Senator MOORE (Queensland) (3.24 pm)-The answers given by the various members of the government today reflect the core issue that we are struggling with on a daily basis in this place. There are so many issues that demand and require a cooperative relationship between state and federal governments. The need to work together to effectively fund and come up with a transparent response to the issue has been transcended today into the same old model responses. The government's response is, firstly, do not listen to the question; just give the answer written on the little piece of paper in front of you. We have heard today what that piece of paper says. I do not pay much attention to media leaks-they happen all the time. Certainly, over the last few days there has been considerable media attention to a plan supposedly that has been put out within the Liberal government containing concerns about how they are moving towards this election. We all know it is going to happen soon and there have been quite significant leaks in the media about what the government's model will be as we lead into the next election. Their model is very clear: attack the states at every opportunity, blame the states for all problems and talk about state finances, state leadership and state policies but do not talk about the federal government's responsibilities in this process. We saw this today all the way through question time: there was detailed analysis of various state budgets. But the government's responses only went across the top, with a cursory look at selected areas, various state budgets and the amount of lending and processes that have gone on. We can talk about that all day, but that is not our job. Our job is to look at how, as part of the federal parliament, we can most effectively deal with the issues for which we are responsible. That does not mean allocating blame, not listening to what the core issues are and just dumping the messages that make the most effective media grab. Also we have returned to exactly the same old process of trotting out links of union thuggery. Again, Minister Abetz waved around three pieces of paper that impugned various people and talked about processes within the Labor Party including our very transparent and known links with the union movement. There is no argument about the fact that there are links between the Australian Labor Party and the union movement. But is it a really effective response to a question that does not mention those issues to wave paper around and cause fear, division and antagonism? Once again, the response was to go for the individual, go for the person and attack their credibility. That is not an effective answer to any question, not a process for moving forward and not an explanation of a policy development but rather a quick, easy attack to which we are all supposed to sit on this side of the chamber and say, 'That's got us, we can't respond to that. We may as well go home.'
We have this ongoing process such that, when questions are asked, it is immediately an opportunity for someone to attack. People have asked quite clear questions about detail of policy, detail of funding and in particular what is happening in what should be a cooperative arrangement between state and federal governments. They were clear questions of meeting the demands of health care and education and, in particular, we were talking about what is happening in the Northern Territory at the moment with the major expenditure that is going on there. When people asked questions about detail, funding and expenditure across the period of time, the response was not to answer the question or respond to the requirements of those questions but rather to come up with a glib response which automatically blames the Territory government and does not look at our collective responsibility.
Much has been said about the environment in which we are operating now as we move towards an election. So many things will be coloured by people's attention; they will try to grab the media and try to grab whatever small moment of attention they can claim. Through that process, we must be clear that, when there is a request for information, there is no attempt to hide. There should be a simple understanding that, when questions are asked, there is a need for an answer. There may not be agreement in the response but at least we should be able to get detailed costings and a detailed understanding rather than just being caught up in some ongoing debate about which side is stronger, bigger or greater than the other. (Time expired)