House debates

Thursday, 15 February 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Albanese Government

3:53 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

When it comes to government incompetence, those opposite set the gold standard. They lived it, despite their collective amnesia. The Leader of the Opposition couldn't even competently run a leadership challenge let alone run a government department. Those opposite want to lecture us about government incompetence. They shouldn't look over the side; they should look into a mirror or, better still, rewatch Nemesis.

After nearly 10 years of incompetence, the Australian people look to Labor to clean it up. We were put to work mopping up the former government's messes. The Leader of the Opposition alone had his muddy footprints of incompetence littered across multiple portfolios. Indeed, this leader brings new meaning to the expression 'Peter principle'—ironic as it might be to pair those two words. The Opposition leader wants people to think that he's tough. He likes to talk tough. But, when he was in charge of protecting Australians, in charge of our borders, he presided over a system that was incoherent and falling apart. The report that former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon wrote into exploitation in our migration system is the most damning insight into the Leader of the Opposition and how he would run this country.

For almost the whole time he's been in parliament his whole public persona has been puffing himself up as the big tough guy on the border, but what did the Nixon review find? It found that there were serious and systemic problems with exploitation in the migration system. It found that the system had been used to perpetrate some of the worst crimes that there are—sexual slavery and human trafficking—under the watch of the Leader of the Opposition, the so-called tough guy on the beat. Former commissioner Nixon found there was delay and disfunction in the system, but she also found something else very interesting. For all the tough talk that we have heard over previous years from the Leader of the Opposition, he halved immigration compliance funding to the Department of Home Affairs. Could there be anything more hypocritical?

We've also had the Parkinson report that detailed how the home affairs department was falling apart under the opposition leader's management. But it was the Richardson report that brought to light that hundreds of millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers' money went to companies that were engaged in all sorts of illegal and dodgy activity overseas because these contracts didn't attract proper oversight. This all happened on the opposition leader's watch.

We're cleaning up the mess. As the Minister for Home Affairs said earlier, the opposition are like the pyromaniac that sets fire to the house and then stands in street to try and stop the fire engine getting to it. And this is just from the Leader of the Opposition's time in the home affairs portfolio. How about his time in the defence portfolio, which we've heard about from a number of speakers. What was he again? Their sixth minister? When people say, 'Consistency is key', I don't think they mean consistently changing ministers as we had right throughout the Nemesis period.

And what is the opposition leader's legacy in Defence? Is it the dangerous capability gap the former Liberal-National government allowed to occur between the retirement dates of our Collins class submarines? The staggering incompetence which created this capability gap? The mismanagement that saw 28 defence capability projects running 97 years late—again, what a gold standard for incompetence. And then there's the diplomatic and foreign policy blunders in the Pacific. This all adds up to an opposition leader and a party who couldn't manage Defence last time, so what makes them so sure they can be trusted on Defence and national security now?

And then there's the Leader of the Opposition's time in the health portfolio that can be summed up with one sentence: only one person in this parliament has been voted the worst health minister in the entire history of Medicare.

The opposition leader has truly suffered from the Peter principle for the last decade, with each portfolio promotion leading to greater and greater incompetence and stuff-ups. They can't even pretend to look like a competent alternative in opposition. We just have to look at their actions in the chamber yesterday, and throughout the last few weeks with Labor's tax cuts: they're all about the talk, never about the walk.

We inherited a nation that had suffered nine years of chaotic coalition incompetence, highlighted so well in Nemesis over the last few weeks. If those opposite want to be part of this debate with any credibility, they shouldn't be lobbying for a change of government. They should be rolling out the projectors and changing their leadership.


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