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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1011

Gillard Government

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): My question is directed to Senator Evans, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's press conference yesterday and, in particular, to her statement, 'The political drama is over.' Can the minister explain how the political drama is over when absolutely nothing has changed? The faceless men are still in charge, relationships across the government are still broken, the carbon tax is still in place, the cost of living is still going up and the boats keep on coming. Is this not just the same bad Labor government with the same bad policies led by the same untrustworthy Prime Minister?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:02): Senator Brandis continues in the vein that the opposition struck yesterday, and it seems to me that they should have got over it yesterday. The best the opposition can do is again to seek to try to muckrake and make cheap political points. Aren't you interested in jobs? Aren't you interested in the economy? Aren't you interested in education? Aren't you interested in health?

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. On the question of direct relevance: I know the minister has only been going for 25 seconds, but you have ruled before that ritualised abuse of the opposition is not relevant. The fact that the opposition chooses to call attention to the fact that the government is falling apart before our eyes is surely something which is entitled to a directly relevant response.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: I rise in support of ritualised abuse of the opposition—I think it has a lot to commend it! The question from Senator Brandis was wide-ranging political drivel, and I suspect he will get a response in a similar vein.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, you are quite correct: 25 seconds have been taken up answer in the question. The question is wide-ranging—

Senator Ian Macdonald: He hasn't gone anywhere near it; he's just abused the opposition.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I do not need your interruption. The question has been asked of the minister, and I have ruled that there is no point of order. The minister has one minute and 35 seconds remaining.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: In representing the Prime Minister and the education minister in this place, I expected to get serious questions about the Gonski report—a serious policy issue confronting Australia of how we fund and support schools, how we educate our children and how we ensure that they get the best chance in life. But do I hear a question about the Gonski report? No. Do I hear a question about tertiary education, about skills, about science and research? No. What I get is political rhetoric from Senator Brandis.

The tactics committee spent all morning writing this list of rhetorical abuse and criticism of the government when I think the Australian people are more interested in issues to do with the education of their children and issues to do with the health of their families. They are interested in jobs, the economy and the government's plans to continue to grow our economy and create opportunities. I think the Australian people will look at these sorts of questions and say: 'What's happened the Liberal Party? Why have they so lost the plot that they think this sort of political nonsense is of any interest to us?' They want to know what the government is doing and why we are focused on the economy, jobs, health and education. I suggest that the opposition ask some serious questions of the government if they take their role seriously.

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the resignation of Senator Arbib from the ministry and from the Senate yesterday. Given the standard set by Senator Arbib yesterday—that only by resigning would he 'heal' the Labor Party—should Senator Conroy, Senator Feeney, Senator Farrell and the other faceless men who were part of the coup against Mr Rudd resign as well, or is retribution against those with the honesty to question the Prime Minister's leadership part of the Labor Party's twisted definition of healing?

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order!

Senator CHRIS EVANS: As I pointed out yesterday, Senator Brandis was famous for calling the former Prime Minister Mr Howard a lying rodent. He is also well known for plotting against Mr Abbott's succession to the leadership of the Liberal Party. Senator Conroy was wrong—Senator Brandis never made cabinet, and I hope he never does.

I am deeply saddened at Minister Abib's resignation. He has served this government very well. He has been a huge contributor. He is passionate about issues such as Indigenous employment, homelessness—and sport, I might add. He has made a tremendous contribution to this Labor government. He is a very capable young man. I urged him not to go but he has, for his own reasons—he has made those public—chosen to stand down. It is a loss to the Labor Party and to the Senate but I wish him well.

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If the Prime Minister was confident to test her support with her Labor colleagues yesterday, why is she not confident to test her support with the Australian people so that she can end the poison, once and for all, and restore stable and competent government to Australia?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): The Prime Minister will test her position with the Australian people at the end of this parliamentary term in the normal way. This government will serve its full term. It has been elected by the people. It has formed government in the House of Representatives. It has absolute legitimacy.

The Prime Minister has the support of her party and this government will go to the election in the second half of next year and seek re-election. I am confident, as we implement our policies such as the carbon price and the mining tax, that we will get the support of the Australian people for another term, because we stand for something. We have a program and we have policies. And we also budget for our policies. We do not have a $70 billion black hole. We have policies that will benefit the Australian people and we will take those policies to the people in the normal course of events.