Matters of Public Importance - Gillard Government
Senator John Faulkner
27 February 2012
Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (16:33): Let me say that I believe this Labor government is a good government. This is no better demonstrated than by the government's sound management of the Australian economy and by the long list of key policy achievements since its election some four years ago.
It is very easy for an opposition to say that a government is dysfunctional. But just consider how Australia currently compares with other advanced economies in the world. The Labor government has steered Australia through the worst global recession since the Great Depression more than three-quarters of a century ago. Unemployment is low—currently at 5.2 per cent—and employment growth is strong. Unemployment is lower in Australia than in any every major advanced economy of the world, bar one. Some 750,000 jobs have been created since Labor was first elected more than four years ago, including 100,000 in the last year alone, and the government is on track for the creation of another 300,000 new jobs this year.
Growth is steady with a strong investment pipeline. Debt is low. Australia has a budget position that is literally the envy of every other nation in the Western world. Inflation is contained in this country, and interest rates under the Labor government have reached lows never seen by the previous coalition government. Importantly, as I have said before in this chamber, for the first time in our history Australia has received a AAA rating from all three global ratings agencies—something that was never achieved by the previous coalition government.
It would not be surprising to anybody that the opposition has proposed this matter of public importance today. As you would expect, the opposition is trying to exploit the fact that we in the federal parliamentary Labor Party had a leadership ballot today. Well, such events are part and parcel of politics. Since I have been in parliament I voted in six leadership ballots: the two challenges by Paul Keating to Bob Hawke, Kim Beazley's challenge to Simon Cream, the ballot between Kim Beazley and Mark Latham, Kevin Rudd's defeat of Kim Beazley, and, of course, today's leadership ballot. I am a traditionalist, and that is a nice way, I suppose, of acknowledging that I am a relic from the past. And I have always refrained from publicly or privately canvassing the respective merits of those who are contesting leadership ballots. I am afraid I have to disappoint my friends in the gallery; I am not about to start now. I will, however, say that I have the greatest respect for all the Labor prime ministers that I have known and I believe that each and every one of them deserves our gratitude for their efforts on behalf of our party and our nation.
On the other side of the chamber, I have seen Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Alexander Downer, John Howard, Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull come and go. I have seen others desperately covet the leadership but not have the guts to contest it—Peter Costello comes to mind there. I have seen Tony Abbott win a leadership vote, the ballot he won in fact by one vote after preferences, against two of his most senior colleagues. So, yes, we have leadership ballots just like the Liberal Party and the Nationals have leadership ballots. And, yes, the Labor Party fights and, yes, the Labor Party fights such ballots hard because the stakes are high. We fight hard because we are passionate in our beliefs. We fight hard because in Labor's broad church so many different views are heard. Like other political parties, the Australian Labor Party has internal processes to resolve its differences. Those processes have been in operation again today. They have worked again today as they have worked in the past.
So the bad news for the Liberal Party is that, just as has happened in the past after a leadership ballot is done and dusted, differences will be put aside and members of the government will work together in the national interest. This is the way the Labor Party works. We respect the outcome of democratic processes in the party, in the parliament and at the polls. The Liberals have never done that. They will never acknowledge that Prime Minister Gillard has been voted for by the majority of the Australian voters, the majority of members of the House of Representatives and the majority of my caucus colleagues. They can spend as much time as they like denying reality. While they do that, this government will get on with the job of delivering for Australia.
How extraordinary in this matter of public importance debate that the three coalition speakers—Senator Brandis, Senator Fierravanti-Wells and Senator Mason—have themselves been such warriors in internal Liberal Party leadership ballots. Senator Brandis could not stand John Winston Howard. He called him a 'lying rodent'. Senator Mason had similar views. He probably did not do as much backgrounding as Senator Brandis did against Mr Howard, but his view was well known. Senator Fierravanti-Wells undermined Mr Turnbull when he was the Leader of the Opposition virtually every minute of every day. Well, I do not think it does any of us any good to have that level of hypocrisy in the chamber. As I said before, leadership ballots are part and parcel of Australian politics. What I say is that after they are over, a responsible political party gets on with the job. In the case of a political party that forms government, it gets on with the job of governing. That is what the Gillard government will do: get on with the job of delivering for Australia. (Time expired)