Senate debates

Thursday, 17 March 2016


Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee

9:47 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Here we go—not yet. Right. Okay. I will take that interjection because I want to talk about the assertion that we lack political courage—coming from a Green, that is extraordinary. It suggests that Labor actually never go out and campaign against the coalition. Well, we are the only party that actually campaigned against them because the only party that seeks to shift votes away from the coalition is Labor. All the Greens want to do is shift votes from the Labor Party to the Greens. You do not actually want to change Australia. You do not actually want to deliver progressive reforms. You just want more people in here so you can feel more important.

Senator Conroy interjecting—

I am not going to use the phrase Senator Conroy got in trouble for. But you want more people here. You do not actually ever try to shift a vote from the coalition to someone else. Your attack, and it has been demonstrated here time and time again, is against the Labor Party. I have never understood why that was regarded as a progressive position. If I look at the things that I think are important progressive reforms in this country, whether it be Medicare or having more people in universities or the Gonski reforms or superannuation or a fair system of wages and conditions or a decent age pension or an independent foreign policy or the National Disability Insurance Scheme or the sex discrimination act or the Racial Discrimination Act or the Native Title Act, and so much more, they have been delivered by Labor governments. We went out, people like us and those who went before, and campaigned and talked to people who do not agree with us, and convinced people to vote for the Labor Party rather than the coalition.

You, on the other hand, sit here and snipe and try to take votes from Labor to the Greens. That is not progressive politics. I am happy to talk about the dirty deal. You talk about the preference deals. Well, what about the dirty deal that Michael Kroger has blown the whistle on? This leader, the Liberal lap-dog that is Senator Di Natale—oh, he is going red; a bit of blushing there—has done a deal with the Liberal Party to issue open tickets to advantage the Liberal Party in certain marginal seats so that the Liberals can help him target Ms Plibersek and Mr Albanese. And he has the temerity to come in here and talk about courage. That is not courage; that is a dirty backroom deal. You keep denying it, but unfortunately Mr Kroger has blown the whistle on you. Your modus operandi is all about trying to take out Labor people and Labor voters.

I would like to ask the Greens this: tell me why progressive politics in this country would be better for having Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese out of the parliament. How is that progressive politics? I will not be campaigning for that. I will be campaigning to get some of the Liberal Party and the National Party out of the parliament. That is what we do. But, no, you campaign to get Labor people out of the parliament. So do not come in here and give us a lecture about political courage, because there is only one party that actually tries to change the government. And when you change the government you change the country. What you are having is a sort of Senate version, a national political version of a dinner party conversation: 'We don't like this and that about the Labor Party but we are going to keep talking to people who agree with us. We're going to try to take progressive voters off Labor for ourselves but we're actually not going to try to change the country by getting rid of this government.' That is your political strategy. You are prepared to lie in bed with them, whether it is on Senate voting changes or on the dirty preference deal that Michael Kroger has blown the whistle on. And then you come in here and talk about political courage. Well, show some.

Senator Di Natale says, 'If we'd had these voting changes we would still have a carbon price.' My response to that, as he would probably know, is: we would probably still have a carbon price if the Australian Greens had not voted against a carbon price and had not done what they did today, which was to do the walk of shame and vote with Senator Bernardi and, at the time, Senator Fielding and Senator Minchin—who thought that climate change was 'a left-wing conspiracy to de-industrialise the Western World'. That is who you voted with. They get out on Twitter, and I am sure that Mr Paris—the staffer who likes tweeting at me, likes trolling me—will now be tweeting his lovely tweets at me again, and they will say, 'It was such a dreadful piece of legislation.' You voted very shortly afterwards for a piece of legislation that was almost identical and that gave at least the same amount of assistance, if not more, to what you described as the 'big polluters'. Who showed political courage then? Not the Australian Greens. All you cared about was making sure that you made the Labor Party look like we were bad. And you were prepared to vote with Senator Bernardi and Senator Minchin to do that.

So the lecture about political courage from a leader of the Greens who not only has done a deal with the Liberal Party on Senate changes but also has done a dirty preference deal—which he sort of half denies but Michael Kroger keeps talking about it and has blown the whistle on it—is pretty hard to stomach, frankly. Maybe you should stick to your photo shoots.

Senator Cormann keeps saying, 'I've answered the question.' He keeps finding different ways to not answer the question—which is impressive. I have probably been there myself, but I am going to have another go, and it is a question about the timing of the education campaign.

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting—

It is not a waste of time. Unlike you, Senator O'Sullivan, I actually think that making sure Australian voters understand the largest changes in 30 years is probably not a bad idea. I first asked Senator Cormann about the campaign and when it will commence. He said, 'It depends when the bill gets passed.' I said, 'How long after assent?' He said, 'That's not when we measure it from. We measure it from when the election will be.' Okay, let's forget the game playing around that. How long prior to the election date will the campaign run? Or, another way of asking it: will there be any of the education campaign run before the election is called? He is shaking his head. Is that a no?


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