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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2202

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (2:05 PM) —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of her statement in June that the government had lost its way, and I ask the Prime Minister when does she expect to find her way by setting out some clear, direct, specific and deliverable policies to stop the tax rises, to stop the cost of living rises and, above all else, to stop the boats?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. You have to give the Leader of the Opposition this: once he is told a slogan by a focus group, he never deviates from it—not once, not ever. He is driven by focus groups every day of the week, with his three-word slogans. When he is not driven by focus groups, with his three-word slogans, he is trying to work out how to put the Liberal Party’s political interests in front of the national interest. He is trying to find out what he can wreck next. Since the election he has shown all of the political maturity of a two-year-old. It is about time he got over it and actually started contributing to national debates in a responsible way.

Whilst the Leader of the Opposition’s tantrum continues, on this side of the House we will continue to deliver responsible government. The Leader of the Opposition asked me what that is about, clearly having no idea himself what responsible government could possibly be about, having never acted in a responsible way when he was in government. Let me take this opportunity to explain it to him. It is about a strong economy. It is about giving Australians the benefits and dignity of work. I was very proud last week to see the unemployment statistics and to see that we have created 375,000 jobs. That is something that we celebrate on this side of the House. It is something that we on this side of the House contributed to with our timely economic stimulus package, while the Leader of the Opposition was content to see Australians thrown out of work and thrown out of their homes. We will bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13. We did not follow the Leader of the Opposition down the path of an $11 billion black hole—not for us that irresponsibility. We had our promises properly costed and we will bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13.

We are working on measures that will lift the productivity of our economy. Our economy has emerged strong from the global financial crisis but we need continuing reform, investment in skills, investment in infrastructure and moves to increase the participation rate so that we can absolutely maximise this opportunity we have now, coming so strongly out of the global financial crisis. We are readying our economy for the challenges of the future: building the National Broadband Network, dealing with pricing carbon and tackling climate change. At the same time, we are governing for all Australians. We do not want Australians left behind because they lack a quality education or quality health services. The reality is that we inherited from the Leader of the Opposition a health system groaning under the weight of his cuts, and we are now preparing it for the future. We inherited an education system presided over by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition where no-one cared about disadvantage and no-one cared about children being left behind, and we are systematically fixing that. At the same time, we continue to make sure that Australia’s voice is heard in the councils of the world. We continue to make sure that our nation is safe and strong, and there is no more important engagement in that than the successful prosecution of our mission in Afghanistan. The Leader of the Opposition asked me: ‘What does this government stand for?’ We stand for all of that. He stands for wrecking and three-word slogans.

Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Given the answer she has given, does the Prime Minister agree with former Labor minister Graham Richardson that the government has no agenda and no plan?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I do not know whether this will strike the Leader of the Opposition as a grand surprise but the answer is no, I do not agree with that critique from a private citizen whom, to the best of my recollection, I have met once in my life. It would seem to me very odd indeed that the Leader of the Opposition—

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order!

Mr Crean interjecting

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will resume her seat. Minister, I was trying to get the House to come to order.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! A question has been asked, and the Prime Minister is responding to it. She will be heard in silence.

Ms GILLARD —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I say in answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition: would it not strike Australians as strange that, in a world where there are so many challenges—how do we keep our economy strong and how do we ready our economy for the future? How do we tackle climate change? How do we make sure that every child in this country gets a great quality education and how do we make sure we have the healthcare services that Australians deserve not only today but in 10, 20 and 30 years time as our society ages? How do we make sure that we have world-class infrastructure right around the country? How do we make sure that we have balanced growth in an economy where our resources sector is obviously going so strong but things like the high dollar are impacting on other industries and other parts of the country? How do we reconcile and improve the prospects and life expectancy of Indigenous Australians; how do we close the gap? How do we as a world deal with the challenges of food security, development and freer trade? In the face of all these challenges, that the Leader of the Opposition would come into this place and use the precious minutes of question time to yet again play politics—we do not expect anything more from a man whose entire philosophy can be reduced to a few three-word slogans. The truth is that the Leader of the Opposition has no plans for the economy and no plans to bring the budget to surplus.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. The Prime Minister was not asked about the assessment of the Leader of the Opposition; she was asked about the assessment of Graham Richardson, former Labor powerbroker.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has the call and she is responding.

Ms GILLARD —I do not agree with former Prime Minister John Howard about much but he was right about the member for Sturt, you have to give him that. The Leader of the Opposition comes in with this sort of cheap criticism because he is a man with no plan for the economy and no plan to bring the budget to surplus. His only plan for health has been cutbacks. He has never cared less about kids’ education—never made a substantive statement on the matter. He has no plan to tackle climate change, just cheap slogans. On every major public policy debate and challenge in this country he has already set his mind to wreck what he can, putting the political interests of the Liberal Party always in front of the national interest, each and every day.