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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 13975

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (15:41): I rise today on what must be a very sad day for this Liberal Party, and a sad day for standards of decency and integrity in this country. We have had, for weeks now, a bizarre attack on the record of the government, and completely fabricated claims made against the Prime Minister—unsubstantiated, unjustifiable claims against the Prime Minister.

The Leader of the Opposition is scurrying away from his pathetic attempts today to justify the wild claims that he made this morning that the Prime Minister has committed a crime. He could not justify it. He failed to justify it and he should be apologising to this House and to the people of Australia now for the unsubstantiated and appalling attack that he has made on the reputation of the Prime Minister. But, of course, no; having been given 15 minutes to justify his wild claims, his false claims, against the Prime Minister and having failed to do so, he does not apologise; he scurries away. What we have just had from the Leader of the Opposition is a pathetic pretence, to suggest that the opposition has some kind of positive agenda.

I want to talk about the record of our government—and I will, at length. But first I want to talk about the political context that this comes in. You can say one thing about this Leader of the Opposition: he is brazen, because you would have to be brazen to come in and make the claims that he makes, day in, day out. But I do not think anyone in this place really trusts him and, indeed, I do not think anyone in Australia could really trust him. It is nearly three years to the day since Tony Abbott became Leader of the Opposition, and what an unhappy anniversary it turns out to be.

It has been three long years characterised by negativity and by failure. There has been the bitter failure of the Leader of the Opposition to accept the outcome of the previous election. There has been the bitter campaign to trash the government in an attempt to bring it down, regardless of whether the opposition were trashing the traditions of this chamber in doing so. There has been the bitterness caused by the slowly dawning realisation that this Leader of the Opposition's failure might just cost this opposition the next election. Now we hear talk from this Leader of the Opposition about building a stronger Australia. He is not a builder; he is wrecker. That is all he is. He has not a single meaningful policy to offer, let alone a costed policy. We keep getting told that such policies will be produced 'at some point'. The Leader of the Opposition is an empty vessel.

This Leader of the Opposition set out with one brutal, simple, negative objective: to do whatever it took to become Prime Minister, and we know this from the member for New England. He sought to tear down the Prime Minister by hook or by crook, by fear and now by smear. First he set out to do it by fear; but he failed. Now that they have failed there, what have the opposition done? They have turned to smear. But the crude, relentless aggression has not succeeded. All that this Leader of the Opposition has managed to do is to lead his party deeper and deeper into a wilderness—a policy vacuum.

This Liberal Party is now modelling itself on America's far-Right Tea Party. It has turned itself into a party of tinfoil-hat wearing, right-wing nuts. The Liberal Party has travelled a long, long way from its founding fathers—from the legacy of Menzies and the legacy, indeed, of John Howard. I have here a quote from Sir Robert Menzies's book The Measure of the Years, and the opposition leader would do well to read it. It says:

My first proposition is that the duty of an Opposition, if it has no ambition to be permanently on the left-hand side of the Speaker, is not just to oppose for opposition’s sake, but to oppose selectively. No Government is always wrong on everything, whatever the critics may say.

Menzies went on to say:

My second proposition is that an Opposition must always remember that it is the alternative Government; that it is unwise, when in Opposition, to promise what you cannot perform …

He could have been remarking on the Leader of the Opposition's crazy comments about the carbon price or the Leader of the Opposition's empty pledge to turn back the boats when he knew that it would be rejected by the Republic of Indonesia.

In the same work, Menzies said:

When you find yourself in Opposition and have recovered from the natural shock which accompanies the process, the first task is a positive one: to reconstruct; to find out what went wrong; to work out a programme of action; to initiate a new phase in political history.

Menzies could have been talking about the current opposition and the current Leader of the Opposition. The sad thing is that this Leader of the Opposition has never recovered from his election loss. He is still living in the past, fighting old battles and wilfully ignoring reality. Three years has been long enough for the Australian public to know that this Leader of the Opposition has nothing whatsoever of substance to offer. He devotes his time to crafting 10-second sound bites. He is unwilling to do the serious and hard work of crafting serious policies for this nation: to build a national disability insurance scheme; to build a national broadband network; and to build a cleaner, stronger, smarter economy while cutting carbon pollution.

This week the book of 10-second sound bites has been released. Three-word slogans repeated thousands and thousands of times might manage to make you up a slim volume, but it would still be made up of three-word slogans. Anyone who looked at this slim volume would see that it was just a compilation of this year's three-word slogans and 10-second sound bites. Such things pass for speeches from this Leader of the Opposition; his speeches seem to consist of three word slogans and 10-second sound bites.

It takes hard work, consistency and determination to make policy. Our Prime Minister has these attributes in spades. Just look at the achievements that as promised she has contributed to while we have been in government: abolishing Work Choices; investing in education; reforming schools funding; supporting jobs through stimulus; bringing in a carbon price. I could also mention mental health reform and dental care reform—there is a long list. It takes guts to do the hard yards and make tough changes while others run all around the country whipping up hysteria.

After all these months of running round the country whipping up fear and loathing about the carbon price, the Leader of the Opposition and his followers have finished at a dead end. The member for Flinders is in the chamber. He can vouch for the dead end that the opposition has reached. Like the Wizard of Oz, the Leader of the Opposition has conjured up a series of illusions and tricks. He has pretended that pricing carbon would smash the economy to pieces and that it would crush towns and villages in its path. He spoke about the cobra, the python and the tentacles of the octopus. He spoke about every animal that you can imagine other than the bunyip, and still the Leader of the Opposition is engaging in the biggest pretence of all: that he will repeal the pricing of carbon. He will not repeal the pricing of carbon; that too is a pretence. We can see the reality, and Australians can see the reality. The hard economic evidence is that after 150 days the carbon price is doing its job—

Mr Truss: Yes—breaking the country; closing down factories.

Mr DREYFUS: of cutting pollution, transforming businesses and providing assistance to households while we build a cleaner economy. We have from the Leader of the National Party the proposition by interjection that it is 'breaking the country'. What a nonsense. They are still going on with their fear campaign even though it has failed.

The facts and figures have arrived, and, like the Wizard of Oz, the Leader of the Opposition is now revealed as a humbug. He is just a man behind the curtain still furiously pulling the levers and pressing the buttons when his time has well and truly run out. This Leader of the Opposition has no policies and no positive contribution to make to this country, so, true to form, all he can resort to is throwing mud, raking muck and spreading untruths, misrepresentations, falsehoods and fabrications. To put it bluntly: he is just plain making things up. He makes things up about the government's policies, and he is making things up in his attack on the Prime Minister.

But the Australian people are onto him. Australians are over the aggressive and negative charade we have had to endure in this place for the last three years. The Liberal Party, in fact, has had to send out the Deputy Leader of the Opposition day after day this week to do the dirty work while they worked out to do with the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has mostly been too gutless to front his own smear campaign, but, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition opens her mouth and extracts her foot from it, her leader's relentless negativity comes flying out. We know it all too well: straight from the chief of staff's dirt file comes a thick folder which is full of the Leader of the Opposition's words and instructions.

What issues has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised anyway? Her mate Ralph Blewitt has admitted that he does not have any real allegations. He was asked this question by Michael Smith: 'is it fair to say that you, Mr Blewitt, and Wilson certainly knew the association was a sham but is it fair to say that Ms Gillard knew it was a sham?' Ralph Blewitt said: 'I do not know if she knew.' So Blewitt blew it. He has blown the lid right off this complete fabrication of a smear campaign against the Prime Minister. We can see it for the pathetic muckraking campaign it has been. It has come to its end today. The only person who did actually know was Bruce Wilson and he has made it clear that the Prime Minister knew absolutely categorically nothing.

The so-called smoking gun today—on which this last pathetic attack that we saw in question time and before question time from the opposition was based—about the Prime Minister having written a letter to the Western Australian registrar, has been shown to be a total non-event as well. All we have had is an updated interview that actually confirms the Prime Minister's account of events. It backs up everything she has said. This same transcript—and you can read it in the Australian today; not that it would form part of the Australian headlines—records her answering a question from Peter Gordon in this interview, where Gordon asked: 'And so the last you had to do with this association was when you attended to its incorporation?' The Prime Minister said in 1995, 'Yes, that is right.' She has said nothing different in the 17 years since. The work that she did in 1992—more than 20 years ago—stopped at the incorporation of this association. So much for this smear campaign. So much for the Leader of the Opposition saying to the people of Australia this morning that the Prime Minister had committed a crime when she was in legal practice.

The Leader of the Opposition was given his opportunity; he was given his 15 minutes to substantiate that allegation and he came up with nothing. He rambled on with smear and innuendo. After nine minutes he could not even go past that. He had to resort to a more generalised attack to do with unions generally on the government. That is how pathetic this Leader of the Opposition has shown himself to be. Making totally unsubstantiated allegations, handcuffed as he is to the smear and the filth. That is all he knows. It is not befitting an alternative Prime Minister. Let us talk about what is 'becoming'—that was the Leader of the Opposition's word. He could not substantiate his allegation this morning that the Prime Minister had committed a crime. He squibbed it. He went only to that there had been, he alleged, 'conduct unbecoming' a Prime Minister. What we have seen has been conduct disgraceful and unbecoming of someone who is holding himself up as an alternative Prime Minister in this country. It is an example of rash overreach, disgraceful behaviour which demonstrates loudly and clearly the complete unsuitability of this man to lead our country. The only dignified thing for this opposition is to drop the charade.

Mr Hunt: On a point of order, there are certain provisions about relevance within the matter of public importance, which I do not believe are being adhered to.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): The member for Flinders makes a valid point. I think we will find it has been a wide-ranging contribution from the member for Isaacs but I would bring him back to the question before the chamber, which is: the failure of the government to provide a plan for a stronger Australia.

Mr DREYFUS: The Prime Minister has been crystal clear that if there are any credible allegations she will answer them. There are not any, and we should move on. That is what Australians want. For a stronger Australia, we could get away from the politics of smear. We could get back to talking about policy. We are proud of the policies we have introduced because, unlike those opposite, we know what we stand for: we stand for fairness; we stand for opportunity; we stand for dignity at work; we stand for providing support to those who need it most; we stand for pricing carbon, doing our part in tackling the problem of climate change; we stand for investing in schools, in universities and in TAFEs; and we stand for supporting the economy in the interests of working people. We have done a lot the nation can be proud of over the last five years. We will continue to work in the best interests of our nation.