House debates

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

3:34 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The failure of the Government to represent the interests of all Australians.

I call upon all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Just a few weeks ago we all stood in this House and debated the passing of Bob Hawke, a great Australian who stood for all Australians. Bob Hawke's prime ministership was characterised by an understanding that together we are stronger. He looked for common ground. Nothing could stand in more contrast with that than what we've seen from this government in its three-week self-indulgent vanity project, this victory lap where it has brought parliament back in July.

The fact is that the Prime Minister is in search of an agenda. In place of that, he's chosen division. He characterises that himself when he stands in parliament and has the talking points for all the ministers about, 'Whose side are you on?' Billy Bragg, at the beginning of the year, said about international democratic politics at the moment that:

This is a time of dismissive demagogues promoting a know-nothing politics of swaggering arrogance driven by scorn and spite.

I'm reminded of that comment every time I see this Prime Minister—the hubris of a government overcome with arrogance, where no-one is too right-wing or extreme to share a platform with.

This is the first time I've seen a Prime Minister stand in this parliament and refer to the statement of a senator as this one did when asked his view about some of those opposite sharing a platform with Raheem Kassam and Matt Gaetz. The fact is that those opposite have a hide to ask, 'Whose side are you on?' But, in response, let me give them exactly which side Labor is on. We're on the side of unity, not division. We're on the side of equality, not inequality. We're on the side of political conviction, not political expediency. We understand that we need to promote what we are for, not just what we are against, unlike those opposite. We understand that we want an economy that works for people, not people who work for the economy. We understand aspiration, but we understand that that's not just about individuals. That is about the better life that working Australians want for their family, neighbours, community and country.

We support those who are struggling and who need a helping hand. Those opposite say that people have never been better off, in spite of the reports just this week. We understand that free markets left alone, because they have no conscience, entrench existing relationships of power, both economic and social. Those opposite still support trickle-down economics. They say it will all be okay if government just gets out of the way. We understand that unions have a critical role in a democratic society. Those opposite just want to attack them. We understand the importance of holding business to account, which is why we supported the banking royal commission at the same time as they voted against it 26 times. We support building infrastructure; they support talking about building infrastructure. We respect public servants; they cut public servants. We respect the science of climate change; those opposite want equal time for climate sceptics to teach in the classroom. We regard education as being about creating opportunity; those opposite see it as just entrenching privilege.

We support Medicare being at the heart of the health system. Those opposite undermine it at every opportunity. We support increasing Newstart. Those opposite regard that as just 'unfunded empathy'. We support addressing homelessness. They want more positive spin about homelessness, to talk about the 99 per cent who are in homes rather than the one per cent who are homeless. We support pensioners. Those opposite say that the pension is too generous. We support aged care that looks after our vulnerable older Australians. Those opposite want to get rid of regulation and just let the market rip. We support superannuation as being critical for our nation. Those opposite undermine it. We support a free media. Those opposite have engaged in cynical, politically motivated raids and intimidation against journalists. We on this side of the House support a voice for First Nations people in our Constitution. Those opposite have roadblocks in their cabinet—like the Minister for Home Affairs, who walked out on the apology. We on this side of the House understand that you can protect your borders without losing your humanity.

Mr Tim Wilson interjecting

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Goldstein is warned!

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Those opposite have engaged in dehumanising people in our care for political gain. We on this side of the House appeal to hope. Those on that side of the House rely upon fear. We want to shape the future in the interests of all Australians. Those opposite are frightened of the present and terrified of the future. Nowhere is that better characterised than in the National Broadband Network: we understand that fibre is the technology of the 21st century; those opposite rely on copper to go forward.

We on this side want genuine support for our farmers who are struggling in the drought, who need real action on climate change, who need real funding. Those opposite want legislation that gives them some money in the following financial year—$100 million rather than the $5 billion that they talk about. We on this side of the House are absolutely determined to bring the nation together. We reject those who seek to divide us. In their No. 1 talking point, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the minister opposite talk about 'Whose side are you on?' That shows exactly what they are about. They don't have a positive agenda, they rely upon negative politics and they seek to divide at every single opportunity.

We on this side of the House are united. We know exactly what the values of the Labor Party are, we know what we stand for: a strong economy and jobs. We know we stand for social justice. We know we stand for lifting people up, not leaving people behind. We know we stand for engagement on the environment. Australians don't want that much and they don't ask that much from their government, but they expect a bit of respect. They expect that the government will actually have a plan. And a third-term government should have developed that plan into a coherent narrative. Yet what we see is just more and more scare campaigns.

The fact is that Labor's values are shared not just by people here who have a common interest, who are united not just because we happen to be in parliament and not just because we happen to be in the Labor Party, but because it is our shared values that have brought us to the Labor Party—a party that has been in existence since 1891, a party that has proud origins and a proud history, a party that will continue to contribute to this nation's history into the future.

So I say to the Prime Minister: you asked the question, consider it answered. We on this side of the House know exactly whose side we are on. On that side of the House, they are so divided they can't even get an answer from a Prime Minister about senior members of the Liberal Party and the National Party appearing on the same platform with extreme right-wing ideologues in order to promote division in this country, allowing in the sort of talk that will just divide us.

I will conclude with the Prime Minister's question. We know exactly who we are and we know exactly whose side we are on. We are the Australian Labor Party and we are on the side of Australia's national interests. It's a pity that there is a government that isn't—a government that is just on the side of its own selfish political interests and seeks to divide people, promote fear and engage in negative politics because they don't have a positive agenda for their third term.

3:44 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the Leader of the Opposition's speech makes it abundantly clear that he is in absolute denial about what happened at the election. We've seen it time and time again. I was reflecting in question time today, 'Imagine being a backbencher in the Labor Party.' You wouldn't want to too forcefully argue against any given policy, because the Leader of the Opposition and the leadership of the Labor Party might turn around and tell you to vote for a bill that they've been arguing against. We've seen it time and time again. When we were re-elected, we had spoken every day during the campaign about tax relief for hardworking Australians, about ensuring that there was structural reform of our tax system to reward hardworking Australians and to make sure they earn more and keep more of what they earn.

What did we see from the Labor Party? The Labor Party could not accept the verdict of the Australian people, and put every obstacle in the way of delivering tax relief for everyday Australians. We saw the pantomime from the Labor Party for weeks on end in the lead-up to the legislation. They were arguing against it. The Leader of the Opposition humiliated himself by moving an amendment to change the title of the bill. In the end, what happened? They voted for it, presumably due to political expediency, not because they believed in it. Not because they believe that the Australian people made the right decision at the election. Not because they've accepted the decision of the Australian people at the election. No, I'll tell the people in the gallery: the Labor Party think Australians got it wrong. The Labor Party think Australians got it wrong. They are in denial. That is highlighted in no better way than the Leader of the Opposition's contribution just now.

That continued. The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Bill 2019 was a solemn commitment we made during the election to keep Australians safe, telling Australians that we wouldn't let murderous individuals who had travelled to the Middle East to rape and kill and maim come back to Australia. What did we get from the Labor Party? Obstacles the whole way through. Obstacles and diversionary tactics. In the end we welcomed their support, but it was very, very begrudging support. Again, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party are in denial about what the Australian people said at the election. They sent a very clear message at the election: 'Yes, we want lower taxes. Yes, we want a safer country.' The first order of business from the government was to deliver both of those things, and what did we see from the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party? We saw them in denial and not willing to accept the message sent by the Australian people.

The Leader of the Opposition also can't outline any policy. We presume that every single policy the Labor Party took to the election is still policy, but we don't see the Leader of the Opposition defending it. We don't see the Leader of the Opposition defending their $387 billion of higher taxes, their retirees' tax or their housing tax, which I spoke about in question time today, which would see a $1½ billion reduction in GDP. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about superannuation in his contribution, yet, presumably, it's still Labor Party policy to impose $34 billion of additional taxes on Australians in superannuation.

We've got the retirees' tax, which is still Labor policy. We've got housing taxes, which are still Labor policy. We've got superannuation taxes, which are still Labor policy. What on earth is different? Why did you change your leader? What on earth is different? I must say, I've been sitting in parliament this week, and the member for Maribyrnong has been looking decidedly happier in the last couple of days than he was last week, and I can understand why. He must be sitting there wondering: 'Why on earth is this man the Leader of the Opposition? He has not changed one thing.' Again, highlighting to the Australian people that the Labor Party, in their bones, think that the Australian people got it wrong. They don't believe that the Australian people made the right decision. There's no self-reflection going on in the Labor Party about why the Australian people rejected their higher taxes and their weaker borders. I hope that happens at some point in time, but we can't obsess or focus too much on the Labor Party, because it's very hard to know who's in charge or what's going on at the moment.

What are we doing? We're focusing on, again, what we said to the Australian people. One of the important things we spoke about from budget night, which was essentially the kick-off of the campaign, was that the Australian budget is back in the black. We will have an update to last year's budget, and I expect that it will be in an improved position because, unlike the Labor Party, we underpromised and overdelivered—better not get that one the wrong way around! That's important in budgets, because for years the Australian people, particularly when Wayne Swan was Treasurer, saw governments making grandiose promises about budget surpluses or reduced budget deficits that would come in wildly out and were always worse. From Treasurer Morrison to Treasurer Frydenberg what we have seen consistently is a budget that outperforms forecasts. That is what will be the case when the final budget numbers for last year's budget are brought forward.

Importantly, in the 2019-20 year we are committed to delivering an additional budget surplus, the first in 10 years. They're not easy, particularly when the needs and demands of government are increasing. How do you do it? You have to show discipline. You must have the ability to live within your means, because a government is no different to a household or a small business. We have ensured that real growth in spending is down to 1.9 per cent, which is the lowest in 50 years and vastly lower than the 3.5 per cent we inherited when we came into government. It ensured that in the 2017-18 year we had a final budget deficit of 10 billion—$19 billion better than was expected, to highlight the point about overdelivery.

We've been able to return to surplus through not only disciplined budget management but also, as I said at the beginning of this contribution, delivering significant tax relief for Australians. That is the issue that was discussed every single day of the election. It's extraordinary that we saw the pantomime from the Labor Party, throwing up obstacles, arguing every single day about why our policies were so terrible, then they ultimately supported it. The question is: did the Labor Party ultimately support those tax cuts because they had a 'road to Damascus' conversion overnight and believed that the Australian people got it right or is it just political expediency that they don't believe in? I think it's clear to Australians that it's the latter. I'd say to the Labor Party—

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is the longest minute and a half. Stop the clock!

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

and I'd say to the member who's interjecting as well: don't deny the Australian people their rights. They sent a very strong message at the election. I know you think they got it wrong. I know you don't want to accept that they rejected your higher taxes.

Ms Butler interjecting

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith is warned.

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

You've got a wonderful opportunity now to break from the past, because thus far there's absolutely nothing that distinguishes the current Leader of the Opposition and his $387 billion of higher taxes from the member for Maribyrnong. As we saw today, just as an example in my own portfolio, Labor's housing taxes—abolishing negative gearing, doubling capital gains tax, costing 7½ thousand jobs, costing $766 million of economic activity, reducing GDP by $1.5 billion. These are such destructive policies and the Australian people have sent you such a strong message that now is the time for reflection, now is the time to listen to the Australian people and stop denying them the message that they sent to you.

3:54 pm

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

After 2½ months and three weeks of sittings, what is completely clear is that this is a government without an agenda. This is a government with no vision. This is a government that finds itself completely surprised to be sitting where it is, and it has no idea what it's going to do. This is a government that has absolutely no answers whatsoever to the challenges that are facing our nation today. Indeed, the only contribution that this government has made to Australia since 18 May is to pose one question: whose side are you on?

When the Prime Minister said of all of us who were campaigning and speaking on behalf of those who are on Newstart and about the woefully inadequate income they receive, including the Governor of the Reserve Bank and John Howard no less, that we were engaging in 'unfunded empathy' he made completely clear that he was not on the side of the most vulnerable Australians, who this winter are trying to work out how they are going to make ends meet, whether they will have the heater on at night and what they will not be able to buy with the money they do not have when they go to the supermarket. Indeed, if you are any person in this country who gets the deserved support of government—if you are a single mother, if you are one of the 155,000 people on Newstart over the age of 55, if you are a pensioner—do not expect an extra dollar from this man, because when those of us who campaign on your behalf engage in that activity he will be the person saying that we are engaging in 'unfunded empathy'.

When the Treasurer this week came into this place and said that Australians are better off now than they were in 2013 he made it completely clear that he was not on the side of every working Australian in this country, because the truth is that median household income, as we've discovered this week, fell by $500 in 2017 alone and right now is much less than it was in 2013 when this government came to power. Indeed, growth is at its slowest now since the global financial crisis. We are experiencing alarming rates of poverty and we have seen record low wages growth. It is completely clear to every worker in this country that wage stagnation remains the stand-out feature of this economy. When the Treasurer said that we've never been better off than what we're seeing now and that the situation now is better than it was in 2013 he made it clear, in that moment, that he was not on the side of working Australians.

As parts of this country are, right now, going through the worst drought since records have been kept, the Deputy Prime Minister came into this place and made it completely clear which side he was on. The Deputy Prime Minister came in here and made it completely clear that he stood for his own self-interest when he said, 'We're on this side and you're on that side and get used to it.' I mean, that was an act of refined arrogance. In that moment, the Australian people heard everything they needed to hear about the fact that this government is on its own side and is absolutely not on the side of the Australian people. If you are on Newstart and you are struggling, if you are in receipt of a robo-debt that is asking you to pay money that you do not owe, if you are a farmer in this country, if you are a pensioner who is struggling, what is absolutely clear, from the way in which this government has been acting from the moment that it was re-elected on 18 May, is that this is a government that is not on your side. The only thing it's interested in is being on that side, and, in doing so, the only side it's interested in is its own. But, over the days and years ahead, as every Australian comes to understand exactly what is going on here, they will, when the time is right, issue their judgement that this is a side that they do not deserve.

3:59 pm

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

This government is on the side of hardworking, aspirational Australians who back a strong economy and a government that will deliver the essential services that they rely on.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear interjections from those on the other side. They invite me to speak from the despatch box, but, like this government, I'm humble—it's not about me; it's about the Australian people, and I'm quite comfortable addressing their concerns from here. This government took to the election a plan: to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years; to maintain budget surpluses and pay down Labor's debt; to deliver tax relief for families and for small businesses; to guarantee increased investment in schools, hospitals and roads; and, importantly, to keep Australians safe and our borders secure.

But it's very interesting that the opposition leader and the member for Corio have moved this MPI today. It's very interesting—particularly from the member for Corio, who has told The Australian newspaper that his party is going through a grieving process. And we are seeing that grieving process being played out today in this chamber.

Those opposite do not understand the result of the election that has been played out before them. They do not understand that the Australian people have backed this government because the Australian people know that this government is on their side. And no wonder there is such confusion on the other side of the chamber, because we see, on the other side, a party that opposed the government's tax package—something that we took to this election and which the Australian people endorsed and expected this place to deliver—but then supported it! They opposed aspects of the government's drought fund, and then they turned around and supported it. They opposed the government's foreign fighter legislation, and then they passed it.

The question really is: does the Labor Party know whose side they're on? The opposition leader has advised his members that they will have to get used to supporting the coalition's bills. Labor, incredibly, is not ruling out reversing the tax cuts that this government has legislated and has taken to the election and delivered upon. It's quite interesting how Troy Bramston in The Australian has noted that the Labor Party has had more positions on the coalition's tax package than there are in the Kama Sutra. Some members—

Honourable members interjecting

Troy Bramston has used an oldie but a goodie! And it demonstrates the fact that the Labor Party are not clear in relation to the policies that they are advocating in this House.

Yesterday, we saw Labor powerbroker Senator Kim Carr urging Labor to think twice before junking the platform they took to the election. It's a grieving process which is getting in the way of this government delivering on its commitment to deliver to the Australian people.

Let's look at some of these inconsistencies. I've done some research and I've looked back to the eighties. The eighties was an era when I was in single digits. But the Leader of the Opposition was very active in politics. He moved a motion urging the Hawke government to introduce a wealth tax and gift and death duties. That was the position he held in the eighties—and, perhaps, even today; it needs clarity from the Leader of the Opposition.

At Labor conferences in the eighties and nineties, he opposed the deregulation of financial markets, the privatisation of government assets, tariff cuts, wage restraint, fiscal consolidation and the export of uranium to France. He even voted with the Left faction to re-regulate the currency, years after the float in 1986. This guy is stuck in the eighties, and his politics show it. At Labor's 2015 national conference, he urged his Left faction colleagues to oppose Bill Shorten—that's the loyalty that this Leader of the Opposition showed—and he opposed his deputy leader, perhaps the next Leader of the Opposition, in relation to their support for asylum-seeker-boat turnbacks. And we're about to see the organisation of the Labor Party led by someone whose left-wing politics is even more extreme than the person who is currently leaving that position. The Labor Party do not represent the interests of Australians. (Time expired)

4:04 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Skills) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to speak on this matter of public importance today. This government is failing to represent all Australians. There are so many different groups of Australians who know that the government is not governing in their interests it was hard to choose some to focus on in five minutes. But I decided to choose three groups of Australians which highlight this government's shortcomings very plainly.

Firstly, in my short time as shadow assistant minister for aged care, I have seen and heard many examples of how this government has forgotten older Australians. Our aged-care system and older Australians are being left behind by the government, which is intent on cutting services and making it increasingly difficult for them to access the assistance they need. Take, for example, this government's failure on home care packages. We know that 129,000 older Australians are languishing on waiting lists for home care packages. That's nearly 130,000 older Australians who can't get the care they require at home. Instead, they have to rely on friends and family, who have to juggle their work rosters and are stressed trying to make sure their loved older ones get the care they need.

Shockingly, 30,000 Australians died or were forced into an aged-care home last year while waiting for their packages. I ask: did these people die experiencing what the Prime Minister disgracefully calls 'unfunded empathy'? They died waiting. I think their families would have something to say about that and would definitely query if this government is governing in their interests. It is a government that applauds mismanagement of the economy and has the nerve who say that aged-care services are flourishing under its watch. Well, I say the evidence is damning and it is clear. This government is failing to represent the interests of older Australians.

Secondly, I'd like to highlight this government's failure to represent the interests of young people, too many of whom are stuck on the too-low payment of Newstart and simply cannot find work. The youth unemployment rate in Australia currently sits at 12 per cent, more than double the national average. You might ask yourself how this could be. This government has told us that all is well, that our economy is on the right track. Then how could we have such a high rate of youth unemployment, which sits around the 15 per cent to 20 per cent mark in regional Victoria and at an appalling 25 per cent in some parts of the country? The reason is that this government does not listen to young people when they say that they need skills training and that industry needs to be properly resourced and it doesn't listen when the sector tells them they can't continue to sustain funding cuts.

This government has gutted the skills training sector, cutting $3 billion from vocational education, presiding over a drop of 150,000 apprenticeships, and it has caused the closure of TAFE campuses right around the country. How can young people get a job when the government is cutting the funding that provides the skills training and services they require? If, as the Prime Minister tells us, the best form of welfare is a job, how can they get a job when he continues to turn his back on them and when he continues to allow providers to gouge the system and take advantage of young people who just want a chance. I urge the government to do what it is tasked with—to listen and to actually govern.

Finally, I will turn to the government's favourite target, union members. Before going on to lead the union movement in Australia, I had been a union member nearly my whole working life. Let me tell you this: I have never seen a coalition government represent the interests of union members and working people. Those opposite like to tout the line, 'If you have a go, you get a go.' I'm telling you now: union members around this country are doing just that. They have a go. They get out to work, they build our cities, they care for our parents and they serve this country every single day, and their unions give back to them. They fight for safe and fair working conditions, they fight against this government's policy of wage stagnation and they stand up for workers when things aren't fair.

This is in stark contrast to the government's treatment of our unions and our union members. The government led debate this week on the ensuring integrity bill, a bill that is not about integrity but does a lot to weaken the voices of working people in this country and seeks to target their ability to organise. This government's answer to the problems of working people in this country is to give itself more say in who runs a union than the union's own members. It seeks to give itself the powers to deregister a union and take away working people's rights to organise and fight for fairer conditions. I say that enough is enough. It's clear this government is failing to represent working people and young people, and it certainly isn't representing older Australians.

4:09 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the reasons why I'm so proud to be a Liberal—

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

Not a liberal!

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

is because—

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

Not a liberal!

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am so proud to be a Liberal because—

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Finally! You know where to stand.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Spence and the member for Fremantle are both warned.

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

our great political movement is built on seeing the success of our great nation. Our cause is to build the success of this great nation and realise the dreams and the aspirations of millions of Australians. The reason that I will never sit on that side of the chamber, over there with the opposition, is that their aspirations for Australia, as far as they're concerned, will only ever be realised through themselves and their success. What we had at the last election was an opposition who thought that the solution to all the country's ills was to take more power, more control and more of the wealth of the nation for themselves.

At the election, they were full of ideas—$387 billion worth of ideas—and they still hold onto those commitments. They still want to have higher taxes. They're just pretending and keeping it quiet until they get their next chance in 2½ to three years time. They wanted higher income taxes, a retiree tax and, of course, a housing tax. They had ideas on what they were going to do to reorientate industry through unfunded, unmodelled carbon taxes to burden Australian industry and job creation without any understanding of the consequence on the Australian people.

When I went to the election, in the good electorate of Goldstein, and said, 'I am here to represent you and your interests to the nation,' Labor had no plan. Labor's candidate was a nice fellow; I'm not disagreeing with that. But when it came down to whose side he was on, was he on the side of the young women and men who play netball and who wanted the opportunity, through community investment, to build the infrastructure and the facilities they needed? He said he was not prepared to commit to fight for them—that's the tragedy. In a choice between doing the right thing by them and siding with those who sit on the opposition benches, he simply wouldn't stand up and do what was right.

This government came to office making a commitment that we would provide the funding so that the next generation can have their chance at their own success.

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

It's been a long break, hasn't it?

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

But that's not a lie—when we went to the people of Hampton, of Brighton Beach, of North Brighton, of Sandy, of Bentleigh or of Elsternwick, the commuters there who every day struggle to get into town, surrounded by streets that are clogged up, said, 'Who is on our side?' The opposition promised them nothing and gave them nothing except a cursory glance and a complete disinterest, whereas we on this side said, 'If you're going to back yourself, we will back you. We will invest in new parking at local stations, to help ease your daily commutes and provide you with opportunities.' And at every point, it didn't matter what it was, whether it was health care or education, when the people of Goldstein, just like the people across this great nation, were asked: 'Who is on your side? Who is going to deliver record funding and record health and education?' they turned to the coalition.

When the people of Bayside had a chance for the first MRI in their community ever, the coalition delivered. The tragedy is that this week they saw on the opposition benches a mocking of the commitment that this government has made and delivered for the people who need essential scans.

It's quite clear who is on the side of the Australian people, who is on the side of the communities they represent and who is on the side of the aspiration of the future generations of Australia. In the last election, they faced a choice, and they made it quite clear that it is not those sitting on the opposition benches.

4:14 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

Twenty years ago, David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a seminal study showing that incompetent people are peculiarly unaware of their own incompetence. They drew on the example of McArthur Wheeler who, starting from the premise that lemon juice can be used as invisible ink, covered his face with lemon juice and went in to rob his local bank, thinking it would make him invisible.

The Dunning-Kruger effect could have been designed for this frontbench. We have a Minister for Health who gives an MRI licence to the vice-president of the South Australian Liberal Party and says no to 443 other applications. We have a minister for families who pats herself on the back for the 'generous amount of money' that pensioners get. We have an assistant minister for homelessness who wants to put a 'positive spin' on homelessness, rather than doing anything about the problem. We have an Assistant Treasurer who knows nothing about tax havens, yet persists with the mistruth that we on this side of the House voted against the multinational anti-avoidance law. We have a minister for energy who won't admit that emissions are up. As John Hewson said today:

It seems the new Morrison government has learned nothing, doesn’t want to learn anything, just wants to kick the climate emergency further down the road, hoping nothing of consequence happens on its watch.

Further proving his susceptibility to the Dunning-Kruger effect, the minister for energy won't admit that power prices are rising—up 158 per cent in wholesale terms since 2015. We would call him 'all tip and no iceberg', but, under his policies, icebergs will melt away faster than the leadership hopes of the member for Dickson. We've got a Prime Minister who won't listen to ACOSS, to the Business Council of Australia or even to John Howard to increase Newstart, calling it 'unfunded empathy'. And we have a Treasurer who thinks Australians have never had it so good, even as we're in the ninth month of a per capita recession. What does the Morrison government stand for? It's a bigger question than: what was the member for Fadden downloading when he racked up that $38,000 internet bill? We learned today that the number of Australians working four or more jobs has doubled over the last year, yet those opposite are flat out doing one job—just doing the job that they were elected to do.

The Morrison government is the dog that caught the car. We know about as much about their plans for Australia as we do about that mysterious bloke from Yass that the member for Hume was chatting to, or why it is that a company called Eastern Australian Agriculture had to be set up 16,000 kilometres east of Australia in the Cayman Islands. It is harder to find a Morrison government policy that is in the interests of Australians than it is to find intact endangered grasslands on a property owned by the member for Hume. The fact is, when you're talking about the interests of all Australians, that includes racial and ethnic minorities. It is no surprise that the very same Prime Minister who, in 2011, urged his colleagues to capitalise on the electorate's concerns over Muslims in Australia is now comfortable with allowing into Australia Raheem Kassam, who spreads hate speech about Muslims, about women and about LGBT+ people, and that that same Prime Minister is also comfortable with letting Liberals share the stage with Raheem Kassam.

The fact is that this is a government which is presiding over a floundering economy, where net debt has more than doubled. We've got the slowest economic growth since the global financial crisis and the longest per capita recession since the early 1980s, with stagnant wages now going up eight times more slowly than profits. Unemployment is a full percentage point higher than in Britain, the United States, New Zealand or Germany, with productivity growth running at a 10th of its historical average, and retail sales, engineering and construction, and new home starts down. And we're seeing appalling figures from the latest HILDA survey, suggesting that, adjusting for inflation, Australians are poorer now than when the Liberals came to office.

4:19 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We finish another sitting week with a nearly empty gallery as we argue about whether the Australian voter got it wrong on 18 May. In these interesting debates where abuse is thrown from both sides and we talk in generalities about how our respective governments would run the place better, it's often useful to take the transcripts of speeches in debates like this and ask whether we could give exactly the same speech if we were in opposition, not government. It's fascinating that in this juncture we hear from the Labor Party quite detailed arguments about how the world is so unfair, how cruel the government is and how insoluble social challenges are simply not being addressed. The logical thing you would do if you have been here for more than a term is take the speeches we are hearing from the Labor Party and ask whether each of those members would be happy to give that speech if they were in government.

All of these insoluble social problems that governments have grappled with for decades saw no improvement in the six years when this group opposite were in office. But they continue to live in this dream that somehow their sort of socialist-centralist model of government somehow fixed problems when they were there—and Newstart is just a fabulous example of that. For the then Labor government changing Newstart barely crossed their mind or their lips in six years in government. In fact, as recently as April this year, when the time came to stake out exactly where those opposite stood for the 774,000 Newstart recipients in this country, do you reckon they could commit a cent to increasing Newstart? They committed to a review of Newstart, which is always a very handy way of describing to those who don't listen to politics every day and every minute that you're thinking about them, but you're actually not committing a red cent to their wellbeing. This is a Labor Party that is torn on two fronts.

In the couple of minutes I have I want to make an observation on behalf of outer-metropolitan and regional Australia. I'm an outer-metro seat. There aren't too many other outer-metro seats in this debate at the moment, and there's certainly not an outer-metro person over there—bar one, probably. The rest of them are basically Labor postage stamp electorates where you are basically amongst your high-rise buildings and inner-city elites. The streets are covered with lime scooters and the greatest concern you have is whether you can get your cold-drip coffee of a morning. This is where museums are fundamentally give-ways to Macca's drive-throughs and you get out to outer-metro Australia. For Queensland, that tipping point in Brisbane is 16 kilometres from the CBD, which engulfs all of those Labor electorates. There are a couple of postage stamp electorates in Logan and Ipswich, but the rest of Queensland fundamentally rejected all of the arguments put by the Labor Party.

That's not to say that nothing the Labor Party says is good. The thing that most frustrates voters out there is that we can't concede that from the other side comes good ideas and we always insist on calling black white simply because we're on the other side of the chamber. Australians absolutely get sick of politicians walking two sides of the street and trying to say one thing to one cohort and another to the opposite. Nowhere was that better exemplified than the Adani debate, where friends of the opposition tried to do a convoy up into the Galilee and were stoned, egged and tomatoed out of town and sent back with their tails between their legs. This showed that there is now a geographic divide. We've got members over there, with a couple of exceptions, that fundamentally represent the inner-city post-materialist values—and, if you're not inner-city, you're in working-class electorates that were somehow looking after rust-belted manufacturing areas of some of our largest cities. You speak for those people, but you increasingly don't speak for the rest of Australia anymore.

The rest of Australia demonstrated an 18 May counterrevolution and simply said no to all of the ideas that that side of parliament espouse—no to the attitude that Medicare is simply about more money and indexing; no to the idea that hospitals and universities are just about more money; and no to the idea that you can remove the cashless welfare card and remove the trials that we're talking about in improving welfare payments. Those on the other side are fundamentally a party fixated with the amount of money they can transfer from one pocket to another—primarily to fix the concerns of others, not those who are actually paying for it.

The Labor Party are simply fighting two fronts: one are the squabbles the Labor Party are having with the Greens—and it was great to see your leader at the Splendour music festival being howled out of the tent because of his views on climate. Labor have got their own fights with the Greens—which they are not winning—and, as long as that's occurring, they won't win their fight with outer-metro Australia and they are not going to win their fight with regional Australia. For that reason, the values that the Labor Party hold true to in good faith are poorly articulated by their party.

4:24 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this MPI, the failure of the government to represent the interests of all Australians. I did listen carefully to the member for Bowman, a man of some great intelligence, to see what vision he was actually going to detail in terms of the Liberal and National party. Unfortunately, he, like everyone who has spoken in this MPI from the coalition, just seemed to be focused on doing this victory lap speech, asking their own backbenchers to cheer on their victory lap. It's quite incredible, really, in terms of a government detailing a vision for what they're about—what they believe in.

I would suggest that there are many reasons why the Morrison-McCormack government has been so devoid of vision. That's because they've jettisoned so many of the traditional liberals. We're running out of liberals in the Liberal Party! I think that when Russell Broadbent goes he will actually turn out the lights on the Liberal Party in this parliament. He'll be the last one. They've been taken over by conservatives, by flimflam men—I said 'flimflam men' particularly because not a lot of women have come in—and by extremists. These are extremists who are prepared to stand up on stage, a stage that's going to be devoted to spraying indiscriminate hate speech everywhere. The Prime Minister wasn't even able to say, 'We are against that'. John Howard would have spoken up; Ron Boswell would have spoken up. So many good traditional leaders of the Liberal Party—the small 'l' Liberal Party would have spoken up.

I know that there are still a couple of small 'l' liberals on that side, but they're fast disappearing and they're being silenced. They are the quiet Australians in the coalition—

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

The very quiet Australians!

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Very quiet! They've been muzzled by the conservatives. They've been muzzled by the flimflam men, the advertising people and the extremists who have taken over the coalition. They're not able to speak up. The Bob Menzies Liberals, who used to actually get that Australia was all about helping people up. That is part of our fabric—to give a helping hand to people. Wherever you are, it's all about mateship. It's a 60,000-year-old tradition that you look after the collective; you look after the tribe, the mob. We furthered that in the convict gangs and so did the settlers in areas where they helped each other out. At Gallipoli we helped people up, and at Kokoda and Long Tan—wherever it was, we'd always reach out a helping hand for people. But this party now, this coalition, is running out of liberals. They've become a husk without a heart; a shadow, without substance. The engine is ticking over but they no longer have a steering wheel to work out where they're going.

I remember when I was a kid—and I'll leave that story for another day!

4:28 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the unexpected opportunity to speak, Mr Speaker! We are asked what is in the best interests of all Australians. What I can say is that, firstly, it was the finalisation of the member for Moreton's contribution! I think that was fantastic! But, secondly, it is to be back in the black in terms of the Australian budget. Being back in the black is what is in the best interests of all Australians.

I note the contribution of the member for Corio. I think he may have alleged hubris. I think that was his allegation against the Deputy Prime Minister—I'm a little unsure. The point that I would like to make is that it's not the people in this chamber who decide which side we sit on, it is the Australian people who make that determination. They are the ones who have spoken very clearly. They are the ones who determine who is on the opposition side. They are the ones who determine who is in government. So we will act in their interests, and they voted very clearly against the proposition of those opposite. Being back in the black allows us to do all sorts of things in the interests of the people that we represent. The most important at the moment is to act on farm trespass. I note the member for Hunter, the rising star of the Labor Party after 20-odd years, is here, and I'm sure he's supportive of what we are doing to stop people from using a carriage service to incite individuals to trespass.