House debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


11:33 am

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the House do now adjourn.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

This is extraordinary. What is happening right now is that the government have decided that this place has fallen apart so completely that they are dissolving the parliament for the day entirely. There will be no question time today because they don't know who their ministers are. There will be no question time today because they don't know who their Prime Minister is. There will be no question time today because those opposite have stopped governing. Those opposite are obsessed with each other. But not one of their conversations has anything to do with the Australian people. Not one of the conversations that they're having here go outside their jobs. Every conversation that is happening on the government benches today is about their promotion, their entitlements and their sense of entitlement. That's what's going on today.

No government in living memory has dissembled so much that they decided the parliament couldn't meet. No government in living memory has said: 'It's all too hard. We're just going home.' No government in living memory has looked at the parliament, where technically they have a majority, and said, 'No, we'd rather just not be there at all.' This is the same day that those opposite used their numbers, by a majority of one, to protect the person from the High Court who might be in charge of this nation by the end of the day. They used a majority of one to protect somebody from the scrutiny of the High Court, someone who might not even be eligible to be a member of parliament. And whose vote protected him? His own! Doesn't that sense of entitlement say everything about what the modern Liberal Party has become? The Liberal Party of today have no interest in anyone but themselves. They have completely fallen apart, collapsed, to the extent now that they don't want to have a parliament at all.

Normally people think that, one day, when they get into this place, they might get to be a minister answering questions in question time. There are seven or eight them at the moment, this morning, thinking that maybe this afternoon they will be answering questions at the dispatch box as Prime Minister, and there are about 30 others who have all been promised they will be in the front row by the end of the day. But now they discover that the salary packet of those jobs is more important than the accountability of those jobs.

Be in no doubt: if there were ever a justification for question time, it's today. Be in no doubt: in the history of this parliament, if there were ever a government that had questions to answer, it's this mob today. If there were ever ministers whose loyalty were to be questioned, it's today, because we remember that the only reason they could be in the position they're in now is if ministers opposite misled this place yesterday. If they were telling the truth yesterday, I don't see how they're in the spill territory as a government today. It does not add up.

For those opposite: think about what you have all become. Have a think about it. Have a think about that moment when you might have thought, 'If I come to parliament I would achieve X, Y or Z.' Because now those opposite are about to vote that they'd rather not have a parliament at all. That's the question that's being asked. We're not about to ask a question about a particular policy decision. We're about to resolve in this House whether the parliament should be sitting at all.

If they had wanted to suspend the House for their party room meeting, we would have allowed that. We would have agreed to that. We were ready to agree to that. But instead of them deciding they will just suspend for their party room, they're terrified that they have no idea of what state they'll be in after their party room. They have no idea what this country will look like in an hour's time. But there's one group of people that aren't being consulted at the moment. They're called the voters. In all the consultation that's going on, none of them are consulting the voters. The people's house is here, and they should be accountable today.

11:38 am

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

What I say today is not addressed to the government, because Australia no longer has a functioning government. What I say today is not addressed to the coalition or the Liberal Party, because they have no leader of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party, whatever it does today and tomorrow, is irreparably split. What we have seen in the last few days is a government and a Liberal Party who know that they need to focus on the needs of the people, but they just cannot help themselves.

No-one in this parliament in the last decade can hold their head high about bitterness and argument, but I recognise that Labor has learned its lesson over the last five years. But now the government is proposing to adjourn the parliament. To adjourn the parliament would imply somehow that the parliament does not have pressing matters before it. It most certainly does. To adjourn the parliament would be an admission that the parliament has failed. It is not the parliament that has failed; it is the Turnbull Liberal government in this country which has failed. The country doesn't need a different Liberal leader; it needs a different government. The government may adjourn the parliament but it cannot outrun the weight of failure of this government.

The people of Australia must be watching and wondering. Surely, in the bubble which passes for the current government members of parliament—obsessed as they are with their hatreds and disagreements—surely, they can hear how appalled Australians are? Surely, the members of this parliament who currently compose the government must be hearing from them in emails and phone calls? They must be talking to people, out in their constituencies, who are saying, 'What on earth are you doing?'

Today we said to the government that we wouldn't call divisions whilst their party room met, if their party room meets. We've been prepared to offer flexibility to the government. But to simply adjourn the parliament is the final admission. I said on Tuesday that this is a government which had lost the will to live. But I don't think even on Tuesday we could have seen the cannibalistic behaviour of a government that is eating itself alive. There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Australia think that the system is broken.

What will happen, if the parliament adjourns, is that business will still go on being business and the workers will still go to work. But the job of government is to uplift the nation's vision. This nation has serious issues which it must address. The job of the government is to outline the future. The people of Australia, those who voted for the government and those who didn't, consent to the outcome of elections because they believe that the party who forms the government will keep on governing. There are issues in this country which everyday Australians expect the government to answer. But not only is the government paralysed by in-fighting; it is now not even going to bother to have the parliament meet at all. This is the ultimate admission of surrender, of a bankrupt government—of a failed government.

The people in Australia want to see proper wages policy, but they don't get that from the government. The people in Australia want a resolution to rising energy prices, and they are not getting this from the government. The people in Australia want an end to the decline of apprenticeships in this country. The people in Australia want to see properly-funded child care. The people in Australia want to see pensioners get a better deal. The people in Australia want to see our schools properly funded.

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear a few government members interjecting. You've lost the right to interject when you don't even want to be in the parliament! We will take your interjections all day—we just wish you would turn up to work. What a bunch of no-hopers! They're actually putting up a resolution that they don't want to go to work. The work of the parliament is in the chamber, not in the meetings behind closed doors as you allocate jobs. If I were the National Party, I would be very disappointed in their senior coalition partner.

What about the farmers in the drought—are we going to talk about the drought today that is affecting Australians? I don't think so, because the government is adjourning the parliament. Are we going to talk about the congestion in our big cities and the need to have more public transport and more roads funding? I don't think so. Are we going to talk about properly funding our health system and our hospitals? I don't think so. This parliament should not adjourn. If anyone needs to depart from this place, it is not the parliament; it is this government of Australia, which has not just lost the confidence of its own backbench and of the opposition but has lost the confidence of everyday Australians. Shame on you!

11:43 am

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Those opposite are not conservatives; they are vandals. The proposition that we would close down the Parliament of Australia because they can't organise themselves to work out who the Prime Minister is going to be is a shock to the people of Australia, who deserve so much better. Here we have the Nationals actually caucusing on the floor of the parliament, trying to work out what they're going to do. What are you going to do? Are you going to support the suspension of the parliament or do you support democracy? Do you support this parliament doing its job, governing for all Australians?

Australians are working hard today. They're working in their mines, on the farms, in the factories and in the shops. They're working in their offices. They're teaching our children and nursing our sick. They're at work doing their jobs. The least they can expect from their government is that the government would turn up to do its job, to focus on what matters: more jobs with decent pay and conditions, dealing with the blowouts in hospital waiting times and hospital waiting lists, making sure that every child gets a great education and that our young Australians can go to TAFE or university, dealing with the drought and considering our place in the world. What are they doing? They're considering who sits on the front bench. That's all they're doing opposite. After five years, we have a government that can only focus on itself, consumed by chaos, dysfunction and ego.

Not one of the three people that we've heard touted as Prime Minister deserves the job. We have one with no authority. That's the member for Wentworth—no authority. We've got one with no legitimacy. That's the member for Dickson. We're not sure that he is eligible to sit in this parliament. And we've got one with no decency. The member for Cook has never had the colours to nail his colours to the mast. Is he a conservative? Is he a moderate? Where does he stand on the division? He is like a hyena circling around the corpse of the modern Liberal Party, waiting for his chance, waiting for his chance to come up the middle. And the Minister for Foreign Affairs used to be discussed as a potential leader. She doesn't even have the courage to stand.

These conservatives—imagine what Sir Robert Menzies would think of this mob opposite. In 1942 Sir Robert Menzies delivered his forgotten Australians speech, his 'forgotten people' speech. What would Sir Robert Menzies think of a house divided? He would have been the first to say that a house divided cannot stand. It's like the Montagues and the Capulets. It's like the Hatfields and the McCoys. This is a generational break in the modern Liberal Party, because the conservatives will never let the moderates govern and the moderates will never let the conservatives govern. How will they ever bridge this divide?

In 1942, with that 'forgotten people' speech, many say Sir Robert Menzies is credited with being the father of the modern Liberal Party. Today is the funeral of the modern Liberal party. We are witnessing history being made today, because this house divided cannot stand. Given that this house divided cannot stand, the only solution is for whoever the Prime Minister is right now to drive out to the Governor-General and to let the people of Australia decide. Let the people of Australia decide whether they want a government focused only on itself, only on its own jobs, or they want a government that is focused on more jobs with decent pay and conditions, on an education system that gives every child the best start in life and the greatest opportunities, on a health system that cares for our most vulnerable with proper funding for our hospitals and GPs—whether they want a government that can solve the problems of our energy policy with lower prices and lower pollution.

The only solution is not closing down parliament today but for whoever the Prime Minister is to drive out to the Governor-General and let the Australian people decide. Let the Australian people decide.

11:48 am

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the question be now put.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be put.

The question now is that the House do now adjourn.

House adjourned at 12 :00

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Vamvakinou) took the chair at 10:00.