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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6608

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (3:38 PM) —I again congratulate the Prime Minister on her accession to what would normally be regarded as the highest elected office in the country, even though she has not at this point been elected to the prime ministership. I also acknowledge the fact that she is in this chamber to respond in this matter of public importance debate. I am pleased that she is prepared to debate me today, but I note that just a couple of hours ago the debates that we have been having every Friday morning on the Today program were cancelled by the Prime Minister. It is very disappointing that the Prime Minister is denying the Australian people that opportunity to see a regular debate between the incumbent Prime Minster and the alternative Prime Minister of this country.

It is a historic day when there is change of Prime Minister in this country, but this has not been a clean change. This is not a change that has been brought about by the will of the people; this is a change that has been brought about by the will of the union and faction warlords. Other prime ministers, I regret to say, have been assassinated by their own parties. Former Prime Minister Hawke was brought down by the machinations of a disloyal party and former Prime Minister the late John Gorton was also brought down in an internal party coup. But what has happened in this parliament overnight is historic in the sense that this is the first time in the 109 years of the Commonwealth of Australia that a Prime Minister has been brought down by his own party in a first term of government.

This was a Prime Minister who until very recently had been the most popular politician in the history of Newspoll, and he has now been politically assassinated. He was not left by a loyal and grateful party to the judgment of the Australian people; he was assassinated because of a sleazy, shoddy factional deal that said that the replacement would serve the purposes of the factions and the unions better than the incumbent. I think that the reaction to this from the Australian people, which has been flooding into the offices of Labor members and been there for all to see on Labor Party websites, is one of dismay and disgust that the methods of the New South Wales Labor Party—the methods that have brought the once great state of New South Wales to such a sorry state—have now been translated to Canberra. The methods of the New South Wales Labor mafia have now been translated to Canberra.

The leader of this country has not been chosen by the Australian public, who elected the member for Griffith; the leader of his country has been chosen by the faceless men and backroom wheeler dealers of the Labor Party, particularly the assassins of Sussex Street. The midnight knock on the door, a feature of other countries and other political cultures, has now come to Canberra courtesy of the assassins of Sussex Street. This is modern Labor—leaders elected by the people but executed by the factional warlords. No wonder people are disillusioned with politics. And for what?

According to the incoming Prime Minister, the government had lost its way, yet she has not been able to offer us any serious or substantial change that will happen as a result of her prime ministership. In the speech that she will shortly make, I challenge the incoming Prime Minister to give us real examples of how the government will be different under her leadership. In what way will policy change? How will the boats be stopped? How will the mining industry be protected? How will the fires in the roofs of hundreds of Australian houses be guarded against? How will Australian families living in houses that have been so shoddily insulated by this government be protected? How will Australian schools get value for money from taxpayers’ money under this Prime Minister, given that they were so badly let down and betrayed by her when she was the Deputy Prime Minister? How is the government going to find its way, given that the only way that has been found so far is the incoming Prime Minister’s way to the Lodge? That is all that has changed today—the former Deputy Prime Minister has found her way to the Lodge. The ideals, the courage and the commitment of the former Prime Minister and member for Griffith have all been killed by this Prime Minister just so that she could find her way to the Lodge. There was no difference of principle and there was no difference in policy. All the commitments that he had, good and bad, she has signed up to. The only difference is that nothing has been allowed to stand in her way—nothing has been allowed to obstruct her path to the Lodge.

The Australian people are not mugs; they understand politics. And what they understand is that this is the same government with the same policies, the same shabby ethos, telling the same fibs, using the same recycled rhetoric and engaging in the same meaningless negotiations. All that has changed is the face that will front the television cameras on a nightly basis. And the fine words that will no doubt slip from the lips of the new Prime Minister are all very well, but they cannot be allowed to cover up for what will undoubtedly be the same incompetent government. What the factional warlords and what the union bosses are hoping is that the government can get to an election and sneak past the defences of the Australian people before they wake up to the fact that nothing has really changed, because nothing has really changed as was abundantly clear in question time today.

The big issue, by far the biggest issue, is the mining tax, which is a dagger aimed at the heart of every Australian’s prosperity. The only thing that really counts is how much extra money is the government intending to gouge from the mining industry, and the one thing this new Prime Minister made crystal clear is this: it is the same old gouge, the same old tax grab for $12 billion in these forward estimates and hundreds of billions of dollars as the years unfold—the same addiction to taxation to feed the same addiction to spending. Nothing has really changed as a result of this change of Prime Minister.

And there is the same lack of understanding of the fundamentals of our economy. She does not understand, any more than her predecessor, that the mining industry is responsible for 50 per cent of our exports. It is how we pay our way in the world. And, if you cannot pay your way in the world, the whole of the economy is compromised. There may not be a mine in every electorate of this country, but almost every electorate in this country has a mining industry and every electorate, every neighbourhood, every shopping centre, every suburb, every town in this country is dependent upon the mining industry because, without the income that that industry generates, the economy of this country simply does not and cannot work.

What the new Prime Minister wants to do, just as surely as her predecessor, is to increase the rate of tax on mining from about the international average to the highest in the world. She wants to increase the rate of tax on mining from about 40 per cent to about 57 per cent. Sure, there will be plenty of words, there will be plenty of fiddles, but at heart it is the same great big new tax. It is the same dagger aimed at the heart of our prosperity. It is the same fundamental misunderstanding of what makes this country and this economy work. She thinks, just like her predecessor, that any rate of return greater than what can be achieved from leaving your money in the bank is a superprofit that should be subjected to a supertax. Just like her predecessor she wants to penalise economic success. Well, it is not good enough. As I said, the Australian public are not mugs and they will see through this PR exercise.

The new Prime Minister has been part of every dud decision that this government has made. Her decisions, as much as those of the former Prime Minister, have been responsible for turning a $20 billion surplus into a $57 billion deficit, turning a $60 billion net asset position into a $100 billion net debt position. She is just as guilty as her predecessor at the flow of boats because she, just as much as her predecessor, wanted to parade her compassion credentials rather than do what was necessary to maintain the border security of our country. Just as much as her predecessor, she is in denial about the tragedies that have taken place thanks to the government’s pink batts program—even today she lacked the decency to apologise to the families of those who have died as a result of the incompetence of this government.

She is personally responsible, more so than her predecessor, for the rip-off after rip-off which has taken place as part of her school halls program. Even now, if she were to demonstrate any skerrick of concern for the taxpayer, she would suspend the final $5.5 billion outlay under this program until she has received the value for money report. If she wants to demonstrate that she really is different, that she really might be a different Prime Minister to her predecessor, that she really has learned something from the agonies that her party has been put through as a result of her ambition and the work of her assassination squads overnight, if she really wants to demonstrate that something good will come out of this, why doesn’t she stand up in this parliament and say, ‘We will not spend that last $5.5 billion until at least I have Mr Orgill’s report.’

What she is doing now is absolutely patently obvious. She is trying to trick the mining industry into believing that things are different and she is suspending the $38 million worth of ineffective government ads in the hope that she will bluff the mining industry out of their campaign, but there is nothing real in it whatsoever until she also dumps from the budget the $12 billion worth of tax revenue that the tax in its existing form is supposed to raise.

You cannot trust this Prime Minister with money, you cannot trust this Prime Minister with the economy and, I regret to say, you cannot even trust this Prime Minister with the truth. She is still recycling the same—I do not want to say ‘lies’, but certainly untruths about members on this side. Let me remind the House: Work Choices is dead; when I was the minister for health there was a 16 per cent real increase in Commonwealth funding for hospitals. She protested her loyalty to the former Prime Minister time and time again and then betrayed him, just as she will protest her willingness to negotiate to the mining industry in the hope of getting through the election and then she will betray them.

Let me make it absolutely crystal clear. If you want to stop the boats, it is not good enough to change the leader; you have to change the government. If you want to stop the tax, it is not good enough to change the leader; you have to change the government. If you want to restore cabinet processes and truth in government, it is not enough to change the leader; you have to change the government. The only risk that this country faces is that this trick might persuade enough of the people that the government really has changed. It is the same government and we must get rid of it before it does any more damage to the future of our country.