Thursday, 25 February 2021
Matters of Public Importance
It's with great pleasure that I rise to make a contribution to this matter of public importance debate on the government acting in the national interest—or the government's neglect, and often missed opportunities, to act in the national interest. I share the view of the previous speaker, the member for Monash, that it is an absolute honour to stand in this House. Every one of us feels that. But I have to tell you that I am a little worried that the Prime Minister and his government have engaged an empathy consultant in order to figure out how they might convince the Australian people that they care. That is a problem. It cost $190,000. It was meant to be $80,000, but there was a big cost blow-out because it's a very big job trying to figure out how you convey empathy if it is not in your genetic make-up. The consultant firm was called Futureye, if I'm not mistaken. It was a little more indicative of the fact that the Prime Minister certainly had an eye on his future and what was needed to be done. Trying to develop empathy, if it's not there at the start, is a big job, so it's no surprise that the cost blew out from $80,000 to $190,000.
When I think about the missed opportunities, the neglect and the failures of this government, there is a very long list. We are in the eighth year of a conservative government in Australia and the list of achievements is not long. Indeed, at the beginning of the week my colleagues reminded me how light on, how lacking in reform, how lacking in vision and how lacking in ambition the parliamentary business of this sitting week was. There is no substance to this government whatsoever. They've become political managers and administrators. There are serious costs to that.
We've seen a terrible crisis in aged care, for example, and the tragic death of 685 people in aged care. Clearly that is a Commonwealth responsibility, but the government shirked its responsibility during the global pandemic in that regard. Quarantine is another clear Commonwealth responsibility. That has been palmed off to the states and territories to govern. With the bushfires, we all recall the now infamous quote, 'I don't hold the hose.' That's part of the problem. This is a Prime Minister who doesn't actually think he is able to make a personal contribution in times of crisis. We've seen that on full display these last couple of weeks, and I will come back to that in a moment.
I was reminded of the failure to spend a billion dollars that had been budgeted for TAFE and training programs, despite a massive skills shortage in Australia; the failure to adopt and take to heart the Uluru statement; the ongoing failure to deliver on a promise to constitutionally enshrine a voice in this parliament and to ensure there's a truth-telling and treaty-making process in this nation; the shocking fiasco of robodebt and the cost of $1.2 billion in court payouts just to try and make this problem go away; and the lack of leadership on climate action, with no effort to diversify carbon-intensive economies in regions like my own. The lack of ambition there is astonishing. There is the failure to make the serious reforms on our National Redress Scheme.
The lack of accountability when it comes to domestic violence is appalling. We know that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been unprecedented demand for services. Whilst this government directed some additional funds that way, we know Women's Safety NSW have told us they need $12 billion over 12 years in order to make some serious inroads into domestic and family violence in Australia. I was at the International Women's Day breakfast this morning. I heard the Prime Minister talk a lot about respect. He didn't talk about equality, he didn't talk about inequities in this nation, and he didn't talk about the serious reforms that must take place in our nation if we're to do better. (Time expired)