Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Prime Minister's failure of leadership.
I call upon all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
That addition to an answer shows you exactly what this year of achievement is about, doesn't it—a year of achievement where the Prime Minister comes in here and says: 'Oh, I've got the answer. I've got a cracker of an answer for you. You're right. I cut the funding. I asked for a little bit of help for a year. I kept them on life support for a year, but wouldn't it be great if someone powerful would step in and save them? Wouldn't it be great if someone who really had some authority, the ability to do something, took this on as a project of their own?'
This is a service in his backyard. I know the Prime Minister knows this service, a service in his backyard that serves the most vulnerable Australians: people who are homeless, people who are drug and alcohol affected, people who have severe mental health issues. They are living on the streets, and they have one place to go where they feel safe, where their health is looked after—a place that stops them ending up in emergency or ending up in psychiatric institutions, because of the primary health care it offers. I say to the Prime Minister, 'Do you really think spending $170 million on a plebiscite is more important than protecting the health of the most vulnerable Australians?' He says: 'Yeah, actually it is. Yeah. Wouldn't it be great if someone somewhere could fix this—not me, never me.' He is happy to take credit but never happy to take responsibility. Wouldn't it be great if we had someone in the highest office of the land who, instead of saying, 'I wish someone would fix it,' would step up to the dispatch box and say: 'I will fix it. I can do this. I can fix it'?
I want to take a moment to reflect on something else in my electorate. I represent an area with a lot of artists, a lot of creative types, and one of the best of them is a fellow called Michael Agzarian. He put together an image that captured the spirit of a nation and the spirit of our time. It is a poster that started popping up here and there a few months ago, almost a year ago. I thought, 'Wow, what is it that is so great about that poster?'
I think you all know the one I mean.
It is a picture of the Prime Minister with just one word: 'fizza'. That one word has actually captured the spirit of our time. A great Australian word has captured and put into one image the feeling that we all have: our high hopes that surely the member for Wentworth would have to be better than the previous Prime Minister. So many Australians thought so, didn't they? You all know in your own electorates—high hopes. But, instead we got what Paul Keating predicted: a bit like a big red bunger on cracker night, 'You light him up, there's a bit of a fizz, but then nothing, nothing.'
This Prime Minister is trying to convince you that he has had a year of achievements, but, you know, it has been a year of disappointments. It has been a year of underperformance, from the NBN to the UN, from the census to the royal commission. He cannot do a single thing without stuffing it up. You really only need to look at my own portfolio of education: the great vision for schools from this Prime Minister is him just saying: 'Well the Commonwealth shouldn't fund public schools at all. We'll just let the states do that.' This Prime Minister is trying to prove that he has got an interest in the Gonski school education funding reforms by continuing to say that he went to Sydney Grammar with David Gonski. It takes a bit more than that to prove an interest in properly funding our schools.
A lot of people in this parliament were very lucky to go to university. Many on this side were the first in their families to be able to do it. We did it because we have a system where we do not have $100,000 American-style university degrees. We have a system where, if you are clever, you work hard at high school and you have got a dream, you can pursue it. What we have got on the other side is more than $3 billion of zombie cuts. We have got $100,000 university degrees just waiting for the opportunity for them to bring them in. Deregulation on a grand scale with 20 per cent cuts will make it impossible for universities to function as they do now.
In vocational education, what have we seen since this government has come in? A drop of 128,000 apprentices and more than $2 billion cut from vocational education. Bizarrely, we have the Treasurer banging on about the need for more savings and asking, 'What is Labor prepared to do?' I can tell you what we are prepared to do. We are prepared to help to the tune of about $8 billion over the next 10 years by cleaning up the dodgy operators. We know the 10 biggest colleges have graduation rates of less than five per cent. That is what we are prepared to do: clean up the shonky operators and give you billions of dollars of extra revenue while we do it.
But I think nothing really captures the spirit of this year of capitulation better than the plebiscite. We have got a Prime Minister who says he is in favour of marriage equality, but, I tell you what, he was in favour of the republic too, and what did we do? We gave him some responsibility to put into action the dreams of the majority of Australians to become a republic. You remember how popular the republic was before Malcolm got his hands on it. We gave him the opportunity to deliver for Australia this historic change with so much popular support, and he blew it. Now we are supposed to feel comfortable about it. He keeps saying: 'Look, nothing to see here. Don't worry about it. It's going to be just like 1999.' That is exactly what he has got us worried about. And we have got the Attorney-General, who is probably the only person who can match the Prime Minister for indifferent arrogance, saying, 'Never mind, we don't need to worry about the tenor of this debate or the tone of this debate.' Well, I am not really reassured, given the Attorney-General is the guy who is saying people have a right to be a bigot.
For decades from the establishment of this nation, we did what we could in our legal power to determine who Aboriginal Australians could marry. We tried to prevent them marrying non-Aboriginal Australians. After the Second World War, Australians were not allowed to bring their Japanese wives back to Australia if they had married. In fact, in 1952 we passed legislation to allow Australian service personnel to bring their Japanese wives and children to Australia.
Fifty years ago, if you had asked people, they would have said a mother's place was in the home. If they were a working mother like me, away from home a lot, they might have made a judgement that they were not fit to be mothers. Thirty years ago we were still forcibly removing children from their single mothers whether they loved them or not. We did not ask whether they could look after them; we assumed that they could not. I have to say this because I have to remind this chamber that we offered an apology to those women and children who had been separated.
Have we not learnt that we should give up judging people's relationships? Haven't we learnt that what matters in a relationship is that two people love each other? Haven't we learnt that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that what matters is the love and care in that family? We have finally worked that out, and I do not see why we should be offering an opportunity for people whose relationships might be a bit out of the ordinary to have those relationships judged.
This parliament is a mess. The year of achievement—you have all seen it—they want to go home and pull the doona up over their heads. They are changing the standing orders so they can leave earlier. They are running out of business. The place is a mess, but it is not the theatre that bothers me. It is the lack of achievement and the lack of ambition for our nation. After one year of this Prime Minister, instead of a leather jacket we are left with an empty suit. Every day we hear people waiting for the real Malcolm to show himself. When will we see him? When is he going to stand up to the right wing of his party and deliver on the things that he always said he cared about? But the bad news for Australians is that this failure, this fizza, is the real Malcolm Turnbull. This is the Prime Minister they have voted for. The best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour. Be worried.
It is my great pleasure to be here today talking about leadership. We have had the usual emotional argument and philosophical, aspirational policies trotted out as a reason for criticising the leadership of the coalition. You only have to see what was delivered today, the omnibus savings bill with $6.3 billion worth of savings—this was due to negotiation skills and the cutting of a deal; it will deliver the savings that this nation's finances need. As a famous President of the USA said many years ago: 'It's the economy, stupid.' Look at what is happening in the economy now. We are the envy of all the countries in the G7. The growth in our economy, at 3.3 per cent, is outstanding compared to Europe, Japan, America and Canada. They are all envious. We are actually delivering great economic improvements in really tough international times.
We have been at the forefront of cracking down on tax avoidance measures. The biggest game in the world economy is moving money away from nation states that rely on taxes. We have led the way on that crackdown. We have been helping our small businesses. Members on this side of the House are very familiar with how hard life is for small businesses because most of them have been in small business. We understand it, as opposed to those on the other side. Earlier today, or yesterday, those on the other side were asked who had been in small business. No-one put their hand up. That gives you an indication of why this coalition government, led by Prime Minister Turnbull and the member for New England, are getting on with delivering results. We have 220,000 jobs that have been created in the last year. The recent ANZ consumer confidence survey is at its highest level all year. We have got tax cuts on the board for small business, and they will go down to 27½ per cent.
Small businesses, like most Australian industries, rely on the transport industry. The other side had policies in place, such as the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, to send 30,000 small business men and women running transport companies to the wall. It was this coalition government that got rid of that. We are delivering our prepare-trial-hire program that will deliver 120,000 opportunities over the next three years for young unemployed people to get an internship that can lead on to a full-time job.
The defence industry plan that we have rolled out is going to deliver a ship-building plan for the next 10 years, which will not only deliver the security for our naval defence that we need, with surface vessels and submarines, but it will also spur many more defence industry jobs. These are really important initiatives that the Turnbull-Joyce coalition government has delivered. All that money will go into construction and raw product that is sourced out of Australia. The steel that will go into all of these boats will come from Australia.
You only have to look at what has happened in the communications sector with the coalition government. We have a $230 million cybersecurity plan that we have rolled out. The NBN was a basket case when the coalition took over the responsibility of government in 2013. There were only 51,000 customers after $6 billion had been spent over six years—that amount of customers is being signed up each month at the moment. We have 2.9 million premises that have now been passed in the last three-and-a-bit years, as opposed to 51,000. We have 1.2 million customers. We have the Sky Muster satellite that is now delivering out to regional Australia, where many of my colleagues are the local members. That is 22,000 people getting an upgraded satellite internet service, let alone the 430,000 people who can now access fixed wireless—as opposed to, after six years, only 51,000 people. That was an absolute joke. We have also delivered a mobile phone black spot program, and that is delivering 499 new or upgraded mobile telephone towers.
In the health portfolio we are delivering in spades. We get criticised for attacking bulk-billing, but there were 17 million more bulk-billing services in the past year. It is at record levels. Spending in 2012-13 on health was $61.9 billion; this year it is going to be $71.4 billion. We have increased spending on mental health: a $192 million package, and innovative ways of delivering suicide prevention around 12 sites. We are delivering 10 more headspace sites around the country.
The National Innovation and Science Agenda is making it easier to attract capital and get talented people and researchers into the country. We have an accent on science, technology, engineering and maths, with a 26 per cent increase in funding to schools. We are trying to promote the take-up of science and technology in schools across the nation, and trying to make accessible celebrated female scientists and technology leaders in particular as role models for our children.
You have only to see what we have delivered for inland rail to see this is nation-building infrastructure. We committed just under $600 million in the last budget to secure land for the route, for the further preplanning and delivery of it. That will take 200,000 trucks off the road every year. It will link Melbourne to Brisbane with one continuous rail line, straight to the Port of Brisbane. It will also open up the corridor, and there will be at least 800 jobs in the actual construction of it. But that is just one initial benefit; there will be 600 extra jobs per year, year after year, due to the growth in the economy along the corridor. That is the absolute long-term benefit.
You only have to see what water can do to the inland of Australia. We have one of the driest continents on earth but, for decades, there has been no dam construction. What has the Turnbull-Joyce government done? The coalition, in the last term, delivered the first dam built in Australia for decades—the Chaffey Dam was extended. We have also got another $500 million in a fund to go into dams—the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund—as well as a $2 billion loan facility. That is going into the Rookwood Weir in Queensland, the Dungowan Dam in New South Wales, the Macalister Irrigation District and Loddon pipeline in Victoria and the second Tasmanian irrigation tranche, which will provide four new dams and make reliable water a feature in the Apple Isle. You can have all the land you like but you cannot grow anything without secure water. That is the important thing. That is what dams do. They deliver secure water. That water delivers money into the economy. So, with inland rail and dams, we are getting the heartland of Australia developed—which has been put on ice for way too long.
This government is also delivering security to our nation. We have kept our borders secure. It is more than 800 days since a boat arrived, and we have closed down 17 detention centres. The previous government opened up 17 detention centres. In the previous administration, there was a peak of 2,000 children in detention—now there are none. Because we have controlled our borders, we have been able to initiate taking up to 12,000 Syrian, Turkish and Jordanian refugees in a special program—as well as our existing, very generous and compassionate refugee intake system.
We have a $50 billion land infrastructure package. We have our Smart Cities plan, which is delivering $4 billion. We have delivered three Smart Cities packages already— (Time expired)
I am amazed by some of the commentary we have heard today about leadership. Leadership is the ability to influence a group of people. But what seems pretty clear is that the influencing is coming the other way and, unfortunately, our Prime Minister, who is supposed to be leading our country, cannot lead his own party. He is being led down the garden path and being told what to do by the member for Warringah and another bunch of people over in the other place who are setting the agenda. When it comes to the same sex plebiscite, or marriage equality, in this parliament, I came down to this place to listen to what the Prime Minister had to say about his reasons for having this plebiscite when he clearly does not believe in it himself—or used to not believe in it himself. He spoke about being respectful of gay couples. Well, if you are respectful then you will tell the people in your team to pull their head in when they are saying the tenor of this debate is not important. Of course the tenor of this debate is important. Of course the people who are going to be damaged in this debate are important—they are Australians.
And we are going to put a whole heap of money into something that is unnecessary. What the Prime Minister should be doing is his job, like John Howard did—he legislated to change the act. Why can't that happen again? On my side, the previous member for Solomon did a survey about this issue and there was overwhelming support for marriage equality. If you think we need to waste this money on a plebiscite that has a real possibility of hurting people, of damaging people, it shows that you are out of touch. The conversation has been had around our country—around barbecues, at sporting venues and in pubs. If you are not sure what the Australian people have been saying in those conversations, maybe you should talk to someone over on this side—because it is pretty clear. We take representing people seriously, and it has been really disappointing.
I have only been in this place for 15 seconds but what I have clearly seen already in that short period of time is that morale is not strong over on the other side because the leader of that side is not in command of this national project. So morale is low. My advice is: do your job and lead, influence people. There is going to be a huge price to pay. That $170 million could be used on so many things to help the people of our country.
I want to be constructive. I am obviously not happy. Like a lot of Australians, I am disappointed. But I do want to be constructive. I think it is great that we have shown cooperation on this side of the House with some measures around the omnibus bill. I think that is good, I think that is positive. There are a lot of things where we could work together. It is just unfortunate that there is a lack of leadership, which is not allowing us to do what is right for the progressive future of our country, to advance Australia fairly for all Australians. I would like to say a lot more, but time is short. I would like to work constructively with the Prime Minister, but he might not have that opportunity if he does not start to lead.
I rise to speak on this questionable and spurious MPI. It is reprehensible that such drivel from those opposite is debated today when there are more important issues at play. But it is unsurprising that Labor has chosen another farcical stunt like this one.
We as members all have our own opinions about who is a good leader and who is not. The very fact that each of the members is here today demonstrates the opinions of their constituents. They may even think you are a good leader in their area. However, like my colleagues, I base my opinion of a good leader on actions and on merit. As Rudyard Kipling said, 'Let each man be judged by his deeds.' Merit is at the very core of this MPI, mainly because it establishes what our Prime Minister has achieved so far. Today represents one year of leadership by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In that time, this government—under his leadership—has indeed achieved. A few examples that I would like to share convey only a brief taste of just some of the achievements the Turnbull-led government has delivered.
Under Prime Minister Turnbull, our economy and budget are strengthening. Economic growth has strengthened to 3.3 per cent, and Australia's 870,000 incorporated small businesses—the engine room of our economy supported by this government—will be further boosted as a result of our changes, giving them a fair go at competing. We have also delivered a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance, something the other side never delivered. Under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, 220,000 new jobs have been created in the past year alone. Sixty per cent of those jobs have gone to women. The Turnbull government has delivered a Defence industry plan—not talked about it, not written papers, not had committees; they have delivered a Defence industry plan: a $195 billion spend on defence capability over the next 10 years. They have not ripped the heart out of Defence, which is what the Labor government did when they were in power. Our naval shipbuilding plan involves the construction of 54 new naval vessels—not one was ever delivered by the other side; not one single dinghy was delivered by the other side. We will be using Australian steel for our new submarines and creating, yet again, more Australian jobs. The Turnbull government is investing in critical telecommunications infrastructure in regional Australia. Through the new NBN Sky Muster satellite and our $230 million Mobile Black Spot Program, we are already delivering 449 new or improved mobile phone towers, covering 3,000 black spots left by Labor, with more to come. The Turnbull government has grown more export markets, which have opened up. This means Australian small businesses have access to some of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world. Beef and wine exports, just to mention two, have seen record growth.
The Turnbull government is delivering health care. In the last year, there were 17 million more GP services bulk-billed, compared to Labor's last year in office. We have made many medicines cheaper and added life-saving drugs to the PBS, including drugs for breast cancer and melanoma. The Turnbull government is investing in more localised mental health care and support. This includes trialling innovative IT solutions, and it also includes 24/7 support, 12 suicide prevention sites around Australia and 10 more headspace facilities. The Turnbull government has implemented stronger laws to give our security agencies the tools they need, and to give our troops the powers they need. The Turnbull government is building stronger communities. On 1 July this year, the coalition government began the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And let us not forget that it was the Turnbull government that delivered Senate voting reforms which have ended the days of backroom deals and preference whisperers determining election results, rather than Australian voters—
But, of course, the Labor Party do not want the Australian people to have a voice. That is why they are against a plebiscite. This demonstrates the Prime Minister's strong leadership, in stark contrast to those opposite. The coalition is a broad church, with a congregation often containing differing views—views that, on this side, we are allowed to discuss. We are not controlled by their faceless leaders, the union bosses to which those opposite are all slaves. Unlike those opposite, the parties forming the coalition believe in democracy—which appointed the Prime Minister and has delivered his strong, determined leadership.
There is a problem with this Prime Minister's leadership, and the problem is that there is none. There is a complete absence of leadership by this Prime Minister. Leadership, when you look at this Prime Minister, is very hard to define. Leadership can mean many different things to different people. It can mean leading a group of people, like the government, or it can mean occupying a particular position. I suggest that the current Prime Minister simply occupies the position of leader but demonstrates none of the attributes which deliver leadership. He occupies the office but he has none of the authority. Who is in control?
There is a difference between the rhetoric that this government delivers and what it actually delivers. He speaks of his achievements, but there is nothing actually delivered. What is actually delivered is disappointment, dithering and division. Let us talk about disappointment. Who has the Prime Minister disappointed? For a start, he has not listened to my community, and I would suggest that he has not listened to the Australian community. He has not listened to my community regarding the important issues of health and education. He was able to deliver for Tasmania—he delivered three new Labor members! On same-sex marriage, he wants an expensive, $170 million opinion poll, forced to heel by the right of the Liberal party. He has disappointed everybody in Australia who wants a first-class NBN. What do we get instead? We have a bastardisation of an NBN plan with a second-class NBN that will be delivered across Australia.
He has no tax plan—or, if he has a tax plan, it varies from day to day. First, he floats an increase in the GST, but that only lasts for a few days or a few weeks. Then he floats for a matter of hours a proposal regarding double taxation. That was a good one. It lasted longer than Paris Hilton's marriage—no, that was another marriage. He did not settle on the question of tax cuts; instead he delivered $50 billion worth of tax cuts to the big end of town. He prefers the big end of town instead of ordinary working Australians.
He has disappointed women on his own side of parliament. He has called himself a feminist but he is the worst performing minister in appointing females to boards. He has five fewer females as members of parliament compared to the previous Prime Minister. He has disappointed Australians. Laurie Oakes commented on his speech on election night that it was the most disappointing, pathetic speech given by a Prime Minister. He is a ditherer. He has no authority to make decisions. He has to wait on what the Right of his party says he can do before he makes a decision.
He knows that our vote in this place on same-sex marriage will deliver same-sex marriage almost immediately. Instead, he wants an expensive, non-binding opinion poll to resolve the matter. He is not able to resist the Right of his party. He floats ideas that last for less than hours. He is a master of division. He has no leadership. He is unable to advocate for positions he has held previously. Again, on the issue of same-sex marriage, he is somebody who advocated for a free vote in this parliament but now prefers an expensive plebiscite.
He facilitates language like the Treasurer's 'taxed or taxed-nots'. He prefers to raise solutions but not advocate for change. He talks about being flexible but offers no flexibility when it comes to delivering policy in this House. He talks about housing affordability but does not strike at the heart of the issue, instead preferring the big end of town and preferring people to have outrageous tax breaks instead of making practical solutions in this place. (Time expired)
The audacity to pose this question. You have attacked the PM over his leadership while the opposition leader has tuck tailed a run to Canada just when the going gets tough over the plebiscite. Today, it is very clear that the PM's leadership is both substantive and compelling. And a few facts—I will start right at the top: on 2 January there was an election. We won and you lost. We have a mandate, we formed government and we sit on the Treasury benches. The Prime Minister is our leader and he is doing an exceptional job. The PM is committed—doggedly committed—to delivering for the Australian people.
The twin responsibilities of federal government are economic and national security. Firstly, economic security: today we learned economic growth has strengthened to 3.3 per cent, which is faster than any G7 nation. We have created 220,000 jobs this past year, with 60 per cent of those jobs for women. We have also made legislative changes to section 46, making Australian businesses more competitive. We abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which was a union pox on owner-operator truckies in this country and Glen Morris of Serpentine in Canning, an owner-operator truckie, is very, very glad that we did.
Going forward, we are introducing the PaTH program, which will create 120,000 jobs for young people in the private sector, changing lives and creating opportunity. We also have the enterprise tax plan, which will provide 870,000 incorporated small businesses with a tax cut this year, driving both growth and jobs. When it comes to infrastructure investment, the Prime Minister again has shown leadership in delivering a $50 billion land infrastructure package, a 15-year rolling plan which will provide confidence and continuity to industry and investment. We have rolled out the NBN to three million premises in this country, and 1.2 million homes and businesses are now active customers, providing economic, social and educational opportunities to Australians across this country both in our cities and in regional areas.
When it comes to national security—the other pillar—the Prime Minister is delivering. We are going to provide a $195 billion spend on defence capability over the next 10 years. We are going to build 54 new naval vessels. Under Labor, under your previous government, not even a piece of driftwood came out of your efforts in this space. When it comes to border protection, it has been 800 days since a boat arrival. You opened 17 detention centres and we have closed 17—
Dr Aly interjecting—
Under Labor, you put 8,000 children into detention and we have no children in detention under this current government. When it comes to mental health, you have gone to lengths to suggest that somehow we are indifferent to mental health, particularly when it comes to LGBT young people. I can tell you from personal experience that the Prime Minister is very responsive to this issue. I lobbied him for the last nine months and he has provided $2 million to Canning for a new purely youth medical service health club which will provide a range of services, particularly health care, to young people.
While we are on the topic of leadership, let's reflect upon Bill Shorten. As the Prime Minister said today in question time, 'truth matters.' I think it is impossible to sound the depth of Bill Shorten's mendacity—
the opposition leader's mendacity when it comes to the Mediscare campaign preying on the fears of vulnerable Australians. He also sits atop a bland, faceless monoculture which is the modern Labor Party, where virtue signalling is everything. You do not even have a conscience vote on same-sex marriage. In fact, you are so arrogant that you assume that every single Australian agrees with your position, which is why you deny them democracy and you deny them the plebiscite. It is nothing but scare tactics and slippery-slope arguments. It is a craven approach that you are taking. You are draining the life out of this Australian democracy. I would use the word 'vampiric'. In fact, I might even start walking the halls with a necklace of garlic to ward off these vampires who are killing this country.
Opposition members interjecting—
I do not want my first speech on matters of public importance to be negative, but what positives could I possibly tell the Australian people that would make them feel proud of their Prime Minister and their government? Along with so many other Australians, I was genuinely heartened that when the member for Wentworth became Prime Minister we would see something different. But when government MPs and the Prime Minister were given the opportunity yesterday to outline to the Australian people his achievements of the last 12 months, there was only one: the Prime Minister's defence of the behaviour of the big banks, which are ripping the heart out of vulnerable Australians. On that side of the House they are divided. There is no unity and there is no leadership.
I know from my electorate of Braddon and home state of Tasmania that for the nation it has been a year full of disappointment. As at April this year there were at least 17 backflips that this Prime Minister had committed in seven months. I have lost count, from that point on, of how many more there have been. On issues that the Prime Minister once passionately believed in either he now has no time for them or he is simply far too consumed with appeasing the far right wing in order to maintain his leadership. On marriage equality, the Prime Minister is on record as supporting a free vote in the party room, but he is unable to stand up to the right wing and show leadership. Instead, the Prime Minister wants to subject our nation to a divisive plebiscite. On the republic, the Prime Minister was a cheerleader but now he says it is not time. And on climate change, where he previously supported carbon emissions trading schemes, the Prime Minister has again spectacularly backflipped.
The Prime Minister's backflips do not just stay with social policy. On economic policy the backflips are equally spectacular. At one stage the Prime Minister's economic plan consisted of an idea to raise the GST to 15 per cent, but then he ditched it. A plan for double taxation; a 48-hour backflip: I guess the achievement here is that it took the Prime Minister two days to realise it was a dumb idea. It would have resulted in higher taxes paid by Tasmanians to be able to afford health and education—funding that he wanted to walk away from—which would have resulted in negative economic growth and negative population growth, leaving Tasmania a basket case. Was that his plan for Tasmania? It is little wonder that the community has no idea what he stands for. It has been clear since day one of the Prime Minister assuming the leadership of the Liberal Party that he is being led by his own far right wing fringe. Which tail is wagging the dog?
In my home state of Tasmania and my electorate of Braddon, the sense of disappointment is at its strongest. This is borne out of the result of the recent election, when Tasmania overwhelmingly rejected the Prime Minister and the policies he stood for. In Tasmania the Liberal Party recorded the lowest two-party preferred vote in any state in the nation. Despite the Prime Minister saying he has learnt the lessons from the election, nothing has changed. I cannot even get one of the four Liberal senators to come to my electorate. They do not want to. They are giving up on regional Tasmania. He is still cutting Medicare. He is still cutting millions of dollars in bulk-billing incentives for pathology services. He does not want to invest in Gonski. And then there is the NBN. There have been three iterations of the NBN for the west coast of Tasmania and still no-one knows what is going on.
For Tasmania the Prime Minister's priorities just do not cut it. Since the member for Wentworth became Prime Minister, 5,200 jobs have been lost in Tasmania. The participation rate in Tasmania has plummeted to just 59.3 per cent. The government's claims of jobs and growth do not stack up in Tasmania. Fourteen jobs a day are being lost in Tasmania under the Prime Minister's watch. At a time Tasmania desperately needs leadership when it comes to tackling the jobs crisis, the Prime Minister has not shown any.
I was very interested to read that the subject of today's MPI was the failure of leadership. As the Speaker has said many times, these debates give us the opportunity to compare and contrast, so I wondered who had put up this opportunity for us to compare and contrast the result for the Prime Minister with that for the opposition leader. Then I worked it out: the opposition leader is away; it was the member for Sydney. It is the most Machiavellian MPI, I think, that we have ever seen. It reminds me of that old quote: 'When the cat's away, the mice will play.'
There were some very serious comments made today by the outgoing US ambassador, John Berry. These are unprecedented comments following the affair of the junior senator for New South Wales. The ambassador said:
We have been surprised, quite frankly, at the extent of the involvement of the Chinese government in Australian politics.
Paul Kelly said the implication in this:
… points to US concerns about China’s ability to deploy finances to build influence and even manipulate outcomes …
This brings us to leadership. What we saw was the junior senator for New South Wales making comments on the South China Sea that were contrary to our national interests and so dangerous, so irresponsible and so reckless that a true leader would have stood up and removed that person from the shadow cabinet.
What did we have? Absolutely nothing. And when it was found that cash had been paid from those associated with the Chinese communist party to that same senator, it should have been a clear-cut, black-and-white decision that that man had to be removed from the shadow cabinet. But what leadership did we see? We saw a Leader of the Opposition who is simply controlled by the factions of the Labor Party—a complete and utter failure.
On the same-sex marriage debate, a true Leader of the Opposition would admit that they lost the election and would say: 'Let's have the plebiscite, and I'm going to lead the case for yes. I'm going to stand up and I'm going to debate in every corner of the nation and stand-up for the yes case.' That is what a true leader would do, but what did we see yesterday? The most disgraceful and shameful comments—I will not even repeat them because they are beyond contempt.
When it comes to tackling the debt problem of this nation, a true opposition leader would stand up and admit that we have a big problem in this nation, that we have to do everything that we possibly can to get the budget back into balance, but we hear none of this from the opposition. We just hear whingeing and whining about cuts that do not exist. What would have happened earlier this year if we had had a true opposition leader when the Road Service Remuneration Tribunal handed down its decision that put small independent truck drivers—guys that are the salt of the earth—at a competitive disadvantage that is going to drive them out of business. What did we see from the opposition leader? He sat down and rolled over and took instructions from the bosses of the TWU. That is lack of leadership.
What do we have on this side? Let us compare and contrast. We have business confidence up eight per cent from last year. We have GDP at 3.3 per cent. Now let us look at how that compares. The USA is currently 1.2 per cent, the whole Euro area is 1.6 per cent, Japan is 0.8 per cent and even the UK, the standout performer of Europe is just at 2.2 per cent. We in this nation are leading the world in GDP growth, and what does that mean? That means an extra 200,000 jobs have been created in this economy in the last 12 months. That GDP growth of 3.3 per cent equates to an extra $34 billion worth of wealth created in this economy in the last 12 months than if it had been somewhere around the 1.2 per cent growth that the USA had. That $34 billion worth of extra wealth means more is paid in taxes, more revenue flows into the Treasury and we get to do more of the things that count for this country.
True leadership is understanding. It is understanding about delegating, it is understanding that jobs in this economy are created by the private sector and it is giving them the opportunity to create wealth. (Time expired)
I mentioned in my first speech, on Monday, that often the public is very cynical about politics and politicians. Their expectations are low, but when they are high they are seldom met. I think the public often believe that there is on this stage too much sound and fury without much substance at all. When they look at leadership in this place, the public should probably see at least some potential in our political leaders, because political leaders, through their vision, shape the fate of a nation. We have in the office of Prime Minister a person who has had a tremendous opportunity, a privilege that is given to so few, to make a mark on our country, to change our society for the better, yet in 12 months in the job he has utterly failed in his leadership.
The member for Wentworth has been a comprehensive disappointment to millions of Australians. His promise has been unfulfilled. His vision—if there was one to begin with—is nowhere to be seen. He presides over a bare policy cupboard. He spent the last year frantically attempting to fill it with thought bubbles that popped almost immediately after they came out of his mouth. For instance, we can all recall when the Prime Minister, with his puffed-up chest, lectured the nation about what he called 'once-in-a-generation reform'. We all remember that. He put forward the idea, if I could call it that, of returning income tax powers to state governments. Two days later—only two days later—the greatest reforms to federalism for a generation, according to the Prime Minister, had ignominiously slithered down the COAG drain. The member for Wentworth scraped the bottom of the 20th century tax-policy barrel with that ill thought-out idea. It was a horrible idea. Interestingly enough, in stark contrast, he authored an article in 1976 where he criticised Malcolm Fraser for suggesting the very same policy idea. The PM and his brains trust, in what must have been a mad scramble to put together something, anything, then sought to replace it—and this is quite remarkable—with a $50 billion tax cut for corporate Australia. This policy was so well developed that the Prime Minister was quoted no less than 18 times as saying he did not even know what it cost. The PM's former employer, Goldman Sachs, however, certainly did do its due diligence. Goldman Sachs stated that the tax cuts would mostly benefit foreign domiciled companies.
Perhaps he should consult his own cabinet a little more often. We all remember the cringe-worthy debacle of the Prime Minister failing to consult the Treasurer on the date of the budget, leaving government members chaotically uninformed. Now, even though the member for Wentworth may believe in some progressive policies—I am sure he does deep down, maybe some of them—the sadness, the tragedy, of his predicament is that he cannot deliver these policies, because his own party will not let him. It is rumoured that the Prime Minister strongly backed reforms to negative gearing but was rolled by the right wingers in his party room. It is rumoured the Prime Minister was again overridden by the right wing of his party on climate change. He is now peddling a policy that he himself once described, as a fig leaf and a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. But, it actually could be worse. I may be being too kind.
The most damning indictment of his failed leadership would be—and I think it is—that he has actually traded away his own values for the top job. I am just a new member in this place, a new backbencher, yet in my first week I was confronted by the Prime Minister. On the first day of this parliament in the hallway he proceeded to lecture me about the notion of bipartisan support for a marriage equality plebiscite. I was a bit shocked. I did not know what to say. Then he turned his attack on the NBN and insisted that they were building it, that he was building it. He assured me that they were building it. Such a great statesman was roaming the halls of parliament seeking anyone who may throw a lifeline to his withering legacy. He is in danger of sinking even further into the depths of obscurity than the man he has usurped. The simple fact is that Australia deserves better than this Prime Minister.
Leadership is about getting things done, and this Prime Minister is getting things done. There are so many things on the list of achievements. The biggest number in the Australian economy is GDP growth. GDP growth is about how well our economy is growing. Is it increasing in size? Are there more opportunities being created? Our GDP growth is one of the highest rates anywhere in the developed world and higher than any country in the G7—so, higher than Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the UK. All of those countries have lower GDP rates than Australia. Ours is 3.3 per cent, which is a fantastic outcome. It is an outcome that is leading to job creation.
When those opposite left power it was forecasted that by around now the unemployment rate would be up to about 6.5 per cent. It is not; it is 5.7 per cent. It is lower because of the strong economic growth under this government, with more than 200,000 jobs created in the last 12 months. Those are incredibly important statistics because ultimately so much of what we do in this place manifests itself into GDP and GDP growth. We have a stronger rate of GDP growth than any country in the G7—the world's most sophisticated economies. That is an exceptionally strong achievement.
We are also very serious about budget repair. When those opposite came into power there was $50 billion of cash in the bank. They left with $200 billion of net debt. That was very bad. It means that we now have a significant interest bill that we are required to pay. We are required to pay about $16 billion every year because of the negligence of those opposite. Happily, those opposite have cooperated with the government this week in passing $6 billion of important measures in the omnibus savings bill. That was an important achievement—and due credit goes to the opposition for supporting that—but there is a lot more to be done because the debt and deficit legacy of those opposite is so immense. We are going to be talking about it for many years to come and we will be confronting its challenges for many years to come. So there has been good progress this week. The government will continue to focus on this area.
We are also investing in the national security of the country and creating a strong national defence industry. There is $195 billion of investment, particularly in naval capability. Those opposite did not build a single ship during their six years in office. We will invest almost $200 billion in this space over the next 10 years and we will ensure that defence spending as a proportion of GDP rises from the woeful levels we saw under those opposite.
We also believe unapologetically in business tax cuts because business tax cuts mean more investment and more investment by business means more jobs. Ideologically, those opposite do not like that, but it happens to be true. Those opposite think that, if a business has a turnover of more than $2 million, it is a big business and it is not entitled to any tax relief. But if a business has a turnover of $2 million it does not mean that it makes $2 million of profit. It might make three per cent or four per cent of $2 million. With $2 million of turnover it might be making about the equivalent of a wage. They think that is a big business. That demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of these economic matters.
There are huge problems for those opposite in economic policy. In the election campaign they said: 'This is how much our super policy is going to affect the budget but we can't tell you what it is. We can't tell you what our policy is. We can tell you what the financial impact of it will be but we can't actually tell you what it is.' That is true; I am not making that up. It is worth reviewing the famous press conference where it was said, 'We will tell you how much we are going to save on our superannuation policy but we won't tell you what it is, because we do not know.' That is just kindergarten stuff.
They also knowingly signed up to increasing budget deficits by $16 billion over the forward estimates. So not content with the budget vandalism from 2010 to 2013 they said, 'Let's whack another $16 billion on top of it over the next four years just for good measure,' just to make things a bit worse. That was really quite extraordinary. The other good one is that they wanted to increase tax on business investment through negative gearing and capital gains tax. When you increase tax on investment, what happens? Less investment. If you increase tax on investment you get less investment. They again owned up to wanting to do that. So there is a lot of leadership on this side and none from those opposite.