Chaotic Parliament, Holden, Immigration, Abbot

TONY BURKE: Morning. Not a lot of you were here into the late hours of last night but as you are aware we have a Government that promised to be calm, methodical and adult. Last night the Parliament descended into chaos because of a childish prank. Christopher Pyne decided to shut down debate on all things infrastructure. 

The so called infrastructure Prime Minister, they decided they needed to rush the bill through and shut down debate, denying their own Assistant Minister Jamie Briggs a chance to speak on the bill.  I know Jamie hasn’t been doing too well lately so there could be a few reasons for that, but certainly they shut down the debate, wanting to get it across to the Senate even though the Senate can’t deal with the bill until March. So what then happened after the childish prank from Christopher Pyne for no reason whatsoever, other than he thought it might annoy members of the Labor Party, what followed were a series of three suspensions of standing orders, eighteen divisions, a Parliament in chaos and then for the third time in four weeks I found myself having to move dissent in a ruling of the Speaker. The third time in four weeks I had to move dissent in a ruling of the Speaker. We had again as you would have seen in Question Time yesterday the Speaker actually participating in debate from the chair, and I don’t think it’s too much to say that you shouldn’t have a situation where an umpire is sledging the players. This couldn’t be further from an adult government and it couldn’t have been a more chaotic Parliament. In everything we’ve seen this Government is delivering the exact opposite of what it promised.

JOURNALIST: Does the Speaker need to be changed?

BURKE: I think at the moment, the behaviour of the Speaker is actually an honest reflection of the behaviour of the Government. The Speaker at the moment actually fits right in, in terms of how this Government is functioning, in terms of how its responded to its own claims of being adult, and the sort of chaos that’s ensued, that has ensued and followed.

JOURNALIST: How much of this do you think actually resonates with the public, these chamber games that we’re seeing?

BURKE: I don’t think anyone is impressed when they see an umpire participating in debate. I don’t think anyone is impressed when they see a referee get involved in sledging players. I don’t think anyone is impressed by that and last night would have gone through as a normal parliamentary sitting night if people had been allowed to debate legislation. It’s really simple. There was an infrastructure bill, their own Assistant Minister was denied speaking on it, Labor Members were denied speaking on it, Anthony Albanese as our Shadow Minister for Infrastructure was denied the chance to move any amendments to the bill, to rush it through when the Senate can’t even deal with it until March. This was a student prank that the Government ran last night and I don’t think anyone would be impressed by it.

JOURNALIST: The Government’s letter to Holden, is that the appropriate course of action, seeking clarification before Christmas?

BURKE: I think we all saw with Joe Hockey’s behaviour in the Parliament yesterday that the chaos and the way this Government functions is something that Holden’s starting to realise as well. Let’s not forget, it’s not that long ago that the Government said that they would have a position after the Productivity Commission had reported. That’s next year. Then yesterday the Treasurer gets a rush of blood to the head, gets all angry in Parliament and says we need to know now. It’s no wonder that big companies are saying how on earth do you deal with a government that keeps changing the goal posts, that’s ripped 500 million dollars out of support for the car industry and is changing the rules day by day. The chaos that we see in the Parliament is the chaos we see in the way they run policy and it’s not good for the country.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the approval of the Abbot Point developments, given your role as Environment Minister in the last Government, should this development have been approved, under those conditions that we’ve seen?

BURKE: I stand by the different approvals that I gave when I was Environment Minister, but for anyone who has gone through the detail that you have to go through as Environment Minister on specific approvals, without having read what the brief is on this particular project, I’m not going to get engaged in either supporting or being critical of it. I stand by the ones that, the decisions that I made, but you know, people often want to get into slogans of good or bad on individual conditions on environmental approvals, there’s a fair bit more complexity to it than that.           

JOURNALIST: Although Greg Hunt yesterday was saying that under the previous Government’s proposal the dredging would have been 30 million cubic metres or something like that, but under his proposal it would be 1.3 million cubic metres, I mean do you stand by that?

BURKE: Look I haven’t gone through the specific reasons there so I can probably get back to you on something on that, but without having gone through the decision in detail and certainly without access to the full documentation that the Minister would have, I don’t think there is a lot I can add.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports out today saying that people smugglers are saying now is a good time to come to Australia given the spying row?

BURKE: I just want the Government to fix this issue. There has been a lot said about the number of boat arrivals. The truth is the single greatest impacts on numbers of boat arrivals were two things that happened while we were in government and they were Indonesian co-operation and the resettlement arrangements. Indonesian co-operation came in a few forms. It happened on the ground and it also happened with respect to the end of Iranian visas on arrival. The resettlement arrangements were because of good relationships with both Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

I want the Government to be successful on this issue. I don’t want them wreck it, I don’t want them to muck it up. By the time of the last election it had got down to two boat arrivals a week as an average, by the end there. We should be in a situation where this trade is able to stop. There are lives at stake and I genuinely hope the Government is able to get things back on track. All they need to do is just implement the policies that were in place when they came to office.

JOURNALIST: Any thoughts on BMW winning the contract to have the new C1 car over Holden?

BURKE: Look, there are specifics about who tendered and who didn’t, I’ve had a quick glance at the article there.

JOURNALIST: It’s not particularly, is it disappointing given that Holden didn’t appear to actually put in a bid?

BURKE: Look there are two things, Joe Hockey the other day said if you want Australian car industries you have to be willing to drive Australian cars and that’s what Joe Hockey said to the Parliament, probably he should have said that to Tony Abbott as well.      

Tony Burke