House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

4:44 pm

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | Hansard source

This afternoon we've heard a remarkable contribution from the member for Lingiari. He reminds us of what a privilege it is to serve in this place. All of us come here seeking to make a difference. All of us come here wanting to leave our mark. We seek to play our part, but the focus of our attention is on the Australian people, the people out there that we represent. But that isn't the motivation of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. When the Prime Minister comes to work each and every day, there is only one problem that he is trying to solve: how can he shape the bulletins that will be on the news that night? That's the only thing he is trying to do. It's all about the marketing; it's all about the publicity. We've just seen the 10 minutes of self-congratulation—that's what it's about. It is not about the Australian people.

When there is a difficult issue, they are nowhere to be seen. Think about the IGADF report, the Brereton report, which is one of the most difficult and complicated issues that have faced this government and the Australian Defence Force. We have been supporting the government in dealing with this very complex issue, but I make this one observation: on the day it became public, the political voice of this country, as represented by the government of our country, was silent. The government did not appear. It was one of the most difficult days in the history of the Australian Defence Force, and they weren't there.

What it means is that you have a situation where the gap between the talk and the walk has never been more profound. We've got a government which, 18 months ago, announced a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund. Since that time, we've had the biggest megafire ever recorded on this continent. Where we're up to right now is that not a dollar of that fund has been spent. They're always there for the announcement, but there has been absolutely no delivery.

Back in September, the Prime Minister announced his promise to bring every stranded Australian home. That's what he did. We've seen him try to wriggle out of that promise a lot over the course of this week, but back in September that's what he did—because that's what he needed to say that day in order to shape the news that night. Well, here we are today. If you arrive back in this country after midnight tonight, you'll be spending Christmas Day in quarantine. There are 37,000 Australians stranded overseas right now who have not been brought home by a government that promised they'd do it. The delivery is nowhere to be seen.

We saw all the hoopla around the COVIDSafe app. This was going to be one of the most innovative and important steps that this government was going to take in terms of managing the coronavirus crisis. Seventy million dollars was spent, most of it on marketing, all there for the publicity. I'm advised that, to this point in time, there have been 17 confirmed case traces as a result of the app. Do the sums. That's, like, $4 million for each confirmed case trace. They're there for the publicity but absolutely not there for the delivery.

For me, one of the biggest examples is our Future Submarine Program. When this government came to power, they were promising it in the mid-2020s. In the last seven years, it has slipped by 10 years and the price has almost doubled. There was a commitment to have 90 per cent Australian industry content, and right now what this government has delivered is no commitment whatsoever, because there is nothing contracted. For all the hoopla we've seen over the last few years, the delivery has been hopeless.

This is a moment in time where we need leadership in our country. But we've got a Prime Minister who avoids responsibility, who absolutely shuns follow-through, who avoids delivery and who is all about himself. He is not about you.


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