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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 615

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (3:10 PM) —I seek leave to move a motion of censure against the Prime Minister.

Leave not granted.

Mr ABBOTT —I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Warringah moving the following motion forthwith: That this House censures the Prime Minister for dishonouring the solemn pledges he made to the Australian people and for now walking away from those promises after being forced to admit he can’t keep them and they should never have been made in the first place, and:

(1)   in particular for promising:

(a)   in this House that no working family would be worse off as a consequence of the Government’s industrial relations law changes when day by day, we have examples of workers losing pay at a time when the cost of living is increasing;

(b)   to fix public hospitals, or take them over, and having done neither, by now walking away from his promise to give the Australian people more say in how their health system is run;

(c)   to help everyday Australians cope with rising costs of living yet failing to help families and pensioners manage increasingly tight household budgets including the failure of his flawed FuelWatch and GroceryChoice schemes;

(d)   to do something about homelessness and indigenous housing when after two years, communities are still in crisis; and

(e)   to leave the superannuation system alone, in his own words, “no change to the superannuation laws, one jot, one tiddle”, before then ripping $4 billion out of superannuation and slashing the Superannuation Co-contribution Scheme for low and middle income earners; but

(2)   most of all:

(a)   for trying to obscure the truth behind many of his Government’s policies with a wall of incomprehensive words and an army of spin-doctors when all the Australian people want is simple, straightforward answers about the issues that affect them and a real plan to pay off debt, safeguard the economy, protect jobs and take this country forward.

What we have seen today is a Prime Minister who is deceptive, a Prime Minister who is weak and a Prime Minister who, above all else, is tricky with the Australian public. On three important issues, we have tried to bring this Prime Minister and this government to account in the House today. First of all, we have tried to bring the Prime Minister to account on his broken promise to fix the public hospital system by the middle of 2009 and, if it is not fixed, to take over the public hospital system. Of all the commitments that this Prime Minister made prior to the last election, I believe this was the most significant. The Australian people know that the state Labor governments have been mismanaging public hospitals for years and years. This Prime Minister was going to be different. He came before the Australian public and said, ‘I’m going to fix this.’ Remember? He said, ‘The buck will stop with me, and, if the states have not fixed the problem by the middle of 2009, I’m going to take them over.’

Well, that was 2007; 2009 has come and gone; 2010 is well and truly here. What did we have the Australian Prime Minister tell the Australian people in this parliament today? Isn’t he a brave man! Isn’t he a man for decisive action! He said, ‘We’ll seek to achieve a compromise with the states.’ Here he is, ‘Courageous Kevin’, the man who was going to take the public hospital system over. What does he say today? He does not offer us a takeover; he offers us a decision-making framework. Here he is, the lifelong bureaucrat, addicted to process, committees, reviews and liaison—this is the stuff of his life. He told us today that, yes, there will be a bold plan, but after the states and territories have reached their decision. He wants to be bold; it is just that the states and territories are holding him back. This is a man who cannot do anything without the agreement of the states and territories—and the public are absolutely sick of it.

Then, of course, we had the superannuation promise—not one jot, not one tittle of change will be made to the superannuation system. We know that $4 billion was ripped out, we know that the co-contribution scheme was drastically changed in the last budget. What does big brave Kevin say on radio last Friday? He says, ‘Oh, just a bit of finetuning.’ You know, something is hovering over this Prime Minister: core promises. This is a man who is dishonest with the Australian people, and now he is slipping and sliding and twisting and turning, engaging in sneaky word games to try and get out of the responsibility that he has for breaking the solemn pledges that he has made to the Australian people.

Of all the things that the Australian public are concerned about, of all the things that working families are concerned about, there is nothing so much as their take-home pay. There is nothing so important to the working families of this country as the take-home pay of their breadwinners. This is a prime minister who stood up and said time and time again that nothing that the government does will hurt the take-home pay of Australian workers. He said it in parliament; he said it out of parliament. And it was not just him and it was not just in relation to the government’s transitional bill; it was plainly in relation to the government’s substantive bill. I quote the Deputy Prime Minister:

I can certainly guarantee that there’s nothing in the operations of Labor’s system that is going to make people worse off.

And didn’t she get nailed by Laurie Oakes on Sunday! Wasn’t that the toughest interview and didn’t you see, Mr Speaker, all of a sudden the wind knocked right out of her sails? She knows that she and the Prime Minister are guilty of a gross deception against the Australian people.

Let us just run through it. You have got hospitality workers in many states, not exactly rich people earning $150,000 a year in the eyes of the government; these are people who are lucky to earn $20 an hour, and in some states they going to be $3 an hour worse off as a result of this government’s changes, as a result of this government’s broken promise. We heard a lot of posturing from the Minister for Health and Ageing and from the Prime Minister today about the alleged wrongs of the former government. Who are just about the hardest working people and most decent and honourable people in our community but nurses, particularly nurses in aged care, and those aged care nurses are going to be up to $300 a week worse off as a result of this government’s changes. It is a flagrant breach of the government’s promise. Members opposite like to talk about Work Choices. The nurses union says that the government’s scheme is worse than Work Choices, and it is. We would never have ripped $300 a week out of the wages of the good, honest working people of this country.

The Prime Minister has plainly misled the parliament by claiming that no-one is going to be worse off under his scheme when plainly people are very, very much worse off under his scheme. Let me just say this. The most solemn principle that must be adhered to by members of this place is: do not mislead this parliament. I cite none other authority than Gough Whitlam himself: ‘The principle is that the parliament must be able to accept assurances given to it by a minister. If those assurances prove to be misleading, the minister concerned must be held responsible. He must resign.’ Let us not be content with Gough. I am quoting the Prime Minister himself:

Trust in any democracy is a fragile thing, and trust is based on truth. If you fracture truth, you fracture the trust upon which it is based.

That is the Prime Minister himself. He has failed his own test, and he deserves to be censured. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?