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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1777

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:03): I welcome this debate.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on the actions that you have just taken against both the Leader of the National Party and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Given the unprecedented nature of removing the call from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to explain the basis for that action so that we are aware of how we should conduct ourselves in the future rather than perhaps simply making the same mistakes again—if indeed they did make mistakes.

The SPEAKER: The reason that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was required to resume her seat was because she was not being relevant to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, on a separate point of order, the Prime Minister has not been able to begin her contribution. I would ask that the clock be started again.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat. The question is that the motion be agreed to. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: I welcome this debate, because it is about the priorities of the Australian nation. The priorities of the Australian people should be debated in this House—their focus on jobs; on making lives for their families; on the benefits that their families need so that they can support themselves; on a great education for their children; on their young people being able to get apprenticeships or university places; on health and on making sure that they can go to an emergency department, see a doctor when they need to and get elective surgery; and on making sure that our nation has a stronger and fairer future. And those things are the focus of the government.

What should be the subject of debate in this parliament? We can have the squalor of the opposition's approach or we can focus on managing the economy in the interests of working people. We can focus on the more than 700,000 jobs already created under this Labor government. We can focus on an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent when around the world nations suffer unemployment rates of double that. We can focus on what is needed in 2012 to support Australian jobs in manufacturing. I would happily have a debate about our plan for manufacturing versus the half-a-billion-dollar cut and the end of assistance to the car industry being advocated by those opposite. I would happily debate our plans to keep tens of thousands of Australians in work as opposed to the plans of the opposition to end those jobs. That is the proper business of this parliament. In this suspension, what the opposition seeks to do is carve out parliamentary time for its squalor rather than for the purpose of talking about Australian jobs.

At the same time, we have the opposition saying, 'Let's devote parliamentary time to the pursuit of our naked political interest, not to important issues like how we seize a clean energy future.' They are embarrassed to be reminded, time after time, of their contradictions and hypocrisy on pricing carbon. Former Prime Minister Howard is repudiated by this shambolic opposition, former Prime Minister Howard is dispensed with as if he had never said that there should be an emissions trading scheme.The opposition do not want to have that debate because they do not want the Australian people to understand that their plan is about costing Australian families $1,300 each and that their plan is about taking tax cuts and pension increases and family payment increases away from working families. They do not want that debated in this parliament so they continue these cheap tricks.

They do not want debated in this parliament our plans for health reform versus their plans for health cutbacks. This Labor government has delivered an historic health reform agreement and in 2012 it is being rolled out around the nation, meaning that there are more doctors and more nurses and more healthcare services available. They never want to debate health, because they have got plans for cutbacks now, just as the Leader of the Opposition had plans for cutbacks when he was a long-serving minister for health in the Howard government. They do not want that debated; they just want to focus on the cheap politics. They do not want debated what is happening in Australian schools, because they do not want Australians to know that they have plans to cut back money going to disadvantaged schools, they have plans to cut back money going into improving teacher quality and they have plans to cut back money going into the infrastructure that kids need to learn in the 21st century, like computers in schools. They never bring on a debate about those issues—that is, quality education from this Labor government versus their plans for cutbacks in schools.

Nor do they want to debate our plans to roll out the National Broadband Network, or the achievement by this Labor government of the structural separation of Telstra, because they do not want Australians to know that they are committed to pulling the broadband out of the ground, making sure that this nation falls behind world standards, and to losing all the jobs come with it. Despite the bravado of the Leader of the Opposition at the start of the parliamentary year, the last thing they want is a debate about the economy in 2012. The last thing they want to do is debate the government's plan for a new skills agenda—an agenda for Australians to have the high-skills high-wage jobs of the future—or the government's plan for a budget surplus, because they are hoping that no-one notices the fact that until they cut $70 billion of services for working families they cannot even get the budget to the starting line. They do not want to be debating the government's programs and plans for managing this structural change in our economy, change that is putting pressure on some sectors but is full of opportunity for the future. They do not want Australians to understand the new benefits that this Asian century can bring to our economy, which will come as our region grows and prospers. We can prosper with it.

Instead, they would rather focus on their endless game-playing and their endless politics. That is because they are focused on cheap politics, whilst we are focused on the future. In the Leader of the Opposition's own motion he points to three issues. Cost of living—let us have a debate about their Coles and Woolies tax to fund their ridiculous paid parental leave scheme, which as usual is destined to give the biggest benefits to those at the top. They have never found a billionaire they did not want to shovel money at.

The Leader of the Opposition mentioned border protection in his motion—let us debate that and the plans the opposition has to put Australian lives on the line and to put Australian lives in danger. The opposition would rather profit politically than protect the men and women who serve in the Australian Defence Force. The Leader of the Opposition has also talked about jobs. The last thing he really wants to do is have a debate in this parliament about jobs, standing proudly as he does for the end of steelworking jobs, standing proudly as he does for the end of car industry jobs, standing proudly as he does for denying Australians the jobs and opportunities of the future, because he has got no plans to build the future we need.

The House should not agree to this motion. It should not follow the Leader of the Opposition down the road of negativity. Australians expect us as a government and as a parliament to have them at centre stage: their needs, their dreams, their prospects and their future. That is our focus as a government as we are impatient to get on with the work that will deliver to those working people today and build them the future that they want. The House should reject out of hand this further squalor from the opposition for what it is.