House debates

Monday, 10 September 2018


Morrison Government

11:27 am

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

I move:

That so much of standing ordering be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion immediately:

That the House:

(1) notes:

  (a) the last time this parliament sat, the Government shut down this House because this Government was unable and unwilling to govern itself;

  (b) the next day the Government deposed the elected Prime Minister but nobody is able to explain why;

  (c) the Government continues to be wracked by infighting, with Government Members leaking against each other on an almost daily basis;

  (d) the current Prime Minister claims he remained loyal to Malcolm Turnbull, but his own Liberal Party colleagues have been briefing that he was plotting to depose the former Prime Minister for some time;

  (e) the current Prime Minister has described his own Government as a "Muppet Show" and his own colleagues as Muppets;

  (f) Government members don't trust each other, are only focused on fighting themselves, and cannot possibly be trusted to look out for the interests of the Australian people; and

(2) therefore, condemns this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government for only being focused on itself and not helping Australians.

Every Australian wants to know, as parliament resumes, why isn't Malcolm Turnbull the Prime Minister of Australia? Last time the parliament met, the Liberals and Nationals voted together to shut this place down. They gave up even pretending to care about the country. They walked off the job, not in protest, not in pursuit even of better conditions, but in simple surrender. Being in government was too hard for this government. In that moment, once and for all, they proved they are simply unfit to govern Australia.

Now they return with a different Prime Minister and a different Treasurer, and they expect people to think that the past five years were simply a bad dream. Yet they cannot answer the very first question that every Australian has been asking for the last 16 days: why was Malcolm Turnbull sacked? Barrie Cassidy, on the ABC show Insiders, asked the Treasurer that very question three times: why was the Prime Minister knifed? Normally the words pour out of the loquacious member for Kooyong. There's nothing he enjoys more than the sound of himself answering one of his own dixers. Yesterday the well ran dry. He was squirming in his seat. He tried to duck and weave, but he never came within cooee of answering the question. Either he couldn't answer or he didn't want to.

But it wasn't just the Treasurer. The Leader of the House, the member for Sturt, normally so eloquent and quick with a witty opinion on the matter of the day, actually made history. He was the first politician to be caught by a 'gotcha' question on his own show. The intrepid journalist, none other than the member for Corio, asked him, 'Why exactly did we need a new Prime Minister?' What did the member for Sturt say? 'The question you ask is a good one. It's yet to be answered by those people who thought there needed to be a change.' Have a quiet whisper to the member for Dickson next to you; maybe he'll let you in on the picture. 'Those people', the member for Sturt calls them. That's how he talks about more than half of his colleagues.

But, to be fair to the member for Sturt, at least that's polite compared to what the Prime Minister described his entire party as—'muppets'. It goes to show you how deep, how toxic and how bitter the divisions are in the Liberal Party. On morning television last week, the Prime Minister said the curtain had gone down on the 'muppet show'. But, already, we can see it wasn't the end; it was only an intermission. Since he said that, on Monday last week some kind patriot in the Liberal Party, in the resistance, leaked the entire infrastructure plan of the government. Not to be outdone, on Tuesday, another patriot in the resistance leaked the whole of the plan to fix up Catholic school education—they neglected, of course, to look after public schools, but that's in their DNA. On Wednesday another patriot in the resistance leaked the entire business tax options for the government, and on Thursday, for good measure, one of the anonymous bullies of the Liberal Party paid back the member for Chisholm for speaking up against the bullies.

Of course, all week, we had the freedom fighters out there on and off the record explaining how Prime Minister Morrison outmanoeuvred would-be Prime Minister Dutton and former Prime Minister Turnbull. But who is actually the director of the production? Who is the Jim Henson of the 'muppet show' of the government of Australia? It is the same as it's ever been—the member for Warringah. Two weeks ago wasn't the end of the civil war; it was just the opening shot, and the next battle we see every day. We've already seen the recriminations such as the campaign of leaks against the poor old Minister for Home Affairs over his conflict of interests, his visas for mates—or not mates, depending on what we know and when we know it—and, of course, the debate over his constitutional eligibility under section 44.

We've seen recriminations much more serious, indeed, even than that: the shocking allegations of bullying and intimidation. We've seen women members of parliament, like the member for Chisholm, Senator Gichuhi, the member for Curtin and even the Minister for Women, talking about serious allegations of thuggery and standover tactics. We've had the member for Leichhardt out today making the same point. But, of course, on the other hand, against the victims of the bullying, we've got the member for Hughes saying they should 'roll with the punches'. This is indeed a character test for the new Prime Minister. Bullies are not entitled to the protection of secrecy. They do not deserve a deliberate silence from the Prime Minister of Australia. The simple point is this: the best way for the Liberal Party to resolve all of these toxic, poisonous issues and the best place for them to get them out of their system is a good long stint in opposition. There are no shortcuts to promoting women. The Liberal Party will not be taken seriously on the issue of equal representation of women in parliament until they introduce quotas like the Labor Party has.

The Australian people didn't vote for this current Prime Minister, and his own party can't explain why he's there. But one thing that is clear is his record. The Prime Minister has spent the past 16 days trying to hide from the previous five years. We remember, though. We remember when he was Minister for Social Services in the Abbott government, cutting child care, cutting support for families, increasing the threshold before people were able to access the age pension and pushing the retirement age to 70. We remember when he attacked nurses and police officers who'd negotiated improvements in their paid parental leave as 'rorters'. We remember when he was Treasurer, presiding over the lowest wages growth in this nation yet voting eight times to cut penalty rates. We remember when he insulted the victims of banking rip-offs by mocking the banking royal commission as a 'populist whinge'. We remember when he voted 26 times to protect the big banks from scrutiny to deny justice to Australian farmers, small businesses, banking consumers and homeowners. We remember the three years and three budgets that he devoted to giving some of these same banks a $17 billion handout. We remember the three years and the three budgets where he's helped doubled the deficit. We remember the three years and the three budgets that have cut schools, cut TAFE and apprenticeships, cut universities, cut hospitals, cut support for pensioners and frozen the Medicare patient rebate, all in the name of funding Australia's biggest-ever handout to the top end of town.

But there is a simple fact here which deserves more attention: 45 members of the Liberal Party voted to spill the Liberal leadership and sack Malcolm Turnbull—45!—but only 40 voted for the member for Dickson. Who are these other five Liberal MPs who wanted up their own man, the current Prime Minister? They were clever enough to spill the former Prime Minister's position and clever enough not to vote for the member for Dickson. Who is the person who has benefited most from the instability in the current Liberal workforce? Who has benefited most from the spill of Prime Minister Turnbull and by not voting for the member for Dickson? It's the current Prime Minister, the man who now holds the office.

This Prime Minister was not an innocent bystander in the leadership coup any more than he was a bit player in the Abbott and Turnbull leaderships. Every day at the cabinet table for the past five years, he'd done over working and middle-income families in Australia. Saying 'fairness' repetitively, like a mantra, doesn't make up for five years of unfairness. His record speaks for his character far louder than anything he yells in question time. The Australian people are sick and tired of watching the Liberal Party fight themselves. They deserve better than a government consumed by jealousy and ambition and animosity. No more badge-wearing, covering up and evangelical lectures—it's time for the Australian people to have a say on the government of this country. (Time expired)

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder for the motion?

11:38 am

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

I second the motion. Who will forget that vision of the then Treasurer, now Prime Minister, with his arm around the member for Wentworth? Who will forget him in the courtyard saying, 'I'm ambitious for this man'? He should have said, 'I'm ambitious for his job.' Less than 48 hours later, he'd knifed the Prime Minister and placed himself on the throne. Who knows how long this plot had been waiting to hatch? Who knows how long he'd been working towards this end? One person knows. That's right—we know who knows.

This Prime Minister does not come to this job with clean hands. Right around Australia, people are scratching their heads and going, 'Actually, that Malcolm Turnbull was pretty popular, and the Liberal Party actually weren't very popular at all.' They've exchanged a popular leader of an unpopular party for a less-popular leader of an unpopular party. Where is the logic of this? The other side had the members for Flinders, Stirling, Hume, Aston and Moncrieff all pledging their loyalty to the former Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, and then all of them voted for this man opposite, the member for Dickson. This is the guy, in charge of our borders, who can't even count to 43. It makes me a little nervous to have someone in charge of the borders who can't even count to 43. But you know for certain that those on the opposite side have been obsessed with the numbers for weeks. For months they've been focused on the numbers.

We've been focused on another set of numbers. We've been focused on the number of people in hospital waiting queues. We've been focused on the number of kids who are having their access to early childhood education cut because of the changes of those opposite. We're focused on the number of young Australians who are missing out on apprenticeships because of the cuts to TAFE and vocational education.

Those opposite, by their own description, have given up governing. Even the Prime Minister calls his own people the 'muppet show', a bunch of muppets. The Prime Minister says that of his own people. But—you know what?—this new Prime Minister himself has nothing too much to be smug about. People won't forget his record as Treasurer. They won't forget wages growth at record lows. They won't forget 1.8 million people on the unemployment queue or looking for more work. They won't forget the fact that, when Scott Morrison was Treasurer, net debt doubled, gross debt crashed through half a trillion dollars and the pension age was raised to 70. How many times is the now Prime Minister on the record saying how necessary it is? Cuts to penalty rates, cuts to schools, cuts to health care and cuts to banking taxes as well are in his DNA.

People know his record. They know that the reason he's prepared to slip and slide through these things that he used to say were tenets of good government—they know that the reason he's prepared to give up on them today—is that he just wants to grub a few extra votes. He knows he's up against it. He will say anything to get a few extra votes, in the party room and in public.

And—do you know what, Mr Deputy Speaker?—the leader of government business challenges us to talk about what's been leaked during this time. Well, aside from the infrastructure plan, aside from the tax plan, aside from the school-funding plan, I think the most interesting leaks coming from those on the other side are the leaks about the toxicity of their internal culture, the fact that they cannot work together to deliver for Australians, because they cannot work together, full stop. To have respected women on the opposite side talking about a toxic culture of bullying and then having the now Prime Minister dismiss that, refuse to take it seriously, refuse to investigate it, show just how unfit that mob opposite are to govern.

I noticed with interest that the Prime Minister, when swearing in the new front bench, decided he had to give them all a lapel pin to remember why they're here. I noticed, in fact, that the manager of government business and the minister for immigration—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

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

Where are they? Where are the lapel pins? I will tell you what, Mr Deputy Speaker: I don't need a lapel pin to tell me whose side I'm on. I don't need a lapel pin to remind me why I'm here. We don't need a lapel pin to remind us that we are proud Australians and we support increased wages for working Australians. We increased— (Time expired)

11:43 am

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

Mr Deputy Speaker, of course the Labor Party want to blow up the parliament. That is the playbook of the opposition. That's been the playbook of the Labor Party for the last five years. You would expect them to come into the House, and they have, following the usual mantra: a suspension of standing orders, a fire-and-brimstone speech from the Leader of the Opposition and a not-so-fire-and-brimstone speech from Deputy Leader of the Opposition. You'd expect them to want to blow up the House. They want us all to be focusing—Happy New Year to you too, by the way, Member. I'm surprised to see you here, but I'm delighted that you're here to be part of this discussion.

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

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

No, I am. I'm delighted to see you, and Happy New Year to you—Rosh Hashana.

You'd expect Labor to come into the House and blow up the parliament with a whole lot of confected outrage about what's been going on the last month, but you've got to admire their chutzpah, particularly the Leader of the Opposition's chutzpah, because lot of those members on the other side of the House come from a government and an opposition—a Labor Party—that changed their leader in five years from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd. When they were in opposition they had Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Kim Beazley again and even tried Mark Latham, who they now completely reject as a member of the Labor Party. Then they went to Kevin Rudd. They were a party that changed their leader very routinely. And I agree with them that changing the leader is not the right thing to do.

The Australian public are quite rightly most disconcerted with what's occurred. I agree that the last 10 years of politics in Australia, the instability that was initiated by the Labor Party from 2007 to 2013, was the wrong way to treat the Australian public. It was the wrong way to behave, and now Labor says they had to do it. But they began the process that has led to this 10 years of instability in Australia after the 11½ years of stability by the Howard government.

We had 11½ years of stability in the Howard government following relative instability in the Hawke and Keating governments, the Fraser government, of course, and the aberration that was the Whitlam government. Before that we had 21 years of continuous power from the coalition. And Labor created this very unfortunate atmosphere in Australian politics in the last 10 years, where changing the leader became de rigueur. It's the wrong thing to have done.

I agree with the Australian public that what they want is stability.

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for McEwen is warned.

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

They want a calm, methodical government in Australia that is getting on with the job. When it comes from the Leader of the Opposition, it is particularly galling to be lectured about stability and unity. In Paul Kelly's book, Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labor Generation, on the Leader of the Opposition, Paul Kelly lined him up. He said:

The distrust between Shorten and Rudd was intense and enduring, the Gillard camp was contemptuous of Shorten, considering him weak and duplicitous. Neither side trusted him and neither side revised its view.

That is the truth about the Leader of the Opposition. Neither side trusts him in the Labor side. Nobody trusts him amongst the Australian public. The only people that trust him to follow what he says he'll do are the CFMEU and John Setka. The reality is that, after only two weeks, the new Prime Minister is the preferred Prime Minister in Australia. How upsetting that must be to the Labor caucus. Even in polls showing the government trailing the opposition very seriously—and there is no point in gilding the lily; that is certainly the case in the current public polling—even in published polling that shows the Labor Party well ahead of the government, the Leader of the Opposition is not the preferred Prime Minister in this country. In two short weeks, the member for Cook has so put his stamp on the prime ministership that he is the preferred Prime Minister in this country, and that must be making the Labor Party hardheads of the caucus and the union movement scratch their heads and think it's possible they could lose this next election—an election which the Labor Party thinks they already have in the bag, an election where the Leader of the Opposition is already sizing up the curtains in the prime ministerial suite because he is so certain that he's going to be the Prime Minister of Australia after the next election.

Well, I've got news for the Labor Party: we're getting on with the job on this side of the House. Whether it's creating over a million jobs—last week, according to the national accounts, we had the highest level of growth in the G7—

Honourable members interjecting

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! There is far too much noise.

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

because the policies of this government, the policies of the former Treasurer—now the Prime Minister—and the former Prime Minister have been driving economic growth in this country, creating growth, creating jobs. This government has got the runs on the board. This government has reduced personal income tax in Australia. For average families struggling to make ends meet we are reducing income tax. We are reducing company tax for small businesses. We are driving small and medium enterprises in this country to re-invest in their own businesses, to create the jobs that are driving the economy. We have record levels of infrastructure spending right across the nation, in roads, in bridges, in new airports, in defence industry infrastructure, in bases—$75 billion worth of infrastructure spending according to the new minister, and he is going to get the opportunity to expand on that and outline that infrastructure spend. That's helping to create jobs and growth in the Australian economy, unlike the Rip Van Winkle years of the Labor Party from 2007 to 2013.

We are getting electricity prices down. They've already started coming down in certain markets around Australia, including in South Australia and Queensland. We are going to be focusing like a laser beam on electricity prices. The new minister, the member for Hume, is focused on one thing and one thing only: bringing down electricity prices. We are going to make the states focus on the reliability of energy supply in this country.

On national security, the member for Dickson, the Minister for Home Affairs, is continuing to support our border security. He will answer questions about that later today, about how we've dealt with the latest boat arrival. For five years we have stopped the boats in this country. We have completely reversed the record under the Labor Party, when there were 50,000 arrivals on over 800 boats. There were thousands of children in detention. When we came into power we had to get children out of detention. When the Howard government lost power, I think there were six or even five children in detention. We have stopped the boats, we have defended our borders and we are investing in national security. We have a $200 billion investment in our defence capability, the largest build-up of our military capability in our peacetime history. After the years of Labor, when spending on defence was reduced to 1.56 per cent of GDP, the lowest level since 1938, the lowest level since the last year of appeasement, under Labor, we are repairing the damage. We are repairing the damage that was done by the Labor Party in defence.

We are balancing the budget. We have a path back to surplus. A strong economy and a strong budget means we can invest in the things that Australians regard as important, like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, like listing new drugs on the PBS that couldn't be done under Labor because there wasn't the money.

Here we are debating a Labor motion to suspend standing orders to demand that we have more chaos to try to break the furniture, to rip up the place like a CFMMEU annual general meeting. We're not having anything to do with it. We are going to keep getting on with the job. We are going to focus on the things that people regard as important: reducing taxation, supporting families, raising wages, balancing the budget, investing in infrastructure, national security, protecting our borders and the essential services that people like the farmers right now need all around Australia because of the drought. Our response to the drought is about using the funds that we've managed to salt away as a government by having a balanced budget process to support the essential services Australians need.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The question is that the motion be agreed to. There being more than one voice calling for a division, in accordance with standing order 133 the division is deferred until 12 noon.