House debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018


Coalition Government

4:40 pm

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

I don't normally take the adjournment, but today Australians deserve an explanation. They deserve an explanation as to why this government lurches from crisis to crisis, embarrassment piled on embarrassment, week after week. Australians deserve to know why they don't have national security encryption legislation, why the kids are still on Nauru and why their power prices are still going up. This government has said that these are very important issues, in particular national security.

At the beginning of this week, they threatened Labor and said,' You must not stand in the way of encryption legislation.' And, indeed, earlier on 22 November the current Prime Minister said about encryption legislation:

Our police, our agencies, need these powers now and I would like to see them passed, in fact I would insist on seeing them passed before the end of the next sitting fortnight.

But I regret to advise the Australian people that we've arrived at the end of the sitting fortnight. There is legislation passed and amended in the Senate, which then comes back to the House of Representatives to be finalised. It has ever been thus in the Australian parliamentary system. The House of Representatives or the Senate amend laws and the other house then considers them. Now what happened is this government rushed a set of encryption laws which were, just frankly, botched. This opposition absolutely worked to get agreement to repair them as best we can. This morning the government gave us 170 amendments on vital legislation to do with digital privacy, tracking down terrorists and criminals, security and economics. Labor, in the parliament, and the crossbench have considered 170 amendments and ratified them in the Senate in the last hour.

But apparently this Christmas, when it was so vital to have national security laws, the government now says: 'Oh, five o'clock, time to go home. We'll worry about national security next year.' Shame, shame, shame! You use national security as a stick to try and score a political angle. Labor looks at national security and says,' How do we work together to make Australians safe?' What has happened is that these laws are ready to be passed right now.

Every year past when the parliament has had laws which arrived late, because the parliament was scheduled to finish at five o'clock for the year, we sat later. Both political parties tell their members of parliament: 'Don't book your flights. Don't make commitments in the electorates tomorrow,' because a tried and true system of government under John Howard and Bob Hawke—and even Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull—was that if you have laws which need to be passed, and the government has made the case they need to be passed, you stay and do the job. You don't go home. But with this government apparently national security is only national security until five o'clock on a Thursday, because the bad guys don't worry about our national security—they will stop at five o'clock. We have got a work-to-rule government.

We're not dealing with these laws, because the parliament is expressing the will. In addition to the proper scrutiny of laws, we want to see the kids off Nauru, kids who need medical treatment, where the treating medicos say that should be done. We simply say, 'They should get that treatment and the decision-making should be transparent and accountable.' But this is where we now find out of the real priorities of this ideologically bankrupt and this morally abject failing government. They are more keen to be seen to maintain their political pride than protect Australians, get kids off Nauru or even deal with lower energy prices.

This is a government who is so consumed by their own pride. They have been divided all this year. They got rid of their sitting Prime Minister. They lost an electorate and lost some of the members of parliament on whom they have relied. They bullied the member for Banks out of the Liberal Party. Because of their own internal discord, they are now concerned that children might be able to have a transparent process to receive the medical treatment they deserve. But this is a government who says national security is No. 1, unless it's Prime Minister Morrison's pride, because then national security is No. 2. It says the safety of children is No. 1, unless the pride of Prime Minister Morrison is in danger, and then that comes first. This government should be ashamed of itself. It has put its own pride and its own political bacon ahead of the children on Nauru, ahead of national security and ahead of the people of Australia.