Tony Abbott expelled as parliament gets feisty
Tony Abbott is the first federal opposition leader in 26 years to be thrown out of the lower chamber of parliament, since his mentor John Howard.
TONY ABBOTT is the first federal opposition leader in 26 years to be thrown out of the lower chamber of parliament, since his mentor John Howard.
Mr Abbott’s historic suspension came on Monday, as the coalition pursued Labor on whether it could afford to pay for multi-billion dollar promises on health, defence and education.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey kicked off a feisty question time by asking Prime Minister Julia Gillard how she was going to find the money to pay for an overhaul of school funding, a national disability insurance scheme, offshore detention of asylum seekers and new submarines.
Ms Gillard, who earlier told an independent schools forum all schools would be better off under the government’s reforms, said funding forecasts would be revealed in the mid-year budget review.
She recommitted the government to a 2012/13 budget surplus, saying Labor would work with the states to find extra money for schools.
But the prime minister accused Mr Abbott – who had told the same forum he believed the current schools funding model was working – of attacking public schools.
The highly emotive schools funding debate tends to divide down public and private lines, with the public sector arguing high-fee schools are unjustly being funded at its expense.
“If anything, the injustice is the other way,” Mr Abbott told the school chiefs.
Ms Gillard said this showed “every public school in this country is on the opposition hit-list”.
With five minutes to go before the end of question time, Mr Abbott interjected and was asked by Deputy Speaker Anna Burke to withdraw his remarks without qualification.
Mr Abbott said: “I withdraw but it’s still an untrue statement.”
“You could not help yourself,” Ms Burke said before telling the opposition leader to leave the chamber for an hour.
Mr Abbott’s initial remarks were inaudible in the public galleries.
But he still made history.
The last opposition leader to be ejected from the House of Representatives was Mr Howard in 1986.
Since 1914, only six opposition leaders have been told to leave the chamber and all bar one were conservatives.
Later, Mr Abbott returned to the house and made a personal explanation, saying he did not intend to cut funding from public schools in government.
“I said no such thing, I intend no such thing, I would do no such thing,” he said.
Mr Abbott had earlier on Monday told reporters the federal government was over-promising on health and education and would not be able to deliver.
“This is a desperate government that will make any promise that it think it needs to, to get itself through the day,” he said.