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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7167

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment) (15:10): There are some other people who should be offering apologies, Mr Deputy President, starting with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Shorten, and all of those opposite who are acting in a disgraceful act of distraction from a contemptible record of government. Fancy coming in here and pretending the Australian Senate is some sort of comedy show. Fancy coming in here and thinking this is a place for gag after gag on a day when the final budget figures of the last year of the Labor government have been handed down demonstrating what a disgraceful mob of managers the Labor Party were. Fancy coming in here on a day when the United Nations Security Council is meeting with the leader of the United States, our Prime Minister and many other major leaders of the world to discuss security issues facing the world and running this foolish line of questioning. Fancy coming in here in a week when we have seen a tragedy occur in Victoria and thinking that this is a sensible thing to ask questions about. Never have I seen such an error of judgement. Never have I seen such a poor hand played. Never have I seen an opposition engage in such an obvious attempt to distract from their failures and their track record with something that is completely foolish, completely silly and completely beneath debate in this chamber.

Today the final budget outcome for 2013-14 was delivered. Not one question on that was asked by those opposite.

Senator Abetz: I wonder why.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Indeed Senator Abetz, well may you wonder why. The answer, of course, is that it revealed that Labor delivered six successive deficits in six successive years. Six out of six for their deficits, with their budgets racking up nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in deficits—that is their track record. The final year came in with a deficit figure of $48.5 billion—the second largest deficit in modern Australian history. If I were a Labor senator, I too would be ashamed to ask any questions about that; I too would be ashamed to ask any questions about their budget record and the way they managed the Australian economy. But neither I nor anybody else on this side of the chamber would stoop so low as to play the silly games we have just seen from Senator Cameron and Senator Conroy, all of which, no doubt, is part of a coordinated attempt to distract the media from the serious issues facing this country, the serious challenge of rebuilding our budget, with some sort of silly little colourful side story that allows Senator Cameron to do a silly song and dance routine in this chamber.

There are far more important issues that this country faces and the world faces, and those opposite should hang their heads in shame for being part of this arrangement. Senator Conroy should be coming back into this chamber and giving his apology for asking such stupid, puerile and childish questions in the Senate chamber when there are far more important issues at stake. Senator Cameron should be coming back in here and giving his apology for performing a comic act that might go down well in the bars and clubs on a Friday night in Sydney or elsewhere around the country but is not a performance befitting a senator in the Australian Senate at a time when the nation has much bigger issues to worry about. Every man, woman and child in this country is having to deal with Labor's debt—with more than $1 billion every month that this government is having to pay in interest payments alone—and it will have serious implications for many years to come as we try to get this debt under control. Everyone in this country should be concerned about the security situations we are grappling with and the issues related to the nation's security and global security at present. Instead, what do we get from the Labor Party? Childish, puerile behaviour of which they should be ashamed. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Just before I call Senator Dastyari, I think Senator Heffernan wishes to address the chamber.