Thursday, 5 December 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of this Government to deliver its promises and develop a plan for Australia's future.
I call upon 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—
One of the songs of those great Queenslanders the Regurgitator is 'I Like Your Old Stuff Better than the New Stuff'. We certainly like the old stuff, in terms of what this Prime Minister said he would do, better than the new stuff, what he is actually doing as Prime Minister in this government. That song also had the line, 'You're nothing like you used to be.' This Prime Minister is nothing like he pretended to be prior to this election. Remember that prior to the election he said that he wanted to speak up and stand up for quiet Australians? We now know that what he meant is silent Australians. He wants everyone to just listen to him and for no-one else to have a voice. He wants no-one else to have a say. He put the ensuring integrity bill through all three stages in this House without a single word being spoken. That never happened under John Howard, Menzies, Hawke, Keating, Abbott or Turnbull. This is the greatest jackboot administration that we have seen.
Today, in sacking five departmental heads, what they have also done is centralise power. If you have multiple cabinet ministers with a single department, what you have is no co-ords about the issues, even when there is conflict. All power gets centralised to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The fact is that this government regards democracy as an inconvenience, one that can just be dismissed at any time.
What this Prime Minister—arrogant, shouty and full of hubris—has done is travel the land and in here on a victory lap since May, as if he received 100 per cent of the votes. Well, we're not a one-party state; we're a democracy. We're entitled to actually have proper debate in this place. But when the Prime Minister loses a vote, as he did last week in the Senate, what he does is throw all the toys out of the cot. That's what we've seen today. We've seen him abuse Senator Hanson and abuse Senator Lambie—all of them out there. That's a great way to persuade them to change their minds on the anti-union legislation: tell them that they don't tell the truth and abuse them. That's what we've seen. The fact is that at the same time as they crunch through the anti-worker legislation, they can't even keep the commitment that was made to bring in legislation arising from the banking royal commission. We shouldn't be surprised by that. They voted against it on 26 occasions.
This government doesn't support freedom of association. We know that they don't support freedom of the press. When the raids occurred on the ABC and on News Limited, remember the Prime Minister, at the time in the United Kingdom, saying, 'Well, these processes have to take place.' There was not a word of concern for that. We also know that they don't even support freedom to protest, because they regard all of that, anyone having a say, as being a secondary boycott.
The fact is that this government, when it changed those departments today, had no consultation with those departments. Those departments found out from a phone call yesterday afternoon. They found out they'd lost their jobs. That is this government's approach to proper processes. At the same time as they sacked those five departmental secretaries, we have a minister who sits there, Angus Taylor, who has kept his job. First we saw the watergate event: an extraordinary amount of money paid for water, which apparently didn't purchase any. Then we saw 'grassgate', where the minister sat in meetings and dragged the Treasurer into the scandal. We don't see any response from the government about that. It was, 'Nothing to see here'.
Then, of course, 'Angus horribilis' came into full bloom, with the clear mislead about the document that is clearly forged. It doesn't even make sense, that the mayor and her nine councillors in the City of Sydney could spend $1.4 million per head in one year. What we've had is something that this minister could have cleared up on day one and he wouldn't have been in this strife over this issue—there would have been others but not this issue. Yet, what he did was obfuscate. He still continues to insist that the document was downloaded from the website even though all the metadata is quite clearly there. No wonder the appropriately named Strike Force Garrad has been set up.
Today's performance really did top it all. I was wondering earlier today, with everything that happened, whether Naomi Wolf would get up on TV tonight. I think she might. There was the extraordinary attack on Naomi Wolf, who was in New York and was not a roomie at college in the United Kingdom at that very time. In that very year she had the No. 1 bestselling book in the world. This wasn't someone obscure. What did he do? He ripped into her: 'Nothing to see here'. She should apologise to him—to him! He is, once again, a victim. This Prime Minister continues to run a protection racket for this bloke.
It is the 'witless protection program' that this man has. The fact is that when this Prime Minister is held to account he talks of a bubble. What's a bubble like? It's all surface and no substance. It's see-through. It's full of hot air. If there's a bubble boy in this place, he sits there during question time, because this Prime Minister just runs from any scrutiny whatsoever. He doesn't want scrutiny from the media. He doesn't want any scrutiny or processes in the parliament. When gets questions he says things like, 'That's just in the bubble' or 'That's just gossip.' When you raise questions legitimately about why he won't give straight answers to questions, he smears and he says, 'You're saying something untoward about me and who I am.' Well, we're not. What we are simply saying very clearly is that, when you are the Prime Minister of the nation, you are accountable to that nation. You can't regard democracy and these processes as just an inconvenience, and that's precisely what this government does.
At the same time as they had this, they introduced the legislation and crunched it all through today. What is their actual agenda for 2020, the new decade? They don't have an economic plan for wages, for dealing with productivity, for dealing with consumer demand and retail spending, for dealing with growth. They don't have a plan for energy and for dealing with climate change. They don't have a plan to deal with aged care, where the royal commission is showing an absolute crisis. They don't have a plan to deal with robodebt where they got knocked over in the courts last week. They don't have a plan for the nation. All they have is a plan for themselves.
They think that, if they just sit there with the born-to-rule mentality that they have and tell everyone else to just keep quiet, it will all be okay. Well, it won't be. I'll tell you what we've been doing in that meantime. We dusted ourselves off and picked ourselves up after May. We've had our review and now we're looking forward. In two days time I will be giving the third vision statement in the series, following on from jobs and the economy. Ironically, I'm going to have to rewrite it after today because it's about democracy, it's about our process, it's about scrutiny and how we increase participation and ownership over the direction of the country, over the future of the country. You can't have ownership if we're a one-party state and if everyone just keeps quiet.
There are big challenges that this country has. The government think that if they just stand up and get people asking Dorothy Dixers and say, 'We're very confident and everything is hunky-dory,' those challenges will go away. They won't. The problem for this government is it's scared of the present but terrified of the future. It won't address the future challenges that are very serious. We will hold them to account. We have done that today and we've done that in this parliament. When we come back, we will continue to hold the government to account, but we'll also be pursuing our positive agenda for the nation because this nation needs a Labor government.
If members opposite are ever wondering why they're sitting on that side of the chamber and not this side, the contribution in the last 10 minutes by the Leader of the Opposition is a pretty good example of that. If that contribution were played on SBS, there would need to be someone there with a grey beard explaining to the wider Australian public what it all meant. He was critical of the Prime Minister's support for quiet Australians. Quiet Australians are the people out there in Australia. They're not the union officials. They're not in the Canberra inner circle that we're seeing here.
If the Labor Party wonder why they are sitting there after 18 May, it's because they didn't speak to the quiet Australians. They didn't have the conversations that I was having with people in Bourke, in Moree and in every other part of Australia. People were coming up to me, whose lifelong family connections to the Labor Party are well known, and were terrified of the Labor Party's policies. They were coming to me and telling me that they didn't understand how the Labor Party had lost its way. That great party that was formed in regional Australia on the sweat of shearers and was born to represent the working class of Australia has lost its way and now has no connection with those people. It's the people on this side that represent the areas in the bush. They are representing those people, because those people have lost complete faith in the Labor Party. The people on this side are all people with real life experience.
None of these people on this side, I believe, got here by being union officials. Hands up if you were a union official before you came into this place. I'm sorry, we're not representatives like you are over there. So the Australians looked to the coalition, and they liked what they saw. They wanted to have someone to represent them that kept taxes low. They wanted someone that could balance the budget. They wanted someone that could build infrastructure for the future. They wanted someone that could manage a strong economy and create jobs.
They wanted some who could balance the budget. This year, the budget has returned to balance for the first time in 11 years. I have been around here for a while.
Opposition members interjecting—
You might want to listen there up in the backbench, because I was sitting over there for six years while I saw the great largesse of the Howard government fritted away on school halls that wouldn't fit any students.
We may have voted for it, but we did not implement it. It was the worst implemented scheme that we have ever seen in the history of the Commonwealth. By contrast, Labor, in that time, racked up six record deficits totalling $240 billion. They haven't delivered a surplus since that great iconic leader—the well-respected and late Prime Minister Robert Hawke.
I'm glad the member for Macarthur is paying attention. I was worried that he might not have been listening. I thought he might have nodded off there for a while. I'm pleased he's still here. We have delivered a further $158 billion of tax relief going into the pockets of everyday Australians through their personal tax plan. It's the biggest simplification of income tax systems in the 1990s, abolishing an entire tax bracket and making income tax lower.
The corporate tax plan reduces the burden on SMEs—small businesses, the backbone of Australia. Do you know how the Labor Party thinks you get a small business?
You get a big business and vote for Labor, and that's how you get a small business. We saw plenty of that after 2007, though, didn't we? Plenty of big businesses became small businesses. We support small businesses. They are the greatest employers in Australia. We have created more than 1.4 million jobs since September 2013, and more than 55 per cent of these have been full-time jobs. Over 837 of these jobs have been for women. Labor's high-tax plan for Australia would have decimated the economy and cost jobs. The Australian people knew that. That's why they kept the ALP over there. That's what they kept saying to me. They didn't want to not vote for the Labor Party; they just could not vote for them. They had lost confidence.
On this side we have been increasing trade. One of the great privileges I've had in the 12 years I've been in this place has been—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
I actually had an increased margin, member for Moreton.
I got over the line; that's the main thing! We all know that. I'm here and, while I'm here, I've been expanding Australia's interests overseas through trade, supporting Australia through trade agreements that have been absolutely life-changing for our exporting industries. They are agreements like the TPP-11, which is for 11 countries around the Pacific. Just recently I have been involved in the implementation and the support that came through this House for the Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Peru free trade agreements. Seventy per cent of our exports now are through free trade agreements—agreements that give our exporters a benefit over our competitors. Money is going into everyday Australians' pockets.
Our exports continue to grow and are expected to reach a record $470 billion in 2018-19, up from $307 billion six years ago. We've posted for the 2018-19 financial year a record yearly trade surplus of $49.89 billion, which is more than three times larger than the previous record. Australia now has a current account surplus for the first time since 1975.
But we do have a plan for the future—a plan for Australians, as someone who proudly looks after regional Australia; a plan for Australians who live in the regions. We are decentralising government. We are putting the people who serve communities in those communities. It doesn't mean we're moving whole departments. Members in the Canberra area don't need to be in a state of high anxiety. To have someone who works for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority living in Menindee? You can't tell me that that's not a good idea. People that are working for the infrastructure department and building the Inland Rail living in Moree? Those are jobs right across regional Australia. Commonwealth employees will be working with the communities and the people that they are serving.
We have some massive infrastructure projects in our $100 billion pipeline. The Inland Rail, a project that's close to my heart, a project the member opposite would have heard about 12 years ago listening to my first speech here, where I mentioned my support for the Inland Rail. If you go out into western New South Wales now, you will find hundreds of people now laying rails, earthworks—all the work associated with Inland Rail. It is creating not only 16,000 jobs through construction but an opportunity to build a corridor of commerce right through western New South Wales, into Victoria and up into Queensland, giving an opportunity for those communities to have connection not only to Melbourne and Brisbane. Every capital city in Australia, for the first time in the history of this country, will be connected by a standard-gauge rail. It is taking trucks off the road, saving on greenhouse gases and making it safer on our highways. This is a transformational project.
It's important that we represent and we support all aspects such as more doctors to the bush. We're developing and implementing a strategy for a remedy so that more medical professionals will be encouraged to go work in regional areas and to find out that working there is an advantage. It is a positive prospect for your future; it is not a second-class opportunity. We will continue to implement those policies. Next week I have the privilege of turning the first sod on the first of the projects for the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, a $74 million project that will train end to end medical professionals in regional areas so that they will service regional areas.
This government is delivering. It does support all Australians and will continue to do so into the future. (Time expired)
We now know why the government want to close down debate. It's not because they're afraid about what we're going to say; it's because they're petrified about what their own members might say! What an absolutely pathetic performance—almost as pathetic as during question time, having speaker after speaking getting up and parroting a prepared statement about how confident they are in the future of Australia. Well, Australians can be confident about the future of this country, but they can have no confidence in the ability of this government to do the right thing or to put in place a plan to manage the future of the economy. The evidence for that is clear. They had the opportunity today to suspend all of the business of the parliament and prioritise things that Australia really needs to focus on. None of us on this side of the House are surprised that No. 1 on their list was a bill to bust unions, because the only consistent thing between the first conservative government and this woeful, pathetic government today is their inbuilt hatred of unions. That is the only thing that ties this woeful display of a conservative government together today.
But what was surprising were the things that weren't on their list of priorities. There wasn't a bill to introduce a royal commission into veteran suicides. There wasn't a bill to respond to the interim recommendations of the aged-care royal commission. There wasn't a plan tabled to deal with a weak economy that is getting weaker. And, most extraordinary of all—given that today marks 308 days since the handing down of the Hayne commission into the banking and finance sector, which gave 76 recommendations to government—there was no bill in the House today to introduce the recommendations of the Hayne royal commission.
I ask you this: of the 76 recommendations that we have had for over 300 days, how many do you think they have introduced? Do you think it is half? Let's not get ahead of them. Do you think they've introduced 30, 36 or 37? What about 26 or 27? If they'd busted their gut, maybe 15. Not 15, not 14 and not 13; not even 10. They have introduced six of the recommendations of the royal commission. They voted against the royal commission 27 times and they are working hell for leather to delay the implementation of that royal commission. What are the recommendations that they are delaying? How about the fact that there are no protections against unfair terms in insurance contracts? What about families who are suffering claims-handling issues? We're coming to the bushfire season, as well as hailstorms, floods and other natural disasters. We hope that nobody suffers the terrible results of any of those disasters, but you'd have to say that, on average, it's going to happen somewhere. The claims-handling procedures were exposed by the royal commission as woefully inadequate. They were supposed to introduce legislation on their own low-ball target, and there is nothing in the House today—no plan to deal with it. Their priorities were somewhere else.
They want to give the industrial regulator more power to deal with shutting down unions, but what about giving the finance sector regulator more powers, which not one, not two, not three but four reports have said are woefully inadequate? You'd think that would be a priority, but it wasn't. Instead of considering a bill that would provide ASIC with the stronger enforcement powers that they need to protect Aussies over the Christmas break from shonks, the government drop-kicked this critical legislation to next year in favour of its union-busting bill. The truth is that, if they were looking for something to drop-kick, it should have been that woeful dropkick who sits over there—the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction—because, if there is a low performer in this woeful government, it's him and he doesn't deserve to hold his seat. This government's priorities are all wrong. (Time expired)
The previous speaker spoke about the things that the government hasn't done, and he is actually right: we didn't put $387 billion of new taxes on the Australian people. That's what we didn't do and that's what Australians are particularly pleased about.
We know there have been 1.4 million new jobs in our time, including 70,000 since the election in May. That's what's happened. We are bringing the budget back into surplus and back into balance for the first time in over 11 years. Those of us in business understand how important this is. It will enable us to pay down debt. We have delivered tax relief to individuals and to business, and Australians are keeping more of what they earn. We can look at the record funding for our security agencies to keep Australians safe, something that is an expectation of government and something that I'm particularly proud that this government does, and our commitment to protecting children from child abuse. Often it's the smaller measures—
Ms Thwaites interjecting—
To find fault with legislation dealing with child abuse is appalling from that side. I'd say to the member: that's an inappropriate issue to interject on.
Ms Thwaites interjecting—
Deputy Speaker, I'd ask the speaker to withdraw that slur that she's made on the Labor Party about not supporting protecting children. For the dignity of the House, I'd ask her to withdraw that.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the member interjected at a time when I was talking about a commitment to protecting children from child abuse. That is an appalling interjection.
It was an inappropriate time to interject. I'm talking about something that's very close to my heart, as someone who has delivered over 450 cybersafety presentations, about e-safety for kids in—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
And there was the legislation we introduced to protect farmers from the unlawful actions of animal activists, to deter those who incite this type of behaviour. It didn't seem much to a lot of people, but these people are my neighbours and they're people right next to me. Yes, these actions did have a massive impact. I'm proud that that was one of the first things that this government did—understanding exactly what that means on-farm.
I look at those same people in relation to the new free trade agreements—for Peru, Hong Kong and Indonesia—that have recently come through the parliament. At the time we came into government, 26 per cent of our goods were covered by free trade agreements. Now it's 70 per cent. The other night we had our national Export Awards, and I saw those wonderful people who are the most amazing, most successful exporters in Australia—the finalists. I want to speak about Brad and Jodee Adams, of Ocean Grown Abalone in Augusta, who were Western Australian finalists. They have a world-first green-lit commercial abalone branch in Flinders Bay. They are doing just amazing work and exporting from that little area of Augusta.
The other thing I think we've done particularly well is the 2,285 new, amended medicines on the PBS. This is what matters to people in my electorate and around Australia, especially in the cystic fibrosis area—I know there's a very young family in my electorate who are particularly pleased about the listing of Orkambi and Kalydeco—and for the women who will be able to get better treatment for metastatic breast cancer. And there is our work on endometriosis—there are a lot of members who understand the importance of the investment in this space.
In finishing, we're heading into Christmas and I want to encourage all Australians to be safe. Whether they're on the roads or whether they're on water, when they take their festive break, I encourage them to give themselves plenty of time to get where they need to be, and to look after each other and be able to get into the new year with their families safe and well.
I'm delighted to speak on this motion about the lack of an economic plan from those opposite. Since the last federal election, Australia has seen a new experiment in economic policymaking in this country—not Keynesian, not Chicago School economics; what we are seeing from those opposite is 'crash-test dummy' economics. The way it works is this: you strap yourself into the car, take your hands off the steering wheel, close your eyes and ears to all external stimuli, and just head straight at the wall in front of you. The Prime Minister promised at the last election that his government would 'make a strong economy stronger'. But, while the government continues on oblivious, ignoring all external input, the economic warning signs are getting urgent. They're getting more regular and they're getting more concerning. Let's take a sample: economic growth has slowed since the election, slowed since Prime Minister Morrison became the leader and slowed since the Liberal Party has come into office. Unemployment has increased, with almost two million Australians now looking for work or looking for more work. Wages growth is slowing, with record lows: this government is presiding over the worst wages growth on record and wages are growing at one-fifth of the pace of profits. Household spending is growing at its slowest pace since the global financial crisis. And retail trade, important in the lead-up to Christmas, has recorded its worst result since the 1990s recession.
The sad truth underlying all of this is that household living standards for regular Australians have declined under this government, with real household median income lower now than it was in 2013. How's that for making a strong economy stronger? How good is that?—as this Prime Minister puts it. But those opposite have no plan to address this. Their only plan is denial. They don't care about the data. They don't care about warnings from people like the Reserve Bank governor. They don't care about the reality facing Australian families. All they care about is their political strategy—their political plan. Those opposite are obsessed with the 'Canberra bubble'. It's easy to see why the Prime Minister talks so much about the Canberra bubble: it's because that's the only place where it makes sense for this bloke to be the Prime Minister. It's the only place where his actions make any sense.
All those opposite care about is politics, and we've seen it in this last sitting week in this parliament. Those opposite could have brought an economic plan to this parliament to address these challenges that the nation is facing. But when we come into question time we see their agenda clearly. How many times did those ministers answering Labor questions in question time mention skills in the last fortnight? Eleven times. Wages? Eleven times. Productivity? Four times. How many times did they mention the Labor Party? 148 times. Physically, those opposite are on the government benches, but in their hearts this third-term coalition government is still in opposition. They're much more comfortable obsessing about the Labor Party than they are thinking about the lives of ordinary Australians and trying to come up with a plan to improve the Australian economy. They've got no policy agenda. All we've seen this week is union bashing and denying medical care to refugees. Great. That's going to break the productivity recession. That's going to create jobs. Well done.
All they care about is political gimmicks, and we've seen probably the most inane one today: a procession of government backbenchers standing up to deliver their dorothy dixers after being handed a new, cult-like mantra. Those opposite are not allowed to speak any more without starting their comments with: 'I am confident in the future of Australia'. I'm disappointed that there weren't cult robes distributed to everyone before we came into the chamber today—I'm sure that the Kool-Aid is being distributed in the party room at the moment. It's just bizarre. And, in this, we start to see the real Prime Minister: a bloke who's changed his signature three times in the last three years; a bloke who's changed his footy team four more times in the last three years; and a bloke who markets himself as 'just a daggy dad' for the cameras while his own colleagues background newspapers that they are worried that he is starting to behave like an emperor. He is a bloke whose smirk is quickly wearing thin, as Australia's economic conditions deteriorate, oozing condescension, mouth sneering with contempt at anyone with the impertinence to question him, whether they be journalists or opposition members in this parliament. One thing has been clear over the last two weeks: while the Prime Minister conducts himself like an emperor, this emperor has no clothes.
I rise in this place to reject the Leader of the Opposition's statement and will take the opportunity to remind him of the successes of the Morrison government, because the government hasn't wasted a day—not one day—in ensuring that Australians continue to live in the best country in the world. When I was doorknocking in Hughesdale, someone said to me, 'Katie, I'm voting for you. I'm voting Liberal.' I said, 'That's very nice. Tell me why that is.' Do you know what he said? He said, 'The Liberal Party is the party of the half glass full'. The Labor Party by comparison—
If only I'd had a few glasses! The point I'm making is that the Liberal Party is the party of aspiration and opportunity. It's the party of getting ahead—those of having a go getting a go.
The Labor Party, on the other hand, is the party of moaning, whining and worry. They remind me, from this conversation that we've been having, of my children in the back of the car, saying, 'Where is your plan and where are you going?' When, in actual fact, if they listened just a bit more carefully, they'd hear that we do have a plan and that we are delivering.
In fact, our plan is for a strong economy because we care about an economy that's driven by low taxes, not an economy that's driven by higher taxes. That is the proposition that just six months ago was taken to the election, and I got a resounding sense within my electorate of Higgins that people are not just positive about the Morrison government; they're relieved that they didn't get the opposition. They're relieved that they didn't get the alternative government, because they fundamentally understood that what was on offer, from an economic management point of view, was going to be strong, certain and stable and they could feel confident that they had a government that was in charge of their economic prosperity. I'm delighted to be part of the Morrison government, which is delivering.
A strong economy's not just about words. It's not just about what we're delivering. It's a strong economy because we want to deliver outcomes for all Australians. We need to deliver for health and education. We need to deliver for infrastructure. I'm delighted that our strong economy is already delivering so much for the Australian people. We hear frequently from the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, who I believe is the best health minister we've ever had, that our strong economy is delivering on 2,200 new drugs being listed on the PBS. That wasn't the case with the previous Labor government. We are delivering a strong and certain economic future that allows us to deliver drugs on the PBS. What is also really important is that we're getting an increase in Medicare bulk-billing, and that has increased significantly since we have been in government. It's increased from 82 per cent under Labor to 86 per cent today.
Importantly, from my point of view, we're also taking a very strong and active approach to plans for mental health. We're expanding the headspace network. Thirty-three new headspace centres are going to be opened, and I'm delighted to say there will be one in Higgins.
We're also delivering a whole lot more when it comes to record school funding. We've had a 62 per cent increase over the last decade with an additional $37 billion as part of the government's Quality Schools package. I'm very fortunate in the seat of Higgins because we've had a significant set of commitments, which is something that my local constituents are very pleased about. That includes Glenloch, a wonderful low-cost rental accommodation centre for pensioners who cannot easily access affordable rental accommodation in the area. We're investing in them by increasing the opportunities for age pensioners within Higgins. It's a wonderful opportunity for them.
We're also investing $4 million in the Murrumbeena Park community hub, which will enable new change rooms and facilities for the people of Murrumbeena and surrounds and for the footy players down there. There are going to be new girls change rooms, and it's going to be a wonderful outcome for my local community. I'm also very proud of the fact that we're investing $400,000 in the Melbourne Yarra bike trail, because, for me, keeping healthy and fit is incredibly important, and it's part of the bigger idea that the Morrison government is delivering for all of us.
I'm really pleased to speak on this matter of public importance—a plan for Australia's future—because Australians have reason to be concerned about the state of our nation and the state of Australian democracy, as this government has a complete disregard for both. Today the Prime Minister announced major changes to the Australian Public Service, out of nowhere—four departments axed and merged into others, and five departmental secretaries sacked, and they found out by email last night. These are leaders of our Public Service. These are people who've spent most of their lives serving our nation, working hard, working long hours and providing frank and fearless advice to both sides of government, and this is the sort of treatment they receive.
I, for one, would like to thank those people for their service to our nation and note that this is a disgraceful way for them to be treated. They had no opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on how this would affect their departments. I've worked in the Public Service, and my father was a career public servant. The professionalism that I see in him and that I saw in the people I worked with, and the commitment to the best outcomes for our nation, leave this government for dead—those people going to work every day wanting to get the best outcomes for our environment, for delivering services to people, to get our economy right, to provide the advice that enables governments of both colours to deliver policy that improves our nation, to deliver services and to implement programs.
But this is a government that's not into frank and fearless advice. They don't want it. They're not interested in sound policy advice, evidence or science. They're interested in ideological crusades. I cannot see how these changes will not lead to job losses. It just seems that when you go from 18 departments to 14 there will be job losses. Also, we all know that machinery-of-government changes are extremely disruptive to the Public Service, and this is going to cause huge problems. Right before Christmas, people in my electorate are going into Christmas worried about their jobs. This government has no respect for our Public Service, and Canberra-bashing suits their agenda of cuts.
The other day we had the member for Goldstein with a perfect example when he said that the basis of the Canberra economy is literally government, which he defines as 'the raiding of taxpayers hip pockets for the benefit of the few'. Well, that's not how I see the Australian Public Service. It suits this Prime Minister to dismiss Canberra as a bubble and to dismiss issues as Canberra bubble issues whenever he doesn't want to talk about them. To those who think cuts to the Public Service are bubble issues, I'd say: how much of a Canberra bubble issue is ensuring that pests don't get past Customs and decimate farmers' crops? How much of a Canberra bubble issue is supporting our drought-affected farming communities? How much of a Canberra bubble issue is 55 million 'engaged' tones on the Centrelink helpline for people trying to access services? And how much of a Canberra bubble issue is a year-long wait for a medically approved walker for a three-year-old girl on the NDIS?
These are really important issues, and these are what our Public Service is trying to work on. These secretaries have lost their jobs while the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, who has admitted that he has falsified documents, remains in his. This is a government of double standards, and we saw this writ large this morning with unprecedented abuse of this parliament and this democracy when the government tried to ram through the latest version of the union-bashing 'ensuring integrity' bill without us being able to debate on it at all or even see the updated bill. This is a government that doesn't want the scrutiny of this parliament. Each of us here was elected to represent the views of those in our electorates who elected us, and we were robbed of that opportunity today to voice those concerns about this bill that seeks to attack working people and the unions that represent them.
This is a Prime Minister who thinks he is above questions. He likes to talk about union thugs a lot, but who are the real thugs? Who are the people stealing wages? Who are the people forcing people to work in unsafe workplaces? He talks about the 'quiet Australians' when, really, what he wants to do is drown out any dissent. He demonises unions. He demonises protesters. The government ignore the advice of scientists. Theirs is an agenda of division to demonise anyone who questions their agenda, which serves the few, not the many.
Sitting here listening to members opposite, I've realised that the Labor Party puts on the best show in town. We've seen some wonderful performances this afternoon, performances that would rival the greats. Olivier, Gielgud, Streep—none of them are as good as what we have seen from the political theatre of the Labor Party! No-one does better confected outrage than the Labor Party. Give them the Golden Globes! Give them the Academy Awards! Give them the Logies! As actors, they are world-class. But, at running the country or coming up with a plan for our future, any of the community theatre groups in the Berowra electorate could do a better job.
I'm delighted to speak today about who's got the better plan for the future. Six years ago, the Leader of the Opposition was in a public contest with the member for Maribyrnong for the leadership of the Labor Party. It was an occasion for both men to outline their vision for the future. The Leader of the Opposition lost that contest and the member for Maribyrnong won. The Leader of the Opposition never hid his ambition to one day lead the Australian Labor Party. So you'd think, over the six years that he was not the leader, he would have come up with a plan for the future of Australia, a plan for the Labor Party and a plan to do things differently. Expectations were high, but the reality has proven different.
The Leader of the Opposition, since he's taken the reins of the Labor Party, has had nothing but parliamentary tactics. We have seen the famous 'bitch and fold', where they argue against particular proposals and then decide at the end of the day that they will vote for them when their amendments don't pass. We saw that with the tax cuts. We saw it with the drought funding. We saw it with terror exclusions. We keep seeing it everywhere. Only on legislation dealing with unions do they fight to the death like Kilkenny cats. This shows that this is effectively the same old Labor Party, with no plan for the future, no plan for ordinary workers, just a plan to protect union privilege.
I've been reading the very interesting 2019 Labor election review, and it's got some very important things in it for the Labor Party. Two great Labor leaders, Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill, said this—you don't have to go very far; it's on page 8—about Labor's policy formulation:
Labor's policy formulation should be guided by the national interest, avoiding any perception of capture by special interest groups.
But what is the Labor Party, fundamentally? The Labor Party is the political wing of the most corrupt and difficult special interest group in the country—the trade union movement. On every single chance they have to put workers and productivity ahead of union privilege, they favour union privilege. The smart move for the Labor Party to get in touch is to actually go back to representing the workers that they're supposed to represent.
Still on page 8 of the review, it says:
Working people experiencing economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the Party is responding to their needs, instead being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests. A grievance-based approach can create a culture of moving from one issue to the next, formulating myriad policies in response to a broad range of concerns.
But, all the while, they are ignoring ordinary working people. Labor clearly are not on the side of working people because, despite the review, despite all the noise, they continue to cling to their $387 billion of new taxes, including the retiree tax and the housing tax.
The Leader of the Opposition has talked today on this MPI about the Prime Minister throwing out the toys, but we've had a fortnight of those opposite throwing out the toys. We've had quorum calls. We've had divisions called. We've had nothing but a continual smear against the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction and against Brian Houston. It would be nice to hear from the Labor Party about their plans for the future.
We, on the other hand, have very strong plans for the future. We have the tax cuts of up to $1,080 for ordinary working Australians, providing a pathway to 2024-25 so that 94 per cent of Australians pay nothing more than 30c in the dollar. On safe borders, we repealed the terrible medevac bill yesterday, and that has restored our border integrity. There are the infrastructure investments—$100 billion right across the country in projects like NorthConnex in my electorate. There are the free trade agreements which mean that 70 per cent of all exports are now under free trade agreements. The opportunities under the leadership of the Morrison government are expanding Australia, giving us a plan and giving us hope for and confidence in the future.
It sounds like I have to break a bit of news here, which is that the debate this afternoon is actually about the government's plan for the future, not a wild, wandering romp on various obsessions of members on the other side of the House. It really has got to a point where it's a bit weird. Why are you so obsessed with us? Why can you not defend your own record? We have given you an hour to talk to us and inform us of your plans for the future, and you have just taken an hour to talk about us. When I was reflecting on your plans for the future, it made me think of all the schoolkids who were here today and who had to witness the most outrageous desecration of our democracy, the breaching of decades of convention and the trashing of all civility and protocols. They had to witness that. Our littlest citizens, who come here to educate themselves about the tenets of our Australian democracy, faced all that instead. You should all be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.
When they get to the part of their tour of the parliamentary building where they recreate the conventions of the parliament, some of these nine-year-olds will sit on the government side of the House and some will sit on the opposition side of the House. They'll say, 'Let the parliament convene.' The nine-year-old Leader of the House will stand and say, 'I move that the member no longer be heard,' and then he will sit down. Then the nine-year-old opposition leader will stand and start to speak, and the Leader of the House will stand again and say, 'I move that the motion be put.' Instead of practising their democracy and learning the art of parliamentary debate, they will have about four minutes to cover everything. That is the new standard that those opposite have set. Again, I think you should all be highly embarrassed. Our littlest citizens deserve an awful lot better than you lot.
This government will not tolerate freedom of speech and the freedom to protest, and now it will not even tolerate debate in the parliament. The member before me, the member for Berowra, talked about how we are wasting our time on things like procedure, upholding conventions or seeking—God help us!—to debate in the parliament. How tedious, how tiresome, to have to deal with 74 other elected representatives who each come here to represent 105,000 of their constituents! Why did you all run for parliament—through you, Deputy Speaker; I'm sorry. Why did you choose to leave your families and spend 20 hours a day campaigning for the right to come into this chamber and move that the motion be put? Don't you have anything brighter, anything bolder, any bigger plans to offer the country? This is your one shot to create a brighter future, and this is what you are doing with it. How embarrassing! How dare you short-change our littlest citizens watching on like this!
I rise today to speak about the lethargy of this government in their failure to address the significant policy challenges awaiting our coming generations. Economic growth has now been slow for a decade, Australia's population is ageing, climate change looms and the burden of these changes fall mainly on the young. Young people face real concerns about housing affordability, stagnating wealth and income inequality. Under these neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation and austerity—such as they are; there is not very much, if we are being honest—this is a government that now takes better care of banks than of people. People have lost their jobs, their benefits and much of the safety net that used to make those losses less frightening.
People see a future for their kids that looks even more foreboding than their precarious present. Millennials are earning about 20 per cent less than their parents did at the same age. Younger Australians are much less likely to own a home than their parents were at the same age. The wealth of households aged under 35 has barely moved since 2004. That is 15 years. Youth unemployment is around double the national average. In my home state of Queensland it is now as high as 25 per cent. Yet today in question time we heard 90 minutes of smug congratulations from backbencher to frontbencher about what a great job all these people are doing. How embarrassing! You should be ashamed of yourselves that you continue to parade about like emperors without their clothes, pretending that everything is fine, when your own constituents are screaming out to you, asking for help.
We on this side of the House will not stand for it. We will hold you to account, because at the end of the day it costs Australian taxpayers $800 million for the parliament to operate—$800 million each year for this parliament to convene and to run and to debate and to pass laws to make this country better. What value are Australian taxpayers getting from your governance? Nothing, Absolutely nothing. What have the 74 electorates in this country who elected members to parliament who are not Liberal coalition members of government got out of you lot? Nothing. (Time expired)
I listened to the member for Lilley and I actually took on board what she said about what the Australian public really think by seeing this interlude in this place. I tend to agree with her on that point, but that's about as far as it goes. Out of my peripheral vision I look at the topic for discussion—that is, matters of public importance. Where I come from, this particular subject means a lot to a lot of hardworking people. When it comes to telling people about what the government's doing in my patch, I want to tell you about the great state of Tasmania and what we're doing down home. In order to do that and as reference material for that, I go to the latest mail-out that we've put out from the electorate office on exactly what we've been doing, delivering and achieving throughout the electorate.
As far as small business is concerned, which is obviously the engine room and the backbone of the Braddon community, the State of the States report that was handed down recently sums up the north-west coast of Tasmania very well. It rated Tasmania, in fact it rated Braddon, as No.1 in business confidence throughout the nation. That business confidence has led to capital investment in businesses and money starting to flow, and people are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, which is a stark contrast to where we were in the last years of Labor in our state. In fact, in the last years of Labor in Tasmania more than a thousand people left our shores for good. I can only imagine the conversations that took place around the kitchen table before those big moves took place. But, luckily, last year 2,250 came to make Tasmania their home. They see Tasmania as a shining light, a place that is growing, a prosperous place. They are confident, just like we have tried to demonstrate today that we are indeed confident, and we share that confidence with our electorates.
We've worked hard on freight equalisation and trying to level the playing field on that expensive piece of water between Tasmania and our mainland states. We've worked hard on transfer of irrigation projects so that we can eliminate risk from our agricultural operations throughout the coast. We've delivered water to farmers, which has actually doubled production throughout the agricultural regions of my electorate. We've worked on and delivered irrigation systems like the Duck, the Mersey and the Scottsdale. We've supported processors like Simplot, Agronico and Tasmanian Quality Meats. Biosecurity infrastructure is being put in place.
We've worked hard on health. We've introduced—and I actually delivered—an MRI machine to Devonport, the first one we've seen on the coast. A second LINAC for treating specific cells within cancer patients has been delivered to Burnie. Headspaces have been funded, supported and nurtured and have prospered throughout Devonport, Burnie and Circular Head. Small business has seen an increase of the instant asset write-off. We've lowered the 32.5 per cent small business tax rate to 30 per cent, meaning 94 per cent of taxpayers pay no more than 30c in the dollar. We've introduced a small business growth fund of $540 million, which was backed by a further $100 million from civil banks.
We've worked hard on trying to underwrite Marinus, the interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland, which is progressing well. We're ticking all the boxes in Tasmania for being totally renewable by the year 2022. That will mean that Tasmania can not only produce its own renewable, sustainable and dispatchable energy but we can also deliver that through project Marinus, through the mainland, gleaning an income for decades to come—a stark difference from what we saw from Labor, when those thousand people left our shores, with no concept of what could happen further on down the track.
We've also worked hard in schools and we've, again, been able to produce and to deliver funding which has been unprecedented within our education systems. We've produced many fine results when it comes to agricultural exports. In fact, our agricultural exports within Tasmania have grown 3.86 per cent, which is almost double the national average. This is a contribution between our transfer irrigation, capital investment, government support and businesses having the confidence to buy those big-ticket items which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the list goes on. There are so many things that we've delivered but so little time to tell you about them.