I second the resolution. I cannot remember the last time that a minister ran out of material at the beginning of their speech. People talk about how difficult it might be to make the transition from government to opposition. Who has ever made a worse transition from opposition to government? We have a situation in which the person who was their star in opposition has become an absolute embarrassment in government.
The reason that we should suspend standing orders today is that, if question time is to mean anything at all, ministers have to be willing to answer questions here. What we have had from the minister for immigration is an acknowledgement that he will put information out as part of a media strategy, as though the media strategy is the only part of his job that matters. And there is a reason he does not have to worry about any other part of his job. Other than the media strategy, he has not implemented any of the new policies that he promised at the election. How many boats have they bought in Indonesian fishing villages? There is no doubt in anyone's mind that not one boat has been bought in Indonesian fishing villages—not one. Every Australian knows it; everyone in Indonesia knows that it is ridiculous. But this minister wants us to believe that it is a secret operational matter and that he will decide whether or not I will tell you on a Friday afternoon— that great time to get a message out to the Australian people.
The journalists have been complaining for some time about the fact that basic pieces of information are not being made available to them. But we did not think that that culture of secrecy would extend all the way to the floor of this parliament. If you are a minister in a country that does not have the Westminster system of government, you do not have to come to the floor of a parliament. But I thought that the Westminster system was important to some of the people in this room. I thought that we opened the parliament with reference to the idea of there only being a couple of traditions in Australia, and one of the two is British. If the Westminster tradition matters, how come we have a minister who refuses to pass on information when the only defence he has is, 'Oh, it's not in my folder'? Lots of people have come up with excuses over the years. But no child would get away with 'the dog ate my homework' as readily as the minister thinks he can get away with 'Oh, it's not in my folder.' If they have turned back boats, what is the possible argument that it would help people smugglers for that to be public? We have had four years of the Prime Minister, while he was the Leader of the Opposition, telling us that that would be a deterrent and that that would send a message. Now from the minister for immigration we find that it is a secret message! 'We have to make sure that the people smugglers do not know. Damn: sometimes, the Jakarta Post might find out, but hopefully we can keep the deterrents under wraps.' Notice also that whenever the minister for immigration or the Prime Minister talk about the reduction in the number of the boats they include dates prior to when the regional resettlement arrangements were put in place. When they choose a two-week period they will never choose the final two weeks before the election, when it was down to one boat each week. You will not find them referring to that. I remember your complaint in the Daily Telegraph, Minister, when you said, 'It's not the policy; it's the weather.' We remember that one, too. If you want to be a minister in this parliament who is accountable to the Australian people, you need to recognise that they have a right to know. They have a right to know through the press gallery and through the media and they certainly have a right to know under the Westminster system within this parliament and on the floor of this House. We have gone from turn the boats to telephone the boats to buy the boats to hide the boats. We have a minister who, the moment he was elected, went from being the most public voice to donning the invisibility cloak and wanting to hide. He is the greatest embarrassment that this government has.
We should suspend standing orders to compel him to provide the information to the parliament and to answer the questions that have been asked that he so callously refuses to answer. (Time expired)
The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion to suspend standing orders be agreed to.
Mr Abbott: Madam Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
HANSARD CHAMBER GREEN
Thursday, 14 November 2013 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 343
Date Thursday, 14 November 2013 Source House
Page 343 Proof No
Speaker Burke, Tony, MP Question No.
Mr BURKE (Watson—Manager of Opposition Business) (15:15):