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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6723

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (4:40 PM) —This is an extraordinary motion to suspend standing orders. This is the third opportunity that the Leader of the Opposition has given himself today to make the same speech. He has failed strategically and he has failed tactically, but, more importantly, he has failed the responsibility that he has as the alternative Prime Minister of this nation.

This morning I came into this House and indicated on behalf of the government that we would grant leave for any motion that the opposition chose to move. We would debate it for as long as they wanted to, and they were the ones who chose to shut it down when they did. We would have been happy to still be going on that debate, but they chose to shut it down. They proposed a number of speakers to the debate and then reneged on the arrangement. They could not even control the member for Mackellar. That said it all. There is a serious motion before this House and who do you have in the chamber to speak on it? Do you have a member of the frontbench? No, you have the member for Mackellar on your speaking list because you cannot actually rustle up enough frontbenchers. They are busy, off doing media conferences, in the case of the member for Dickson, or engaging in activities in their offices and not participating in the debate.

This exposes the incompetence of the opposition. I never thought I would say this, but they have been found wanting for the lack of the presence of the member for Sturt. I never thought I would say that. We offered to grant them leave for any motion they cared to move, and they failed to move a censure motion against the Prime Minister or the Treasurer. Even though last Friday they indicated that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should resign from the highest offices in the land, today they came in and could not even get their act together to move a censure motion—because they know that they have no case. In fact, they know that the only person in this parliament who has a case to answer is the Leader of the Opposition. Where is the email? What was their involvement in the distribution of it? What was their involvement in the promotion of it? What was their involvement in spinning it around the gallery? We still do not have an answer.

We had a significant debate in this parliament. We had a debate that went from 12 o’clock until 20 past three. It was only concluded because the opposition wanted it to conclude. We then had a question time in which the Treasurer and the Prime Minister were available for over an hour to answer any questions that were put before the parliament, yet here we have this absurd motion. Again, it is not a motion whereby they are actually seeking to censure the Treasurer but a motion in which they are seeking to suspend standing orders. There was no attempt to ask for leave to move a censure motion—historically, when that occurs it is granted—because they wanted us to have just 10 minutes to respond. It is not surprising when you look at the details because, as their case crumbles around them, they are increasingly just making things up.

I do note that the member for Higgins is not here in the chamber today. He is on a delegation. But I make this point: nominations for the seat of Higgins close on 30 June. It is time for the member for Higgins to reconsider, because quite clearly there is a vacancy of leadership in the opposition. It is extraordinary that the Leader of the Opposition said during the debate, ‘The Treasurer has conferred an extraordinary and unprecedented benefit towards Mr Grant.’ What is it? Not a cent was given to Mr Grant—unlike when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Environment and Water Resources and gave a grant of $10 million for Rainmaker to a mate, even though his department suggested $2 million, and two days into the election campaign but just before the writs were issued. That is a scandal. That is how that side of the House operate in terms of their mates. I see it every day because I am the minister for regional development and I see the way that those on that side of the House manipulated processes to ensure that their mates were looked after, whether it be an ethanol plant in Gunnedah that does not exist, whether it be a cheese factory that had closed down in the electorate of Indi or whether it be a railway that had burnt down. There is a lot of talk about inquiries. Let me say this: some very interesting things have happened to that company that was involved in the ethanol plant. It is very interesting and I encourage a bit of research on the issue.

In terms of the case to be made and the road we want to go down, those in the opposition have a real problem. They have a real problem because this entire issue is based upon a fraud. It is based upon an email that does not exist. It is a fabrication. It was not done by Mr Andrew Charlton. It was not done by the Prime Minister’s office. It was not done by the government. Their whole case rests upon this. The fact is that it is clear from the Leader of the Opposition’s pointing towards Mr Charlton in the advisers box, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did during the Leader of the Opposition’s question when he first raised it on 4 June, it is quite clear from the comments that have been made by senior members of the press gallery, including Paul Kelly, Phil Coorey and Sid Maher, and it is quite clear from the intimidation that occurred of Dr Charlton at the press gallery ball that those opposite were involved in pedalling round this story and making serious accusations but having absolutely nothing to back it up. You compare it with the history of the Leader of the Opposition and, when you look at his history of bullying, his history on fake documents and his history on all of these activities, what it shows is a man without integrity who is prepared to do absolutely anything to get ahead.

Mr Burke —A grubby opportunist.

Mr ALBANESE —A grubby opportunist is what the Leader of the Opposition is.

Question put.