Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Matters of Public Importance
I do not want my first speech on matters of public importance to be negative, but what positives could I possibly tell the Australian people that would make them feel proud of their Prime Minister and their government? Along with so many other Australians, I was genuinely heartened that when the member for Wentworth became Prime Minister we would see something different. But when government MPs and the Prime Minister were given the opportunity yesterday to outline to the Australian people his achievements of the last 12 months, there was only one: the Prime Minister's defence of the behaviour of the big banks, which are ripping the heart out of vulnerable Australians. On that side of the House they are divided. There is no unity and there is no leadership.
I know from my electorate of Braddon and home state of Tasmania that for the nation it has been a year full of disappointment. As at April this year there were at least 17 backflips that this Prime Minister had committed in seven months. I have lost count, from that point on, of how many more there have been. On issues that the Prime Minister once passionately believed in either he now has no time for them or he is simply far too consumed with appeasing the far right wing in order to maintain his leadership. On marriage equality, the Prime Minister is on record as supporting a free vote in the party room, but he is unable to stand up to the right wing and show leadership. Instead, the Prime Minister wants to subject our nation to a divisive plebiscite. On the republic, the Prime Minister was a cheerleader but now he says it is not time. And on climate change, where he previously supported carbon emissions trading schemes, the Prime Minister has again spectacularly backflipped.
The Prime Minister's backflips do not just stay with social policy. On economic policy the backflips are equally spectacular. At one stage the Prime Minister's economic plan consisted of an idea to raise the GST to 15 per cent, but then he ditched it. A plan for double taxation; a 48-hour backflip: I guess the achievement here is that it took the Prime Minister two days to realise it was a dumb idea. It would have resulted in higher taxes paid by Tasmanians to be able to afford health and education—funding that he wanted to walk away from—which would have resulted in negative economic growth and negative population growth, leaving Tasmania a basket case. Was that his plan for Tasmania? It is little wonder that the community has no idea what he stands for. It has been clear since day one of the Prime Minister assuming the leadership of the Liberal Party that he is being led by his own far right wing fringe. Which tail is wagging the dog?
In my home state of Tasmania and my electorate of Braddon, the sense of disappointment is at its strongest. This is borne out of the result of the recent election, when Tasmania overwhelmingly rejected the Prime Minister and the policies he stood for. In Tasmania the Liberal Party recorded the lowest two-party preferred vote in any state in the nation. Despite the Prime Minister saying he has learnt the lessons from the election, nothing has changed. I cannot even get one of the four Liberal senators to come to my electorate. They do not want to. They are giving up on regional Tasmania. He is still cutting Medicare. He is still cutting millions of dollars in bulk-billing incentives for pathology services. He does not want to invest in Gonski. And then there is the NBN. There have been three iterations of the NBN for the west coast of Tasmania and still no-one knows what is going on.
For Tasmania the Prime Minister's priorities just do not cut it. Since the member for Wentworth became Prime Minister, 5,200 jobs have been lost in Tasmania. The participation rate in Tasmania has plummeted to just 59.3 per cent. The government's claims of jobs and growth do not stack up in Tasmania. Fourteen jobs a day are being lost in Tasmania under the Prime Minister's watch. At a time Tasmania desperately needs leadership when it comes to tackling the jobs crisis, the Prime Minister has not shown any.