Address-in-reply, Parliament House

Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (16:22): I am going to start with a quote from John F. Kennedy. He said:

In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience - the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men - each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.

John F. Kennedy knew a little bit about courage, obviously, having fought in World War II. He made many brave decisions as President in dealing with the unrest in the civil rights movement. Political courage is something a little bit different. We do get to see a little bit of real courage in this place. Sadly, it is often when we stand to note the passing of Australian soldiers. We have done that too many times in my time here. Or there is the courage of police officers who go undercover. I am wearing a Daniel Morcombe badge. I know that would be incredible courage. But political courage is something that we do not see a lot of here in Australia.

When John Howard introduced gun control laws in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre, he showed political courage. He had only been Prime Minister for six weeks. He challenged his coalition partners, the Nationals, to bring in those laws. I know it took a lot of coverage. Even more courageous was the Queensland Premier at the time, Rob Borbidge—also not from my side of politics. Queensland had a National Party-dominated coalition government at the time. Premier Borbidge knew that backing gun control laws was going to be a very difficult thing for him to do politically in Queensland, but it was the right thing to do, and Rob Borbidge did not waiver. Rob's political courage probably cost him the next election in Queensland, but he has undoubtedly saved many Australian lives by supporting Prime Minister John Howard's gun control policy. Sadly, this week we have seen an unpicking of that incredibly brave legislation that has saved lives because of horse trading where we have guns for votes going on. I would ask the Prime Minister to seriously consider what he would be unpicking.

Over my time in this place there have been examples in this parliament of people showing political courage—what we would call 'the courage of their convictions'. In August 2006, we saw the member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, cross the floor to vote against the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill. That took a bit of courage. He did the same thing again in the remaining stages of the migration amendment. On 13 February, my first day in parliament, when the parliament made an apology to the stolen generation—a motion of apology to Australia's Indigenous people by the Prime Minister of the day, Kevin Rudd—the member for Dickson had the courage not to support that motion. I totally disagreed with him, but at least he had the courage to say to his colleagues, 'I do not support what you are doing.' He said that to his leader at the time, Brendan Nelson—'I do not support what you are doing.' So he showed some courage, I guess.

I also acknowledge the courage of member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, when two Liberal and two National members voted against the second reading stage of the Customs Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill, which was, basically, the alcopops legislation. I am not sure if the member for Gippsland has been consistent in voting against this budget measure ever since, but he did when he came in as a new member. I do acknowledge that.

There are a few other examples that I could give. The member for Wentworth voted with the Labor government in the second reading stage of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010. He went against where his party sat because he believed in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. He definitely showed that he had some courage when it came to something that he believed strongly in. In 2011, the member for Dawson voted in favour of a Bob Katter amendment to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill. He went against his party. He showed a little bit of political courage. Then on 27 November, 2012, the member for McMillan voted against the second reading of the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill, showing consistency in his position because he believed in it.

In 2013, the member for Bennelong, John Alexander, voted against the higher education support amendment. But there was some suggestion that that actually might have been a stuff-up on his part rather than a conviction position. Likewise, the former member for Banks, Nickolas Varvaris, actually voted with the opposition on a matter, but I think that was more of a stuff-up. I think the National Party member for Flynn, when he was in a conversation with Clive Palmer, actually voted against his party. But, again, I do not think it was a moment of conviction; that was more of a stuff-up.

I wanted to point out that political courage because it is not a commodity that you see very often in this place, even in the Liberal Party, where, supposedly, every single vote is an individual decision, unless you are a member of the cabinet. Every single vote of the National Party is an individual decision. There will be debates in the party room, but you are allowed to vote wherever you want. In the Labor Party, we have a different set of rules—a collective set of rules—that say, unless it is a matter of conscience, you will vote with the collective.

What have we seen in this parliament for the last 15 days of sitting? We saw a government lose control of the 45th parliament. It was unbelievable. We saw a Treasurer introduce legislation that contained a $107 million black hole. We saw a Senate that run out of legislation to debate. Then we saw that incredible event, for the first time since Federation, where we had a government vote against itself in the House of Representatives—on a motion that voted in favour of seeking the government to explain why it had failed to explain tax loopholes and increasing tax transparency. So we have a situation where we have a Prime Minister who is not leading his government. It is the job that he is paid to do; it is the job that he was elected to do—admittedly, with a small minority. And, obviously, he has no authority to govern Tasmania because all of his Tasmanian backbenchers were rejected.

Debate interrupted.


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