House debates

Monday, 10 September 2018


Morrison Government

11:27 am

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of standing ordering be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion immediately:

That the House:

(1) notes:

  (a) the last time this parliament sat, the Government shut down this House because this Government was unable and unwilling to govern itself;

  (b) the next day the Government deposed the elected Prime Minister but nobody is able to explain why;

  (c) the Government continues to be wracked by infighting, with Government Members leaking against each other on an almost daily basis;

  (d) the current Prime Minister claims he remained loyal to Malcolm Turnbull, but his own Liberal Party colleagues have been briefing that he was plotting to depose the former Prime Minister for some time;

  (e) the current Prime Minister has described his own Government as a "Muppet Show" and his own colleagues as Muppets;

  (f) Government members don't trust each other, are only focused on fighting themselves, and cannot possibly be trusted to look out for the interests of the Australian people; and

(2) therefore, condemns this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government for only being focused on itself and not helping Australians.

Every Australian wants to know, as parliament resumes, why isn't Malcolm Turnbull the Prime Minister of Australia? Last time the parliament met, the Liberals and Nationals voted together to shut this place down. They gave up even pretending to care about the country. They walked off the job, not in protest, not in pursuit even of better conditions, but in simple surrender. Being in government was too hard for this government. In that moment, once and for all, they proved they are simply unfit to govern Australia.

Now they return with a different Prime Minister and a different Treasurer, and they expect people to think that the past five years were simply a bad dream. Yet they cannot answer the very first question that every Australian has been asking for the last 16 days: why was Malcolm Turnbull sacked? Barrie Cassidy, on the ABC show Insiders, asked the Treasurer that very question three times: why was the Prime Minister knifed? Normally the words pour out of the loquacious member for Kooyong. There's nothing he enjoys more than the sound of himself answering one of his own dixers. Yesterday the well ran dry. He was squirming in his seat. He tried to duck and weave, but he never came within cooee of answering the question. Either he couldn't answer or he didn't want to.

But it wasn't just the Treasurer. The Leader of the House, the member for Sturt, normally so eloquent and quick with a witty opinion on the matter of the day, actually made history. He was the first politician to be caught by a 'gotcha' question on his own show. The intrepid journalist, none other than the member for Corio, asked him, 'Why exactly did we need a new Prime Minister?' What did the member for Sturt say? 'The question you ask is a good one. It's yet to be answered by those people who thought there needed to be a change.' Have a quiet whisper to the member for Dickson next to you; maybe he'll let you in on the picture. 'Those people', the member for Sturt calls them. That's how he talks about more than half of his colleagues.

But, to be fair to the member for Sturt, at least that's polite compared to what the Prime Minister described his entire party as—'muppets'. It goes to show you how deep, how toxic and how bitter the divisions are in the Liberal Party. On morning television last week, the Prime Minister said the curtain had gone down on the 'muppet show'. But, already, we can see it wasn't the end; it was only an intermission. Since he said that, on Monday last week some kind patriot in the Liberal Party, in the resistance, leaked the entire infrastructure plan of the government. Not to be outdone, on Tuesday, another patriot in the resistance leaked the whole of the plan to fix up Catholic school education—they neglected, of course, to look after public schools, but that's in their DNA. On Wednesday another patriot in the resistance leaked the entire business tax options for the government, and on Thursday, for good measure, one of the anonymous bullies of the Liberal Party paid back the member for Chisholm for speaking up against the bullies.

Of course, all week, we had the freedom fighters out there on and off the record explaining how Prime Minister Morrison outmanoeuvred would-be Prime Minister Dutton and former Prime Minister Turnbull. But who is actually the director of the production? Who is the Jim Henson of the 'muppet show' of the government of Australia? It is the same as it's ever been—the member for Warringah. Two weeks ago wasn't the end of the civil war; it was just the opening shot, and the next battle we see every day. We've already seen the recriminations such as the campaign of leaks against the poor old Minister for Home Affairs over his conflict of interests, his visas for mates—or not mates, depending on what we know and when we know it—and, of course, the debate over his constitutional eligibility under section 44.

We've seen recriminations much more serious, indeed, even than that: the shocking allegations of bullying and intimidation. We've seen women members of parliament, like the member for Chisholm, Senator Gichuhi, the member for Curtin and even the Minister for Women, talking about serious allegations of thuggery and standover tactics. We've had the member for Leichhardt out today making the same point. But, of course, on the other hand, against the victims of the bullying, we've got the member for Hughes saying they should 'roll with the punches'. This is indeed a character test for the new Prime Minister. Bullies are not entitled to the protection of secrecy. They do not deserve a deliberate silence from the Prime Minister of Australia. The simple point is this: the best way for the Liberal Party to resolve all of these toxic, poisonous issues and the best place for them to get them out of their system is a good long stint in opposition. There are no shortcuts to promoting women. The Liberal Party will not be taken seriously on the issue of equal representation of women in parliament until they introduce quotas like the Labor Party has.

The Australian people didn't vote for this current Prime Minister, and his own party can't explain why he's there. But one thing that is clear is his record. The Prime Minister has spent the past 16 days trying to hide from the previous five years. We remember, though. We remember when he was Minister for Social Services in the Abbott government, cutting child care, cutting support for families, increasing the threshold before people were able to access the age pension and pushing the retirement age to 70. We remember when he attacked nurses and police officers who'd negotiated improvements in their paid parental leave as 'rorters'. We remember when he was Treasurer, presiding over the lowest wages growth in this nation yet voting eight times to cut penalty rates. We remember when he insulted the victims of banking rip-offs by mocking the banking royal commission as a 'populist whinge'. We remember when he voted 26 times to protect the big banks from scrutiny to deny justice to Australian farmers, small businesses, banking consumers and homeowners. We remember the three years and three budgets that he devoted to giving some of these same banks a $17 billion handout. We remember the three years and the three budgets where he's helped doubled the deficit. We remember the three years and the three budgets that have cut schools, cut TAFE and apprenticeships, cut universities, cut hospitals, cut support for pensioners and frozen the Medicare patient rebate, all in the name of funding Australia's biggest-ever handout to the top end of town.

But there is a simple fact here which deserves more attention: 45 members of the Liberal Party voted to spill the Liberal leadership and sack Malcolm Turnbull—45!—but only 40 voted for the member for Dickson. Who are these other five Liberal MPs who wanted up their own man, the current Prime Minister? They were clever enough to spill the former Prime Minister's position and clever enough not to vote for the member for Dickson. Who is the person who has benefited most from the instability in the current Liberal workforce? Who has benefited most from the spill of Prime Minister Turnbull and by not voting for the member for Dickson? It's the current Prime Minister, the man who now holds the office.

This Prime Minister was not an innocent bystander in the leadership coup any more than he was a bit player in the Abbott and Turnbull leaderships. Every day at the cabinet table for the past five years, he'd done over working and middle-income families in Australia. Saying 'fairness' repetitively, like a mantra, doesn't make up for five years of unfairness. His record speaks for his character far louder than anything he yells in question time. The Australian people are sick and tired of watching the Liberal Party fight themselves. They deserve better than a government consumed by jealousy and ambition and animosity. No more badge-wearing, covering up and evangelical lectures—it's time for the Australian people to have a say on the government of this country. (Time expired)


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