Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Matters of Public Importance
I am amazed by some of the commentary we have heard today about leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence a group of people. But what seems pretty clear is that the influencing is coming the other way and, unfortunately, our Prime Minister, who is supposed to be leading our country, cannot lead his own party. He is being led down the garden path and being told what to do by the member for Warringah and another bunch of people over in the other place who are setting the agenda. When it comes to the same sex plebiscite, or marriage equality, in this parliament, I came down to this place to listen to what the Prime Minister had to say about his reasons for having this plebiscite when he clearly does not believe in it himself—or used to not believe in it himself. He spoke about being respectful of gay couples. Well, if you are respectful then you will tell the people in your team to pull their head in when they are saying the tenor of this debate is not important. Of course the tenor of this debate is important. Of course the people who are going to be damaged in this debate are important—they are Australians.
And we are going to put a whole heap of money into something that is unnecessary. What the Prime Minister should be doing is his job, like John Howard did—he legislated to change the act. Why can't that happen again? On my side, the previous member for Solomon did a survey about this issue and there was overwhelming support for marriage equality. If you think we need to waste this money on a plebiscite that has a real possibility of hurting people, of damaging people, it shows that you are out of touch. The conversation has been had around our country—around barbecues, at sporting venues and in pubs. If you are not sure what the Australian people have been saying in those conversations, maybe you should talk to someone over on this side—because it is pretty clear. We take representing people seriously, and it has been really disappointing.
I have only been in this place for 15 seconds but what I have clearly seen already in that short period of time is that morale is not strong over on the other side because the leader of that side is not in command of this national project. So morale is low. My advice is: do your job and lead, influence people. There is going to be a huge price to pay. That $170 million could be used on so many things to help the people of our country.
I want to be constructive. I am obviously not happy. Like a lot of Australians, I am disappointed. But I do want to be constructive. I think it is great that we have shown cooperation on this side of the House with some measures around the omnibus bill. I think that is good, I think that is positive. There are a lot of things where we could work together. It is just unfortunate that there is a lack of leadership, which is not allowing us to do what is right for the progressive future of our country, to advance Australia fairly for all Australians. I would like to say a lot more, but time is short. I would like to work constructively with the Prime Minister, but he might not have that opportunity if he does not start to lead.