House debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018


Morrison Government

4:30 pm

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

With the clock clicking to 4.30, this government just gave up. This government just decided that everything we were told for the last two weeks was not true. For the last two weeks, we were told that getting the encryption legislation fully legislated was incredibly important, and we were told this in the strongest terms. The fact that it's in the Senate—

Mr Evans interjecting

Okay, let me help you. We've just had an interjection: 'Oh, but it's in the Senate.' Sometimes the Senate does things called 'amendments'. When they do an amendment, you can only proclaim the law if it comes back here. The only way it could have come back here is if the Leader of the House had moved the motion that he had on the Notice Paper today, but he wouldn't move it. And why wouldn't he move it? Why did the government decide, even though they had planned for us to sit late, that they wouldn't? The answer is simple. It is because the Senate has also been debating whether or not medical advice should be followed for the people on Nauru, and the government realised that of the three issues—encryption, divestment and medical advice being followed on Nauru—they could get all three or none. They decided the price of following medical advice on Nauru was so high that they would rather not go through with the encryption legislation that they had been spending a fortnight backgrounding.

All the words that they fired at us now actually reflect directly on them, because this is legislation that we voted for. This is legislation we were willing to keep at work for, which they've now decided to bail on. This is how Senator Cormann described people who are now in the exact position as the government members: 'To think that they would want terrorists to be able to communicate with each other.' Now, those are extraordinary words, but they are now a Liberal describing other Liberals. They are now the National Party describing the National Party.

They spent the last two weeks talking about divestment. They backgrounded to the papers today that they were going to make sure that this legislation, the privatisation of the electricity assets—and that's exactly the form the bill is still in—went through the House of Representatives today. Now, they've made a lot about, 'Oh, but Tony Burke moved something that confused us, and we couldn't go ahead with it.' Let's have a think about what I didn't give leave for. I didn't give leave for the bill to be taken as a whole. That meant that the minister at the table needed to understand every clause of the bill, because we were going to debate it clause by clause. The truth is the minister wasn't up to being able to defend every clause of the bill. Those opposite have no idea what's in the legislation that was introduced to the House yesterday. They have no idea. But they've decided that they have an abject fear of the parliament. If you can't face the parliament, you can't govern, and today they've decided they can't face the parliament.

For the whole of next year, for eight months, they've decided they can only face the parliament 10 times. This is a government without an agenda, but they've also decided that the agenda they've spent the last two weeks on they don't really want anyway. What sort of government decides against having a win on something that they described as essential for national security and forcing something through which they had the numbers on? They just had to sit through the whole debate. It would have been a bit humiliating for the minister, but they had to sit through the whole debate. I suspect divestment would have made it through the House, too. But the price of doing that was to have legislation that didn't say, 'Everybody come straight from Nauru to Australia,' but rather, 'You really should listen to the doctors; you really need to listen to the doctors for people who are in your care.'

We can all make a note of the fact that they've often missed deadlines. We were told the education agreements would all be signed by October. We were told encryption would go through this fortnight. We were told all the kids would be out before Christmas. We were told the divestment legislation would go through today. But the real deadline is that we were told there would be stable government by 2013. And what we have seen is exactly the way they describe it best: this parliament has been shut down because it has become a muppet show.