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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19233

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the House) (3:27 PM) —Mr Speaker, don't they hate the Prime Minister? Doesn't it cloud their judgment!

The SPEAKER —The member for Wills is warned!

Mr ABBOTT —Hasn't their hypocrisy been shown up again and again, today especially, Mr Speaker? Here we have a Prime Minister who has just been in New Zealand fighting for our country, fighting for our country's values, and who has achieved a mighty coup for our country, establishing our leadership of the South Pacific. Then the Prime Minister went to China to cement the relationship with that great nation, a relationship that has recently produced a $25 billion deal of benefit to Australia.

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa may have seconded the motion, but he will be excused from the House if he persists with his interjections. He knows that. The minister has the call. He will be extended the same courtesies I expected extended to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr ABBOTT —The Prime Minister, as always, has been supplying outstanding national leadership to this country, not just at home but abroad. And what has been happening amongst members opposite? They have been brooding on their bitterness, they have been nursing their resentment, and the best they could come up with was to recycle the failed tactics of last week. That is the best thing they could come up with—recycling the tactics that got them nowhere last week, as demonstrated by the recent Newspoll, which shows that the Leader of the Opposition is more unpopular than ever and, particularly, more unpopular with his own backbench because of yet another tactical failure in this House today. I can understand why members opposite hate the Prime Minister; it is because he has put them to shame again and again and again. In seven years, this government and this Prime Minister have achieved for Australia things that members opposite in their 13 years could only dream of. They hate the Prime Minister because—

Ms Gillard —Say something nice about Wilson, Tony!

The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor is warned!

Mr ABBOTT —he has been responsible for achieving gun control in this country, something that had evaded state and federal governments of both political persuasions for decades. They hate the Prime Minister because he has achieved tax reform in this country—a reform that the former government, the former Prime Minister and the then Treasurer tried desperately to achieve, only to have their ambitions torpedoed by their Siamese twin, the ACTU.

They hate the Prime Minister because he has achieved workplace relations reform in this country—workplace relations reform that members opposite started to edge towards in 1993 but were not able to bring to fruition because of their Siamese twin, the ACTU. Thanks in part to that workplace relations reform, there are more than one million new jobs, there are higher wages, there are fewer strikes and there are greater protections for the workers of Australia. And doesn't it embarrass members opposite that this is the government which has been the true worker's friend in this country? This is a government which has helped the average Australian worker. This is a Prime Minister who has done the right thing by the average Australian worker in a way that the failed union hacks opposite have never been able to do.

They hate the Prime Minister because he was able to bring in Work for the Dole. He was able to achieve something akin to a revolution in the way this government delivers employment services—and members opposite did their best to sabotage it; members opposite did their best to stop him—and he achieved it to the tremendous benefit of the job seekers of Australia. He has established the principle that in this country we do not focus on what you cannot do but on what you can do, and we give people an opportunity to show what they are made of.

They hate him because he has been the liberator of East Timor, and doesn't that embarrass them. For many years they had to live with their guilty consciences over East Timor—a poor, suffering, persecuted nation under the heel of a form of colonialism. It took this Prime Minister, this great Prime Minister, to set those people free. They hate the Prime Minister because he has introduced proper border protection into this country. For years, if you could get here, you could stay here. And didn't so many people get here because we had no proper border protection? But this Prime Minister, assisted ably by the minister for immigration, put proper border protection in place and, in so doing, he has re-established support for our immigration system, re-established the social consensus, restored social stability and enabled all Australians to feel proud of the rich diversity of our people and our country.

And above all else, they hate him because, in the conflict over Iraq, this was a Prime Minister who was prepared to stand by Australia's friends and stand up for Australia's values in a way that members opposite just could not do. They let down Australia and they are rightly ashamed of themselves. That is why they hate this Prime Minister and this government. This is the greatest Prime Minister since Bob Menzies; he is the greatest Liberal since Bob Menzies. He has had them on the run for the last seven years, and he will keep them on the run. That is why they hate him and that is the real reason for this spurious censure motion that they have moved today.

Let us deal briefly with this question of ministerial standards. On the question of the meeting with Dick Honan, that was not the question that members opposite asked. If they asked the wrong question, they cannot expect anything other than an answer which does not—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition would expect me to interrupt if he were being interrupted.

Mr ABBOTT —If they ask a question which specifically refers to the Trafigura Brazil ethanol shipment and the Prime Minister's answer refers to the Trafigura Brazil ethanol shipment, they cannot complain if they do not get all the information they want. The Prime Minister has not misled this parliament, as the Prime Minister has said again and again in answer to question after question from members opposite. If you look at the context of the questions and the context of the answers, what he has said is perfectly in order, perfectly appropriate, and certainly not a misleading of the parliament.

Then we come to the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government. There is no doubt, no doubt at all, that the minister for regional services made a mistake. There is no doubt at all that the minister for regional services did something that was inappropriate—perhaps even foolish. The minister for regional services has been more than abundantly rebuked privately and publicly, and I will say this for the minister for regional services: he has taken it; he has taken it appropriately, contritely and humbly. He will continue to be an outstanding minister in an outstanding government. The minister for regional services has owned up to his mistake. It is a significant mistake but it is not a mistake that justifies his dismissal.

I am absolutely certain that when the minister for regional services reflects on this week, it probably will not be that week which he remembers with the most affection. I suspect that the minister for regional services will leave this parliament tonight feeling pretty low. But the fact is that this is a good minister; this is a minister who has done outstanding work to protect his portfolio constituents. This is a minister who is a fine Australian. He is a great fighter for the people of his electorate and he is passionate about his values. When he made his mistake he was big enough to apologise and he was big enough to come into this parliament, humble and contrite. When have we ever seen the Leader of the Opposition being big enough to apologise for anything? The Leader of the Opposition talks about ministerial standards. What about the standards of the Leader of the Opposition? The Leader of the Opposition has on his frontbench someone who assaulted a taxi driver—

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler!

Mr ABBOTT —who broke a taxi driver's arm and who appears to have driven this taxi driver onto the disability support pension. And what does the Leader of the Opposition do? He makes him shadow Treasurer and now he has made him de facto Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler will excuse herself from the House. That was unacceptable.

Opposition members interjecting

Mrs Irwin —You grub!

Mr ABBOTT —No shame—he has no shame.

The SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat. The member for Fowler will withdraw that remark.

Mrs Irwin —I withdraw it.

The member for Fowler then withdrew from the chamber.