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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13066

Ms REA (3:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the Deputy Prime Minister update the House on the need for civics education and the challenges for our education system in assisting Australians to understand federal politics?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for her question. I think we would all agree it is very important that Australians are inspired to understand their democracy, inspired by the prospect of serving in public life, whether that be as a member of parliament or in one of our great Public Service agencies, whether that be in my department or in the Prime Minister’s department, the ministry of foreign affairs or perhaps even the Electoral Commission.

I think we would recognise that there was a sigh of relief from the Electoral Commission after certain events yesterday, because how much public education would it have taken for the 2010 election to be between Kevin and Julia, and Kevin and Julie? It would have been a close election, so close there would only have been a letter’s difference in it! One does wonder whether we would have ended up being a nation internationally ridiculed, as people from around the world concluded that every Australian man must be a serious, churchgoing type called Kevin and every Australian woman must be a former lawyer called Julie or Julia! The nation has certainly dodged a bullet as a result of yesterday’s events. I do note that we should be praising the member for Wentworth for introducing the name ‘Malcolm’ into the election, to stop this confusion!

I do also note, though, from a Mr Grech email that not everybody is a fan of the current leadership team. Mr Grech did say: ‘Agree that MT is doing a good job but he needs to deal with the JB issue.’ It seems to me grossly unfair; I won’t stand for it! I think the team of Malcolm and Julie is doing very well indeed. But that does not mean that we are holding anything against the member for Menzies, and I have actually bought him a small Christmas present as a token: these pens. I know that he is probably feeling a little bit poorly today, so it is something to remind him of those good old days in the past—

The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister has made her point.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday, there was usage of a prop by the Leader of the National Party which you ruled out of order and it had to be done away with. It was then used by the member for North Sydney; he was told to take his fingers off it.

Government members interjecting—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —What is the difference when this prop is introduced? Is there one rule for each side?

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Starting from the final point first, I endeavour to make sure that there is one rule for all and I think I can say on safe ground that on props there has been one rule for all, because first of all the Leader of the National Party was given reasonable opportunity to use his prop—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —It was nothing like that.

The SPEAKER —Well, I am sorry; I cannot grade the use of props! I did remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that she should not display it too much, and she was good enough to listen—

Government members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —No, the prop! I think that I will just rule against the member for Mackellar’s point of order and get myself out of the second hole I have dug today! I will just remind the House that, whilst the member for Mackellar was on her feet, I was reminding the Deputy Prime Minister that she had used her prop for long enough, and that is enough. And I will try to be silent for the rest of question time. The Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms GILLARD —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and I will move right along before we start debating censorship laws, which was where that was all going next, as far as I could tell!

The reason we are also very fond of the member for Menzies is that he is of course a former race caller, and I think one thing he could do next year now he will not have the burden of leadership on his shoulders is call the 2010 election for us. I have got what I think could be his starting call. ‘They’re off and racing, and Kevin, on a horse called the Future of Programmatic Specificity, a well-known horse in Rudd Labor politics, is trying hard. And there of course is Malcolm Turnbull on a horse, Future of Global Conspiracies. But Malcolm is struggling because the back half of the horse appears to be trying to go in a different direction, and he is actually trying to chuck a bit of weight off. There are a few fake emails, there is Grech to get rid of, and of course then there are those climate change deniers.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I think I preferred to props.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! Can I simply share with the House and with the member for Mackellar, that I have already given an award—I am not sure what the award was, but I was surprised that it was on the last day—but that deserves an award even though it might not have been a point of order. The Deputy Prime Minister will relate her material in some manner to the question and try to get to the final straight of her answer.

Ms GILLARD —I am on my way to the final straight, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much on the question of civics education. I say to the member for Mackellar that in this horse race the old horse ain’t what she used to be. But moving right on, the member for Warringah is there on a horse called Battlelines. It does seem to be stalking the member for Wentworth but it just will not pass. That might cause a stewards’ inquiry at some point of this horse race. The member for North Sydney is riding a clever race but his horse is looking quite tired by now.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —I think the minister wins by a nose!

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for New England might have rated it right. I cannot believe that the member for Mackellar could get two awards.

Ms GILLARD —It is true to say that I have a genetic advantage. I am prepared to pay that absolutely. And of course, the member for Mackellar, apart from making an appearance as a warhorse, could make an appearance on a horse called Infrastructure. She has already got the high visibility clothing, though not wearing it today, but she would always fit in well on a building site. The member for Wide Bay I think would be there. He is still flogging a dead horse called the National Party. We would be able to see him in the race. And of course the member for Sturt would be there in the grandstand, squealing to the Leader of the Opposition, ‘Don’t frighten the horses!’ That is exactly what would be happening.

Let me say in the spirit of the season that I wish all opposition members well and I would like to conclude by saying to my old friend the member for O’Connor: I actually do not have a mad uncle in my family, so he is always welcome around at the Gillard family for Christmas and, if he wants to bring his 34 mad mates with him, they are very welcome as well.

Mr Andrews —Mr Speaker, on indulgence and in the spirit of the minister’s remarks and as a former race caller, can I suggest that she sticks to her day job.