Did Muppets Draft the Labor Defence Policy?

When I sit here and listen to the arguments of the other side in this debate and during question time, I am reminded of that great American children's TV show Sesame Street. The children up in the gallery are perhaps more recent viewers of that show than I am, but I remember that there is a great song in Sesame Street called 'One of These Things is not Like the Other'. 

The reason I think of that song when I hear their debate is that we have now spent two days in the Senate—quite a long time yesterday afternoon—arguing about censoring a senator. That is a very serious motion and a very serious act of this parliament—about a sentence that he spoke, about an analogy that he made that was slightly mangled and that he came in and apologised for later. And we have wasted hours upon hours of our time to make this censure motion. This song came to me, because yesterday when I was hearing this debate, I thought: I am only new to this place. What other acts and behaviours have we censured in this place in the past? We have over 100 years of history so presumably there is some kind of precedent here for censure motions. What acts actually constitute the need for a parliament to censure someone ? If you go to Odgers, it says on page 461:

Ministers have been censured for matters as varied as: misleading the Senate, failing to answer questions on notice within the stipulated time limit, maladministration of a department, attempting to interfere in the justice system of another country, failing to declare an interest in a matter, for “contemptuous abuse” of the Senate, and for refusing to produce documents in compliance with an order of the Senate.

These are all very serious matters. When we come to do the next edition of Odgers, unfortunately—and the Clerk is here—the Clerk is going to have to add a little phrase to say 'and someone was also censured for mangling an analogy and subsequently apologising for it'. One of those things is not like the other. I do not know which one. There are about 10 serious acts there and another one which is not like the others. Yesterday, though, we had this faux outrage from the other side about this. I think it is appropriate that we do think of Sesame Street when we talk about the Labor Party's approach to defence policy in this nation, because it is as if their defence policy is written by muppets. Kermit the frog would do a better job than these guys are doing right now writing defence policy.

I walk around this place, and people put stickers in their windows all the time about what is going on. I saw a humorous one in Senator Cameron's office earlier—it was quite good. But I keep seeing bumper stickers in Labor Senators' offices saying, 'Build, design and maintain here'. And there is a picture of a submarine. I looked at the Senate report that Labor senators just signed off on, in the Senate Economics References Committee, and nowhere in that report do they make a recommendation to build, designed or maintain ships here. So they are putting these bumper stickers presumably on their cars as they are driving around the electorates and they put them in their offices, but they did not make that recommendation in the report. Why didn't they make that recommendation in the report? Because no-one made that recommendation to the Senate Economics References Committee. No-one! Not one expert said that we should build, design or maintain submarines here. Everybody knows that we are not going to build, design or maintain ships here. We may do a component of the work here, and the government is still considering how much that might be. But we are not going to design submarines here. We are not going to be able to do all of that work here. All of the ships we are currently building, which were approved and contracted for under the Labor Party, were all done with substantial amounts of work from overseas. The previous submarines that we had built were the Collins Class, which the Labor Party held up as a template for the future. Much of the work on those submarines, and much of the equipment, comes from European submarine companies. The weapons systems come from American submarine companies. So these guys over there are not producing a proper defence policy. They are producing something that cannot be attained; that even they do not want to put their name to.

The other interesting thing, when you read through the Labor senators' report that they released a couple of weeks ago, is that they say that what they want is an open and transparent tendering process. They want it to be open and transparent and they want it to be competitive and open to everybody, except on the one page of the report they say, 'The Japanese can't apply'. So it is open and competitive, but we cannot have Japanese ships.

Senator Abetz: "What!"

That is right, Senator Abetz. I wish I had the words. I have the words of another debate here but I do not have the report on the me. There is a sentence in that report that says we should not go ahead with a Japanese submarine right now. Why? If we are going to have an open and competitive tender process, what have you got against Japanese submarines? What is against it? The reason they doing this is because they are running a political campaign and not a defence policy. It is not a policy to defend the future of our nation. This government is focused on making sure that our policy is put in place for the best interests to defend our nation. Over there, they are wanting to get grabs for late night TV.

 

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