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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1116

Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (21:03): History will harshly judge the events of the last three days. These events have clearly shown that the Gillard government is divided and dysfunctional, consumed in personal acrimony and internal feuding. The nation witnessed a degree of bitterness the likes of which we have never seen before, uncontrollable adversity like children fighting over who gets the last raspberry lollipop.

We now know that when the Prime Minister and Treasurer crowed about the so-called effective governance in 2008 and 2009, they were words to convince themselves as much as to reassure the Australian public. We were told by the Prime Minister in 2010 that Mr Rudd was an outstanding foreign minister travelling the globe in a way which rivalled any former foreign minister, embarking on some 26-plus overseas trips crossing all continents. It would be reasonable to question whether it was to keep some distance between them. After the faceless men orchestrated the removal of Prime Minister Rudd for Ms Gillard, Australians were assured that the ALP caucus, and more importantly the Australian government, was united and focused. We continued to hear that cabinet was functioning well and that this reformed family were 'happy little Vegemites'.

How can we believe the current assurances from the Prime Minister and her government that division and dysfunction are things of the past, and that the blood spilt over the last few days has stopped? Sadly the reality is that Australians cannot believe what Labor says about itself and that is why they want their say at a ballot box, and the sooner the better. The moving of the deckchairs does not change the fundamental policy decisions of this government: the imposition of a carbon tax, the stripping of the private health insurance rebates, plundering our economic reserves with heightened uncertainty about jobs and the increased cost of living. Instead of focusing on the interests of the Australian people, we now know that the Gillard Labor government has been focused on itself.

The events of the last week have been broadcast around the world and will have affected our standing in the international community. Every indication is that Labor has a divisive future. Mr Rudd warned that Labor will settle old scores in coming weeks when he said:

… what I already sense is the emergence of round two of the campaign.

Minister Martin Ferguson also warned that the faceless men are still in charge:

They're at work today and they'll be at work in the future because they just cannot help themselves.

In caucus only yesterday Mr Rudd reportedly promised to protect Ms Gillard from a third challenge later in the term. And Prime Minister Gillard refuses to make any promise to protect Rudd supporters from retribution in her next reshuffle.

Over the summer in Victoria the Australian Open had many tense moments, but this does not compare. The game in Melbourne was a marathon and this one was an even greater marathon, but the end is not in sight. We are at deuce again, and the players are as determined as ever to be the victors. For them a lot is at stake here. Probably most damaging is how each player will be remembered, but for the rest of us what is really at stake is a stable and thriving economy. My electorate office, which is in the heart of Deakin, the home to the Labor member of parliament Mike Symon, has been inundated with phone calls, emails and visits from people demanding an immediate election. This outpouring has moved me to draft a petition to the parliament. The sentiment of the people insists that the Prime Minister holds a general election so that they and not the feuding individuals of the Labor Party may decide who governs our country. I encourage anyone who shares this sentiment to contact my office, and to those who are listening to this broadcast I will gladly provide a copy of this petition.