Tuesday, 21 August 2018
I seek leave to move the following motion:
That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Leave not granted.
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Maribyrnong from moving this motion forthwith:
That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Today Australia has a Prime Minister in name only—a Prime Minister without power and a Prime Minister without policies. This is an appalling outcome for the nation. Unbelievably—after yesterday, when we saw how divided the government were—they are more divided today than they were yesterday. The conduct of this narcissistic government is both shocking and selfish, and undervalues the Australian people. This House should vote for no confidence because the Prime Minister has no authority, no power and no policies. The reason for that sits behind him. If nearly half of his own government do not want him to be the Prime Minister of Australia, why should the rest of Australia have to put up with him?
The case for no confidence in the Prime Minister has five points to it. First, if the Prime Minister's own party does not want him—and today nearly half of his party voted against him remaining Prime Minister—why should the parliament put up with him? The second reason, of course, as we saw yesterday, is the dismal paralysis on policies to lower energy prices and to tackle climate change. They cannot pass the parliament because this Prime Minister does not have the confidence of all of his backbench. Thirdly, this Prime Minister has never seen a fight for his principles that he hasn't squibbed and he has notoriously poor judgement, which his backbench and frontbench are willing to tell any journalist, anonymously, at any time. Fourthly—and even more importantly than the first three reasons—this Prime Minister and his government are ignoring the real challenges of the Australian people, and it means we can have no confidence in him. Finally, the reason why this parliament should have no confidence in the Prime Minister is there are divisions at the heart of this government which cannot be papered over by simply changing the salesman for this government.
Turning to the first case for why we should have no confidence in the Prime Minister, we saw remarkable scenes today. Yesterday the former Minister for Home Affairs said he supported the Prime Minister—until today. But, more than just his challenge to the Prime Minister, there is the fact that another 34 of his colleagues, within 24 hours of the Prime Minister spilling his own position, wanted him gone. This government has lost the will to live. Indeed, what is more significant is that some of the people who voted against the Prime Minister still sit in the executive of this parliament.
Opposition members interjecting—
by leave—I move:
That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Today it is clear that we have a Prime Minister in name only. He is a Prime Minister without power. He is a Prime Minister without policies. He scraped home at the last election with no authority and no agenda, only the ability to respond to events. Today we have seen an appalling outcome for the nation. It is unbelievable that, even though the Prime Minister said yesterday that he could not take any action on energy prices because any single member of the government could veto it, today they've highlighted that they are even more divided. This is a government whose conduct is selfish and shocking. It is a narcissistic government consumed by its own jobs and its own struggles, and it's forgotten the people of Australia.
The case for no confidence in this Prime Minister can be made through five arguments. The first is: if the Prime Minister's own party doesn't want him, why on earth should the parliament put up with him? Second, we have dismal paralysis on the energy crisis which is affecting Australia, driving up prices and carbon pollution, and no government can retain the confidence of this parliament if they tell us they can't even advance legislation to drive energy prices down. The third proposition for why we should have no confidence in this Prime Minister is that the hallmark of his prime ministership is that, whenever his beliefs meet the opposition of his backbench, he surrenders his belief. This parliament should not put up with a Prime Minister only interested in surviving in his own job. He stands for nothing and fights for nothing except his own job. His notorious poor judgement is a hallmark which any government backbencher is happy to tell you about at length anonymously.
But, more important than the first three reasons, there is the fourth. Australians have got real issues, and this government is not addressing them. No amount of valedictory speeches from the Prime Minister can correct that wrong. Finally, the reason we should have no confidence in this Prime Minister is that your government is hopelessly divided, and it isn't even just about you anymore, Prime Minister. The Liberal government in this country cannot agree with each other on fundamental issues, and a divided government cannot run this country.
Turning to the first proposition—why we should have no confidence in the Prime Minister—if the Prime Minister has nearly half of his MPs wanting to change the Prime Minister today, how on earth should all of us have confidence in him? When you add together the 35 dissidents—soon to be a majority, I suspect—the 69 Labor MPs and possibly the crossbenchers, a clear majority of Australia does not want this Prime Minister to be the Prime Minister. We have no confidence in him.
I notice that, before question time, the member for Dickson—who at least had the integrity to go to the backbench because he couldn't support the Prime Minister on the frontbench—did his job interview. But what was telling—and why we should have no confidence in this Prime Minister—was that he was asked five times if he was going to challenge again and he had all the good reasons in the world not to answer that question. So I say to Australians who are shocked by the turmoil in this government: the turmoil is not over until the member for Dickson has the scalp of the Prime Minister hanging from his belt.
What is also telling is that, for the 35 MPs who voted to change the Prime Minister, some of them sit on the frontbench. We had the Minister for Health desperate to replace the Minister for Foreign Affairs until he discovered that the numbers weren't there. Obviously, he's a lot tougher when it comes to swearing at grandmas than when it comes to challenging the foreign minister. We've got the member for Deakin, the campaign manager for the member for Dickson, sitting quietly there as an assistant minister. Your best days are ahead of you, Member for Deakin.
But you can only conclude by the cowardice of frontbench rebels against the Prime Minister that the Prime Minister's weakness is infectious. At least those who voted against the Prime Minister should have had the courage to say, 'We'll undermine the government from the backbench not from the frontbench of this government'.
I said there was a second reason why we have no confidence in this Prime Minister. The handling of the energy policy by this government alone is reason enough for this House to have no confidence. They've proposed that we should have, initially, an emissions intensity scheme. We know that the current Prime Minister had a view on that, and we said we were willing to talk about that. But, as soon as we came to the dance, the Prime Minister was dragged away by the right wing of his party. Then the Prime Minister rolled out the poor old clean energy target and the Chief Scientist to advocate it. That didn't last very long. Labor is prepared to be bipartisan. What we discovered is that, when it comes to energy policy, when the Prime Minister refers to 'bipartisanship', he means getting the two warring wings of his own party to agree.
Then, of course, we had the much-unloved National Energy Guarantee—NEG 1.0, NEG 2.0, NEG 3.0. This is a government whose energy policy is guided by the never-ending panic of a Prime Minister. The reason we have no confidence in the Prime Minister is that, if he's too weak to legislate policy, if he's too weak to fight for what he believes in, how on earth will we ever lower energy prices in this country? I do not accept that, when the Prime Minister announces 'mission accomplished' on energy prices, when he and his Treasurer and home affairs minister and potential contender for the Prime Minister's position announce that energy prices are coming down, go and talk to real Australians; they just don't agree with you.
This is the real issue—the third issue. We have a Prime Minister whose premiership of the position, his stewardship of the Prime Minister's position, has been marked from day one; he never fights for the principles he believes in. He never understands that when you appease your critics and when you surrender your principles, your critics come back and they want more and more, and now they just want your job. The critics in the Liberal Party and the conservatives can smell the weakness within the Prime Minister. They can sniff the weakness in the Prime Minister. They can see the vulnerability in this Prime Minister. No matter how many times the Prime Minister changes his views on climate change, no matter how many times he's changed his view on the republic, advocating now the morbid argument that Australia can't be a republic until the current Queen passes away—he keeps giving in. Let's remember his judgement on the banking royal commission. The Prime Minister has notorious poor judgement because he does not actually fight for anything he believes in.
When this Prime Minister rolled the previous Prime Minister, I thought that we would see a different kind of politics, that we would have a sensible form of politics. I thought my job would be harder—I concede that. But I thought, at last, we could build a national consensus on climate change, on having an Australian head of state, on actually doing something to look after the middle class and working class of this country. But the Prime Minister, having obtained the highest office in the land, we've discovered, never fights for anything except his own job.
Of course, he has notoriously poor judgement. Only someone of Turnbullian genius could argue against a banking royal commission for the last two years. Only this government could have argued in favour of giving the states the right to have income tax powers so that there's double income tax in this country. Only this government could still hang on to the corporate tax cuts at this point in the electoral cycle. Here's a prediction: this Prime Minister is so afraid of people's reactions to him, he so craves positive polls, he so needs the approval of people, that he will drop the corporate tax cuts, because he never fights for anything he believes in.
There are real challenges facing the Australian people which deserve to be heard but which are getting neglected under this government—under this narcissistic, selfish, self-obsessed government. Government MPs—a few of them are yelling out interjections—know that the people of Australia are more than frustrated with their conduct today. They know they have a government focused on themselves, and not on the people of Australia. There are real problems out there in Australian society. Wages are at a record low. I thought I was in a parallel universe last week when the Prime Minister said that wages are getting better. They are at record lows. If you don't believe me, ask the people who are not getting a pay rise in this country. They don't live like you. They don't live like the people in parliament. Many Australians have not had a pay rise. Many Australians have seen their conditions go back. We have many Australians in casual and part-time work. We have many Australians working in labour-hire jobs alongside permanent workers, yet the labour-hire workers are paid less. We have many Australians who feel the system is broken. By the way, the conduct of the government today would give them no reason for optimism that the system is not broken.
There are other issues in this country which need to be addressed. One is the unacceptable blow-out in waiting lists for aged care. Look at the government—they think they're so clever. Every day the waiting lists get longer. Then you've got to look at the general dismantling of our healthcare system under a government who'd rather give tax cuts to private health insurance companies than rein in the premiums they charge Australians. Then you look at our schools, our TAFE and our universities. This government is not properly funding schools. This government is not properly funding TAFE. This government is not properly funding universities.
When you look at the ranks of this government, some of them perhaps genuinely don't understand these issues. But what chance do some of the backbenchers have when they have a Prime Minister so out of touch, when they have a Prime Minister who gets up every day in question time and says how well things are going? Tell that to the farmers experiencing drought. Tell that to young people who can't get apprenticeships. Tell that to older Australians who can't get the aged-care assessments they need to get the support that they require so they can live their remaining years with dignity. And, of course, we've got to look at the mess they've made of child care. A quarter of Australian families are paying more for child care than they were before this Prime Minister was the Prime Minister.
However, it is not just the division and it is not just the fact that the government is out of touch with the real issues of Australians and so absorbed with themselves. To be fair to the Prime Minister, it's not all his fault alone. The problem is that the Liberal Party of Australia is not the Liberal Party they once were. It is riven by fundamental disagreements at the heart of the government. That is why the member for Dickson feels the need to speak up for the conservatives. That is why so many of the brave anonymous assassins of the Prime Minister over there say that this government is somehow not living up to conservative standards. This is a government at war with itself, and, as much as they may say it's not, as much as those in it say they are economic supermen making Australia better for all Australians, the fact of the matter is: this is a government that is desperate to survive.
Members of the backbench and brave members of the front bench: we know that, when you drop your silly corporate tax cuts, that is a battle won by Labor. But we know that war is not over. We are determined. The best way to stop corporate tax cuts in this country is to vote Labor at the next election.
Look at the way this government has pursued the ABC. The old Liberal Party, the party of Fraser and Menzies, would not have attacked the ABC. Now we have, in the job specification of the Minister for Communications, to be a serial complainant about the ABC.
And of course we see the ongoing debates about school funding. The best way to look after the government schools, the Catholic schools and independent schools, is not to rob Peter to pay Paul but to properly fund all schools based upon need.
And this is a government that loves to talk about a 'big stick'. In the game of question time bingo yesterday, this government had the big stick on energy companies and the big stick on banks. The problem is: at the same time, they're trying to legislate tax cuts for the very companies they say they're tough on.
The real problem in Australia at the moment is that this Prime Minister is simply not up to the job. And no amount of Mogadoned behaviour at press conferences after leadership changes can unmake this truth. The reality is, Prime Minister: you have 35 people behind you who, this morning, voted not to have you as their leader. And I predict: that number will get larger. Today, you may well have all the government members vote to have confidence in you, but doesn't that just show the parallel world to which this parliament has descended? This morning, 35 of your colleagues, who you thought were your great supporters, voted to do you in. And on Thursday, or in two weeks time, or after the next poll, which you worship so foolishly, what will then happen is: more of them will do you in.
So let us be done with the dishonesty that this parliament has confidence in the Prime Minister. Your colleagues don't want you. You've exercised notoriously poor judgement, because you are as weak a Prime Minister as we've seen since Billy McMahon. You are a dismal failure when it comes to energy policy, telling us: it's not your fault; it's the fault of individual members of your government. You have no idea how the real people live. You are hopelessly out of touch with their views. And finally, and fundamentally, you lead a divided government. And nothing you can do will change that fact.
So we have that tirade from the Leader of the Opposition—the man who, as a union leader, sold out his members again and again. He was prepared to exchange penalty rates for cleaners in return for a secret deal with the employer, with money going back to the union. This is a great leader, we're told! He wants to be Prime Minister. He voted against making payments between large companies and unions transparent. Can you believe that! He's actually in favour of secret and corrupting payments. He didn't want them to be banned. He didn't want the public to know, the members of unions to know, about it—one deal after another, behind the backs of the men and women he was supposed to represent.
Right through this parliament, we have been able, despite his negativity, to deliver one great economic step in advancing the interests of hardworking Australian families. The Leader of the Opposition doesn't seem to care that last year we had the largest jobs growth in Australia's history, the largest jobs growth in any single year, over 400,000 jobs. And we have economic growth which is now faster, higher, than any of the G7 economies. Economic management is a key priority for governments. There you are. Highest jobs growth, high economic growth and employment. We now have unemployment at its lowest level since November 2012. We want to see it lower and we want to see wages growth higher, but what we are doing is delivering stronger economic growth, more jobs and lower unemployment. What that will deliver, as the Reserve Bank was saying only today, is higher wages, and we are starting to see that movement in higher wages. It all comes from a stronger economy. That, we've been able to do at the same time as we have reduced taxes for Australians, Australian families.
We've introduced and passed through the House—with a one-seat majority, he reminds me of regularly—and through the Senate, where we are in a minority, the largest personal income tax reform in 20 years. So hardworking Australian families, middle-income taxpayers, are getting $530 back each during this current financial year.
Mr Snowdon interjecting—
By 2024 we will see 94 per cent of Australians paying no more than 32½ cents on any extra dollar they earn. We also have succeeded, and this is a vital priority, in being able to bring down youth unemployment to its lowest level since April 2012. More than 57,000 young Australians found a job in the 12 months to July this year. That is, again, a reminder of what a strong economy does. You get more economic growth, more investment and more jobs. And the female participation rate is at record levels.
We hear from the Leader of the Opposition his complaints about economic management. Stronger economic growth than any of the G7 economies, record jobs growth, the lowest unemployment rate since 2012, the lowest youth unemployment rate since 2012 and the highest female participation rate—that is what you get from a strong economy, and that is what we're delivering. We have delivered lower taxes for small and medium Australian businesses. These are overwhelmingly family-owned businesses, and these are businesses turning over less than $50 million a year, which employ over half the private sector workforce. These are not big companies. These are not giant multinationals. But they're employing millions of Australians and they are employing more of them because of our reforms.
The honourable member refers to energy. Let's be quite clear about this. The Labor Party's policies on energy are a repeat of policies that have failed. They want to have a 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target when we know the Renewable Energy Target was a mistake. It is widely recognised as such, called out by the ACCC. What it did was displace dispatchable power and resulted in huge amounts of renewable power, regardless of what it did to the reliability of the system. And the member for Port Adelaide knows all about that because he comes from South Australia, where energy is at its most expensive and its least reliable.
What we're committed to doing is delivering cheaper power. Prices fell in the June quarter 1.3 per cent, not a huge fall but they're coming down. And we've seen lower prices quoted by retailers for the current quarter. The new default market offer that we are going to establish, based on the recommendation from the ACCC inquiry which we initiated, will result in substantial savings for consumers and for businesses—for consumers, up to $416 a year and for small businesses, $1,457 a year.
Ms Butler interjecting—
The honourable member talked about funding for health and hospitals. We are spending record amounts in every area of health—health, hospitals, Medicare, PBS. When new life-saving drugs are recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, we list them. We don't have to do as Labor did; they postponed their listing because they couldn't afford it. A stronger economy enables you to do all that. We have increased bulk-billing rates. They're now at record levels: 86.1 per cent of all GP services are bulk-billed. Labor wants to repeat the 'Mediscare' lies that they ran at the last election and at every by-election, but the reality is that every public hospital in Australia is receiving more funding under our government than it did under Labor.
In terms of schools, again, the Labor lies are rolled out. We're spending a record $249.8 billion over the next 10 years on schools and we've cleaned up Labor's 27 'special deals' that saw students getting less funding in one state than in another. In terms of national security, Labor neglected our Australian Defence. They did not commission one new naval ship in their whole time in office. We have 53 vessels either under construction or under design, and that is because we are determined to keep Australia safe and we are able to pay for it because of the stronger economy that delivers stronger government revenues, and enables us, in addition to doing all that, to bring the budget back into balance a year early.
The alternative that Labor offers us is an abandonment of every principle and value the Labor Party used to stand for. The Labor Party used to stand for aspiration. Not anymore. It's a mystery. They used to stand for people getting ahead and having a go. Not anymore. We have the politics of envy being rolled out in every electorate around the country. Labor is going after small businesses, family owned businesses. It's going after businesses—no matter how small they are, it wants them to pay more tax. It's going after individual taxpayers. It's going after retirees. I heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about self-funded retirees. Well, the Leader of the Opposition is going after their savings. Anyone with a portfolio with Australian shares in it—that type of investor or self-funded retiree—the Labor Party wants to take away 30 per cent of their income. It is a cash grab that will leave all of those families short. That's the Labor approach: going after families, going after self-funded retirees and going after businesses. And their energy policies can have only one result, which is higher and higher energy prices.
We are taking action to defend Australian families, get taxes down, electricity prices down, jobs up and investment up—the energetic economic growth that we need which results in higher wages, as we're starting to see. That's our commitment. We're standing up for Australian families, and for the Australian workers that the Leader of the Opposition abandoned in his union career and now abandons in this chamber.
This parliament has no confidence in this Prime Minister. You know that no-one on this side has confidence in the Prime Minister, and what we also know is that half the people on the other side have no confidence in this Prime Minister. If they weren't such lions in the party room and lambs—or sheep—in here, they would join us in voting on this motion that this parliament has no confidence in this Prime Minister. This horror show has gone on long enough. It's bad for the country and it's bad for Australian families to have a government so divided and so unable to govern.
Australians are sick to death of it. They're sick of power prices and pollution going up. They're sick of wages flat-lining. They're sick of the cuts to health and education. They're sick of the chaos in aged care and child care. They're sick of it. And, all the while, all the Liberals can do is focus on themselves, focus on their own ambitions. Today the Prime Minister is boasting about what a great job he is doing. If he is doing such a great job, why did half his colleagues vote against him today? And, of course, he goes straight to attacking the Leader of the Opposition for his background as a union leader. I'll tell you what, I would stand beside someone who has spent his working life defending Australian working people before I would stand beside someone who has spent his life as a merchant banker!
Labor is united. Labor stands ready to govern, because for five years now we have shown unity and we have shown discipline. Under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, we have the better policies and we have the better people. And we saw it in those by-elections that the Prime Minister said were a test of leadership. As it happens, yes, they were a test of leadership, weren't they? We have the better policies in tax, with bigger tax cuts for low- and middle-income Australians. Millions of them would be almost twice as well off under Labor's tax policies. Health, education, industrial relations, environment, energy and climate change—we have better policies in all of these areas than the government, because they're so busy focusing on themselves.
The foreign minister interjects, 'Where's the money coming from?' Well we're not giving $80 billion in big business tax cuts, are we? We're not giving tax cuts to the top end of town, are we? That's where the money comes from.
Mr Speaker, do you know what we heard yesterday? The Prime Minister confirming that it doesn't matter who's sitting at the despatch box; it's the member for Warringah calling the shots, because the member for Warringah has right of veto over every government policy. What a position to be in! And do you know what? Next it will be the member for Dickson. The member for Dickson sitting on the lap of the member for Warringah, like a really scary wooden puppet come to life, with the hand of the member for Warringah up his, um, back! He's back, like Chucky! He's back, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction! That's right.
What's the alternative? The member for Dickson, voted by doctors to be the worst health minister in 40 years. What a record! He cut $50 billion from our hospitals, cut hundreds of millions from preventive health and from dental care. He cut his way through the health portfolio, took on immigration and has presided over an abject failure in over five years to find new homes for those people, including children, on Manus and Nauru who should have had permanent homes before now.
This is a Frankenstein's monster of a government. It has the face of the member for Wentworth, it has the policies of the member for Warringah and it has the cold, shrivelled soul of the member for Dickson. It's a Frankenstein's government—a Frankenstein's monster of a government. In five years they've had—what actually is their energy policy now? What is their energy policy? What is their tax policy when they dump their company tax cuts? What's their education policy? What's their health policy? In the five years they've had to come up with a plan for this nation, all they've done is fight amongst themselves like a bunch of children.
We've agreed to keep it to five minutes on each side, so I'm going to end with this: this parliament, this chaos, can only be resolved with an election, because the parliament has no confidence in this Prime Minister. We don't and most of you don't. We are united, we are ready to govern.
We reject this motion outright, Mr Speaker! We've got confidence in the Prime Minister.
But we know a few things about this opposition leader. We know that he stands for higher taxes. We know that he and his party stand for higher energy prices. And look at the sorry lot behind him! We've got the member for Watson. Let's not forget—people haven't got that short a memory not to recall what Labor stood for when it was in power. The member for Watson wanted to take the water rights, the irrigation rights, away from my farmers and away from farmers right throughout river communities in Australia. That's what he stood for.
And then we have the member for McMahon. Remember all of those boats? Look at the member for McMahon's face. His was the face that launched hundreds of ships. That's right—hundreds of ships! They came, and there were 55,000 people who arrived unauthorised. He was responsible for a lot of those. There were 1,200 deaths at sea, and that was tragic. There were 800 boats. Labor put more beds in detention centres than they ever put in hospitals.
Then we move along to the member for Port Adelaide.
Mr Brian Mitchell interjecting—
What a sorry figure. He recently described the blackouts in South Australia which caused so much despair for businesses and families throughout South Australia as nothing more than 'a hiccup'.
Mr Brian Mitchell interjecting—
Let's not forget the member for Rankin. He was the chief of staff for the member for Lilley, who stood at this very spot and said, 'The four years of surpluses I announce tonight.' Where are those four years of surpluses? That's why this nation is in so much trouble. It is because of the member for Lilley. Thank goodness he's still here, because every time we look at him we can remind ourselves of the debt and despair that Labor in six sorry years plunged this nation into.
Then we have the member for Shortland and the member for Hunter. They should listen more to the member for Paterson. She sounded them out recently. She did. She stuck up for coal workers. She stuck up for coalmines. She stuck up for coal-fired power stations. Good on you, Member for Paterson. Come over this way. We believe you. It's a shame the member for Shortland and the member for Hunter don't, because they don't stand up for coal workers. I tell you what—our people do. We stand up for coal workers and we stand up for all workers. That's what we do. That's why we are lowering the company tax rate. We are getting it down to 25 per cent. What does the member for Maribyrnong want to do? He wants to push it up well beyond 30 per cent. That's what Labor stand for. They don't stand up for workers. Look at the member for Maribyrnong's record—Chiquita Mushrooms and Cleanevent. He sold those union members out. Rest assured that, if he gets the opportunity as Prime Minister, he'll do it again.
Dr Mike Kelly interjecting—
Don't you start, Member for Eden-Monaro. Why haven't you stood up? Why didn't you stand up for ships when Labor didn't build a ship? Not one ship did Labor build in six years. We are getting on with the job. We are spending billions on our defence program to make sure that our national security is what it ought to be. What did Labor do?
Dr Mike Kelly interjecting—
They lowered the amount of spending on defence to its lowest level as a ratio to GDP since 1938. And we all know what happened in 1939. What else did Labor do? I'll tell you what they did—they shut down the live cattle trade to Indonesia. But did they tell Indonesia, one of our great trading partners? No, they didn't. They had to read about it in the media. Labor do not stand up for the regions. We proudly do. We are standing up for them at the moment. They are drought-stricken. I appreciate that that is a concern of all members of parliament, but we are standing up for those drought-stricken farmers. They must watch this debate and think—
Ms Owens interjecting—
'What an unedifying spectacle that is.' They must think: 'Why are Labor carrying on like this? They should be standing up for the farming communities, standing up for workers, standing up for low energy costs and standing up for workers and families and all the things that are important to Australia.' But they are not. We are, and we will certainly continue to do that. We have got the back of the Prime Minister and the back of the Australian people.
Well, 35 of them have the back of the Prime Minister, there's no doubt about that—35 of them have knives in the back of the Prime Minister. If there was a moment in the speech of the Prime Minister that really said it all, it was when he started to talk about somebody abandoning their principles. There is no-one in this chamber who has a record of anything they claim being a high point of principle ultimately being doomed the way this Prime Minister does.
He told us he believed in the republic, and it was doomed. He told us that we could trust the banks, and that argument was doomed. He told he believed in the emissions intensity scheme—doomed. Then he begged that we support a clean energy target—doomed. Then he said we needed to support his National Energy Guarantee—doomed. Then he told us he was passionate about his big business tax cuts—doomed again. This man now believes that his party will continue to stand beside him—doomed. It's not going to happen. No-one believes it's going to happen. We've all seen this movie before.
We've all watched the member for Dickson while this debate's been on, furiously doing a bit of writing and then doing a bit of texting back and forth with his colleagues. I'll tell you, if he only had 35 votes at the beginning of this debate, we can only imagine what he's got after the Prime Minister's speech. As this debate goes on, we all know where it's headed. It's a choice. It's a choice between somebody who has always abandoned what he said he was passionate about and somebody who has always been passionate about the worst possible things.
Think of this, Prime Minister: the person who nearly half of your colleagues prefer was the author of the GP tax. The person who nearly half of your colleagues prefer is the person who cut $50 billion from hospitals. The person who nearly half of your colleagues prefer is the person who axed national dental programs and who was voted by doctors as the worst health minister for 50 years.
This Prime Minister looks at his beliefs and says: 'No, I'll throw that one away. I don't need to believe in that. Any member of the backbench can have a right of veto over anything, no matter how important I said it was.' But the alternative is somebody who has looked at the policies of both the Abbott government and the Turnbull government as we now move to the new riff of the Abbott-Turnbull-Dutton government—that's going to be the new riff we're heading to. It's going to be somebody who sees a government that cuts penalty rates and says, 'That's not extreme enough.' It's somebody who sees funding cuts to schools and says, 'That's not extreme enough.' They see funding cuts to hospitals and say, 'They just haven't cut far enough.' They've seen government cuts to the pension on the books here ever since the 2014 budget and say, 'They're just not going hard enough.' They see an NBN that they make slower, that comes later, that's more expensive, and they say, 'They just won't have wrecked it enough.' The man says of giving $17 billion to the banks, 'They just haven't gone far enough.'
It is a choice between a man who abandons his principles and one whose views are so extreme that he boycotted the national apology. That's what they debated this morning. That's the choice that is driving this government in half—a choice between somebody who stands for nothing and somebody who stands for all the worst possible principles. All they know, when it comes to it, is not what they believe; all they know is who they hate. At the press conference to justify why the Liberal Party fell apart this morning, when the member for Dickson went and gave that media conference he started reiterating his CV, telling us all the wonderful things that he'd done. Then he got to the reason why he just had to challenge. The reason he gave was the Leader of the Opposition. They will blame the Labor Party for everything, including this morning's leadership challenge.
The Australian people don't care that you hate Labor, but the Australian people do care that you hold them in contempt. The government show that they hold the Australian people in contempt when people are paying for the division of the government every day. They pay for the division in this government when they pay for the increased costs in health care. They pay for the division in this government when they pay for their increasing energy bills. They pay for the division in this government when they pay for the fact that everything goes up except their wages, and then the government comes here and votes against protecting their penalty rates. This government, under this Prime Minister, lets the Australian people down all the time. Now they've added that they don't just hate the Labor Party; they hate each other too. That's no way to govern this country.
The Turnbull government is delivering for the people of Australia through lower taxes, lower prices and more jobs. We are fighting for the people of Australia, because we have an economic plan to grow our economy and ensure there are more jobs and more job opportunities. We are the party that backs the small businesses, the mums and dads who take a risk, who start a business, who grow a business and who export their goods and services around the world. These are the people who the coalition government back to drive our economic growth and create jobs for the Australian people. That's why the Turnbull government is backing small business and medium-sized business through tax cuts. That's why we are fighting for lower costs. That's why we have our energy plan—to bring down the cost of electricity so that our businesses can compete around the world. That's why we have a plan to fix the GST—so that there's a level playing field across Australia for all businesses who are operating in this country.
We have turned the corner on Labor's debt. We will return the budget to surplus a year early in 2019-20. Do you know the last time a Labor government delivered a budget surplus? The last time Labor delivered a budget surplus the Berlin Wall was still standing, Ronald Reagan was still in the White House, Maggie Thatcher was still in Downing Street and Bob Hawke was in the Lodge. Twenty-five years ago was the last time that Labor delivered a surplus.
We've fixed the economic mess that we inherited. Remember that after Labor came into government, in the six years of Labor, they blew a $20 billion surplus and never delivered one. They blew billions and billions of dollars in savings. We went from zero net government debt to massive debt. In the six years of the coalition government, we've turned the corner on Labor's debt and we're getting back into surplus.
Did these things have an effect on our economy? Yes, they did. For a start, because of Labor's economic mismanagement, they cut defence spending to the lowest level since 1938. Not one new naval vessel was commissioned for our Navy. Not only did that put at risk thousands and thousands of jobs in the defence industry's supply chain; it put our national security at risk. Then we inherited the mess of the NBN off Labor. In their entire six years they only connected 50,000 households. We are connecting 50,000 every two weeks. Every two weeks we achieve more than Labor did in their entire six years.
What else did Labor do through their mismanagement of the economy? They stopped listing life-saving drugs on the PBS. They stopped listing drugs. Because we have now fixed the budget, because we have now paid off the Labor debt, we are now able to list life-saving drugs on the PBS. At last count, there were 1,800 new drugs listed on the PBS.
But, members, the greatest policy failure in a generation on Labor's part—and, believe me, there's a big list, so I don't say this lightly—was losing control of our borders and inspiring the people-smuggling trade. There were 800 boats, 50,000 people and thousands of children in detention centres across Australia and in our region and 1,200 deaths at sea that we know of under Labor. That's why, through our Operation Sovereign Borders, we restored integrity to our sovereignty and to our borders and we put the people smugglers out of business.
Under the policies of the Turnbull government, we now have the fastest-growing economy in all of the G7. We're growing faster than all the G7 countries. We're growing faster than New Zealand. We're growing faster than South Korea. We have created an environment that has seen 300,000 new jobs created in the last 12 months. That's 1,000 new jobs a day under this government. Unemployment is now 5.3 per cent. That's lower than, say, Canada. It's still too high, but that's why we're working night and day to ensure we can get that unemployment rate down. It's the lowest in six years, but it's going lower. Where does Labor get its inspiration from? It's Venezuela, with higher taxes, higher inflation and lower jobs growth. The coalition stands for the workers.
There were sighs of relief when the member for Wentworth became the Prime Minister of Australia, but, for the last three years, there have been groans of disappointment as the Australian people have expressed the view which 35 of his colleagues expressed today—that this man is simply not up to the task. This is a Prime Minister without principle and without power. He has betrayed every principle he's ever had and yesterday he gave away his power. He said, 'Any Liberal Party or National Party MP who crosses the floor will mean that the government can't implement policy.' He vacated policy leadership to the climate change deniers and the extreme right wing of his party. And how did they thank him? With a midnight knock at the door. This is a Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of his colleagues and who long ago lost the confidence of the people.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have pointed out that this Prime Minister does not have the confidence of the House. It's a statement of fact. We have no confidence in him and 35 of his colleagues have no confidence in him. The National Party didn't get a vote, but we know they don't have confidence in him. There's an even better reason to carry this motion: the carrying of a motion of no confidence will oblige this Prime Minister to hop in a car, go down to the Governor-General and advise an election. Let the Australian people cast their judgement on this man and on this government to make way for a government with unity of purpose and unity of agenda. That's why this motion should be carried. The Australian people deserve to have their say and to have their judgement on this Prime Minister.
We should remember, as his colleagues remembered today, what this Prime Minister's case for election was. He said to his colleagues that they'd lost 30 Newspolls and that he could provide better economic leadership. I pointed out on the Alan Jones program this week that he has lost 37 Newspolls, but I was corrected by Mr Jones—it's 38. Then we have the new economic leadership that he promised. This is a Prime Minister who has a one-point economic plan: giving away $80 billion in corporate tax cuts. That one-point plan will die an unlamented death in the other place later this afternoon, and, when that plan dies, this prime ministership should die with it. When that plan is defeated, this prime ministership should be defeated with it, because this Prime Minister had one idea: give $80 billion to big business and let it trickle down. He had one idea. That was his answer to low-wages growth: to cut wages through letting penalty rates be cut and to cut taxes for big business in the hope and the forlorn prayer that it be allowed to trickle down to the workers of Australia.
This is a man without an agenda other than that one-point plan. This is a man who has, as energy prices have risen, in fairness, had many plans. He had the National Energy Guarantee, the clean energy target and the emissions intensity scheme—none of which have survived contact with the enemy. By 'the enemy', I mean those sitting behind him. None of those plans have withstood the scrutiny of the House. They have not even been brought in for a vote, because they have not withstood the scrutiny of his colleagues. This is a man who's big idea was to increase the GST and then allow income taxes. This is a man who has not had the courage of his convictions to follow through with his economic beliefs and put them to the test. The member for Warringah put it well last night as he left the parliament. He said, 'The question now is: what are the principles of the Prime Minister? What are the convictions of this Prime Minister? What does this man stand for?' What an epitaph for this Prime Minister that his predecessor should ask the question: what does he stand for? The answer, of course, is very, very little other than his own survival. Well, his colleagues worked it out today. Thirty-five of his colleagues expressed a view today. They now have the opportunity to vote accordingly. The House now has an opportunity to say what his colleagues said to him today: 'You have stayed too long for any good you have done. The time has come for you to depart.'
They are very cocky, aren't they? They are very, very cocky. It was the Leader of the Opposition who said, 'Just leave the keys to the Lodge there in the door.' That's what he said. As they would have heard those words from the Leader of the Opposition, I reckon a chill would have gone through Australians, for two very important reasons: Australians do not trust a potential Shorten government to run a stronger economy or to keep Australians safe. They know that they will not be safe under a Shorten-led government. They know that their jobs, their wages, the fiscal strength of this government, the AAA credit rating and the future they hope for will not be safe under a Shorten government. But they can trust the Turnbull government. They can trust the Liberal and National parties because our plan for a stronger economy is working and our plan for a safer Australia is working.
Our plan is ensuring that unemployment is going down and jobs are going up. We have had 95,500 young people get a job in the last fiscal year, the best result in 30 years, and that deserves a strong cheer. That's what that deserves. We get no cheers from that side because there are jobs being created in this economy under the plan of this government. Debt has turned a corner. The deficit is falling and will return to balance next year. The AAA credit rating has been ensured and kept under this government. And, as for thuggish unions and big companies who want to take people for a ride, we've put in the powers and are putting in the powers to stop them in their tracks, while this Leader of the Opposition cheers them all on.
On top of that, our plan for keeping Australians safe is working. It is this government, a Liberal National government, that is legislating to protect Australians from foreign interference. It is this government and these parties that have put in place the funding to restore our national security agencies, our police officers and our border protection. The ABCC has been put in there to put a real cop on the beat; union thugs were off the leash under a Shorten led government, but they are certainly not under this government. Our Defence Force is being rebuilt after the waste and the neglect of the Labor Party, who let them run down to the lowest level since pre-war times, and they should be ashamed of that.
But it is also this government that has been protecting not only our values but our borders. We ended the absolute chaos and wreckage that came particularly from the shadow Treasurer, the worst immigration minister in this country's history. He made the biggest contribution to 800 boats, 50,000 people and more than 6,000 children in detention. Every single one of them, including those who were otherwise supported by the Greens, should hang their heads in shame for the human carnage and wreckage they were responsible for and the lives they destroyed by their neglect. We've been talking about a big stick to take to energy companies. This mob couldn't find a big stick with a flashlight and two pairs of hands. Under them, there will be no stick, the unions will be off the leash and the big companies will be off the leash. They will run away under the weakness of this opposition.
But more important than that, and more important than the strong policies we have, are the strong beliefs that underpin those policies: the fair go for those who have a go and who put in the hard yards. That's what our tax cuts have been about for personal income tax, for small business, for farmers—for all of them. We are ensuring that we reject the disgraceful politics of envy championed by this Leader of the Labor Party. We don't think that for you to do better someone has to do worse. All Australians will recoil from the punishing taxes of this potential Shorten government. Five billion dollars a year of a slug on retirees, on pensioners, on those who have worked hard, small businesses—that's what this fella has ensured for them if he is elected.
We have an immigration policy that brings people to this country who want to make a contribution, not take one. We have a policy to ensure that the best form of welfare is a job. We don't think tax is a privilege; we think it is a burden, which should be eased on all of the Australian people who work hard. And, when it comes to our sovereign interests, this side of the House always believes we will decide.
) ( ): There were two words missing from the speeches of those opposing this motion of no confidence in this Prime Minister. What were those two words? 'Prime' and 'minister'. Not one of the speakers has defended Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership. The speeches today are typical of what has characterised this government or, should I say, this opposition-in-exile, because what they have done is turned the coalition into the 'no-alition'. They seek to define themselves by what they're against, not by what they're for. And that is why they have nothing less than a crisis of identity, a crisis of belief between the views of the current Prime Minister and the views of the past and future prime ministers. That is why they have such a problem, because you can't define yourselves by just what you're against. We know that, when they stand up and talk about the reason why they should stay on the Treasury bench, they speak about a tax on trade unions, a tax on public education, a tax on public health and a tax on the public broadcaster. They speak about a tax against the Leader of the Opposition and all of our team. They don't present a vision for how they will actually take the country forward.
It's there in their policies and we should have seen it. The current Prime Minister took over as communications minister and he actually does get the interweb thingy. As his predecessor said, he invented it! But what's he done? Twenty-one million metres of copper wire—in the 21st century. That is what he has done. It's so last century! When it comes to climate change—he gets that too—he put forward the emissions intensity scheme, but can't follow it through. Then he gets the Chief Scientist to come up with a policy, so the Chief Scientist comes up with one: the Clean Energy Target. We said, 'We'll have a look at that. That looks okay.' Then it disappeared. Then we had various versions of the National Energy Guarantee, and he walked away from that as well. He says he supports infrastructure and public transport. He loves taking selfies on trains and trams. We don't want selfies; people want trains and trams funded with dollars—the Melbourne Metro and the Cross River Rail. No, that's not good enough. He'll go to Melbourne, he'll go to Brisbane and he'll go to the opening of Redcliffe rail; he just won't fund rail lines in inner Brisbane.
The fact is that this motion should be carried because we know that a majority supports this motion: 69 on this side and 35 on that side. That's before we get to the Nats; that's before we get to Barnaby's mob. They're not part of that. See, you're up to 104. You're in triple figures—
before you get to the crossbenchers or before you get to the National Party. The fact is that, under this Leader of the Opposition, we have been working to have a plan for government. We have put forward economic policy. We've put forward really difficult tax changes under this shadow Treasurer. We've put forward policies to give fairness in the workplace. We've put forward environmental policies. We understand that Australians want nothing more and nothing less than for their kids to have more opportunity in life than they had, and they want them to inherit an environment that's better than the one that we enjoy. But, instead of that true aspiration—which isn't for another yacht; the aspiration of Australians is for their family, for their community and for their country—we've got the selfish attitude of those opposite. Then the Treasurer, at the moment, had the gumption to speak about the 'big stick'. I and the next speaker get to talk every Friday morning, early, and last week I said that the problem was that they were using the big stick on themselves! Well, I was wrong—because now they're using it on each other! And we saw it this morning.
This motion should be defeated because this House does have confidence in the Prime Minister of Australia, the member for Wentworth. This motion should be voted against because this House and this government have confidence in the Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth.
This side of the House welcomes a debate about character. We are more than happy to fight the next election on the character of the Prime Minister versus the character of the Leader of the Opposition, because this Leader of the Opposition—
Mr Keogh interjecting—
is a political fraud. He is a political fraud. He just gave a speech dripping with hypocrisy, dripping with bitterness—a venomous, vicious, vituperative speech from a man who nobody on his side of the House trusts. The Leader of the Opposition has left a trail of destruction behind him throughout his political career. This is a man his colleagues do not trust. This is a man who needs the CFMEU to break up meetings of the ALP in Victoria, to protect himself from his own members. This Leader of the Opposition is prepared to bring union thugs into every single forum of the Labor Party in Victoria, to control preselections, to control policy outcomes, to give them $2½ million worth of donations. And why? Because this Leader of the Opposition always puts himself first, ahead of every single other person.
He has a list of victims as long as your arm, not just within the former Labor Party Caucus and not just people like Bob Sercombe, the former member for Maribyrnong, who was cut down by the Leader of the Opposition in his own electorate. Take Gavan O'Connor, the former member for Corio; he got in the way; he had to be dispatched by the Leader of the Opposition so that his friends could get seats. But worst of all was when they tried to take out Simon Crean, one of the doyens of the Labor Party in Victoria, a former Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition's faction had to take him out because he got in the way of this man's quest for power.
This man's quest for power was so low that he was prepared to take the penalty rates away from the lowest paid workers of Australia, from cleaners at Cleanevent. This was the man who thought: 'The cleaners of Australia are vulnerable, and I can get some benefit out of them. I can get an advantage out of them.' Do you know what the advantage was, Mr Speaker? Lists, so he could increase his power in the ALP; cash, so he could buy more memberships within the ALP; and preselection power in the Victorian ALP. And the poor old workers at Cleanevent were the ones who had to suffer. They were the ones that had to go without their penalty rates. And this is a man who comes in and gives speeches about penalty rates.
But that wasn't enough, of course. The workers at Chiquita Mushrooms got exactly the same treatment. The workers at Chiquita Mushrooms were dispatchable as well, along with the cleaners from Cleanevent.
And other leaders of the Labor Party couldn't trust him, either. Julia Gillard couldn't trust him. Kevin Rudd didn't trust him. And it was written about in Paul Kelly's book. Paul Kelly wrote: 'The distrust between Rudd and Shorten was intense and enduring. The Gillard camp was contemptuous of Shorten, considering him weak and duplicitous.' That's one thing she got right. 'Neither side trusted him, and neither side revised its view.'
If the Leader of the Opposition wants an election on character, we'll take it every day, because this side of the House backs the Prime Minister of Australia, the member for Wentworth. The worst subject you could possibly fight an election on would be character. If you decide to have an election around character, we'll line up our Prime Minister against your Leader of the Opposition every single day.
We know what we stand for. We stand for lower taxes, we stand for families and we stand for farmers. We stand for balancing the budget. We stand for putting more money into infrastructure and industry. And that's why this side of the House has governed for two-thirds of the last 70 years: because our values are the values of the Australian people. That's why we've won six of the last eight elections and that's why we're going to win the next one, next year!