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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2987

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (15:29): I rise to support this motion because we are at a critical time in this parliament's life, at a critical time in our democracy, at a critical time for the Labor Party—one of the two major parties; an integral part of a diverse and thriving democracy. Yet it is sick; it is sick at its core. And you do not have to take my word for it. Let us just see what the Labor Party has said about itself.

They need this time during the break to reflect further on the deep, entrenched, structural problems and cultural problems within the Labor Party that have brought a once-great party to its knees. And it was a former senior powerbroker and minister in the New South Wales government, Mr Della Bosca, who referred to 'the detested cast of ruthless, robotic machine men' who run Labor's campaigns. That was back in 2010. What has happened to those ruthless, robotic machine men? They still run the numbers. Nothing seems to have changed much from 50 years ago, when the faceless men decided what the Labor Party policies should be and who should be the leader.

John Faulkner, in his wisdom, said in early 2010 that 'all the political cunning in the world cannot substitute for courage, for leadership'. Let us not forget that having the courage of your convictions requires not only courage but conviction. And what we have seen from this Prime Minister and the current Labor Party is a lack of conviction. We have had their desperate, cynical attempt to try to appease the 24-hour media cycle and get a bit of a positive splash in the media. What have we seen in the term of this government? We have seen a desperate, minority government and a Prime Minister who is 'so tough, so feisty', but did not have the guts or the backbone to stand up to the Greens and say, 'No, I'm not going to break my promise not to introduce a carbon tax.' She caved in to the Greens, but all she had to do was throw them a few carrots; they were always going to support her. So a once great party has ended up being dictated to by a party on the fringes of political debate in this country. It is searching to find out what it believes in and what it stands for. As John Faulkner said on 9 June 2011 'the party has now become so reliant on focus groups that it listens more to those who do not belong to it than those who do. This makes membership a sacrifice of activism, not a part of it.' And the commentary goes on.

The reason I rise with such great vigour to support this motion is that it seems the Labor Party has not learnt from previous introspective investigation of what is so wrong with its structure, its membership base and its parliamentary representation. Only last year, Chris Bowen said: 'What is quite clear is that the government has considerable challenges. We have had for a considerable period of time now a low primary vote. I think the caucus needs to take a realistic look at what has caused that and I don't think the blame game of trying to blame one individual for all the government's challenges is a sustainable way forward.' What a great starting point!

Instead of focusing on the Leader of the Opposition, perhaps the Labor Party should try to focus on why it has absolved itself of the fundamental responsibility of good policy development and good legislation to take this nation forward in order for us to fulfil our potential and grow our economy. Remember that it was that great powerbroker and former Senator Graham Richardson who said 'whatever it takes'. Unfortunately, that is what has defined the action and the direction of the current Labor Party—at any cost.

And this Prime Minister, more than anyone else, embodies that. At any cost, she will sacrifice good policy. At any cost, she will sacrifice the nation's economy. At any cost, she will protect her vanity, her so-called legacy—and what a joke that will end up being. At any cost it is this Prime Minister's vanity, and her legacy, above the good of the nation.

And those in the Labor Party who have gone along with it because it has been too hard to confront the problems in the Labor Party have absolved themselves of a fundamental responsibility. But they cannot wash their hands of the problems that are absolutely suffocating the Labor Party at the moment. They need a leave of absence to reflect on how they have got to the position that they are in. They need a lead of absence to start the restoration of the Labor Party. They need a leave of absence to start to rebuild the grassroots of their membership.

What we have seen is that the faceless men of 50 years ago and those who have continued that tradition are the ones who decide who comes into parliament. They are the ones who inflate the union membership records so that they can increase their power at Labor Party conferences and preselections. So it is dodgied from the word go. We have got fudged up figures on how many members belong to particular unions, so we have got fudged up figures on their voting numbers for preselections into this parliament. When you begin from such a morally corroded base, how can you go on to be a trustworthy representative and a democratic and open government? You cannot, because the foundation is so rotten, the foundation is so bad. That detested cast of ruthless, robotic machine men need to be shown the door, and this leave of absence is an important period in which the Labor Party can start what they have failed to do in the past.

And I recall some very embarrassing moments for a former leader of the Labor Party, Mr Crean. I remember when he was fighting to hold onto his own preselection. This is a man who is part of Labor Party royalty. There he was—father, former minister, long-serving member that he has been. He needed to take an interpreter to speak to preselectors in one of his previous preselections because of the ridiculous stacking that takes place. How can you build a political party, how can you build a frontbench that is going to make the right decisions for this nation, when all the members on that side fear making one decision or voting a particular way because the union bosses—those faceless men who decide whether they can be preselected to put their hand up and run as a Labor candidate in a particular seat—could have them disendorsed with one decision, in a closed room behind closed doors?

And they all blame each other. They say Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest in front of the broader Labor movement. They have said all sorts of things which I am sure would have to classify this period as the most unedifying, most embarrassing period in Australian political history—because at any cost, doing whatever it takes, this Prime Minister and those who have supported her have ignored any principles of good government and good policy and have descended to depths that I have never seen and that I did not think this parliament would ever see. We saw them try to confect a class war—in this country, a country that has been the beacon of freedom and opportunity for so many people around the world. But they need to try to find those hateful things that wedge us, not the things that bring us together. Having failed in their class war, they then confected a race war, straight out of the Prime Minister's office, last year on Australia Day—and they were exposed for it. How pitiful, how embarrassing, how utterly unacceptable, that the Prime Minister of this nation should have her office involved in a fraudulent attempt to claim that the Leader of the Opposition said something he did not, only to incite racial violence. And then of course we had the mother of all wars: the gender wars. What a hypocritical attempt that was; what a sad, pathetic attempt by the Prime Minister to deflect from the problems facing this nation, from the problems facing her leadership, from the problems that she should have been focused on. Again, it was another cynical attempt, at any cost, to save her own job, her own vanity, her own legacy.

And what has this done? This has caused great harm in the Australian economy. We see it in the area of manufacturing. Figures released today show that, in the last quarter, 30,800 manufacturing jobs were lost, bringing the total during the last five years of Labor to over 840,000. That means that, for the last five years, every 19 minutes we have lost a manufacturing job—when there are developed economies in the Western world, like Germany and America, that are experiencing a growth in manufacturing, who are steaming ahead with manufacturing innovation. This government is determined to slug a very important sector of the economy with additional costs during very challenging economic times, making them less competitive. We have seen closure after closure after closure. For many of them, the carbon tax has been the last straw. And what does this Prime Minister do? In her stubbornness, to try to whitewash reality, to try to rewrite history, she pretends—and her ministers pretend—that it has not happened. They pretend it is all to do with the dollar. Any economist knows that in order to remain competitive you need to keep your costs down. And when bad government decisions are made that deliberately slug your business with more costs, like higher electricity costs—and manufacturing businesses invariably use more electricity than other businesses—then that is going to put them at a competitive disadvantage against the imports that do not have a carbon tax imposed upon them.

We saw only today—again—a report provided by Brickworks to the ASX that the first-half result incorporated an increase of $4.7 million in energy costs, including the carbon tax. Why does this have to be so? It is because the Prime Minister, in her poor judgement—a creature of inward-looking factionalism—decided to betray the Australian people after her promise not to introduce a carbon tax, to give in to the Greens and give them the carbon tax that they had asked for.

We need a longer leave of absence, because this is a sick parliament with a very, very sick government at the helm that is doing this great nation a disservice. We have had deception after deception after deception, a mile of broken promises. We have had them break $1.4 billion worth of promises to the auto sector, we have had them break the carbon tax promise. On 300 separate occasions we have had them pledge a surplus, only to have that promise broken. We have had the betrayal of Andrew Wilkie, and the betrayal of each other—even amongst the Labor Party family. We have had the unedifying episode of the Craig Thomson affair, and the Peter Slipper affair. We have had the Prime Minister betray the Speaker she never really wanted. We have had so many betrayals, so much disappointment, so much embarrassment, so much damage to one of the greatest democracies that this world has ever seen. (Time expired)