Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Matters of Public Importance
It is a picture of the Prime Minister with just one word: 'fizza'. That one word has actually captured the spirit of our time. A great Australian word has captured and put into one image the feeling that we all have: our high hopes that surely the member for Wentworth would have to be better than the previous Prime Minister. So many Australians thought so, didn't they? You all know in your own electorates—high hopes. But, instead we got what Paul Keating predicted: a bit like a big red bunger on cracker night, 'You light him up, there's a bit of a fizz, but then nothing, nothing.'
This Prime Minister is trying to convince you that he has had a year of achievements, but, you know, it has been a year of disappointments. It has been a year of underperformance, from the NBN to the UN, from the census to the royal commission. He cannot do a single thing without stuffing it up. You really only need to look at my own portfolio of education: the great vision for schools from this Prime Minister is him just saying: 'Well the Commonwealth shouldn't fund public schools at all. We'll just let the states do that.' This Prime Minister is trying to prove that he has got an interest in the Gonski school education funding reforms by continuing to say that he went to Sydney Grammar with David Gonski. It takes a bit more than that to prove an interest in properly funding our schools.
A lot of people in this parliament were very lucky to go to university. Many on this side were the first in their families to be able to do it. We did it because we have a system where we do not have $100,000 American-style university degrees. We have a system where, if you are clever, you work hard at high school and you have got a dream, you can pursue it. What we have got on the other side is more than $3 billion of zombie cuts. We have got $100,000 university degrees just waiting for the opportunity for them to bring them in. Deregulation on a grand scale with 20 per cent cuts will make it impossible for universities to function as they do now.
In vocational education, what have we seen since this government has come in? A drop of 128,000 apprentices and more than $2 billion cut from vocational education. Bizarrely, we have the Treasurer banging on about the need for more savings and asking, 'What is Labor prepared to do?' I can tell you what we are prepared to do. We are prepared to help to the tune of about $8 billion over the next 10 years by cleaning up the dodgy operators. We know the 10 biggest colleges have graduation rates of less than five per cent. That is what we are prepared to do: clean up the shonky operators and give you billions of dollars of extra revenue while we do it.
But I think nothing really captures the spirit of this year of capitulation better than the plebiscite. We have got a Prime Minister who says he is in favour of marriage equality, but, I tell you what, he was in favour of the republic too, and what did we do? We gave him some responsibility to put into action the dreams of the majority of Australians to become a republic. You remember how popular the republic was before Malcolm got his hands on it. We gave him the opportunity to deliver for Australia this historic change with so much popular support, and he blew it. Now we are supposed to feel comfortable about it. He keeps saying: 'Look, nothing to see here. Don't worry about it. It's going to be just like 1999.' That is exactly what he has got us worried about. And we have got the Attorney-General, who is probably the only person who can match the Prime Minister for indifferent arrogance, saying, 'Never mind, we don't need to worry about the tenor of this debate or the tone of this debate.' Well, I am not really reassured, given the Attorney-General is the guy who is saying people have a right to be a bigot.
For decades from the establishment of this nation, we did what we could in our legal power to determine who Aboriginal Australians could marry. We tried to prevent them marrying non-Aboriginal Australians. After the Second World War, Australians were not allowed to bring their Japanese wives back to Australia if they had married. In fact, in 1952 we passed legislation to allow Australian service personnel to bring their Japanese wives and children to Australia.
Fifty years ago, if you had asked people, they would have said a mother's place was in the home. If they were a working mother like me, away from home a lot, they might have made a judgement that they were not fit to be mothers. Thirty years ago we were still forcibly removing children from their single mothers whether they loved them or not. We did not ask whether they could look after them; we assumed that they could not. I have to say this because I have to remind this chamber that we offered an apology to those women and children who had been separated.
Have we not learnt that we should give up judging people's relationships? Haven't we learnt that what matters in a relationship is that two people love each other? Haven't we learnt that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that what matters is the love and care in that family? We have finally worked that out, and I do not see why we should be offering an opportunity for people whose relationships might be a bit out of the ordinary to have those relationships judged.
This parliament is a mess. The year of achievement—you have all seen it—they want to go home and pull the doona up over their heads. They are changing the standing orders so they can leave earlier. They are running out of business. The place is a mess, but it is not the theatre that bothers me. It is the lack of achievement and the lack of ambition for our nation. After one year of this Prime Minister, instead of a leather jacket we are left with an empty suit. Every day we hear people waiting for the real Malcolm to show himself. When will we see him? When is he going to stand up to the right wing of his party and deliver on the things that he always said he cared about? But the bad news for Australians is that this failure, this fizza, is the real Malcolm Turnbull. This is the Prime Minister they have voted for. The best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour. Be worried.