Thursday, 1 August 2019
Matters of Public Importance
We finish another sitting week with a nearly empty gallery as we argue about whether the Australian voter got it wrong on 18 May. In these interesting debates where abuse is thrown from both sides and we talk in generalities about how our respective governments would run the place better, it's often useful to take the transcripts of speeches in debates like this and ask whether we could give exactly the same speech if we were in opposition, not government. It's fascinating that in this juncture we hear from the Labor Party quite detailed arguments about how the world is so unfair, how cruel the government is and how insoluble social challenges are simply not being addressed. The logical thing you would do if you have been here for more than a term is take the speeches we are hearing from the Labor Party and ask whether each of those members would be happy to give that speech if they were in government.
All of these insoluble social problems that governments have grappled with for decades saw no improvement in the six years when this group opposite were in office. But they continue to live in this dream that somehow their sort of socialist-centralist model of government somehow fixed problems when they were there—and Newstart is just a fabulous example of that. For the then Labor government changing Newstart barely crossed their mind or their lips in six years in government. In fact, as recently as April this year, when the time came to stake out exactly where those opposite stood for the 774,000 Newstart recipients in this country, do you reckon they could commit a cent to increasing Newstart? They committed to a review of Newstart, which is always a very handy way of describing to those who don't listen to politics every day and every minute that you're thinking about them, but you're actually not committing a red cent to their wellbeing. This is a Labor Party that is torn on two fronts.
In the couple of minutes I have I want to make an observation on behalf of outer-metropolitan and regional Australia. I'm an outer-metro seat. There aren't too many other outer-metro seats in this debate at the moment, and there's certainly not an outer-metro person over there—bar one, probably. The rest of them are basically Labor postage stamp electorates where you are basically amongst your high-rise buildings and inner-city elites. The streets are covered with lime scooters and the greatest concern you have is whether you can get your cold-drip coffee of a morning. This is where museums are fundamentally give-ways to Macca's drive-throughs and you get out to outer-metro Australia. For Queensland, that tipping point in Brisbane is 16 kilometres from the CBD, which engulfs all of those Labor electorates. There are a couple of postage stamp electorates in Logan and Ipswich, but the rest of Queensland fundamentally rejected all of the arguments put by the Labor Party.
That's not to say that nothing the Labor Party says is good. The thing that most frustrates voters out there is that we can't concede that from the other side comes good ideas and we always insist on calling black white simply because we're on the other side of the chamber. Australians absolutely get sick of politicians walking two sides of the street and trying to say one thing to one cohort and another to the opposite. Nowhere was that better exemplified than the Adani debate, where friends of the opposition tried to do a convoy up into the Galilee and were stoned, egged and tomatoed out of town and sent back with their tails between their legs. This showed that there is now a geographic divide. We've got members over there, with a couple of exceptions, that fundamentally represent the inner-city post-materialist values—and, if you're not inner-city, you're in working-class electorates that were somehow looking after rust-belted manufacturing areas of some of our largest cities. You speak for those people, but you increasingly don't speak for the rest of Australia anymore.
The rest of Australia demonstrated an 18 May counterrevolution and simply said no to all of the ideas that that side of parliament espouse—no to the attitude that Medicare is simply about more money and indexing; no to the idea that hospitals and universities are just about more money; and no to the idea that you can remove the cashless welfare card and remove the trials that we're talking about in improving welfare payments. Those on the other side are fundamentally a party fixated with the amount of money they can transfer from one pocket to another—primarily to fix the concerns of others, not those who are actually paying for it.
The Labor Party are simply fighting two fronts: one are the squabbles the Labor Party are having with the Greens—and it was great to see your leader at the Splendour music festival being howled out of the tent because of his views on climate. Labor have got their own fights with the Greens—which they are not winning—and, as long as that's occurring, they won't win their fight with outer-metro Australia and they are not going to win their fight with regional Australia. For that reason, the values that the Labor Party hold true to in good faith are poorly articulated by their party.