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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6110

Mr ANDREWS (3:36 PM) —The opposition oppose this motion, just as we opposed the giving of leave in the first place. This is an abuse of the parliamentary processes by the Minister for Health and Ageing and now by the Leader of the House. They think they can come in here every day in the way we have seen from the Leader of the House and just abuse the parliamentary process, and the opposition are not going to stand for it. We had it today in this sectarian attack by the minister for health, repeating what she said a week ago, and this was passing somehow as parliamentary debate. It is disgusting.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, this is a suspension so as to allow the minister to speak for 10 minutes. They are taking more time in debating the procedures than in debating the substance, which says it all.

The SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The Leader of the House will resume his seat. The member for Menzies has the call.

Mr ANDREWS —I am speaking against the motion that was moved by the Leader of the House. I put to the House that this is an abuse of the processes of the House, given the attitude that has been taken by this minister in relation to these matters. What we have had from this minister today is an attempt to engage in a tirade of abuse against the opposition rather than debate matters of significance and importance to the people of Australia. It is for that reason that we opposed giving leave to the minister in the first place and it is for that reason we are opposed to this motion by the Leader of the House.

This is a matter which is still before the parliament in other realms. It is a matter which could be debated in a proper setting within this House. But we do not get that. We simply have the minister coming in here at question time with the attitude that she has taken. Now she is being backed up by the Leader of the House, who says, ‘We’ll just waltz this through; we’ll just push it through.’ They are using the usual thuggery that we get from the Leader of the House in this place towards all matters of parliamentary procedure.

As far as we on this side of this House are concerned, we are going to make a stance for proper parliamentary performance and we are going to make a stance against the abuse of the processes and the procedures of this parliament which is so typically engaged in by the Leader of the House.

The Leader of the National Party did not give leave for the reasons that he gave. For those reasons, we are not going to allow this parliament to be used for a tirade of personal abuse from the minister for health, which we have seen her engage in before. She simply wants to bring up a personal attack against the Leader of the Opposition. She did it at the end of a question today and she did it last week in question time. There was nothing of substance; nothing about this government’s proposals for health.

And when she gets a serious question asked about health by the shadow minister—for example, about why Dr John Mendoza resigned saying that he was disgusted with the attitude of the minister in relation to this minister—there is no answer from her and no answer from the Prime Minister, who simply waffles on for minute after minute as per usual in question time. He could not even name Professor Mendoza yesterday—one of the most significant medical advisers, the Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health. He sent a letter to the government saying that he was stepping down. Why was he stepping down? He said that it was because the whole approach of this government to mental health was a disgrace and had no vision whatsoever.

Worse than that, he said that what the government was doing—as we know is typical—was claiming for itself the programs and the policy expenditure that had been put into place by the previous government. And the Prime Minister could not even mention Professor Mendoza when he was asked in here why such an illustrious leader in the mental health field in Australia had resigned. It was because of the shabby treatment of mental health policy and programs under this minister.

What do we get from this minister? She comes in here thinking that it is great for her. She thought, ‘I will make a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition.’ That is what she is about. She cannot come in here and defend her failure to provide adequate funding for mental health programs in Australia; she cannot come in here and say, ‘This is the way in which we’re going forward so far as health is concerned in Australia.’ All she can do is come in here and engage in a foul sectarian attack on the person and the character of the Leader of the Opposition. That is what we have had.

It is for that reason that the opposition did not give leave to this minister and it is for that reason that we will vote against this thuggish motion from the Leader of the House, who thinks that ministers should be able to waltz in here and engage in personal tirades against the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow health minister, which is what they seek to do day after day rather than doing anything substantially so far as healthcare funding in Australia is concerned. If there is any greater example of that, it is composed in this letter from Professor John Mendoza, one of the most illustrious leaders in mental health in this country. He said that there has been a shabby approach from this minister and this government so far as mental health is concerned.

This is what he said today:

On Friday I resigned my position as the head advisor to the Rudd Government on mental health. And it’s because of stories like Mary’s and my frustration over the Government’s failure to do more to prevent them.

So, today I’m taking the unusual step of writing to you through GetUp—

GetUp—do you remember them on the other side?—

to ask you to sign this petition, because I’ve come to the regrettable conclusion that my advice was not getting through—only public pressure will spur politicians into action.

This is Professor Mendoza.

Mr Melham interjecting

Mr ANDREWS —Are you seeking to deny his reputation, Member for Banks? This is Professor Mendoza, a person chosen by this government for his ability, knowledge and expertise so far as mental health is concerned. He has been reduced to resigning, and the Prime Minister dare not mention his name in this parliamentary chamber. In order to get his concerns and the concerns of thousands and millions of Australians through to this thick headed government, Professor Mendoza is asking people on GetUp to start protesting and petitioning this government because of their absolutely disgusting failure of performance so far as mental health in this country is concerned.

If you want to have a debate about these issues, we will have a debate about these issues—and not using the sorts of personal tirades that we get question time after question time from the minister for health. They are why we are saying no. Do not abuse this chamber; do not abuse this parliament. Let us deal with your failures so far as mental health and the health system in Australia are concerned.

This is a motion to allow Roxon, the minister for health, to speak for 10 minutes only, to come in here and thuggishly say that we are going to have another tirade against the government. We have said: ‘No, we object to that. We object your personal approach to these things, Minister.’

The SPEAKER —Order! The shadow minister will refer his remarks through the chair.

Mr ANDREWS —Mr Speaker, I refer them through the chair out of deference to you. What I am saying through you, Mr Speaker, is that we object to this approach by this minister. This is a disgusting approach by this minister. It is a regrettable approach by this minister. It is another opportunity for this government simply to engage in a tirade of personal abuse. We have had enough of the personal abuse from the Leader of the House and others in this government. So far as we are concerned, your abject failure so far as mental health in Australia is concerned is an indication of the total incompetence of this government that cannot deliver a program and that engages in overblown rhetoric day in, day out—and yet the people of Australia are waking up every day and finding out that promises which have been made are simply not capable of being delivered by this government. The reality is that this motion should be opposed.