Senate debates

Monday, 4 December 2017

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Prime Minister, Registered Organisations

4:06 pm

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Fortunately we are finished with that particularly woeful contribution from Senator Williams, who I do have some respect for. If one wants to talk about elections, one only has to look at my home state of Queensland. The election result there speaks a lot about the general public's view in relation to the LNP.

Some decades ago, Bob Hawke coined the phrase: 'If you can't govern yourself, you cannot govern the country.' That was also quoted by former Prime Minister John Howard—with approval. He identified that issue as well. But what we have now is a government which seems irreparably split and divided across a whole range of different axes. We see this split within the National Party and we heard the very regrettable comments made by Senator Brandis today about the 'dribblings of some obscure politician', talking about the second most senior politician in New South Wales, the largest state of this Commonwealth. Is that a way to speak about a person who holds a very high office within one of the states of our Commonwealth? In fact, Senator Brandis went on to say that it was the first time he'd ever heard of Mr Barilaro. This is the Attorney-General talking about a person who is a member of the coalition in another state. This demonstrates open contempt for Mr Barilaro. Of course, Mr Barilaro seemed to reciprocate when he doubled down on his position, stating that he stands by what he said on Friday: that his comments were a reflection of what he has heard on the ground. So this is a politician who actually talks to people on the ground about what's going on.

It was interesting to note that, during the course of question time today, we didn't see any of Mr Barilaro's National Party colleagues in this place rising to his defence to say that he had actually hit the nail on the head. In fact, we have seen Mr Joyce come out and said, 'It's odd that he's never raised these matters with me personally.' Mr Chester, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, said that Mr Barilaro's comments are silly and stupid. This is the way that they treat their fellow coalition members. Coming back to the Queensland election, Mr Barilaro made the very telling point that if you think that federal issues didn't have an effect in the Queensland election, then you've got to be kidding yourself. In fact, he said it's a joke for the Prime Minister to indicate that those issues didn't come into play in the Queensland election results.

This is a coalition which is deeply divided, and I don't say that with any sense of comfort or satisfaction, because this is the government of Australia, and the people of Australia look to the government to attend to the issues that they are concerned about. When a government is internally divided—as they are—sniping at each other all the time, then they cannot be focused on the issues which are of concern to the people of Australia.

One looks at the issue in relation to the Registered Organisations Commission. I was present at the estimates hearing on Friday, in relation to Senator Cash. It is quite clear that we are seeing a huge cover-up in relation to what is going on with the Registered Organisations Commission. It got to the stage where Senator Cash refused to answer a question from Senator Cameron about how long Mr De Garis had worked in her office. She refused to indicate the starting date for Mr De Garis—he is the principal media officer—when he commenced working in the minister's office. How can that be part of any reasonable application of the public interest immunity? That certainly can't be an issue that is affected by the other issue relating to court proceedings that are underway at the moment. That just shows you the extent of the cover-up that we're seeing here, Madam Deputy President. It's time for the Prime Minister to step in to show some leadership. Let's see the government pull together. We need to see some leadership in relation to Senator Cash: the Prime Minister needs to sack her. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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