Thursday, 13 February 2020
Matters of Public Importance
It's a shame that, at this stage of the week, it always degrades into this kind of abuse between two political parties in a chamber. We can be better than that. We can be so much better than that and focus on the big issues. Frankly, this week we've focused on a lot of tiny issues. We've focused on a lot of superficiality. The party opposite were so obsessed with themselves that they didn't recognise the Indonesian President's visit. They were utterly obsessed in the Senate with playing the most puerile games since Federation, like trying to stop the Manager of Government Business in the Senate. Yesterday, the media was absolutely subsumed with Labor's obsession with siding with the crossbench to prevent parliament working. That was their contribution to politics for the day.
Labor is a party that actually had no policy around tax cuts, except trying to copy the government. Last quarter we had $8.1 billion of tax cuts. That is not peripherals or superficialities; this is money in people's pockets. This is what the job of government is: responsibly managing the economy and making sure that the September quarter last year showed a $4.5 billion increase in what Australians had in their pockets. It effectively boosted that September quarter by 60 per cent. That's the serious work, that's the grinding work, of running the books and still running a balanced budget.
We've worked on border policy. We've worked on the feasibility around base-load energy. But all Labor can obsess on is their 'walk both sides of the street' approach to emissions, where you have the Otis group emerging this week. It's fascinating that Otis was the guy who invented the elevator with a safety mechanism. You will need more than a safety mechanism to get out of this one. You don't even have a policy on emissions that you can stick by on both sides of the street. The minute you change towns or you leave the city and head to the bush, it is a different policy—trying to please those in the country; effectively trying to reach out to the inner-city Greens who are taking their seats. That is their fixation.
All we are asking those opposite to do is to take seriously the big issues, like the government does—things like international education and responding to coronavirus. That is the work that's quietly being done. I'll throw a little olive branch across to the other side and say that, when those opposite were in government and had a one-seat majority—governments like the Gillard government; certainly not the Rudd government—despite all of our criticism, they were quietly doing good legislative work on the way through. That's something that we have consistently done as well. I don't mind recognising that. A finely balanced parliament can get the job done and we are proof of that.
But, of course, what's so disappointing is that the party opposite has seven members sitting along that bench who deep down wish they could have Albo's job. There are seven MPs along there who think they deserve the Leader of the Opposition's job—and it is only a matter of time. Increasingly, what we see is a cardboard cut-out figure who doesn't know where he stands.
Australians can be sure of a few things. They know that we're focused on jobs. They know there are 100,000 fewer Australians living day to day off welfare, thanks to this government. The previous Labor government increased the number of those completely reliant on welfare payments by 270,000. These unfortunate souls relying on welfare payments could have been in the economy, but it was a government that didn't know how to manage it. The population's gone up in the last 12 months by 300,000 people in Australia, and welfare reliance has dropped by 100,000. They are big numbers, but every one of those is an intensively case managed family—an intensively case managed household—often with no-one in it working for a number of generations, and we have been working slowly to give them the opportunity this great country can offer.
We haven't been that happy about declining PISA standards. But what did we see from the other side of politics? We saw them simply frittering away education money through Gonski 1—just re-investing in the same stuff that doesn't work. They haven't been able to make the tough decisions in education for years. This is a side of government that, given the opportunity and the reigns of health policy, was simply unable to do anything except defend their legacy of having created Medicare. This a party that, when it got tough, when it got really hot in the kitchen, deferred PBS approvals and told Australians to wait for life-saving medicine, because they just couldn't run the budget. That is why they sit on the other side and have an attack like this on fundamentally peripheral things. It has been most disappointing, not for us but for the Australian people, who watch it with embarrassment.