Thursday, 12 November 2020
Matters of Public Importance
Can I just say it is great to have the member for Chifley kick us off this afternoon and have him back in a frontbench role. It's really important. He's someone who can speak about serious things and do it with an element of good humour. I think that's something that we need in Australian life and certainly in Australian politics.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, it is sad to say that in time to come, members of the government will probably get together and reflect on the fact that they made an art of doing very little with the trust that they were given by the Australian people. They've been here for seven years now, maybe eight years by the time it's all done—three terms in government—and they will have to reflect on what they've done here, which has been a lot of noise and lots of announcements, lots of press releases and lots of media stunts. But it has amounted to two-fifths of not very much. Some might say, 'Well, there's a kind of evil genius in that.' There's a narrow political frame in which you would say, 'If we can get away with that, if we can keep saying we're doing things without actually making a difference in the lives of ordinary Australians, why wouldn't we?'
But I just think we're here in this place to do more than that.
I was interested in what the member for Page said. I guess that's always a challenge if you ask a Prime Minister in a three-term government, with seven or eight years here: 'What would you put on your list? If you were sitting around having dinner with your friends or out walking in your community, what would you tell them are the hallmarks of what you've achieved in your time?' The member for Page talked about big business tax cuts—at a time of record profitability, in the name of some sort of trickle-down philosophy whereby that will turn into jobs. Does it turn into jobs? The evidence says: no, that doesn't happen. We're told, 'We'll take away penalty rates, and that creates greater flexibility and that will turn into jobs.' Has it turned into jobs? That's not what's happened. They make a song and dance about trade agreements. Say you went around Australia right now and you stopped people in the street who are doing it tough or are finding it hard to get work and are concerned about their future, worried about the fact that TAFE has been smashed and degrees are about to double in cost. Do you think that if you said to them, 'We've signed these seven trade agreements,' that would be much solace to them, to the people who are actually experiencing the economic and social conditions that apply in Australia today?
The slogans, the press releases and the announcements don't cover for a lack of delivery. You really have to ask: what is the point of spruiking a $2 billion Bushfire Recovery Fund if you haven't advanced any money out of that for people who have lost their homes and lost their livelihoods? What's the point of having a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund if you don't actually advance any money to support people who have been smashed by Australia's first national-scale climate change emergency in the bushfires that we saw last year, which burned through 12 million hectares and killed more than a billion Australian animals? What's the point of trying to find clever ways of pretending that you're acting on climate change when during this government's first five years emissions rose in this country? At best, with some clever accounting tricks, you've reduced emissions over seven or eight years by one per cent. The previous Labor government reduced emissions by 15 per cent in six years, and we put in place all the things that have done any work on that front since that time and defended them despite the relentless attack from those opposite.
What is the point of pretending that the NBN fiasco is actually some sort of achievement? What is the point of pretending that the multitechnology mess—the great 'recoppering of Australia' escapade—has done anything other than deliver a broadband network that is obsolete at the point of delivery? What should have been the key building block of productivity and broad economic participation in Australia's future has been absolutely wrecked by this government.
In the end, it does not matter if you feel like you're getting away with it. It doesn't matter if you think that in here you can smile and wink and say, 'We think we win the day,' or 'We think our lines are cutting through.' What matters is what's happening or not happening for the Australian community. And what we see is a falling share of Australia's productive value for working people and a growing digital divide because of the hopeless NBN that's going to make life more difficult for those in rural and regional Australia and those facing socioeconomic disadvantage. There has been virtually no progress on homelessness, no meaningful progress when it comes to closing the gap, and a failed environmental protection framework. I mean, you're the government. Wouldn't it be good to be able to reflect in years to come and say, 'We did something; we moved the dial for the Australian people'?