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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 775

Gillard Government

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Evans. What benefits have there been for the Australian people, battling with cost-of-living pressures, in the unseemly and indulgent soap opera of the Labor government tearing itself apart in the last week?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:01): This government has been getting on with governing Australia in the best interests of the Australian people. While the leadership issue went to a vote in the caucus today, there was a very clear endorsement of Prime Minister Gillard. But it is the case that those of us who are ministers are getting on with the agenda of the government, which is about creating jobs, providing a stable, growing economy, seeking social policies that improve the education and health of our people, and—another major agenda we have—increasing support for people with disabilities.

The senior economic ministers last week continued their meetings on planning for the budget. I travelled internationally in support of Australia's bid for the Square Kilometre Array project. I continue to argue Australia's case for that important scientific initiative. The government is getting on with the important agenda it has for the nation. We are focused on the very important issues that are important to Australian families. Those are things like jobs and the education of their children. Those remain our focus. I am pleased to say of my own portfolio that next week we will see record numbers of young people attending university. There is a massive increase in the number of young people getting the chance to go to university to develop their potential, get opportunities for high-skilled and high-paid jobs and allow us to continue to grow the Australian economy because we are producing more people with a greater skill level, be that in the trades area or in higher education. Those are the things that I am focused on and those are the things that the government is focused on. We are getting on with the job of governing for all Australians.

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the undignified spectacle of the free character assessments by Labor ministers of each other in recent days, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that those assessments were sincere, heartfelt and honest, including that by Mr Rudd of the Prime Minister that she had lost the trust of the Australian people?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:04): Senator Abetz may try and make himself relevant today, but I think the Australian people watching this broadcast would wonder why the opposition still has nothing to say about the great policy issues confronting Australia: nothing to say about education; nothing to say about health; nothing at all to say that adds to the political debate in this country or adds to the prospects for this country.

As I referred to in my earlier answer, this government is focused on creating jobs, creating opportunities for people. Senator Abetz's only contribution is to try and rehash some of the issues that have been canvassed in the media in the last few weeks. He is not elected to do that. He does not serve the people of Australia by seeking to do that. This is his opportunity to ask the government questions about its programs and its policies. But all we have is the Liberal Party in the gutter again, with nothing to say about the great issues of our time. (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:05): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to the totally contradictory views from those which they previously professed of Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard and their respective policy records and leadership style given by other government ministers. Were they telling the truth then? Have they been telling the truth now, or do they simply never tell the truth? Which one is it?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): Clearly the tactics committee today had a very long and difficult meeting working through their—

Senator Cormann: No, you did.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: We had a very short meeting. We said: 'What will the Liberals ask us? Low road—they will go the low road.' Were we right? Yes. I did not bother preparing too much for question time, because I knew you could not help yourselves. You are not interested in the big issues. In you come again, trawling through what you have read in the papers, trying to make accusations about personalities. The opposition ought to ask us questions about education, about health, about jobs, about the strength of the economy. But you have nothing to say on these issues.

Senator Abetz: On a point of order, Mr President, not only should the Leader of the Government in the Senate know better than not to address his comments so directly across the chamber, but to make it easier for him I am referring to the sorts of comments of Senators Conroy, Carr and Cameron—just the three Cs—in relation to this question.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order. Senator Evans, you have 15 seconds remaining to address the question.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: We are focused on the issues of importance to Australia: strong leadership, creating jobs and making sure that Australians have the opportunities provided by that strong economy. We will continue to do that.