House debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

4:00 pm

Photo of Alicia PayneAlicia Payne (Canberra, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm really pleased to speak on this matter of public importance—a plan for Australia's future—because Australians have reason to be concerned about the state of our nation and the state of Australian democracy, as this government has a complete disregard for both. Today the Prime Minister announced major changes to the Australian Public Service, out of nowhere—four departments axed and merged into others, and five departmental secretaries sacked, and they found out by email last night. These are leaders of our Public Service. These are people who've spent most of their lives serving our nation, working hard, working long hours and providing frank and fearless advice to both sides of government, and this is the sort of treatment they receive.

I, for one, would like to thank those people for their service to our nation and note that this is a disgraceful way for them to be treated. They had no opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on how this would affect their departments. I've worked in the Public Service, and my father was a career public servant. The professionalism that I see in him and that I saw in the people I worked with, and the commitment to the best outcomes for our nation, leave this government for dead—those people going to work every day wanting to get the best outcomes for our environment, for delivering services to people, to get our economy right, to provide the advice that enables governments of both colours to deliver policy that improves our nation, to deliver services and to implement programs.

But this is a government that's not into frank and fearless advice. They don't want it. They're not interested in sound policy advice, evidence or science. They're interested in ideological crusades. I cannot see how these changes will not lead to job losses. It just seems that when you go from 18 departments to 14 there will be job losses. Also, we all know that machinery-of-government changes are extremely disruptive to the Public Service, and this is going to cause huge problems. Right before Christmas, people in my electorate are going into Christmas worried about their jobs. This government has no respect for our Public Service, and Canberra-bashing suits their agenda of cuts.

The other day we had the member for Goldstein with a perfect example when he said that the basis of the Canberra economy is literally government, which he defines as 'the raiding of taxpayers hip pockets for the benefit of the few'. Well, that's not how I see the Australian Public Service. It suits this Prime Minister to dismiss Canberra as a bubble and to dismiss issues as Canberra bubble issues whenever he doesn't want to talk about them. To those who think cuts to the Public Service are bubble issues, I'd say: how much of a Canberra bubble issue is ensuring that pests don't get past Customs and decimate farmers' crops? How much of a Canberra bubble issue is supporting our drought-affected farming communities? How much of a Canberra bubble issue is 55 million 'engaged' tones on the Centrelink helpline for people trying to access services? And how much of a Canberra bubble issue is a year-long wait for a medically approved walker for a three-year-old girl on the NDIS?

These are really important issues, and these are what our Public Service is trying to work on. These secretaries have lost their jobs while the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, who has admitted that he has falsified documents, remains in his. This is a government of double standards, and we saw this writ large this morning with unprecedented abuse of this parliament and this democracy when the government tried to ram through the latest version of the union-bashing 'ensuring integrity' bill without us being able to debate on it at all or even see the updated bill. This is a government that doesn't want the scrutiny of this parliament. Each of us here was elected to represent the views of those in our electorates who elected us, and we were robbed of that opportunity today to voice those concerns about this bill that seeks to attack working people and the unions that represent them.

This is a Prime Minister who thinks he is above questions. He likes to talk about union thugs a lot, but who are the real thugs? Who are the people stealing wages? Who are the people forcing people to work in unsafe workplaces? He talks about the 'quiet Australians' when, really, what he wants to do is drown out any dissent. He demonises unions. He demonises protesters. The government ignore the advice of scientists. Theirs is an agenda of division to demonise anyone who questions their agenda, which serves the few, not the many.

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