House debates

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Matters of Public Importance

Turnbull Government

3:37 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Listening to the Leader of the House is like listening to Catweazle ranting about elec-trickery, the telling bone—the conspiracies. It is like a pantomime character getting excited: 'Look out! He's behind you!' But what was notably absent from that spirited defence was a single mention of the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, and why she should remain in her position.

What we know for certain is this minister has misled the parliament five times, and she should go. If the Prime Minister had any courage, he would make her go. Don't forget, this is a Prime Minister who has already lost five government ministers: the former member for Mayo, the member for Fadden, the former member for Fisher, the member for Farrer and Senator Canavan. Today we're likely to get No. 6. Tomorrow we might get Nos 7 and 8. This Prime Minister is going to break John Howard's record for losing ministers—what an incredible achievement!

Only a Prime Minister who is weak, who doesn't have the confidence of his party, would be too gutless to take the action that is obviously necessary to anybody watching. We can only conclude that he's too weak to act because he doesn't have the support of his colleagues or that he was in it up to his neck. I've got to say, it really does not bear examination, does it? The Prime Minister summons the minister down to his office and says: 'There are all these very concerning reports this morning that you or your office have tipped off the media to a raid that happened yesterday. What have you got to say to that?' We are expected to believe that Guthrie Featherstone QC, MP asked just one question: 'Did you do it?', that the minister just answered: 'No. It wasn't me,' and that Guthrie Featherstone QC, MP didn't ask the obvious next question. This Prime Minister's so great at cross-examining that he wrote a book about it—The Spy Catcher Trialtalking about what a fantastic lawyer he is, but he didn't say, 'Actually, Minister, the reports aren't about you tipping off the media; the reports are your staff tipping off the media.' It absolutely beggars belief.

It is a classic tactic of those opposite to try and say that we have asserted this or asserted that. I have to be very clear about what the problem is here. It's often not the crime but the cover-up that gets you, and this is the case with this minister too. If she had been frank about the fact that her staff had done the wrong thing instead of misleading the parliament five times, instead of trying to drag out proceedings last night so she could get past the media cut-off times and past the dinner break, I think people might have a bit of sympathy for her. But the fact that she has persisted in misleading and persists with the same today makes our sympathy evaporate.

I have to be clear about this other element: the Leader of the House tried to imply that we are somehow criticising the Australian Federal Police. That is the very last thing that we are doing. We heard evidence just this week from the Federal Police that government cuts will:

… mostly apply to our discretionary funding. That is areas that fund a large portion of our anti-narcotics, our organised crime work, our general operation work, our fraud and anti-corruption.

In those circumstances, every Australian will be asking themselves why the Federal Police, who are so good at their work, so good at protecting Australians, instead of being out busting organised crime gangs, drug traffickers and gun traffickers are doing work that Star Track Express could have done: going down the road and picking up some documents because the ROC sent them to do so. This is an outrageous use of tightly stretched resources when we are hearing how tightly stretched those resources are.

What we know is that this government will always use taxpayers' resources to pursue political opponents. They will say anything. They will do anything, because this Prime Minister— (Time expired)


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