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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1539

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (11:48 AM) —I would like to start by welcoming the member for Mayo back and congratulating him on the new addition to his family. It is always a very exciting time. I know that he must have been up very long hours doing all those sorts of things that happen when a new child comes into the family. I would also like to suggest that perhaps he has returned to Canberra a little sleep deprived, because only that could explain the outbursts in his contribution here today, which, quite frankly, was an ideological ramble. If we ever wanted examples of areas where the previous government operated without any evidence based policy, the contribution from the member for Mayo just now highlighted those areas absolutely magnificently.

We have come to expect better from the member for Mayo. If ever there were someone on the backbench of the opposition who deserves a place down on the frontbench it is the member for Mayo. He must be sitting there wondering what he actually has to do to get on the frontbench when he looks at the dearth of talent sitting there in front of him. I am sure when he was back at home he would have been sitting there looking at the mess that the opposition frontbench makes in relation to almost every issue and he would have been saying to himself, ‘How is it that I am on the backbench and these people who are talking such nonsense are sitting there on the frontbench?’

Two of the examples he brought up were Work Choices and reforming the labour market. I do not think there has ever been a more ideologically driven piece of legislation than Work Choices. It lacked any evidence based research and was brought in purely on ideological terms. Pursuing that policy cost the former Howard government office. In some ways the contribution of the member for Mayo has been illuminating, because he has pointed out the sorts of policies that the opposition put forward when they were in government as reasons to have evidence based policy. They did not do it when they were in government, and look at the ideologically driven policies that they came forward with. Work Choices was one of those.

Of course border protection was probably their biggest ideologically driven policy. Border protection and immigration are areas that have been, from the opposition side, driven by the extremes of One Nation for many years now. The position of the opposition is purely ideological and one that I expected the member for Mayo to do a little better on. I welcome the comments he made when he was concentrating on his family. Away from this place and away from the influence of some of those around him, he was able to make some very sensible contributions—about the need to continue funding for Indonesian schools for example—and he should be congratulated for making that stand. But on his first day back here he is on some ideological rant about border protection and the need to re-regulate the labour market.

This motion talks about using evidence based policy and randomised trials, but how would we do that for border protection? The member for Fraser made the very good point that while it is optimal to use evidence based policies and randomised trials—which we have not yet done in this country—those things do not apply in every case. How would we operate on border protection? Would we say, ‘For the next three months, we are going to let everyone come in and see what effects that has—open up the borders’? The next month, would we turn boats away? Would we sink them? The use of those things is a ludicrous proposition for some policy areas, and the member for Mayo really does undermine his contribution by trying to make cheap political points through his use of the catchcries that we have heard from the opposition on border protection.

Evidence based policy decisions are an important thing for both government and opposition to look at in the formulation of their policies. It is something that we should be encouraging all legislators to look at. This is a good motion to make sure that evidence based policy suggestions are brought to attention of the House. I commend the motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.