House debates

Wednesday, 20 February 2019


Government Procurement

3:15 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | Hansard source

Of course the government will not be agreeing to the suspension of standing orders. That was really one of the weakest performances I have seen in this place in a very long time. This is the man who is apparently the great white hope of the Queensland right wing, the member for Rankin, but his performance was enough to make himself cry—as we know has been the case in the past when he hasn't been able to get his own way, as was exposed by a previous Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. This is one of the weakest cases I have ever seen in this House for condemning a minister or, in this case, the ambassador to Washington DC. It's a straight-out smear and a straight-out slur.

What the Labor Party have been doing in the press gallery, all day today, for anybody who wanted to hear, was bragging about how they've had this story for months. They've known about the Helloworld story for a long time, and they were just waiting to drop it to distract from their own problems, to distract from their woes—which they've created themselves—in the last few weeks. They thought, in coming back to Canberra, they were going to have the government on toast, but they were completely mistaken because the Canberra bubble is not the Australian public. That is not what the people of Australia are talking about. They're not fussed about whether the government doesn't get enough votes for an absolute majority to stop a suspension of standing orders or to pass it. They couldn't care less about that. What they're talking about in the suburbs and on the main streets of Australia are the retiree tax, the housing tax and the $200 billion of taxes that the Labor Party wants to inflict on the Australian economy, on small businesses and on the couples and individuals that the Treasurer has been outlining in question time today and yesterday. They are frightened of a Labor government getting into power.

Pensioners and retirees are frightened of a Labor government getting into power, because they have fixed incomes. When they get to that stage of their life, they work out precisely their standard of living and how they're going to be able to live. They put a little bit aside for their grandchildren for Christmas and birthdays. They put a bit aside for their caravan and camping trips. They put a bit aside for charities. If you talk to almost any person who's on the board of a charity in Australia, they will tell you that, if they look at the breakdown of donations to their charity, there are a huge number of small amounts of money—$25, $50, $100, $200—donated by older Australians, retirees and pensioners, who think that, because they live in the greatest country in the world and because they've done well and they've been able to look after themselves in their retirement, they should give something back, to a charity. They will be the first expenses to go because of Labor's retiree tax.

Let's just turn to the issue itself, this pathetic case that was put by the member for Rankin. The facts are that the ambassador to Washington declared his shareholding in Helloworld before the tender process for the Australian embassy in Washington travel services commenced. The tender process commenced with a register for expressions of interest advertised in August 2018. Mr Hockey has had no role in the tender process. He declared his business interests in accordance with the DFAT guidelines. The Australian embassy staff meeting with QBT on 26 April 2017 was not in relation to the tender process. QBT was then, and continues to be, a travel provider for DFAT through whole-of-government supplier arrangements. Mr Hockey declared his business interest in Helloworld to embassy staff ahead of that meeting. He did not instruct staff to meet QBT or any other companies in relation to the tender. As part of the normal business, Australian embassy staff have met and corresponded with a range of travel providers to discuss the embassy's travel requirements. They are the facts.

Helloworld has put out a statement today to the Australian stock exchange—not to The Guardian, not to the ABC, not to the Fairfax press and not to the Labor Party machine men who are trying to distract the Australian public from their complete failure on border protection and taxes. No, it was to the Australian stock exchange. There is a very high standard required if you declare something to the Australian stock exchange.

An honourable member: What did they declare?

I will tell you what they declared. They said:

At no time has Ambassador Hockey or Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes discussed the DFAT tender and neither Mr Hockey nor Mr Burnes have had any involvement in the tender process.

Mr Burnes did not request the meeting with DFAT personnel in the United States.

It's absolutely clear that what Labor has tried to do is to come up with a farrago of lies, a tissue campaign, to try to create a smear and a slur to distract the people from the real issues that are coming at this next election. The real issues of the next election are who do you trust to run the Australian economy; who do you trust to deliver a budget surplus, which Labor has never delivered since 1989; who do you trust on border protection and to protect our borders so that the ADF doesn't have to work on the jobs in the northern reaches, protecting our borders, and can actually get on with the job that they're trained for; and who do you trust to deliver the services that Australians expect and the infrastructure that they require in a modern economy? It isn't the Labor Party.

It is the Liberal and National parties, the parties that have a very clear record over many decades of fixing the messes that Labor creates when they unfortunately get the chance to be in government. It happened with the Whitlam government. It happened with the Keating and Hawke governments. It happened with the Rudd and Gillard governments. It's very important that this election is decided on the issues that matter to people in the street, in the main streets of the country towns and the suburbs of Australia, not inside this Canberra bubble, which the Labor Party revel in and the Australian people don't give two hoots about.

Finally, it is the height of audacity for the Labor Party to try to lecture the Liberal and National parties about fiscal rectitude and integrity. It took a royal commission for the Leader of the Opposition to declare donations of very high value that he had suddenly forgotten about as soon as he received them. We have all been in campaigns; we know how to raise money. Tens of thousands of dollars is a very large donation. I'm always happy when I get a $500 donation from a small business person who wants to stop the Labor Party getting into office. Tens of thousands of dollars is a very significant donation, but the member for Maribyrnong forgot all about it. It took eight years and a royal commission for the Leader of the Opposition to be forced to declare what is required of every member of the House and the political parties that we represent.

We're not going to be lectured to by the member for Maribyrnong about these kinds of issues of financial integrity. We're not going to be lectured to by the Labor Party. In the Keneally government, they ended up with almost as many people in prison in the ministry as out of it by the end of their government. There was Ian Macdonald, Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid, although not all of those people have gone to prison. These people were exposed by ICAC for the most heinous activities when they were in government in the New South Wales government. Those opposite would like that all to be forgotten, because they have a New South Wales election coming up in a few weeks' time. But if they want to put integrity back on the political agenda in New South Wales, go right ahead. The Berejiklian government would love to have that debate reheated, about Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdonald.

There's the relationship of those opposite with the union moment, with people like John Setka, the CFMMEU and Joe McDonald. Kevin Rudd turned his back on unions like that. Kevin Rudd threw Joe McDonald out of the Labor Party. The current Leader of the Opposition has brought all of those people into the centre of decision-making in the Labor Party. They're deciding on preselections and who should sit in this place. They're deciding on policy. In Victoria, they were brought in to give the Leader of the Opposition the numbers he needed for himself and his faction to take over the Victorian Labor Party, and to elect people like the member for Corio, who's had a big run in the park today. I'm not sure he'll get such a big run in the future, since he decided to put 50,000 jobs in the mining and resources sector in Queensland and elsewhere at risk by saying he wanted the mining and resources sector to collapse internationally, apparently in order to protect the climate.

The Labor Party have had a shocker in the last fortnight. They've had a shocker. The cockiness of the Labor Party in the last six to 12 months—they were so certain they were going to be in the ministerial wing. We're very much looking forward to the election. We believe the Australian public will want to re-elect a government that delivers budget surpluses, low taxes and more jobs.


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