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Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Page: 932

Senator BRANDIS (4:03 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked today.

On all the topics the opposition explored with the government today, and even in the answers of ministers to some of the questions from their own backbench, what we have seen in the chamber this afternoon is the humiliating litany of failure with which the Australian public are increasingly coming to identify the Gillard Labor government. It is an extraordinary thing. Ordinarily when a government is re-elected—albeit this government was reinstated in office over a month ago in rather controversial circumstances—there is a degree of goodwill from the general public, there is a sense of ‘give the reinstated government a go’. But all of the anecdotal evidence, all of the empirical evidence and all of the opinion poll evidence that we have seen in recent weeks has shown that the Australian people have woken up to the fact that the Gillard government is no different from the Rudd government. The policy paralysis, the dysfunction, the indecision, the meandering directionlessness which became trademarks of the Rudd government are the same under the new management of the new Prime Minister, Ms Gillard. There is a reason for that and it is not hard to work out. What we now know is that all of the key decisions or nondecisions with which the Rudd government was associated were made by a small coterie of senior cabinet ministers, of which Ms Gillard and Mr Wayne Swan were the two leaders.

Mr Rudd was not terribly interested in domestic policy. Let us call a spade a spade: Mr Kevin Rudd was much more eager to grandstand on the international stage, leaving the direction of the government on domestic policy to Ms Gillard. After Ms Gillard stabbed him in the back on the evening of 23 June—after having undertaken in the most plangent, most earnest terms to both him and the Australian people that he had her complete support—after this ‘Lady Macbeth’ stabbed Kevin Rudd in the back on 23 June and seized control of the government—

Senator Cormann —What about the beneficiaries over there?

Senator BRANDIS —Indeed, like Senator McLucas over there and Senator Farrell. How could we overlook Senator Farrell? But, Senator Cormann, you distract me from my theme. When Ms Gillard took over, the Australian public were for a few short weeks rather entranced by the idea of a first female Prime Minister and, more importantly, they thought there would be change. They thought that maybe under new management the government might at last get their act together. They grafted a very, very narrow victory on the two-party preferred vote in the election. They persuaded Independents to reinstall them in power. But the Australian people in the last four to six weeks have realised that nothing has changed. The Rudd government is continued in the Gillard government.

Senator Cormann —It has got worse!

Senator BRANDIS —As Senator Cormann says, in fact, if anything, it has got worse. As the Prime Minister has elevated the level of rhetoric, the government has fallen down the scale on the level of achievement. It is almost like a virtual government: it exists in rhetoric alone. What achievement can this government point to? Not the NBN—the colossal white elephant being presided over by Australian politics’ leading public policy lightweight, Senator Conroy. Not the dispossession of people in the Murray-Darling Basin. Not the continuation of the fiasco of Building the Education Revolution. Not the tidying up of the fiasco of the Home Insulation Scheme. Not, as Senator Scullion elicited from Minister Arbib, the fiasco of the failure to provide the Indigenous housing in the Northern Territory of which this government was so proud—

Senator Cormann —And the boats.

Senator BRANDIS —I am coming to that, Senator Cormann—and the fiasco of all fiascos: the reversal of a position where we had no problem with unlawful asylum seekers to a situation where we are now expanding the Curtin detention centre by another 3,000 places.