Friday, 13 February 2015

Assorted Liberal MPs forget their own leader's history and make fools of themselves

On Wednesday 11 February 2015 six Coalition MPs allegedly took exception to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Closing The Gap reply and vacated the Chamber while he was still on his feet.
Apparently Shorten committed the sin of partisanship by mentioning Abbott Government funding cuts to Aboriginal agencies and frontline services, while the sainted Abbott was obviously considered by his backbenchers to be statesmanlike in his preceding 2015 Prime Minister’s Closing The Gap Address.

That next day The Sydney Morning Herald online reported:

Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent was first to show his anger by leaving the chamber and later said he believed the partisan comments belittled an occasion that should have been above point-scoring.
"The people of Australia are calling out for leaders who can rise above the fray," he told Fairfax Media.
Others who walked out included Andrew Nikolic, Angus Taylor, John Cobb, Ken O'Dowd and Melissa Price.

So was Shorten’s speech a departure from accepted practice in relation to Close The Gap reply speeches by opposition leaders?

Looking to Tony Abbott’s reply speeches as Opposition Leader I came across this February 2011 example of straying off piste as it were:

I accept that it is very difficult for the government to support legislation which will impact on the work of the Queensland government. But I do think it would be a great and fitting sign of good faith on the part of our Prime Minister if she at least prepared to entertain change on this issue. As I said at the start, there have been many fine speeches in this House on this subject—many heartfelt utterances, much depth of passion and great sincerity. But let us translate that into the very best that we can do for Aboriginal people in our place in our time. That is why I think the wild rivers legislation should be revisited. I think that it would be a good test of the real quality and the real commitment of this parliament if we could find it in our hearts to pass this particular bill.

February 2012 delivered this fine example where, returning to the same subject in his reply speech, he accuses the Gillard Labor Government of attempting to bury his unpopular private member’s bill, Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010:

Mr Speaker, at the risk of straying into partisanship, I think I do need to raise today the issue of the wild rivers legislation, which has now been before this House for the best part of three years, one way or another. It is a modest bill, the wild rivers bill, that I have now put it several times before this Parliament. All the wild rivers bill seeks to do is ensure that Queensland wild rivers declarations can only apply with the consent of the traditional Aboriginal owners. I am not against wild rivers declarations. I accept that where the traditional owners want them, they should apply. But if indigenous people are really to be in control of their own land, if they are to enjoy genuine land rights, surely this is not too much to ask. Yet this modest bill of mine, which has but a couple of operative clauses and which runs to less than nine pages, has now been subject to no fewer than five inquiries by committees of this House or the other place. This modest bill is so inquired into that you cannot but conclude that those who control this Parliament are not trying to analyse it, they are trying to bury it.

So it appears that the first break in any bipartisan tradition of Closing The Gap reply speeches actually came from the lips of their own party leader and now prime minister,Tony Abbott.

That show of righteous indignation by these six Liberal MPs was a gesture which only demonstrates how foolish those governing us can be.


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