House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019


Government Procurement

3:01 pm

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

I move:

That the House:

(1)notes that:

(a)the Finance Minister abolished the Labor Government's travel panel and made it compulsory for all Government travel to be booked through Helloworld companies;

(b)the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole of government contract by the Minister's own Department;

(c)the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders, Mr Andrew Burnes, is the Liberal Party Treasurer;

(d)the US Ambassador Joe Hockey helped Helloworld lobby for Embassy travel arrangements but Embassy staff weren't aware of Mr Hockey's million dollar Helloworld shareholding when he directed them to set up a meeting with a Helloworld company, a meeting which Mr Hockey personally attended;

(e)DFAT officials in Australia weren't told about Mr Hockey's conflict of interest until after the meeting and Mr Hockey didn't list his million dollar Helloworld shareholding on his DFAT register of interests until the month after that meeting;

(f)explosive Estimates evidence today confirms that the meetings was arranged because, in the words of Mr Andrew Burns, "Hockey owes me"; and

(g)these are just the latest examples of Members in this Government acting as if they are above the rules and treating taxpayers' money as their own, including the:

  (i)Helloworld scandal;

  (ii)Paladin scandal;

  (iii)unlawful tipping off an Australian Federal Police raid;

  (iv)use of Ministerial authority to assist Liberal Party donors;

  (v)treatment of a parliamentary committee as if it were a branch of the Liberal Party; and

  (vi)use of a Members' position to promote their own commercial interests; and

(2)therefore, condemns Members of this Government for acting as though they are above the rules and treating taxpayers' money as their own.

I start this speech with the following words: 'Hockey owes me.' That tells you everything you need to know about this government. Somebody owes a Liberal donor, so they get a meeting. A Liberal minister owes their mates who run a small private foundation, so they get half a billion dollars in half an hour. A Liberal minister owes a chum, who gets a juicy contract. The Liberals owe the big banks big time, so they vote against a royal commission 26 times. But the one group this government do not think they owe anything to are the Australian people who are not members of their special club. What happens if you're not in their club, and what happens if you're not one of the chums? Your penalty rates get cut; they cut funding to your local school, TAFE and child care; they cut funding from hospitals; they charge you more to see a doctor; and they put up everything except your wages.

A week after this Prime Minister rolled Malcolm Turnbull, he made the pilgrimage to Albury to define his new leadership. He did the usual Liberal Party thing and disinterred the words of some dreary old Robert Menzies quote, like he was reading a mantra from the Dead Sea scrolls. He told the assembled conservative faithful the core philosophy of his government. He said, 'We look after our mates.' Well, they certainly do look after their mates. The Liberals look after their mates, and their mates look after them. $400 million for Paladin? Why not? It has a company registered at a beach shack on Kangaroo Island. I didn't realise that Kangaroo Island was a tax haven! There was another $500 million for the mysterious Great Barrier Reef Foundation, half a billion dollars for a foundation that didn't even ask for it. As long as the donations flow in the Liberal Party, this government doesn't mind.

This is a Liberal government of their donors, by their donors and for their donors. No wonder the Prime Minister described our call for a national integrity commission as a 'fringe issue'. No wonder they have kicked that into the long grass. We won't hear any of that before the next election. The Prime Minister doesn't want to know about Senator Cormann's free flights. He doesn't see anything wrong with the Liberal Minister for Finance and the Public Service calling the treasurer of the Liberal Party, who just also happens to be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar travel company, to sort out some free overseas travel. But apparently that's how things work at Helloworld.

I want to draw to the House's attention the half-year Helloworld investor presentation. It is truly remarkable. As part of the reasons why you should invest in Helloworld, they talk about their merits and their strengths. I kid you not, it's says that one of the reasons why this is a great company with brand awareness and customer acquisition is that it 'has the right people in the right places'. Let's be candid here. I like the finance minister personally. But it just doesn't fly that when you book a $2,700 holiday you don't notice that it's not on your credit card and never notice if you paid for it. In the real world, people notice that money and if they have paid for it.

The Prime Minister's determined to imitate the three wise monkeys—I hear nothing, I know nothing and I say nothing—on this issue just doesn't stop at that. Apparently he has no interest in getting to the bottom of what happened with Ambassador Hockey. Joe Hockey is not a bad fella, but what on earth was he thinking? For a million-dollar shareholding, he just lined up the introductions. The whistle-blower at Helloworld just spells it out. He asked, 'How can this meeting happen with the Liberal Treasurer of Australia?' The response: 'Hockey owes me.'

Joe Hockey declared that the age of entitlement was over, but for this Liberal government it never, ever ended. If people want to understand the mentality of the modern Liberal Party—it's not every member over there, but it's a heck of a lot of them—they rub shoulders with their rich donors and they have a sense of frustration. These Liberal members of parliament look at their friends, who they rub shoulders with in private sector, and they say, 'They earn more money than us. Poor us, we're Liberals. We're sacrifices our wages to serve the public, so therefore it's permissible to take the gifts and to do the introductions.' This is the mentality. They feel that public service should come with a special subsidy, because that's the way they view public service. The problem is that they treat everyone else with disdain. They use taxpayer money like it's their own personal expense account. They can shout over there, but they can't deny the truth.

When it comes to kicking people off the dole, they're all over it. If it comes to sending threatening letters, they're all over it. They know when someone shouldn't be getting $265 a week, but they don't just understand why they shouldn't have it all for themselves. When it comes to the way they treat the health budget, they will cut that. But when it comes to holiday, they say, 'Hello, mate! Helloworld!' There is one set of rules for the Liberals and one set of rules for everyone else. We see that again with the fact that these people are happy to put everyone else in court, and they're happy to put everyone else in front of a royal commission. They expect everyone else to cooperate and they expect people to pay their own legal bills. But when it comes to them, the rules do not apply. Was is $288,000 for Senator Cash not to write a witness statement? That is the most expensive nonstatement in the history of the Commonwealth.

We see the minister for Goldstein. You know: 'Geoffy, Geoffy,' 'Timmy, Timmy,' 'How are you mate?' 'How are you mate?' 'Could we line up an investor shareholding meeting to go with your little branch meeting so we could do a bit of product placement for both. Right people in the right place.'

And then, of course, we cannot forget that old faithful, the member for Fadden. He is the great multitasker of the modern Liberals, the Renaissance man of rorts. I have one question, which Australians are asking: how do you spend $40,000 on the internet? What on earth are you downloading? What the Prime Minister will say is, 'Oh, it's all the Canberra bubble—a union conspiracy. Watch out, votes will start. Watch out!' Scare, scare! He'll say that the voters out there don't care about the government wasting money and disrespecting ministerial standards. What a contemptuous attitude this born-to-rule mob have about public money and public service!

Australians do care about integrity. That is why, if we are elected, Helloworld will be the first item on the national integrity commission that we will set up. When they're faced by facts, they just ignore it. What they will say is we're wrong; this is the bubble. Well, you know what they say? They say that the workers are wrong about flat wages, the women are wrong about sexism, the teachers are wrong about the cuts to school. They say the carers are wrong with the crisis in aged care—we haven't forgot you, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care. They say the CSIRO are wrong about climate change, the energy experts are wrong about renewables, the Academy of Science is wrong about the fish kills in the Menindee Lakes, the First Australians are wrong about the Indigenous voice in the Constitution, the international community was wrong about moving the embassy, ASIO are wrong in their security briefings. They say the Federal Police are wrong about Senator Cash. And, of course, to the banking victims they'll say they were not wrong to oppose the banking royal commission. All this government has left is fear and dishonest scare campaigns. They think the public will forget their failures. Oh, no, they won't. (Time expired)


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