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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 25

Senator HUTCHINS (3:18 PM) —The contribution by the opposition is very interesting. On the one hand, we can see why Senator Coonan should not be a frontbencher. On the other hand, we can see from Senator Payne’s contribution why she should be a frontbencher. I was advised that I would be taking note of answers at the end of question time today. I tried to work out how the opposition would effectively attack the government. There were a number of good questions asked by the opposition. They raised serious issues and sought serious answers—which they got from the government. But what was it they got up and talked about? They talked about a trivial matter that did not occur and has been adequately dealt with by the Australian and United States governments. As Senator Hurley said, there are a number of very significant issues confronting this nation and the world at the moment—one of which has just been well outlined by Senator Payne. But what was the opposition on about? It was some sort of witch hunt about an issue that has been adequately explained by the United States and the Australian governments.

Let me just read out for the record what the US ambassador said on 6 November: ‘The Prime Minister’s office has said that the article was inaccurate, the White House has said the article is inaccurate, and, as far as I am concerned, it is a closed matter.’ However, that is not the case for the opposition, nor for ‘the second floor’ up here. They all think there is some sort of conspiracy involved. Let me talk about conspiracies. Senator Coonan took a pretty interesting line when she attacked the Prime Minister’s character. She used words to the effect that the Prime Minister cannot resist the pulling power of celebrity. We know that in the last few months there has been a propensity for plagiarism to occur within the coalition. This has been highlighted by a number of people who have had to out themselves as being the original authors of articles that were purportedly written by senior opposition frontbenchers.

So where did Senator Coonan get that idea? Of course, it was published yesterday—from an article in yesterday’s Sun-Herald in Sydney by Paul Daley, a right-wing commentator. Mr Daley spent most of the article attacking Kevin Rudd’s character. He said:

Then you realise that, like any geek—

and he is referring to Prime Minister Rudd—

with the good fortune and circumstance to rub shoulders with celebrity, he’s addicted.

Senator Coonan could not even come up with an original thought to attack the Prime Minister. She had to use an article by this fellow in yesterday’s Sun-Herald in Sydney. It is very disappointing for us on this side of the chamber, and for the Australian people, to listen to the trivialising of this great House.

There are a number of crises at the moment. Senator Payne has outlined one that we should be concerned about. We have outlined here today, through Senator Carr, the car industry plan, which will save thousands of jobs and keep people in their homes. Where was the opposition on that? Where was their question on that? Where was their motion to take note of answers on that? They have forgotten it. They have lost the plot. They are not fit to govern, and they have proven that again today by trivialising the take note debate. There are, as I said, great issues at stake at the moment, on which we require cooperation from all parties in both houses of parliament. But what happens? One of the former senior ministers in the previous government gets up and asks about the silly phone call that did not occur and that has been dispatched by all those involved in it. The opposition ought to think about how they have acted. Senator Hurley has already mentioned the scandalous AWB affair. We who were here in the parliament remember the whole children overboard issue and what those opposite did with that. (Time expired).