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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6815


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (15:06): We may have had a change in the prime ministership of our country, but we clearly have not had a change in the shallowness, the short-sightedness of Labor senators here. I might just add, Senator Cameron, that I think there was only one person who lost sleep last night in this country, and that was Bill Shorten. That would have been Bill Shorten, because even though the coalition may have had a change of leader, we did not have a change of ambition. Our ambition is to make sure that the Australian Labor Party stays out of government.

It is a bit disappointing that Senator Cameron could not even find the good grace to reflect positively on what were some significant achievements of the coalition government under the stewardship of Tony Abbott. In my contribution this afternoon I might just reflect on what Mr John Howard had to say about Mr Abbott's contribution towards stewarding this nation for two years in difficult times. One of the most notable achievements of Mr Abbott in his period of prime ministership was the way that he dealt convincingly with the issue of border protection. I think it is just worth reminding this chamber and Labor senators what it was that Mr Abbott inherited when he became Prime Minister.

We know that under the previous government 50,000—it is easy to forget the magnitude of the number—asylum seekers arrived on over 800 boats. Policies under the previous Labor government led to 1,100 deaths—not injuries but deaths—and what we saw were a thousand children in detention centres, and John Howard is absolutely right when he reflected on that this afternoon. For all his great stewardship of this country over 11 years, John Howard's concession was that even he had not thought it would be possible to correct that—and, of course, Mr Abbott did. Mr Abbott and the coalition government did that, and Mr Howard went on to say that, in his mind, that was one of the most outstanding achievements of the Abbott led government over the previous two years.

It is true that these are interesting times politically. It is absolutely correct that the electorate has an increasing expectation of parliamentarians, an increasing expectation of the governments it elects. But it is also beholden on each of us to reflect on what some of those other achievements are. I am disappointed in Senator Cameron—and it will be interesting to hear the contributions of other Labor senators this afternoon—not even having the good grace to reflect on what were remarkable achievements that are recognised in the community as being important and sizeable achievements and achievements that have reflected the priorities of ordinary Australian voters and families over the last two years. Those achievements include the abolition of the mining tax, a tax which hit particularly hard in my home state of Western Australia, the abolition of the carbon tax, which has ordinary households an average of about $550 better off because that it has gone. So there has been the abolition of the carbon tax, the abolition of the mining tax, the protection of Australia's borders and—importantly, of course—reducing that significant loss at sea. Then there are the 335,000 new jobs—jobs for ordinary Australians that were created under the tenure of Mr Abbott.

The challenge is actually not on the coalition today. The challenge is on the Australian Labor Party and its senators in this place to think about how they will change. How will they change to make sure that Australia and this parliament get the best possible benefit they can from the new leadership that will be shown by Mr Turnbull. These are important but challenging times for our country, with an ageing population and the increasing industrialisation and development of our Asian neighbours. The world is becoming more competitive and we cannot afford to rest. We must stay vigilant, and I am confident that under the leadership of the new Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, this country will go from strength to strength. (Time expired)