Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (17:33): Welcome back, Senator Ludwig, for what may be a cameo appearance as Manager of Government Business. We all wish Senator Arbib well. It is nice to see Senator Ludwig again.
Senator Ludwig said that coalition members in this place are running the same arguments that had been run by the coalition in the other place. He is quite right. We are. They were valid there, they were valid then and they are valid now. The purpose of this procedural motion is to seek the opportunity to have the order of the day for this legislation discharged from the Notice Paper. Why do we seek to have this matter discharged from the Notice Paper? It is so that this legislation is not further considered and does not proceed through this chamber. That is the purpose. We have been denied leave to move the motion so we are now debating that standing orders be suspended to enable this particular debate. I hope that the chamber agrees for that to happen.
This is yet another clear-cut case of a government breaking its word. We all know of the now infamous commitment by the Prime Minister that there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads. She lied; she fibbed; she broke her word. This case is as clear-cut as that. Election after election this party went to the Australian people-
SENATOR FIFIELD: Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I normally do not interrupt the flow of a speaker in full flight. In this instance, the point of order is that he may have inadvertently slipped into language that is inappropriate and unparliamentary in this place. I am sure he did not do that on purpose. I know, Madam Acting Deputy President, you were changing place with Acting Deputy President Back at that moment, but I ask Senator Fifield to reflect on that and to withdraw.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: My apologies. I was swapping chair positions with Senator Back. Perhaps I could just remind you of the words you choose to use, Senator Fifield.
Senator FIFIELD: Certainly. I did use the word ‘lie’ and I withdraw that. I am happy to replace it with ‘fib’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Fifield. I am not sure that is improving the situation but let us continue.
Senator FIFIELD: I think the word ‘fib’ is well within the bounds of discourse in this place but thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. I was saying that this is as clear-cut a case of breaking one’s word, of fibbing, as was the broken carbon tax promise. At successful elections members of the Australian Labor Party-candidates, members and senators-put their hands on their hearts and said, ‘We will not touch the private health insurance rebate.’ I recall the member for Griffith saying, ‘Not one jot; not one tittle.’ I am not sure what that was but I took it to mean he was not going to change it in any way, shape or form. That is the commitment they made. They said: ‘Trust us, we love private schools-no schools hit list.’ They said, ‘Trust us, we love private health insurance. We’re not going to touch the private health insurance rebate, in any way-not even a means test.’
Minister Roxon made that commitment. Minister Rudd made that commitment. Prime Minister Gillard made that commitment. Each and every one of the them said: ‘No way. Trust us. We’ve changed. We’re not the party of envy any more. We don’t believe in the politics of envy any more. We’ve changed.’
You know what? A lot of Australians at successive elections took them at their word. I know because I had members of the public come to me and say, ‘Look, Labor don’t want to attack private schools. Labor don’t want to attack private health insurance. I have heard Labor senators and members say that.’ That is what they say to me. I would explain, calmly and patiently, ‘Don’t believe them; they haven’t changed.’ It is clear that nothing has changed about the Australian Labor Party. Its traditions and its roots in class envy and envy politics go deep.
This is bad legislation. We want to encourage Australians to make provisions for themselves. We believe in both the carrot and the stick. We believe that if you do not take out private health insurance and you have the capacity to, above a certain income level there should be a penalty. We believe there should be that stick. But we also believe that there should be a carrot-encouragement and reward for making provision for yourself. This legislation seeks to attack that very idea of making provision for yourself when you have the capacity to do so.
It is the politics of envy. It should be condemned. We do condemn it. We are moving this motion to suspend standing orders because we believe we should be able to move a motion seeking the discharge of this legislation from the Notice Paper. The legislation should not have got this far. Members in the other place should have stopped this legislation in its tracks. They failed to do so. We have an obligation to hold this government to its word-to hold the Australian Labor Party to its word. It is time they were called on it. We want to call them on it.
The Senate should support this motion to suspend standing orders so that Senator Fierravanti-Wells can move her motion to seek to have this matter discharged from the Notice Paper.