House debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018


Morrison Government

2:43 pm

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

I move:

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

That the House:

1. notes that since moving on Malcolm Turnbull, the Government has:

a. cancelled Parliament because it couldn't decide who was Prime Minister;

b. lost two Government Members, with at least one more on the way;

c. been forced into minority Government, which the Government previously said would create uncertainty in our economy and instability for the country;

d. created the first part-time Parliament in the history of Federation by scheduling just 10 sitting days in eight months;

e. cancelled the Treasurer's trip to the G20;

f. voted for a National Integrity Commission even though it doesn't support one;

g. voted against tougher 15 year jail sentences for corporate criminals;

h. abandoned the National Energy Guarantee – a policy which was designed by the Treasurer, which the Prime Minister promised would lead to lower electricity prices, and which the Member for Curtin still supports;

i. been described by the Minister for Women as "homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers"; and

j. been described by its own Prime Minister as "The Muppet Show"; and

2. therefore calls on this ramshackle, reactionary Government to stop fighting itself and start focussing on the needs of the Australian people.

Australians are outraged that this government is too scared to turn up to parliament, with the parliament just sitting—after it rises next week—for 10 days in the next eight months. The rest of Australia doesn't get to take months and months off work when it feels scared about coming to work, so why is the Prime Minister insisting on a part-time parliament? I believe that this part-time parliament confirms that we have a part-time Prime Minister who is running a part-time government that is not, at any time, in the interests of the Australian people.

The Prime Minister is fond of saying, 'If you have a go, you will get a go.' But obviously it doesn't include saying, 'You need to go to work to have a go.' What a work-shy government. I have wondered what would happen to members of the CFMMEU if they ran an industrial action campaign and proposed this in the lunch shed one morning: 'I have a great idea. Let's only go to work for 10 days in the next eight months.' They would probably be sacked. Indeed, this government would like to put them in jail. But it's one standard for the Morrison ministry and another standard for the workers of Australia. Who on earth in Australia gets to say, 'I'm not happy with my job today or next week, so I won't come for the next eight months, except for a total of 10 days'?

The Australian people, in all seriousness, are our employers. They remain deeply unimpressed that they have a government of parliamentarians who seek for the people to vote for them to be in parliament but, once they have voted for them to be in parliament, those Liberal and National parliamentarians feel no obligation to actually report to parliament. The part-time parliament, however, points to a bigger issue. This is a government that has simply ceased to govern. Not only have they given up governing but they have given up pretending to govern. They have no agenda and no legislation. They are just being swept along by the currents of hate and division in the river that is the government coalition ranks.

An example that demonstrates their lack of agenda, or lack of commitment to an agenda, is that on Monday they voted in favour of a national integrity commission. We thought this was a positive development because, for a year, they had rejected our idea to have a national integrity commission. As we explored the logic of this government, by question time the Prime Minister told us that an integrity commission and the issue of integrity in parliament is a fringe issue. Furthermore, he couldn't explain if he actually supported one or not. But the government did, implausibly, say that one of the problems with having a national integrity commission is that it might mean that ABC journalists would be picked upon by that commission. You could see the fingernail marks in the marble all the way from the blue carpet in the executive section of the parliament as they were dragged to vote for this national integrity commission.

The reason why they voted for it was that they were scared of the debate. We should have seen, on Monday, a forecast of things that were to come. They don't want to be in parliament, even though they collect the wages of people who are expected to go to parliament. But there's a second reason, other than their lack of agenda and their inability to do anything other than respond to events, why they don't seek to be in parliament. There is another reason. The reason why the government don't like to turn up to work is that those in the government can't stand being in the same city as their other colleagues in the government, much less the same room. Australians are confronted with the sorry sight of a part-time parliament because the government have a full-time obsession with fighting amongst themselves. The parliament is part time under this Prime Minister, but the civil war in the Liberal Party is a full-time occupation.

The ramshackle, reactionary coalition sitting opposite are so consumed by some form of existential identity crisis, some bizarre debate about what it means to be a real Liberal. They watch and rewatch the old footage of John Winston Howard and they roll him out, in some sort of video, to prove that they were once Liberals. They reinter the speeches of the 70-year-old Menzies era as some sort of ouija board to help give them advice as they go forward in their current crisis. They talk to themselves about themselves in conservative echo chambers. They pontificate about this mythical right-wing base, and they write-off whole communities as irrelevant.

'Don't worry,' they say, 'Batman isn't the real Australia; Perth isn't the real Australia; Fremantle isn't the real Australia; Mayo isn't the real Australia; Braddon isn't the real Australia; Longman isn't the real Australia; Wentworth isn't the real Australia; and Victoria isn't the real Australia.' Rather than face up to their failures of policy, change their out-of-touch attitudes and take responsibility for the cuts and chaos, they prefer to engage in conspiracy theories. Yet again, we saw it on the front pages of The Australian newspaper. The conservatives see the invisible hand of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull in every decision, like Tiberius with a Twitter handle. You have to feel for Malcolm Turnbull, and I'm sure some of you do now. He must be wondering why he never had this mythical, Keyser-Soze-like influence when he was the Prime Minister of Australia. The economic shift is extraordinary too. After all, the Liberal Party used to believe in the invisible hand; they used to be the party of the invisible hand. Now, they are scared of the invisible hand; they blame it for everything that's going wrong.

The problem is: as humorous as it might be at one level, the nation is tired of this government. I stood at the polling booths in Victoria, and whilst all credit goes to Premier Andrews—and there were many state issues—the truth of the matter is: when you see polling booths in Flinders down in the Nepean state electorate or in Kooyong in Hawthorn or in Higgins in Malvern and you see people who have only ever voted Liberal in their life asking, 'When is the federal election?' you know that this is a government that is not only scared of the parliament but also of the Australian people.

They should be scared for good reason, because Australians want more than the chaos of the government, the division of the government, the dysfunction of the government and the internal hatreds of the government. Labor know that, in the path which they have adopted, the Australian people will resoundingly reject policies which come from a government which is based on fear. The only argument that this desperate government have is saying, 'We are not Labor.' But one of their failings is that they personalised this dispute. I thought it was remarkable—even as remarkable as the part-time parliament!—when the Prime Minister said it's all about me and him. No, Prime Minister; it is about the Australian people. It is about the penalty rates that you won't restore. It is about the school-funding promises you broke and will not keep. It is about the growing out-of-pocket costs for health care and for X-rays and diagnostic imaging. It is about the fact that you won't give three-year-olds universal preschool. It is about the fact that you have 120,000 people in aged care. It is about the fact that you want to hand on to the next generation inadequate action on climate change. It is about the fact that you ignore rising power prices because of your obstinate denial of climate change. We look forward to the next election, but what we say about it to this government in the meantime is: do not be a part-time parliament; show respect to the people, turn up to work and do your day job until the people get to evaluate your job at the next election.

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

Is the motion seconded?

2:53 pm

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

I second the motion. Look at what they've become. Let's not forget what we were told before they became the government. Let's go back six years to what they told us a Liberal-National Party government would be like. What did they say about a surplus budget back then? Joe Hockey said this: 'We will deliver a surplus budget in our first budget and every budget after that.' Well, since then, they've doubled Australia's debt and taken it to half a trillion dollars and are now boasting that maybe in the financial year after the next election they'll, for the first time, fulfil what they said they'd do before they ever came to government. That's where they're at now.

That's because the first Prime Minister they tried on, the first Prime Minister they had a go with, started by saying, 'We can now bring back adult, stable government.' That's what he said—that he'd be able to deliver a stable government. It might not have been stable, but it's been consistent, because the number of prime ministers is three, the number of treasurers is three and the number of deputy prime ministers is three. There's been a consistency to what they've done, but it has been the exact opposite of what Liberal Party voters thought they were going to get when this mob were elected. They promised cabinet government. That was one of the things they said they would deliver: proper, orderly cabinet government. Well, there's an embassy decision that you might have thought you would have had a cabinet submission for, an embassy decision where you might have thought, 'Maybe we should let the security agencies know before we announce this one.' But there was no process, nothing other than, from the Prime Minister in this despatch box, 'Our candidate told us it would be a good idea.' That was with all the resources of government and all the things they told us they would be.

The Leader of the House, when he was the Manager of Opposition Business, would say time and time again, every time the parliamentary program was brought down, 'The House is not sitting enough.' He'd tell us each time: 'You're running scared if you're not willing to have the parliament sit. It's a test of whether or not you're a government.' And now, for the first time since 1901, the parliament is planning to sit for only 10 days in an eight-month period. A lot of the debate has been, 'Maybe that's because they're scared of the numbers on the floor of the parliament,' but we're missing the other point: every time the parliament meets, the party room meets. The Prime Minister says to us: 'You're all getting so cocky. You all think you're going to be able to beat a Morrison government.' Well, we don't even know if we'll be up against a Morrison government. All the indications and the little publicity stunts from the people who are a little bit more popular than the Prime Minister raise a whole lot of questions. I can understand why they want to reduce the number of party room meetings between now and the election.

We were also told that, if they won the election, there'd be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to pensions and no cuts to the ABC—every single one of them untrue. But we don't need to go through our critique of them because, in truth, the brutality of our critique of them doesn't match the brutality of their critique of them. In the newspaper articles we're reading now, it's really hard to get a Labor Party quote in because we're competing with every anonymous backgrounder from the frontbench and the backbench, and their language is so much more colourful than ours. Having promised adult government, they then give us a Prime Minister describing his own mob as a 'muppet show'. It wasn't us who described the Minister for the Environment as being on L-plates; it was one of their own senators. It wasn't us who ridiculed the Leader of the House as being a legend in his own lunchtime; it was the man sitting next to him, the Treasurer of Australia.

The Prime Minister seeks to describe who cares about the real issues and what sort of work people are doing here. This is the speakers list that's been distributed on the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill, which is being debated in the chamber right now. It's a list of Labor speakers, with only one government member speaking for the government's own bill. It's not that their backbenchers are busy—they're on the phone, ringing up people there. They've got lots to say about the government but very little to offer to the Australian people. (Time expired)

2:58 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

They're very pleased with themselves, aren't they? They're very, very pleased with themselves. But I note that what has happened under this government is more Australians have turned up to work than ever turned up to work under their government. There are more Australians who have a job today as a result of the policies we have been putting in place from the day we were elected than there were under their government. There are 50,000 fewer people on the unemployment list today than there were at the last election. There are more Australians turning up to work under the Liberal and National parties than ever turned up to work under the Labor Party.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

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

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Under our government's policies, unemployment has fallen to five per cent. Under our government's policies we have had the strongest growth in the median wage in the last 13 years. We have had the strongest growth in non-mining investment—the continuous growth record in 30 years—under our government. We have the lowest level of welfare dependency of working age Australians in 25 years and more. Under our government, and under the policies and the convictions and the principles of the Liberal and the National parties, more Australians are getting into work and fewer Australian are going onto welfare. That is the product of a government that understands and believes that the best form of welfare is a job. It is the product of a government that believes, absolutely, that if you have a go, you will get a go.

They are the policies which say that you should keep more of what you earn, because you have worked incredibly hard for it. That is the policy of this government. That is why, as a government, from the day we were elected we have been setting about the plan that has been making Australia stronger, that has been making Australia safer and that has been bringing Australians together. Our plan, which we have been implementing, is tax relief to encourage and reward hardworking Australians. It's $144 billion worth of tax relief, which means that more than 90 per cent of Australians will not pay a marginal rate of 32½c or more than that. 32½c and less is what the majority of Australians will face under the legislated tax plans of our government, that means Australians going to work today on a middle income over the next 10 years will not see bracket creep, the vast majority of them, for their entire working lives.

When you believe that Australians should keep more of what they earn you believe in reducing taxes for all Australians. You don't hold the view that to give tax relief for some you've got to come and pull others down. That is the dangerous politics of envy that can only come from a Labor Party that is intent on driving division throughout this country, division in our workplaces and division between parents as they stand on the sidelines watching their children play sport. They want to set parents who send their children to state schools against parents who send their children to non-state schools. The Labor Party has a plan to divide this country.

The Labor Party has a plan to undermine the very principles of a fair go that have made this country the strong, united, vibrant country that it is today. Australians, I believe, will get the opportunities to see that between now and the next election. They will know absolutely when they go to the next election that the leader of the Labor Party and the Labor Party itself want to disrupt the living standards of Australians by imposing their ideological and reckless agenda on the Australian people. But not this side of the House—not the Liberal Party and not the National Party. We are providing tax relief to Australians and we're providing tax relief to hardworking small and family businesses.

It is our government that has brought forward and implemented the tax cuts for small and family businesses, bringing it down to 25 per cent. It's our government that introduced the instant asset write-off to ensure that small businesses ploughing back into their businesses, and working hard in their business, could keep more of what they earn and could invest in the equipment that makes a difference. It is our government that raised the definition of a small business from $2 million to $10 million, liberating thousands and thousands of businesses to ensure that those small businesses can get the cash flow benefits of pooled depreciation and doing GST on a cash basis.

This is real policy I'm talking about here. I don't know what the Labor Party's talking about, but I know on this side of the House when we come here we talk about real policies—policies that make a difference, that are being legislated and are being implemented, to ensure that we can enrich the small and family business culture of this country.

The Labor Party doesn't understand small business because there aren't many union employees in small business. It is one big blank vacant space when it comes to the Labor Party. They disrespect their contribution to Australia and they disregard the interests that are so important to them. It's our government that has ensured that more than 90 per cent of times, bills of a billion dollars and less are being paid within 30 days by the Commonwealth government, and on 1 July next year that's coming down to 20 days. More than that, at the end of this year I'll be asking all the states and territories not only to match our commitment to 20 days but to match New South Wales government's commitment to 20 days, because if you're a small business you shouldn't be used as a bank by large businesses and you shouldn't be used as a bank by a government, state or federal. We're taking action on that and we're calling on all large businesses, through a transparency initiative, to ensure that the payment business of large businesses is on record so small businesses know who they can do business with.

Next year, on 2 April, our government will deliver the first surplus budget in 12 years. That's what our government is going to be doing because we've got expenditure under control with the lowest spending growth of any government in 50 years and more and we've got taxes under control. That budget is coming back into balance because of the work we have done to manage that budget carefully and to grow our economy by doing things like investing in infrastructure and in liberating and supporting our science and technology sectors so they can grow and they can flourish with the investments we're making. We're ensuring that we're recognising our traditional sectors in agriculture and resources, in mining—mining and resources are dirty words to the Labor Party. They're dirty words to those in the Labor Party, but we know that those who make steel out of the resources that are mined in this country have real jobs that deserve protecting and deserve recognition. The Labor Party has sold out the resources, mining, steel production and aluminium smelting industries of this country and they have done that by embracing reckless policies that will continue to drive up electricity prices under the reckless policies of the Labor government.

We're guaranteeing the funding for schools, for hospitals, for affordable medicines, for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for the pension and for the disability support pension because the only way you can look the Australian people in the eye and tell them that you can guarantee the support that we're guaranteeing them is when you can back it up with the fiscal management and the economic policies that deliver in season and deliver out of season. That's why we can back our farmers in the middle of the drought. That's what we've been focusing on. We've been focusing on those sectors that support living standards and support Australians on a daily basis.

So we are delivering across all of these areas. We're focused on policy. We're focused on a strong economy. We're focused on keeping Australians safe, not following on national security but leading on national security, ensuring that we're delivering the laws and the powers and we're kicking out the druggies who are selling drugs to our kids. We're kicking out the bikies who roll up at the CFMEU conferences at will and run the numbers for Labor Party members all across the country. No wonder they weren't cancelling visas for bikies and criminals. We've cancelled 3,000 visas for bikies, criminals and suspected terrorists in this country because we take these things seriously.

The member for Watson posed the question: what was put to the people back in 2013? I'll tell you what was put to the people. The member for Warringah will remember it very, very well. What we put to the people in 2013 was that we would stop the boats, and we stopped the boats. We said that we would get rid of the carbon tax, and we got rid of the carbon tax, and the Labor Party now wants to bring back a carbon tax. We said we would bring the budget back into a surplus, and on 2 April next year the Australian people will see that we will deliver that surplus budget, which demonstrates that only the Liberal and National parties can be trusted to run a strong economy that guarantees the essential services that Australians rely on without the higher taxes of the Labor Party.

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

The question is that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition be agreed to.