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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13799


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:16): by leave—I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion forthwith:

That this House censure the Prime Minister for presiding over a deceptive, dysfunctional and directionless government.

An opposition member: Are you going to stay, Albo?

Mr ABBOTT: Look who has suddenly decided to stay in the chamber today!

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: This is the fourth anniversary of the Rudd-Gillard government. This very day marks four years since the Rudd-Gillard government won an election. Not only is it the birthday no-one wants to celebrate; it is the birthday no-one opposite even wants to remember—do they? They do not even want to remember it. The reason they do not want to remember it is that they do not want to think of the Minister for Foreign Affairs getting any kudos or any credit or any spotlight.

So what they have done today, rather than humbly note their achievements—if that be what they are called—over the last four years, is that they have actually celebrated their fourth birthday in such a typical way, with one of the most squalid manoeuvres, one of the most sordid political fixes, that this parliament has seen in many a long year. I thought when I caught wind of what was happening earlier today that maybe this was the work of a new genius imported from Scotland—Macbeth to the rescue of Lady Macbeth. That is what I thought: Macbeth to the rescue of Lady Macbeth. But, no, it is all her work.

What we have seen in this parliament today is all of a piece with the lack of judgment, the lack of principle and the lack of standards that we have seen from this Prime Minister ever since she came into office—and which we would not have seen, for all his faults, from the former Prime Minister. The member for Griffith had his faults, but he did not lack standards, he did not lack idealism and he did not lack commitment to the Labor Party of the sort that we have seen from this Prime Minister.

What has happened today is that an honourable man, the member for Scullin, has been sacrificed to protect the political life of a failing Prime Minister. That is what has happened today. He has been made to walk the plank. Does anyone really believe what the Prime Minister has just told this parliament?

Opposition members: No.

Mr ABBOTT: 'Oh, Harry; 7.30 in the morning. Oh, Harry; what a surprise. What a surprise, Harry—out of the blue.' Oh, no; this is as ruthless an exercise in power politics as the exercise in power politics which despatched the former Prime Minister. The Sussex Street death squad have been out again. The Sussex Street death squads that did for the Prime Minister have now done for the Speaker of this parliament. And why have they been out? They have been out because the Prime Minister's hold on a majority in this parliament has never been more tenuous. That is why the former Speaker was told he had to go—to protect the tenuous hold on a parliamentary majority of this Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister knows that she is on notice from the member for Denison. She knows that, if she cannot deliver for the member for Denison, she loses her hold on this parliament—and she knows that she will never be able to deliver for the member for Denison, because her caucus will not wear it. This Prime Minister knows that the member for Dobell is in diabolical trouble. She knows that. And isn't it all of a piece with this Prime Minister that she should brazenly, day in and day out in this parliament, say that she has full confidence in the member for Dobell. Well, we will see what the New South Wales Police have to say about the member for Dobell in just a little while. Standing orders need to be suspended because the government are in crisis. First they lost their way, then they lost their majority and today, absolutely unprecedentedly, they lost their Speaker. The budget is in chaos. That is why there will be a crisis mini-budget outside of the parliament next week. They are running away from the parliament about the budget crisis, just as they are running away from the parliament about the boats crisis—the boats crisis that they created; the boats crisis that they cannot solve. This is a Prime Minister who talks about offshore processing of boat people. How many boat people has she processed offshore?

Opposition members: Zero!

Mr ABBOTT: Zero—a big, round number. The only person she has processed offshore is Kevin Rudd, the foreign affairs minister, dispatched overseas and deliberately buried, today being the fourth anniversary of his election as Prime Minister.

I have been saying for quite some time that minority government is an experiment that has failed, and the resignation of the Speaker this morning exactly proves that point. We should not have had the former Speaker going to the Governor-General today to tender his resignation; we should have had the Prime Minister going to Yarralumla to tender her resignation. She is a Prime Minister who has lost control of this parliament in so many respects, has lost control of much of the political agenda but, above all else, has lost control of the principles and decency which should animate any Prime Minister of this great country.

Not since 1975 have we seen the extraordinary manoeuvrings that we have seen in this parliament today. This is a government which cannot get its legislation through the parliament. This is a government which has impropriety hovering over it. This is a government which has lost its Speaker. This is a government which never had any mandate. This is a government which should now do the decent thing and resign. That is what this government should do.

I want to quote some words of the Prime Minister, uttered in this place just over one year ago. She said:

As we have seen in other political cultures, short-term tactical victories lead only to longer term strategic defeat as our system declines in public esteem.

We know what the government are doing today. They are running around this building; they are up there in the press gallery saying, 'Aren't we clever! Oh, gee, we're clever. We are so clever. We have manoeuvred a good and honourable man out of the speakership to put someone else into the speakership, which gives us an extra vote in this parliament. Aren't we clever!' That is what this Prime Minister and her minions are saying. Shame on you, Prime Minister. You have shredded any principles, any honour, any integrity that you had. That is what you have done.

I have to say: the Australian public are not fooled by a Prime Minister who has given away her party to the Greens, who has sacrificed her standards to protect the member for Dobell and who has now sacrificed the most honourable Speaker this parliament has seen in many a long day. I say to the Prime Minister: you must explain yourself. You must explain exactly what you knew and when you knew it and exactly what conversations you had with the member for Scullin. Tell us about this conversation. Just how did it go? Do you really expect the Australian people are going to believe that the member for Scullin simply rang up at 7.30 this morning and said, 'I love my colleagues so much that I want to go to caucus meetings again—that's how much I love them: I want to go to caucus meetings again'? Prime Minister, you can maintain this pretence. You can brazen it out today, as you do so often, but the Australian public do not believe you and they want you gone. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?