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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 205

Mrs D’ATH (4:28 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, may I congratulate you on your new appointment. I certainly welcome the opportunity to speak on this MPI. I have to say that I did enjoy the theatrical performance by the previous speaker, the member for Curtin. There was even reference made to Shakespeare in that performance. Maybe there should be an appointment for the member to shadow minister for the arts after that! We heard the member for Curtin make a lot of reference to the word ‘desperate’. However, can I say that this matter of public importance shows the serious desperation of the opposition. Their latest strategy of criticising the Labor government for failures on election commitments has to be looked at in the context of truth and honesty and the mover of this matter of public importance.

Let us look at the mover of this MPI and the matter of honesty. The Leader of the Opposition, in talking to this MPI today, referred to the prosperity that people came to expect under the Howard government. We all remember the slogan ‘Australians have never been better off’. We also remember the slogan ‘Interest rates would be kept at record lows under the Howard government’. This is the same government who squandered the resources boom and who ensured that Australians were left worse off under Work Choices. We heard the Leader of the Opposition actually say that you cannot believe his own words: it is not the gospel truth unless it is in writing. Now we hear that, when it is in writing—when it is signed by the Leader of the Opposition in good faith—that cannot be trusted either. We hear from the opposition that a signature to a document is an informal arrangement, whereas I and many institutions, including the legal institutions in this country, believe that a signed agreement entered into in good faith is actually a formal, binding document on the parties. But the Leader of the Opposition and his party say that it is an informal arrangement and that they can pick and choose what they want to stand by.

When we talk about truth and honesty we should talk about Work Choices. We do not need to go back to the Howard government to talk about this; we need only go back to the budget reply by the Leader of the Opposition in 2010—this year; only a matter of months before the election—when he stood at the dispatch box and said: ‘In government the Liberal Party would reintroduce individual agreements and scrap unfair dismissal laws.’ He said he would do that as Prime Minister of this country. Then he changed slightly and said, ‘Work Choices is dead’. Then—and I will use the member for Curtin’s reference—the Leader of the Opposition said he may be willing to change policy if he whiffs a bit of change in the political breeze. Well, there was certainly a whiff in the air, because when the election came around Work Choices was dead, buried and cremated. We even saw the Leader of the Opposition put that in writing.

The level of desperation that the opposition party stooped to and the level of credibility that it has with the Australian public became, I think, very evident when I and other residents in my electorate started to receive in our letterboxes a flyer from the Liberal Party saying that ‘Work Choices was dead, buried and cremated.’ What does it say about a party’s credibility when it believes that it needs to spend money on distributing a flyer telling people what it is not going to do? So I think we need to put this whole debate in the context of the truth and honesty from the Leader of the Opposition.

I welcome this debate because it talks about climate change and about the truth of climate change. The Labor Party made it very clear prior to the election in 2007 and prior to the election in 2010 that we were committed to dealing with climate change in this country—and we continue to stand by that position. We held that position before the election in 2010 and we hold that position today. We make no apologies that, as a party in government and in a hung parliament, we sat down and negotiated with the crossbenchers. The crossbenchers had positions on a range of issues, including climate change. They wanted to see a party in this parliament that was genuine about addressing climate change. We make no apologies for having those discussions and for reaching an agreement with the crossbenchers that we would form a committee and genuinely sit down and look at the issue of a carbon tax and climate change. If the opposition were genuine they would put up representatives to sit on that committee and talk through these important issues in the national interest.

When we talk about honesty, we should also go back to the position that the Liberal Party held in the lead-up to the 2007 election. They told the Australian people that they were committed to an emissions trading scheme. They went to the election with that. The Labor Party also went to the 2007 election with a commitment to an emissions trading scheme. After the election in 2007, the Liberal Party walked away—not straight away—from their position. They pretended to be genuine about it for quite a while. They even had a shadow minister sit with the government and negotiate a carbon pollution reduction scheme, and they reached an agreement with the Labor Party to introduce a bill in this House for a carbon pollution reduction scheme. But the Liberal and the National parties were so opposed to recognising the importance of climate change that they chose to roll their leader.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting

Mrs D’ATH —I am hearing from the member for Indi about electricity and water prices and that the Australian public should be very concerned about increases in electricity and water prices. I heard the Liberal candidate in my electorate talk about what they would do to try to put pressure on to reduce water and electricity prices and that Liberal candidate at a public forum said, ‘We control the funding on health and education to the state governments, so we can put pressure on state governments.’ I think we have heard this before. I think there was a billion dollars ripped out of the health system trying to put pressure on state governments. So the member for Indi agrees that we should actually cut health and education funding out of the state systems so that we can try to reduce water and electricity prices.

Mrs Mirabella —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I would ask the member for Petrie to withdraw that comment. It was an absolute and deliberate misrepresentation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—The member for Indi finds it offensive. If the member for Petrie would like to assist the House, she might like to withdraw that.

Mrs D’ATH —Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw. What I can say about election commitments is that the Labor government did deliver in its first term of government. It delivered a 50 per cent increase under the national health agreement to the health system. We committed to improving education by delivering computers in our schools. I am pleased to say that over 90 per cent of computers have already been delivered to secondary schools in the electorate of Petrie and we still have almost 18 months left to deliver on that policy program. We said that we would deliver on trade training centres and I have trade training centres being built in the electorate of Petrie right now. We have new science and language centres in our schools. We have a national curriculum being developed right now under consultation with our schools across this country. We are working to improve education. I am proud of the halls and libraries that we have in our schools across the electorate of Petrie and across this country. This has provided state-of-the-art facilities for our schools and for our schoolchildren and for our broader community.

We said that we would deliver on infrastructure and we have delivered more in the first term of government than the opposition did in 11 years, and we have much more to deliver. I am very proud of the fact that we will be delivering the Petrie to Kippa-Ring rail line in the electorate of Petrie. That will also benefit people in the electorates of Dickson and Longman. These are just some of the commitments that we have made. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —Order! The discussion has concluded.