House debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Australian Interests

3:15 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Well, after eight long years what we've seen over this last fortnight is a tired, stale government that's unravelling before our eyes, disintegrating before our eyes. There are real challenges before this country. The challenge of overcoming the pandemic. The challenge of overcoming the deep recession, insecure work, increased frequency of natural disasters, but what we have from this government is no agenda, no idea. It's just occupying the space. The whole obsession about political management—an accountability black hole. It's a government that doesn't believe that it should have to answer questions either here or in press conferences, a government that will never take responsibility. We have a Prime Minister who doesn't hold a hose and doesn't call an inquiry. There's no accountability when it comes to bushfires, when it comes to aged care—not even the reported sexual assault of Brittany Higgins just metres from the Prime Minister's office two years ago. We know that ministers knew. We know that members of his staff knew. We know that people in the parliamentary system knew. But what did we get from this Prime Minister? That he didn't know until the Monday in which the report became public, even though over that weekend his office was dealing with the media inquiries from and The Project. The idea that this Prime Minister, who is an ultimate control freak, would not know what was going on over that weekend, as his office was preparing responses, is, quite frankly, just absurd.

We know also, with regard to the Attorney-General, that when documentation was given to him, he didn't even bother to read the complaint. He didn't bother to read the complaint. Then when we asked about his office's involvement he set up a review by his former chief of staff into what his current staff knew over that two-year period, the Gaetjens review. Then he misled parliament about it. When we asked clear questions he said that he hadn't received any update but he had. On 9 March he received the update that it had been suspended. It was a complete untruth, a complete and deliberate mislead before this parliament. But this Prime Minister had contempt for it.

Then, of course, we saw today, after two weeks of asking every single day for confirmation that what Brittany Higgins told the March 4 Justice outside, that the Prime Minister's office had sought to undermine her loved ones, he stonewalled for two weeks. He refused to answer the question. Then today guess what? He announced another review. This is about his own office. Why doesn't he just ask them? He's the Prime Minister of Australia and he can't ask his own chief of staff and his own office staff what is going on.

Then we know, around the alleged Eric Abetz comments, that he hasn't spoken to Eric Abetz. Don't ask, don't tell. The Network 10 revelations—he doesn't know anything at all. It's inappropriate. It's on the TV. It is being discussed around the country. That's how we know about it. Yet there are no answers from this government.

Then we have the idea that he's going to move aside the Attorney-General without any inquiry. He's going to use advice from the Solicitor-General about whether, because he's taking legal action, it's inappropriate that he shift to another portfolio, but he won't ask the Solicitor-General whether he's a fit and proper person to continue in the role. It is just absurd!

Then you get down to the reshuffle. We know they've lost a lot of senior people over the last few years, but you're going to have Senator Cash as Attorney-General! She refused to provide a formal statement to a police investigation about the fact that the media were given a heads-up to a police raid. She refused to cooperate with the police. You're going to put that person in charge of the legal system in this country. You're going to make her the first law officer of the land.

If that's not bad enough, you're going to move to home affairs the Minister for Government Services. This is the bloke who lost his ministerial job because when he was Assistant Minister for Defence he went to China on a privately funded business trip—and the Chinese government thought he was representing the government; he was the assistant defence minister—for a business deal that he had a pecuniary interest in. You're going to put him in charge of national security. You couldn't make this up.

This Prime Minister is an empathy vacuum. He wouldn't attend the March 4 Justice. In the train wreck of an interview when someone from Sky dared to ask a question he had the temerity to demand that women stand with him, rather than him standing with them. This is a Prime Minister who has an ear of tin, a heart of stone and a wall of concrete to shield him from the concerns of his fellow Australians. He is an angry man who has mastered the rare art of clenching a glass jaw. That's what this bloke has done.

When this Prime Minister leaves office Australians will ask themselves: 'What was the point of the government? Was it nothing but smoke and mirrors?' What's the big agenda? What's the productivity agenda? What's the social policy agenda? What are they doing to build back better? This Prime Minister used to ask, 'Whose side are you on?' We know whose side he's on—he's on his own side. We on this side of the House are on the side of the Australian people.

Over the coming months we will be saying: 'If you want a government that will use its time in power to make your life better and make Australia better, Labor is on your side. If you see this pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build back stronger, Labor is on your side. If you want secure, well-paid jobs, Labor is on your side. If you want child care fixed, because it would be good for families, good for children and good for our economy, Labor is on your side. If you want to embrace Australia's future as a renewable energy superpower, Labor is on your side. If you want Australians trained for the jobs of the future and you want a solution to the skills shortages that are holding back businesses, Labor is on your side. If you understand that aspiration means wanting your children to have a better life than you had, Labor is on your side. If you want the gender pay gap exposed and closed, Labor is on your side. If you want 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave, Labor is on your side. If you believe that older Australians deserve dignity and respect, Labor is on your side. If you want a future made in Australia, Labor is on your side. If you want the security of a superannuation system, Labor is on your side. If you think that government should have something to show for its time in power, whether it is Medicare, the NDIS, infrastructure investment, universal super, the National Broadband Network or paid parental leave, Labor is on your side. If you believe that we need a national integrity commission to restore confidence in our political system, Labor is on your side.'

We want an Australia where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind, an Australia that's inclusive, an Australia that's strong and an Australia that looks to the future with confidence. Australians want a government that doesn't just seek to manage the 24-hour media cycle. This is a government that's out of time and out of ideas. At the next election it should be out of office.


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