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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7146


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:09): I rise for the 81st time in this parliament to oppose a suspension of standing orders moved by those opposite. What we have seen from those opposite in recent times is an attempt by this bloke to remake himself into 'human' Tony. 'Human' Tony, standing up and moving a suspension of standing orders—allegedly more in regret, more in sorrow, than in anger. 'Angry' Tony has been put aside. That Mark Riley moment, the death stare, we have not seen for some time.

The SPEAKER: The member will refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Mr ALBANESE: What we should not do is indulge this Leader of the Opposition and that is why we should not suspend standing orders.

What we did hear from the Leader of the Opposition was the complete absence of a single policy idea. Here we are, the second last sitting day of this term, and not a single policy idea from the Leader of the Opposition or from the Manager of Opposition Business. I will tell you what: over coming months, up until September, they will not be able to get away with having no education policy, having no health policy, having no detailed policy whatsoever. We on this side of the House have a plan for the future of the nation. Those opposite exposed themselves early on when the Leader of the Opposition stood up at the beginning of this debate and he said, 'No-one's interested in the parliament.' He is right that he is not interested in the parliament, but that does not excuse his projection.

What we have had in this parliament today—today the Australian education bills passed the parliament—is a significant reform for the future of our young people. Earlier today, just prior to question time, we had the first stages passed—the second reading—of the 457 legislation. It is important legislation saying simply this: that before a 457 is applied for, we should advertise and see if Australian workers are available first. Not a radical proposition, one would have thought, but of course opposed by those opposite.

The fact is we have engaged for three years in having to put up with the longest dummy spit in Australian political history, because they do not see—it is not that they do not see this government as being legitimate because it is Labor; they do not see any Labor government as being legitimate. They are born to rule, these Tories opposite. Born to rule, so they believe they have a right to the government benches, which is why they failed so dismally during the 17 days of negotiations with the crossbench.

Those opposite also said, 'We know it doesn't work.' Really? Five hundred and ninety pieces of legislation, important reform: putting a price on carbon; the Australian education bills; disability reform; in the area of the environment, the largest ever marine parks in the world; the Tasmanian forestry reforms; aged-care legislation. Right across the whole spectrum we have seen reform pass this House because we have been prepared to engage in serious policy debates. The future is not assured, it cannot be taken for granted. That is why you have to do the hard work.

And we on this side of the House do have a philosophical difference to those opposite. We believe that government has the ability to empower people and opportunity. We believe that government can play a positive role in people's lives. Those opposite think if government just gets out of the way and leaves it to market forces, it will all be okay. There is the fundamental difference. However, the carbon sceptics have also become the market sceptics. On the other side of the House they have no plan for the future, only three-word slogans. They are policy lightweights. They have no costings of any policies—they are trying to skate through to the election—and yet we have criticism from them of this government's performance.

Well, let's just see. Let's do a comparison of how this Treasurer has delivered in terms of the Australian economy. Have a look at this: federal Labor, 5.1 per cent; under Howard, 6.4. That was the monthly average. That sounds better. Inflation: 2.5 per cent under us; 2.6 under them. That sounds better. Home loan mortgage rate: 6.4 compared with 7.3. That sounds better. Household savings: 8.9 per cent compared with 2.3. That sounds better. Tax as a percentage of GDP: 22 per cent rather than 23.4 per cent. It reached a high of 24.2 under those opposite. That sounds better as well. Government spending: average annual growth under us, 2.9; under them, 3.3—larger government spending under the Howard government. The investment pipeline is $560 billion under us; it was $213 billion when we took office. That sounds better as well.

On infrastructure, my portfolio, we were ranked as a nation 20th out of 25 OECD countries when I got sworn in as the minister. Now we are second in the world, creating future productivity growth. Those opposite are not quite sure whether Infrastructure Australia is a good idea or whether they should claim it and say they are going to create it—a farcical situation!

Why shouldn't we suspend standing orders? Why do I raise those figures? Because they are trying to knock off their own MPI, which would have been raised if they had just sat there and is from the shadow Treasurer on the 'adverse impact of the government's economic policies on confidence'. No wonder they do not want a debate about economic policy. They come in here and move a suspension rather than have an MPI debate on economic policy, because we know that they have absolutely nothing to say.

What we saw from them today, on the day that Barack Obama made a historic speech about tackling climate change and just after China started an ETS that is bigger than ours, was bizarre. In that context, and on the second last day here, you can imagine their tactics committee this morning: 'I know—we haven't had a crack about climate change for a while, let's have a go.'

Well, let's have a look at what the figures are, because the markets were going to collapse! The stock market is up 17.5 per cent. The value of shares on the ASX is up $200 billion. The official cash rate is down by 0.75 per cent. Employment is up 164,000. House prices are up 1.7 per cent and the value of housing stock is up $68 billion. Success after success.

What they tried to do today was have it both ways. They tried to again move a disruptive suspension of standing orders, but they tried to have 'polite' Tony and 'not quite as polite' Chris—because Chris doesn't do polite! They are trying to wipe from history the actions of the suspensions of standing orders and the fact that this bloke 'brutal' Tony went outside to that disgraceful demonstration with those signs about the Prime Minister and was prepared to stand out there and demand an immediate election. And that is what we have seen for three years from those opposite.

They said this parliament would not work. They are still saying that now even though, demonstrably, it has, and it has a proud legislative record over the last three years. But now, instead of standing in front of those signs that none of them noticed, instead of 'agro' Tony in here, they are trying in the lead-up to the election—

The SPEAKER: The member will refer to members by their appropriate titles.

Mr ALBANESE: to see him go into a very small ball, a very small target, and sneak through without any policies and without any focus. Well, I tell you what: during this coming election campaign this Leader of the Opposition will have to put forward his policies—he will have to find them on education, on health, on aged care, on infrastructure and on the environment. It is not good enough to say, 'No, no, no, no, no,' for all the weeks of an election campaign. He will have to actually stand up and put forward his alternative vision. We are happy to take on that debate today, tomorrow, next week, next month right up to September. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion to suspend standing orders be agreed to. On complete indulgence, I welcome my mum to the chamber!

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.