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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7598


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (15:39): We knew something was happening yesterday when the Prime Minister said the announcement of the details—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! Is the honourable member going to second the motion?

Mr HOCKEY: I have seconded the motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have not, but now you have.

Mr HOCKEY: I signed a piece of paper that seconded it. We knew something was happening yesterday when the Prime Minister said that the details of the carbon tax would be released in the fullness of time while, at the same time, Senator Christine Milne was on Sky News saying it would be released at the end of the week. The Prime Minister started question time today compĀ­laining that we had lost the opportunity to ask 136 questions by moving suspensions. I say to the Australian people: it is not the questions that are being asked; it is the answers that are not being given. That is accountability; that is what this parliament is for.

Now we have a general strike in the government. There are a whole lot of union officials on that side, but I never thought they would call the whole government out on strike. They have done it today. They have refused to answer questions about the details of something they have decided on and partially announced but which they want to announce outside of the parliamentary cycle. They are doing that to avoid the scrutiny of the Australian people in the parliament. They are doing it because they are cowards. They are running away from the scrutiny of parliament. I cannot recall any prime minister in living memory who has run away from the parliament and scurried out of the chamber rather than face scrutiny of their own policies. Would Keating have done it?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Would Hawke have done it?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Would Whitlam have done it?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Would Chifley have done it?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Would Curtin have done it?

Opposition members: No!

Mr HOCKEY: Would Menzies or Holt or Fraser have done it? No—because they were men of courage. They were people with principles. We have a weak, insipid Prime Minister who is scared of scrutiny. She is more interested in getting free airtime on commercial TV on Sunday night than she is in actually answering questions in this place.

But hang on! All is good—Wayne Swan is right behind her! We can all rest easy—Australia is in safe hands! If the Prime Minister drops the ball at first slip, we have a great second slipper, right up there with Allan Border—Wayne Swan, the Treasurer. We asked the Treasurer whether boats would have a fuel tax. He could not answer the question. We asked about trucks. He could not answer the question. We asked about oil refineries today. He could not answer the question. We even gave the Leader of the House a question and he could not answer it. He said, 'Wait five days.' What a coward we have at the dispatch box too! What a wimp! You know what I bet? I bet he does not know. I reckon the member for New England can answer and I reckon the member for Lyne can answer, because they are the architects of the carbon tax, together with the Greens and the Prime Minister.

The fundamental point, the problem this Prime Minister has, is this: the questions we are asking in this place are the questions her own backbenchers are being asked by their constituents. The Prime Minister knows that if she announced all the details of the carbon tax today and she could not answer the questions in this place over the next few days the knives would be out. All the backbench members—the member for Reid, the member for Greenway, the member for Banks over there—are being asked simple questions as to whether the carbon tax applies to trucks, whether it applies to landscaping and whether and how it applies to electricity. They are being asked by their constituents the same questions that we are being asked, and we are asking those questions in this place. The Prime Minister and, more alarmingly, the Treasurer and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency cannot answer those basic questions. Instead, they go to rhetoric. Instead, they talk about the battlers buffer. Let me tell you—the battlers buffer is the battlers bluff. It is about the fact that the Labor Party wants to increase the cost of living for everyday Australians but it does not want to be accountable for its words and actions.

This parliament is the place where the questions must be asked; this is the place where the questions must be answered. If we are going to have to suffer an inglorious end to this prime ministership and this government, so be it. We will ask the questions for the Australian people and the Australian people demand some real answers.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I call the Leader of the House.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Honourable members on my left will remain silent. I issue a general warning to honourable members on my left.