House debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018


Morrison Government

2:43 pm

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

I move:

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

That the House:

1. notes that since moving on Malcolm Turnbull, the Government has:

a. cancelled Parliament because it couldn't decide who was Prime Minister;

b. lost two Government Members, with at least one more on the way;

c. been forced into minority Government, which the Government previously said would create uncertainty in our economy and instability for the country;

d. created the first part-time Parliament in the history of Federation by scheduling just 10 sitting days in eight months;

e. cancelled the Treasurer's trip to the G20;

f. voted for a National Integrity Commission even though it doesn't support one;

g. voted against tougher 15 year jail sentences for corporate criminals;

h. abandoned the National Energy Guarantee – a policy which was designed by the Treasurer, which the Prime Minister promised would lead to lower electricity prices, and which the Member for Curtin still supports;

i. been described by the Minister for Women as "homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers"; and

j. been described by its own Prime Minister as "The Muppet Show"; and

2. therefore calls on this ramshackle, reactionary Government to stop fighting itself and start focussing on the needs of the Australian people.

Australians are outraged that this government is too scared to turn up to parliament, with the parliament just sitting—after it rises next week—for 10 days in the next eight months. The rest of Australia doesn't get to take months and months off work when it feels scared about coming to work, so why is the Prime Minister insisting on a part-time parliament? I believe that this part-time parliament confirms that we have a part-time Prime Minister who is running a part-time government that is not, at any time, in the interests of the Australian people.

The Prime Minister is fond of saying, 'If you have a go, you will get a go.' But obviously it doesn't include saying, 'You need to go to work to have a go.' What a work-shy government. I have wondered what would happen to members of the CFMMEU if they ran an industrial action campaign and proposed this in the lunch shed one morning: 'I have a great idea. Let's only go to work for 10 days in the next eight months.' They would probably be sacked. Indeed, this government would like to put them in jail. But it's one standard for the Morrison ministry and another standard for the workers of Australia. Who on earth in Australia gets to say, 'I'm not happy with my job today or next week, so I won't come for the next eight months, except for a total of 10 days'?

The Australian people, in all seriousness, are our employers. They remain deeply unimpressed that they have a government of parliamentarians who seek for the people to vote for them to be in parliament but, once they have voted for them to be in parliament, those Liberal and National parliamentarians feel no obligation to actually report to parliament. The part-time parliament, however, points to a bigger issue. This is a government that has simply ceased to govern. Not only have they given up governing but they have given up pretending to govern. They have no agenda and no legislation. They are just being swept along by the currents of hate and division in the river that is the government coalition ranks.

An example that demonstrates their lack of agenda, or lack of commitment to an agenda, is that on Monday they voted in favour of a national integrity commission. We thought this was a positive development because, for a year, they had rejected our idea to have a national integrity commission. As we explored the logic of this government, by question time the Prime Minister told us that an integrity commission and the issue of integrity in parliament is a fringe issue. Furthermore, he couldn't explain if he actually supported one or not. But the government did, implausibly, say that one of the problems with having a national integrity commission is that it might mean that ABC journalists would be picked upon by that commission. You could see the fingernail marks in the marble all the way from the blue carpet in the executive section of the parliament as they were dragged to vote for this national integrity commission.

The reason why they voted for it was that they were scared of the debate. We should have seen, on Monday, a forecast of things that were to come. They don't want to be in parliament, even though they collect the wages of people who are expected to go to parliament. But there's a second reason, other than their lack of agenda and their inability to do anything other than respond to events, why they don't seek to be in parliament. There is another reason. The reason why the government don't like to turn up to work is that those in the government can't stand being in the same city as their other colleagues in the government, much less the same room. Australians are confronted with the sorry sight of a part-time parliament because the government have a full-time obsession with fighting amongst themselves. The parliament is part time under this Prime Minister, but the civil war in the Liberal Party is a full-time occupation.

The ramshackle, reactionary coalition sitting opposite are so consumed by some form of existential identity crisis, some bizarre debate about what it means to be a real Liberal. They watch and rewatch the old footage of John Winston Howard and they roll him out, in some sort of video, to prove that they were once Liberals. They reinter the speeches of the 70-year-old Menzies era as some sort of ouija board to help give them advice as they go forward in their current crisis. They talk to themselves about themselves in conservative echo chambers. They pontificate about this mythical right-wing base, and they write-off whole communities as irrelevant.

'Don't worry,' they say, 'Batman isn't the real Australia; Perth isn't the real Australia; Fremantle isn't the real Australia; Mayo isn't the real Australia; Braddon isn't the real Australia; Longman isn't the real Australia; Wentworth isn't the real Australia; and Victoria isn't the real Australia.' Rather than face up to their failures of policy, change their out-of-touch attitudes and take responsibility for the cuts and chaos, they prefer to engage in conspiracy theories. Yet again, we saw it on the front pages of The Australian newspaper. The conservatives see the invisible hand of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull in every decision, like Tiberius with a Twitter handle. You have to feel for Malcolm Turnbull, and I'm sure some of you do now. He must be wondering why he never had this mythical, Keyser-Soze-like influence when he was the Prime Minister of Australia. The economic shift is extraordinary too. After all, the Liberal Party used to believe in the invisible hand; they used to be the party of the invisible hand. Now, they are scared of the invisible hand; they blame it for everything that's going wrong.

The problem is: as humorous as it might be at one level, the nation is tired of this government. I stood at the polling booths in Victoria, and whilst all credit goes to Premier Andrews—and there were many state issues—the truth of the matter is: when you see polling booths in Flinders down in the Nepean state electorate or in Kooyong in Hawthorn or in Higgins in Malvern and you see people who have only ever voted Liberal in their life asking, 'When is the federal election?' you know that this is a government that is not only scared of the parliament but also of the Australian people.

They should be scared for good reason, because Australians want more than the chaos of the government, the division of the government, the dysfunction of the government and the internal hatreds of the government. Labor know that, in the path which they have adopted, the Australian people will resoundingly reject policies which come from a government which is based on fear. The only argument that this desperate government have is saying, 'We are not Labor.' But one of their failings is that they personalised this dispute. I thought it was remarkable—even as remarkable as the part-time parliament!—when the Prime Minister said it's all about me and him. No, Prime Minister; it is about the Australian people. It is about the penalty rates that you won't restore. It is about the school-funding promises you broke and will not keep. It is about the growing out-of-pocket costs for health care and for X-rays and diagnostic imaging. It is about the fact that you won't give three-year-olds universal preschool. It is about the fact that you have 120,000 people in aged care. It is about the fact that you want to hand on to the next generation inadequate action on climate change. It is about the fact that you ignore rising power prices because of your obstinate denial of climate change. We look forward to the next election, but what we say about it to this government in the meantime is: do not be a part-time parliament; show respect to the people, turn up to work and do your day job until the people get to evaluate your job at the next election.


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