Questions Without Notice - Prime Minister's Visit to Western Sydney

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

(14:00): My question without notice is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. Given the Prime Minister's desperate announcement of a one-week Rooty Hill based visit to Western Sydney, on which day will the Prime Minister be visiting the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in the electorate of Lindsay, whose power costs have risen 15 per cent as a result of the Prime Minister's carbon tax, and whose management has resorted to shutting—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Payne, just cease.

Senator Cameron interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron!

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: On both sides—order! Senator Payne is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator PAYNE: On which day will the Prime Minister be visiting the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in the Lindsay electorate, whose power costs have risen 15 per cent as a result of the Prime Minister's carbon tax, and whose management have resorted to shutting down the facility during peak electricity usage times and have even considered the viability of using or buying their own generator?

Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator Conroy: No, exactly! Don't even pretend.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, you have been called upon to answer the question.

Senator CONROY (Victoria—Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:01): Could I thank the senator for her question and her alleged concern.

The Prime Minister is a regular visitor to Sydney. This will be her 18th visit in the past—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy! Senator Conroy, just sit down! When everyone has settled down we will continue.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Now, when everyone has settled down—on both sides—we will continue.

Senator CONROY: As I was saying, the Prime Minister is a regular visitor to Sydney. This will be her 18th visit in the past year.

Senator Brandis: She wasn't—

Senator CONROY: Senator Brandis, the last time you tried to play geography games, you had to come back into the chamber to apologise. And the Prime Minister is in Brisbane today!

Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator CONROY: The Prime Minister is in Brisbane today, so Senator Brandis may need to come and make another apology.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, just resume your seat. No, just wait a minute, Senator Brandis. When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I know that Senator Conroy still does not quite believe that he is a cabinet minister after five years. However, Mr President, I would ask you on the point of relevance to direct him to the question. The question was about the Prime Minister's proposed visit to Western Sydney, and specifically to Rooty Hill. Can you ask the minister to address that question rather than to behave like the clown that he is.

The PRESIDENT: Order! That is not called for. The minister was addressing the question until there was an unfortunate interjection which turned the minister's attention away from the question. I remind all senators that interjections are disorderly. There is a question before the Chair. The minister has one minute and 17 seconds. There is no point of order.

Senator CONROY: Her 18th visit in the past year. Part of governing is getting out there into the community, listening to people's concerns and talking to Australians about our real plans: our plans about helping modern families with modern pressures—our plan to improve schools and to provide jobs and opportunities for all Australians.

Mr Abbott, on the other hand, sees Western Sydney as just a political prize on his map. Just a political prize! He has no plans for the future of Western Sydney—just cuts! Just cuts! He will scrap the schoolkids bonus, slash funding to schools and stop the NBN.

The NBN is currently rolling out fibre to over 48,000 homes and businesses in Blacktown, Lalor Park, Seven Hills, Prospect, Penrith, Kingswood, South Penrith, Jamisontown, Richmond, Windsor, South Windsor, Bligh Park, Londonderry, Hobartville, Richmond Lowlands, Agnes Banks—(Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will proceed. I remind honourable senators that the time for debating issues is at the end of question time.

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question to the minister. Western Sydney is where I live and where I work. In light of the comments of former Labor identity and senator, Graham Richardson, that Ms Gillard's trip to Western Sydney might actually harm Labor's re-election chances, and Senator Doug Cameron's remarks that the former Prime Minister Rudd is a vital campaign tool because of his ability to spread the Labor message, wouldn't the Prime Minister be better off asking Kevin Rudd to campaign for her in Western Sydney?

Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator Conroy: Seriously, you had no health, no education.

Senator Wong interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Conroy, just resume your seat. Senators on my right and left, order! Just sit down. When senators have resumed silence we will proceed. It is as simple as that.

Senator CONROY (Victoria—Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:07): Those opposite do not want to ask about health. They do not want to ask about education. They simply want to inflict more pressure, more pain, on people in western Sydney. People in western Sydney are already feeling the pressure from the savage budget cuts inflicted by the O'Farrell government on schools and hospitals, and there is more to come if those opposite are elected in the coming election. Last time Mr Abbott was a minister in a government he cut $1 billion out of the health budget and he supported Work Choices which took away—

Senator Abetz interjecting—

Senator Cameron interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order on both sides, Senator Abetz and Senator Cameron. I remind honourable senators that interjections are disorderly.

Senator CONROY: As I was saying, despite claims from those opposite, Mr Abbott supported Work Choices. Do not try to pretend in here now he did not. He came into parliament and he voted for it. (Time expired)

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:09): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. Given that five years of this government has resulted in a carbon tax we were not meant to have—and I refer the minister to page 13 of the Penrith Press of 15 February for the letter on the Penrith Whitewater Stadium costs, double-digit hikes in electricity, water and gas bills, a broken promise on means testing of private health insurance rebates, a 29 per cent hike in rents, and $147 billion in net debts—why should western Sydney residents have any confidence that this Prime Minister takes the needs and aspirations of those people seriously?

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind senators that there needs to be silence.

Senator CONROY (Victoria—Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:09): This government has delivered the strongest economy, just about, in the Western world. You can try and pretend, because the illiterates over there and Mr Hockey—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! If you wish to waste question time with interjections, then so let it be, but it is completely disorderly. You know that it is disorderly and it reflects poorly on both sides of the chamber when it happens.

Senator CONROY: Look at the evidence—800,000 jobs since we came to power, an economy that those opposite continue to try to talk down. 'No pulse,' said Senator Brandis a few days ago. 'No pulse,' said Mr Hockey—demonstrating his economic literacy—'It's flatlining.' Yes, it is flatlining at three per cent growth and 800,000 jobs. We protected 200,000 jobs during the global financial crisis that you dismissed as just that thing that happened for six weeks in the Northern Hemisphere. This government is proud of its achievements in supporting modern families; proud that we introduced the schoolkids bonus, which you are going to take away; proud that we have introduced new payments for families— (Time expired)

 

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