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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 3898

Carbon Pricing

Mining

Asylum Seekers


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's press conference of three years ago today, the day after she displaced the elected Prime Minister by a midnight coup, in which she justified her behaviour by telling the Australian people that the government had, in her words, 'lost its way'. In particular, she nominated three problems her government would solve: namely, the problem of carbon pricing, the problem of the mining tax and the problem of irregular maritime arrivals. Which of those problems does the government consider have now been solved?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:01): I thank Senator Brandis for his question. At the first press conference, the Prime Minister was asked what her priorities were. She replied:

My priority as we look through the issues of the Government is to make sure that in every area we are working hard for Australian families, we are working hard for those Australians who work hard themselves; who set the alarm clock early, who get up in the morning, get the kids to school and go to work and work hard. I want to make sure that we are working with them.

And that is exactly what this government has achieved. Labor in government has kept our economy strong in the face of the global financial crisis. The economy is 14 per cent larger now than it was when we came to government, outperforming other advanced economies. The cash rate is very low at 2.75 per cent, lower than at any time under the last Liberal government. Let me just repeat that: the cash interest rate is lower than at any time under those previous. The unemployment, at 5.5 per cent, is well below the OECD average of eight per cent. And we continue to enjoy a AAA credit rating from each of the three leading rating agencies, something those opposite in government never achieved. (Time expired)


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that, in the year prior to Ms Gillard's backstabbing of the elected Prime Minister, the number of irregular maritime arrivals was 6,606 people on 140 boats and that in the three years since Ms Gillard became Prime Minister the number has been 38,504 on 596 boats, hasn't this problem got much, much worse, not better, on Ms Gillard's watch?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:05): Those opposite continue to want to denigrate at every opportunity this government. That is their preferred position. They have no policy agenda of their own; no policy agenda whatsoever. They do not want to use question time to ask about DisabilityCare; they do not want—

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. Concededly, the primary question was broad and the minister was given a lot of latitude. But the first supplementary question is only about the blow-out in the number of irregular maritime arrivals on Ms Gillard's watch. It is neither directly nor even indirectly relevant for the minister merely to critique the question and abuse the opposition on topics that do not have anything to do with irregular maritime arrivals.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on the point of order: as Senator Brandis conceded, the primary question had a wide ambit. There was quite a lot of political rhetoric in both the primary question and the first supplementary. Senator Brandis, in putting a question like that, should anticipate getting a response that deals with refuting some of the political accusations that were included in it.

The PRESIDENT: I draw the minister's attention to the question.

Senator CONROY: When it comes to the boat issues, Mr Abbott has consistently said, 'It has been done before; it can be done again.' But he has no workable plan to achieve this objective. Before the 2010 election, the Leader of the Opposition said: 'In the end it would be a prime ministerial decision. It will be the government's call based on the advice of the naval commander on the spot when it comes to turning around the boats.'






Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that the carbon tax, which Ms Gillard solemnly promised never to introduce, has had no impact on global temperatures and the mining tax has collected negligible revenue, how does the government consider that those problems have been solved? Isn't it the case that the Gillard government has completely failed to achieve any of the outcomes that Ms Gillard put forward as the justification for backstabbing an elected Prime Minister?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:06): Senator Brandis is suffering from amnesia, as some of the interjections from behind me suggested. He must have been missing from the cabinet discussion when they took a policy position to price carbon, because each and every one of those opposite signed up to support a carbon price.

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator CONROY: Oh, 'subject to'. You were in the room, Senator Abetz. No, he was not in the cabinet. My apologies for defaming you, or defaming your cabinet, by suggesting you were. Those opposite have no genuine interest whatsoever in pricing carbon today. They have run an outrageous campaign of smears, lies and innuendo about the impact. Remember the python—remember all of the animals— (Time expired)