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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2529

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:04): Today I rise for the 44th time to a suspension of standing orders motion moved by the opposition. Every day they come in here and stop question time in order to move a suspension of standing orders, because they have nothing to say about the future of this nation. Not only do they have nothing to say about the future of this nation, they do not even bother to try to hold the government to account on any of the major issues of the day that confront Australia—not on the economy, not on social policy, not on health policy and not on education policy. I have had one question in years on infrastructure and transport, even though the Leader of the National Party is the shadow minister. It shows—and this is the reason we should not support the suspension motion moved by the opposition—that every day this is just an act of self-indulgence. Every time they do this they say that they just care about themselves and not about those they purport to represent. Every time they do it they remind the Australian people that they are not interested in issues. They remind Australians that, in today's case, they are pushing off the matter of public importance debate, which is about a price on carbon. Remember that. They thought it was important, but today they move a motion that, if carried, will mean we will not have a debate today about the price on carbon. We on this side of the House are very happy to debate a clean energy future, what it will mean for our economy, what it will provide in terms of support for pensioners, what it will provide in terms of the support for working Australians through tax cuts, what it will mean for families in the suburbs and what it will mean for future jobs as we move to a carbon constrained economy.

Regarding the resolution today moved by the shadow minister for foreign affairs, you would think that she would just be embarrassed. The only questions that we have had from the shadow minister for foreign affairs have been ones that have sought to play politics and make fun. They are the only things that have been raised. There is never anything serious. There has never been anything about famine in Africa, the great global issues confronting the G20 or the European economy and there has never been anything about the implications for this nation of all those great global issues.

It is no wonder that the Leader of the Opposition said about the member for Kooyong on 28 August last year, 'I've got to say it's nice to have someone in the parliamentary party who understands foreign affairs at last.' What an endorsement! And he heard his name: he thought it was a call from the Leader of the Opposition. I am sorry, Josh, it is not my decision; it is the decision of the bloke in front of me. And this bloke in front of me is quite happy to have a lame duck who is not interested in foreign affairs as the shadow minister. We want to debate the substantial issues. That is why we do not support the suspension of standing orders. The member for Kooyong came in with some hope and he did not last a minute! That says it all about those opposite.

We are happy to debate the great issues of the day, such as our stance as enhancers of opportunity versus their stance of entrenchers of privilege, or our stance as builders of the nation versus their stance as wreckers, or our stance on a return to surplus versus their stance, with their $70 billion black hole, or what we stand for with our positive vision for the future versus their stance as a bunch of negative hollow opportunists.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the question before the chair.

Mr ALBANESE: I am speaking on the question, Mr Speaker. During question time, I want to continue to debate our politics of conviction versus their politics of convenience. I want to have questions asked of us about the great issues of the day and the fact that we are focused on the big picture: infrastructure, skills and climate change. I want to debate how we put the national interest first while they just play politics and put their party first. I want to debate how we stand for a fair share for working people while they stand for special deals for the big end of town.

We saw this in the last question asked by this side of the House of the minister for workplace relations about safe rates. I also had the privilege of meeting today the families of those who have lost loved ones in accidents involving heavy vehicles. This is a big issue. It is one on which the member for Hinkler produced a seminal report many years ago—a decade ago. But it was not acted upon. We on this side of the House have given this issue a very considered response. We have consulted independent contractors.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will talk about why standing orders ought not be suspended.

Mr ALBANESE: Yes, Mr Speaker. These are the issues that we could have got more questions on this afternoon rather than this petty politics. These are the issues that matter. I bet that if this suspension had not occurred I would have got the next question. This is a very good argument for why we should not suspend standing orders. I care about these issues. This parliament should not just be concerned with the negative. This parliament has to be concerned with the positive and with the future issues facing our nation, such as the need for safe rates for people who drive our trucks and keep this country going.

We very firmly believe that we have a strong, positive agenda across the policy spectrum. Day after day, ministers come in here and they may as well bring in novels, because there is no chance of them getting—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In relation to the defence of why standing orders should not be suspended, is it appropriate for the Leader of the House, who did not support the Prime Minister, to stand and defend her?

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Mackellar will remove herself from the House under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Mackellar then left the chamber.

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Speaker, that decision is a very popular one on both sides of the chamber!

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will return to the substance of the motion before the chair.

Mr ALBANESE: I will, Mr Speaker. I have nothing more to say about the future of the modern Liberal Party, who leaves the chamber as we speak. The fact of the matter is this: we oppose this suspension because we want to discuss positive issues. Those opposite just want to muckrake during question time and during these daily suspensions. When we do discuss issues, those opposite say no to a surplus, no to jobs, no to action on climate change, no to a future for manufacturing, no to the NBN, no to helping working people, no to tax cuts for small business, no to better superannuation for workers and no to pension increases. That is all that they have to say about the issues facing this nation. That is why every day they come in here and move these motions. They have done so on 44 occasions.

I will conclude with a Robert Menzies quote, who said this:

…on far too many questions we have found our role to be simply that of the man who says 'No.' … There is no room in Australia for a party of reaction. There is no useful place for a policy of negation.

All those years ago, in 1944, Robert Menzies had figured this bloke out. Robert Menzies was indeed a visionary, because he knew what his party would become. Frankly, the Australian people deserve better and that is why this ridiculous suspension motion—the daily suspension motion typed up in advance, typed up in the morning and moved like clockwork at 2.48 pm every day—should be rejected. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The question before the chair is that the motion for suspension of standing and sessional orders, moved by the honourable Deputy Leader of the Opposition, be agreed to.

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.