about the general practitioner, the doctor? What about the mechanic who has to service the tractor that has broken down in the middle of a paddock? All these people need four-wheel drives for the purposes of earning their income. The Government-Greens proposal tries to provide some exemptions

from this tax hike for fuel-efficient cars,

but it sets a dollar cap on that. You can only have fuel-efficient cars up to $75,000 in value. So if that's your limit of fuel efficiency, then the tax hike kicks in again. As I have said in this place before, Mr Acting Deputy President, when speaking about the solar rebate program,

carbon emissions do not understand means testing. Carbon emissions are not means tested. They do not have threshold caps set to them.

Indeed, in this instance, if the Government is serious about supporting fuel-efficient vehicles and their place in the economy,

and if the Australian Greens are serious about supporting fuel-efficient vehicles and their place in the economy, then they will provide an exemption from the luxury car tax increase for those fuel-efficient vehicles. They will make sure that it covers all potential vehicles on the market. As Senator Bushby was speaking about before, much of the innovation that occurs in the automotive sector occurs in those vehicles at higher prices. Innovation is what we want to see in the automotive sector to get more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road ? increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. To get that innovation we need to be incentivising it at all price brackets, not just have a cop-out amendment that is designed to say, "Well, we have done something for fuel-efficient vehicles. But those that will be at the cutting edge of development, those that will be the most efficient vehicles, the ones that provide the technology we rely on into the future,

well, no. They're not included in any exemption. They still get the full tax hike because this really is just about playing politics to claim to have done something to support fuel-efficient vehicles. So there is the Greens-Government proposed amendment, the bone that was thrown there. No meat on the bone there. And in the Government's insistence on trying to put this through, we've come up with a typical... a horse designed by committee becomes a camel. That is the sort of legislation that is being put up to us this time. This is incredible. We're corralling the Greens and we're corralling other sectors. We've got exemptions there for environmentally friendly cars. We've got exemptions when people have to get rebates, for people who have rural property. That means possibly I will get one, because I am a primary producer, but the person who comes and does the contract farming on my place won't. The person who builds the fence on my place won't. The mechanic who comes to my place won't. They won't get it. No. There's a saying that goes round now that the only tractor you need on a farm these days is a contractor. They are the people who currently the Labor Party think don't exist. So a big thank-you from the absentee landlords like myself to the good people like you for helping us out, but let's just leave the people

who actually do the majority of work on so many places alone. You can't go into a town and start dividing people up. "You are in. You are out. You are in. You are out." Walk down the streets of St George saying, "You'll get an exemption for buying that Toyota wagon to put your family in, but you won't." It is a ridiculous concept. And these are the sort of things that are coming forward. This is also ridiculous on the premise that we now have arbiters elegantiae who are going to determine what is luxury. And we look forward to the Henry Review... What an absolute document of wonder that will be. The Henry Review to discern other things that are luxury. They've already said they will be looking at jewellery and artwork. I look forward to the day when somebody on the other side will be discerning whether my fridge is a luxury fridge

or just a regular old Kelvinator. Which one's it going to be? Some bastion of information of informed light will sit down and ponder the universe as to what is luxury and what is not, and tax me accordingly. That is the sort of ridiculous scenario that we are going to have descend on us. I am sympathetic to initiatives to support the local automotive industry. Keeping the tariffs at 10% is a very significant bulwark for the industry. I also support measures to encourage green cars. I encourage so-called green cars in terms of low-emission vehicles. Let's put this into perspective in terms of the concern raised by Senator Joyce and others. They're very legitimate concerns.

Given that the vast majority of cars subject to this tax are in fact imported, close to 90%, what this will do is - I believe this tax won't diminish the viability of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry,

in fact I think they'll enhance it, because this proposed tax, overwhelmingly, disproportionately impacts on foreign cars. In relation to my concerns about greenhouse emissions, I note the work of the Government and Greens on this matter and foreshadow my support for these amendments pending consideration of the technical aspects and the committee stage. Can I say that while I particularly welcome these amendments and I congratulate the work that Senator Milne has done in relation to this, is that I believe the future of the Australian car industry

lies with green vehicles. That's the future. If we send we price signal now about exemptions for these green low-emissions vehicles, that would send a very strong signal to our manufacturing industry here in Australia to plan for the future. We know what Toyota is doing with the hybrid Camry. That's a good step. I believe that this would really kick-start sales, would make a significant difference by getting rid of that luxury-car tax registration on low-emissions vehicles and with that ceiling of some $75,000. That's the way of the future for motor-vehicle manufacturers in this country. That's the way that we can secure the future of this industry and that is why I believe that this approach, of having those exemptions, is the way to go. That's where our jobs will lie in producing clean, green vehicles. I also foreshadow that I'll be introducing an amendment in the committee stage to address concerns about people who entered into a contract before the announcement of the changes in the luxury-car tax but did not take delivery until after 1st July and hence were liable for the tax. For the benefit of senators, in the initial memo I circulated, there were some issues there for which I'm responsible, that the wording is clearer and that is something I should have addressed earlier but I think that the wording is sufficiently clear to ensure that if a contract was entered into before 13th May,

before the Budget announcement, and delivery took longer than expected, then the tax should not apply.

I see this as a matter of fairness to consumers

and those who entered into a contract in good faith. They should not pay a surprise tax because their vehicle wasn't delivered until after 1st July 2008. 'One MP's beef this week was the size of the stroganoff served in the staff cafeteria.' Parliamentary Secretary has the call. I seek the indulgence of the House to make a very short statement prior to asking you two questions.

Erm... indulgence granted. Last night about 7pm, my wife sought to purchase a hot meal from the staff cafeteria. My wife questioned the little amount of hot food on offer at dinnertime

to customers and she was advised, quote, "That's is it for the the night". Unquote. At 12pm today, my wife questioned the size of the food portion she was offered by the staff at the cafeteria when she ordered beef stroganoff and rice for lunch. My wife was told by cafeteria staff

that management had told staff they had been serving big food portions and the manager had instructed them to make the portions smaller. Staff suggested my wife take this matter up with the cafeteria manager. Upon raising this matter with the manager, the manager took my wife into the kitchen blaming DPS for not making the new provider aware of the impact for the cafeteria during peak periods like Parliamentary sitting and Senate estimates.

Moreover, the cafeteria manager insulted my wife by telling her "If you don't like it, bring your own lunch." He then walked off. My questions to you, Mr Speaker, are - is this the attitude customers have to put up with from the new provider of the staff cafeteria? And would you inquire into these matters? Order.

I thank the Parliament Secretary for his question. I've been made aware of teething problems with both the new contracts. This is... I'll just simply say to the Member for Sturt, as I was going to say to the whole Chamber, it's really got nothing to do with Executive Government.

It's the business of Parliament and the buck stops with me and the President. I'm treating this seriously. The House Committee will be meeting on Monday and the new contracts are well and truly on the agenda. We'll look at mechanisms that we can make sure that all complaints from the serious level of the complaint raised

by the Parliament Secretary through to the all the teething problems that there have been can be looked at in a proper way. I will make sure that the... The Secretary for the Department of Parliament Services will look into the matters raised by the Parliament Secretary and I will get back to him. The Member for Riverina.

Mr Speaker. Following on from the Parliament Secretary's question, or statement, to you and to the House, will the Speaker liaise with the President of the Senate

to issue a survey for members all members and senators, on the quality, the presentation

and the availability of food and to the staff members, to the members of the staff of the House, because they are having to be confronted with

these inadequate catering arrangements. Could the Speaker liaise and issue a survey on this issue? As in indicated to the Member for Riverina,

these are matters that will be raised with the House Committee and they will be dealt with in a way that ensures that there's appropriate and vast consultation. The Member for Warringah. Mr Speaker, lest anyone... Order. ..get the wrong idea, I had a meal in the dining room last night. It was terrific. I want to congratulate the caterers for the job they did. Who are they representing? When the Member the Lowe, ten years in this parliament, raises in the Parliament, like a... Well, I'd be immediately struck out to say that, of course. But when he raises in this parliament, should the matter of the size of the plates of stroganoff -

in the Parliament he raised that. This is a member who represents a great proportion of his electorate of Lowe, a marginal seat from time to time - it has swung between Labor and Liberal - that represents pensioners, working-class people, working families, middle-class, all sorts of people. This is what he brings into the Parliament? And Senator Furner dares raise the question of the politics of envy and Mr Turnbull,

when one of his own members, unprecedented in politics, we have a member who, obviously, government has gone to his head, already the power, the joy, the privilege of government, all the feelings we felt. But I tell you what - I can't remember any Liberal member, rich or poor, ever standing up in the Parliament and raising the issue of the size of the beef stroganoff plates. THEME MUSIC Closed Captions by CSI