Thursday, 21 February 2019
That the House:
(a)the Finance Minister abolished the Labor Government's travel panel and made it compulsory for all Government travel to be booked through Helloworld companies;
(b)the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole of government contract by the Minister's own Department;
(c)the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders, Mr Andrew Burnes, is the Liberal Party Treasurer;
(d)the US Ambassador Joe Hockey helped Helloworld lobby for Embassy travel arrangements but Embassy staff weren't aware of Mr Hockey's million dollar Helloworld shareholding when he directed them to set up a meeting with a Helloworld company, a meeting which Mr Hockey personally attended;
(e)DFAT officials in Australia weren't told about Mr Hockey's conflict of interest until after the meeting and Mr Hockey didn't list his million dollar Helloworld shareholding on his DFAT register of interests until the month after that meeting;
(f)explosive Estimates evidence today confirms that the meetings was arranged because, in the words of Mr Andrew Burns, "Hockey owes me"; and
(g)these are just the latest examples of Members in this Government acting as if they are above the rules and treating taxpayers' money as their own, including the:
(iii)unlawful tipping off an Australian Federal Police raid;
(iv)use of Ministerial authority to assist Liberal Party donors;
(v)treatment of a parliamentary committee as if it were a branch of the Liberal Party; and
(vi)use of a Members' position to promote their own commercial interests; and
(2)therefore, condemns Members of this Government for acting as though they are above the rules and treating taxpayers' money as their own.
I start this speech with the following words: 'Hockey owes me.' That tells you everything you need to know about this government. Somebody owes a Liberal donor, so they get a meeting. A Liberal minister owes their mates who run a small private foundation, so they get half a billion dollars in half an hour. A Liberal minister owes a chum, who gets a juicy contract. The Liberals owe the big banks big time, so they vote against a royal commission 26 times. But the one group this government do not think they owe anything to are the Australian people who are not members of their special club. What happens if you're not in their club, and what happens if you're not one of the chums? Your penalty rates get cut; they cut funding to your local school, TAFE and child care; they cut funding from hospitals; they charge you more to see a doctor; and they put up everything except your wages.
A week after this Prime Minister rolled Malcolm Turnbull, he made the pilgrimage to Albury to define his new leadership. He did the usual Liberal Party thing and disinterred the words of some dreary old Robert Menzies quote, like he was reading a mantra from the Dead Sea scrolls. He told the assembled conservative faithful the core philosophy of his government. He said, 'We look after our mates.' Well, they certainly do look after their mates. The Liberals look after their mates, and their mates look after them. $400 million for Paladin? Why not? It has a company registered at a beach shack on Kangaroo Island. I didn't realise that Kangaroo Island was a tax haven! There was another $500 million for the mysterious Great Barrier Reef Foundation, half a billion dollars for a foundation that didn't even ask for it. As long as the donations flow in the Liberal Party, this government doesn't mind.
This is a Liberal government of their donors, by their donors and for their donors. No wonder the Prime Minister described our call for a national integrity commission as a 'fringe issue'. No wonder they have kicked that into the long grass. We won't hear any of that before the next election. The Prime Minister doesn't want to know about Senator Cormann's free flights. He doesn't see anything wrong with the Liberal Minister for Finance and the Public Service calling the treasurer of the Liberal Party, who just also happens to be the CEO of a multimillion-dollar travel company, to sort out some free overseas travel. But apparently that's how things work at Helloworld.
I want to draw to the House's attention the half-year Helloworld investor presentation. It is truly remarkable. As part of the reasons why you should invest in Helloworld, they talk about their merits and their strengths. I kid you not, it's says that one of the reasons why this is a great company with brand awareness and customer acquisition is that it 'has the right people in the right places'. Let's be candid here. I like the finance minister personally. But it just doesn't fly that when you book a $2,700 holiday you don't notice that it's not on your credit card and never notice if you paid for it. In the real world, people notice that money and if they have paid for it.
The Prime Minister's determined to imitate the three wise monkeys—I hear nothing, I know nothing and I say nothing—on this issue just doesn't stop at that. Apparently he has no interest in getting to the bottom of what happened with Ambassador Hockey. Joe Hockey is not a bad fella, but what on earth was he thinking? For a million-dollar shareholding, he just lined up the introductions. The whistle-blower at Helloworld just spells it out. He asked, 'How can this meeting happen with the Liberal Treasurer of Australia?' The response: 'Hockey owes me.'
Joe Hockey declared that the age of entitlement was over, but for this Liberal government it never, ever ended. If people want to understand the mentality of the modern Liberal Party—it's not every member over there, but it's a heck of a lot of them—they rub shoulders with their rich donors and they have a sense of frustration. These Liberal members of parliament look at their friends, who they rub shoulders with in private sector, and they say, 'They earn more money than us. Poor us, we're Liberals. We're sacrifices our wages to serve the public, so therefore it's permissible to take the gifts and to do the introductions.' This is the mentality. They feel that public service should come with a special subsidy, because that's the way they view public service. The problem is that they treat everyone else with disdain. They use taxpayer money like it's their own personal expense account. They can shout over there, but they can't deny the truth.
When it comes to kicking people off the dole, they're all over it. If it comes to sending threatening letters, they're all over it. They know when someone shouldn't be getting $265 a week, but they don't just understand why they shouldn't have it all for themselves. When it comes to the way they treat the health budget, they will cut that. But when it comes to holiday, they say, 'Hello, mate! Helloworld!' There is one set of rules for the Liberals and one set of rules for everyone else. We see that again with the fact that these people are happy to put everyone else in court, and they're happy to put everyone else in front of a royal commission. They expect everyone else to cooperate and they expect people to pay their own legal bills. But when it comes to them, the rules do not apply. Was is $288,000 for Senator Cash not to write a witness statement? That is the most expensive nonstatement in the history of the Commonwealth.
We see the minister for Goldstein. You know: 'Geoffy, Geoffy,' 'Timmy, Timmy,' 'How are you mate?' 'How are you mate?' 'Could we line up an investor shareholding meeting to go with your little branch meeting so we could do a bit of product placement for both. Right people in the right place.'
And then, of course, we cannot forget that old faithful, the member for Fadden. He is the great multitasker of the modern Liberals, the Renaissance man of rorts. I have one question, which Australians are asking: how do you spend $40,000 on the internet? What on earth are you downloading? What the Prime Minister will say is, 'Oh, it's all the Canberra bubble—a union conspiracy. Watch out, votes will start. Watch out!' Scare, scare! He'll say that the voters out there don't care about the government wasting money and disrespecting ministerial standards. What a contemptuous attitude this born-to-rule mob have about public money and public service!
Australians do care about integrity. That is why, if we are elected, Helloworld will be the first item on the national integrity commission that we will set up. When they're faced by facts, they just ignore it. What they will say is we're wrong; this is the bubble. Well, you know what they say? They say that the workers are wrong about flat wages, the women are wrong about sexism, the teachers are wrong about the cuts to school. They say the carers are wrong with the crisis in aged care—we haven't forgot you, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care. They say the CSIRO are wrong about climate change, the energy experts are wrong about renewables, the Academy of Science is wrong about the fish kills in the Menindee Lakes, the First Australians are wrong about the Indigenous voice in the Constitution, the international community was wrong about moving the embassy, ASIO are wrong in their security briefings. They say the Federal Police are wrong about Senator Cash. And, of course, to the banking victims they'll say they were not wrong to oppose the banking royal commission. All this government has left is fear and dishonest scare campaigns. They think the public will forget their failures. Oh, no, they won't. (Time expired)
The leader of the Labor Party has never seen a private jet that he hasn't wanted to climb on board of. He's never seen a big table that he hasn't wanted to sneak his knees under. He's never seen that, as you've heard from this despatch box before.
Opposition members interjecting—
And when the former Prime Minister called you out on that, he was dead right. This is the leader of the Labor Party who has been sucking up to the Melbourne elite all of his life. As he sought to climb up the greasy pole, over one body after another, he sought to destroy them, and all those members who sit opposite know it only too well. This is the leader of the Labor Party who wants to run the country like a union. He runs the Labor Party like a union, and we know—and they know—the character of the leader of the Labor Party.
Mr Bowen interjecting—
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
But I'll tell you why he's so rattled. What the last fortnight has demonstrated is not only the lack of character of the leader of the Labor Party, which the Australian people have had a good 5½ years to have a good look at. They've made up their minds on this bloke. They know he's weak. They know he's someone who rolls over, whether it's to the left on taxes or to the left when it comes to border protection or any of these things. They know the leader of the Labor Party is a very weak man. They can see it in his character and they know he's not the sort of person that they would want to have leading this country.
But the other thing is this. In the last fortnight, not only have we seen the weakness in the character of the leader of the Labor Party; we have seen that he is leading a divided party on matters of the greatest importance to the Australian people: their jobs, the economy and their safety.
Dr Mike Kelly interjecting—
These are matters upon which the Labor Party are hopelessly divided. We know they are divided on the economy, because when we wanted to expand Australia's trade borders, when we wanted to go out there and execute those arrangements with China and Korea and all of these countries—particularly with China—what did the Labor Party do? They opposed it. And then they were for it, then they were against it and then they were for it. When it comes to matters of the Australian economy, the Labor Party is riven.
What do we also know about the Labor Party in this past fortnight? We know when it comes to our traditional industries—the minerals industry, the resources sector, the forestry sector and the agriculture sector—this is a Labor Party that has deserted the workers in all of those areas. They have deserted them.
We have in the member for Corio, who would be part of a Shorten cabinet, someone who said this, 'The global market for thermal coal has collapsed, and, wonderful'—Captain Wonderful over there!—'that's a good thing.' Our biggest minerals export employs, across the sector, some 55,000 people who are seeing the market upon which their jobs depend evaporating away, and the Labor Party says that this is a wonderful thing. So if you're living in North Queensland, if you're living in Townsville, if you're living across the Galilee Basin, if you're living in Queensland, if you're living anywhere in New South Wales—perhaps up in the Hunter Valley—if you're living up there, know this: the Labor Party's not for you. The Labor Party says that your job doesn't matter. The Labor Party says the global markets upon which your job depends don't matter. Those in the Labor Party who used to think that it did matter no longer have a voice under this leader of the Labor Party. This leader of the Labor Party, who says he's a great person for jobs, with his career in the union movement—clearly what he was learning in the union movement was not how to support people's jobs but only how to support himself. So many union leaders we've seen from those militant unions go into those jobs seeking only to support themselves, advance themselves and get themselves into this place.
The number of times I've asked those opposite to raise their hands if they're a member of a union—here we go again! Raise your hands if you’re a member of the union? There's just one! Maybe there are three. What a brave bunch they are! They cannot even declare their hand that they are members of union movements. I don't know why they wouldn't. If it's a good thing, why wouldn't you happily proclaim it? Because they know that the only reason they were members of those union movements was to try and crawl into this chamber on the back of their union members.
It's not only in the area of our traditional industries where the Labor Party have declared their hand in the last fortnight as being hopelessly divided. Of course we know that under the Labor Party they are hopelessly divided on the issues of national security. That was no clearer than when they came into this place last week and voted to support weakening Australia's border protection regime, hopelessly ignoring the lessons of their own history and ignoring the body count on their own watch. I remember well when the Labor Party members were in government and they came into this chamber and wept. The tears have dried up, just like their memories when it comes to border protection, because they have committed the same sin of offence in this place that they committed when they were in government, when they hopelessly ran our borders down.
The reason that happened is not because there are some people on the other side who believe that borders should be protected. It's because those who don't are controlling the Labor Party, and the leader of the Labor Party has hopelessly rolled over to the left, and others simply want to undermine our borders. They have recklessly supported a bill that does many things, as the Attorney and the Minister for Home Affairs and the minister for immigration outlined this week: transferring permanently to Australia people who, in many cases, have been found in those countries not to be refugees at all, and those who, under a character test, would never be allowed to come to Australia, because, also under that bill, what the Labor Party have done is weakened the ministerial discretion that previously existed that prevents a minister and the government of the day being able to protect our borders. They've watered down that discretion. And, as a result, they've also ignored the fact that, in order to address the very error that they were advised by our security agencies that they'd be making, we would need to immediately reopen the Christmas Island detention centre.
I get the interjection from the member for Blair that this is absolute rubbish. Now if he won't listen to the advice of security agencies when he's in opposition to protect our borders, what hope would we have that he'd listen to them if he were in government? This is a betrayal of the member for Blair. We don't know if he would be Minister for Home Affairs, because not even the leader of the Labor Party can express that confidence in the member for Blair in terms of what his job would be. But he's not prepared to listen to those agencies now. The Labor Party and the leader of the Labor Party are not prepared to listen to our security agencies now when it comes to protecting our borders. It was the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs who said to the government after the bill was passed, 'you must now reopen the Christmas Island detention centre'.
Now we have the member for Blair saying that's the wrong thing to do. We had Senator Wong say it's the wrong thing to do. We had the leader of the Labor Party say it was a tactic one day and it was fine the next. And the member for Sydney still doesn't believe it's the right thing to do despite the fact that that advice has been made very clearly. So understand this: the reason why Labor were so hopeless on our borders was not just because they lack the will, it wasn't just that they didn't understand the consequences of their own divisions, it was not that they didn't understand that you have to deal with the world as it is, not as you'd like it to be, but because, when it comes to border protection, the Labor Party are hopelessly divided. They fought with themselves year after year on the issue of border protection, and minister after minister failed and failed. Let's not forget the tragic record of those ministers who were in that government who wish to now be ministers again in a new government. The member for Watson had over 4,000 people turn up in just one month. The shadow Treasurer had 25,000 people turn up on his watch. They cannot be trusted to make Australia stronger; they can only be relied on to make Australia weaker.
Honourable members will remember that, when the member for Cook became the Prime Minister, he said that he wanted all Australians to know whose side he was on. Well, Prime Minister, you have ticked that box this week. Every single Australian knows, after the sordid, disgraceful and stinky revelations of the last week, just whose side you're on. And if they didn't know before this week, they certainly know now. This chumgate scandal has now entered a dangerous new phase, which shows that government contracts worth many millions of dollars of taxpayers money are determined in this government on the basis of who owes who in the Liberal Party power broking structure, a dangerous new phase where the finance minister can rewrite the rules of government procurement to ensure not just that Liberal Party companies get a slice of the action but they get the only slice of the action. It is a dangerous new phase, where the Attorney-General puts his hand up to be investigated as well because he seems to have some kind of understanding of what is going on behind the scenes.
Helloworld has turned into a world of pain for this government. In Helloworld, it's entirely normal for the finance minister to rewrite the procurement rules to benefit the company of a Liberal Party donor; in the real world, wages are stagnant. In Helloworld, it's entirely normal for contracts to be handed out on the basis of who owes who in the Liberal Party; in the real world, we have job insecurity and under-employment. Those opposite don't have a clue. They spend all of their time doing insider deals for their rich mates. If those opposite are really serious about ending the age of entitlement, they're going about it all wrong. You said you wanted to end the age of entitlement; you've got a funny way of showing it. The member for Sturt says the ambassador to the US is doing a good job. What he really meant is: this is a tidy little earner for Liberal Party donors, for people who run companies who benefit from these government contracts. When Joe Hockey—
I withdraw. Now, when Joe Hockey hits the fence as the Australian Ambassador to the United States, as he should and will, it doesn't end there. It doesn't end there, because Minister Cormann has shown by rewriting—
Mr Morrison interjecting—
You should sack Hockey. I'm saying you should sack Hockey, sunshine! I'm saying he should be sacked. But, when he is sacked by this Prime Minister, it won't end there, because Minister Cormann should go as well. Minister Cormann has been shown to be the beneficiary of free flights and other freebies while giving big contracts to companies run by Liberal Party donors. This finance minister abolished the travel panel and made sure that all of the travel went through this Liberal Party company.
Instead of the Prime Minister answering in question time—we asked him again and again to give a simple explanation of these very serious issues—he got the member for Sturt to do it. Doesn't that just speak volumes? When asked by the Leader of the Opposition did he support Minister Cormann, he couldn't even answer that basic question. So Minister Cormann has a lot to worry about. All the Prime Minister did when he finally got to his feet was blame the Labor Party and plagiarise Malcolm Turnbull. First he stole Malcolm Turnbull's job and then he stole his jokes! And the rest of Australia wonders why you got rid of Malcolm Turnbull in the first place; you still haven't explained that.
This scandal, as I said, has a long way to run. It won't end with Hockey or Cormann. It will dog those opposite every day until the election, and beyond, because the Australian people do know whose side those opposite are on, and it's not the Australian people's.