Senate debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Taxation, Energy

3:49 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | Hansard source

That was a pretty pathetic deflection by the government, in terms of the chaos that has besieged this government, particularly over the last few days. In fact, we know that there have been deep divisions for some time. I think it's time to remind those opposite that senators and members of the House of Representatives are actually elected to govern for all Australians. The fact is that we see the Liberals are out making phone calls, trying to gather votes to topple the current Prime Minister. They're feeding the media and leaking to journalists. What they're not doing is the job that they were elected to do. What's happening in the Treasury? What's happening in health? We know this government cut funding to hospitals around the country. When it comes to education, we know they have not been able to deliver for schools. In my home state of Tasmania, we can see the effects of the cuts to education. That's not even to talk about the way they have messed up when it comes to Catholic education. They've put them right offside.

This is a Prime Minister who, when he was elected, said he would be Prime Minister of a stable government. We've seen nothing but dysfunction and chaos from those opposite. Internationally, we are considered a laughing stock at the moment. But what we have to highlight here is how this government, and this Prime Minister in particular, has backflipped time and time again. What we saw at the beginning of the week was an embarrassing backflip on energy. We've also seen that, at last, they've decided to walk away from the out-of-touch rationale they've been using to scrap the energy supplement. It's good that they've finally seen sense there and that Australian pensioners will get the support they need. Now they're pretending that they're going to walk away from the corporate tax cuts and not take them to the next election. How silly do they think the Australian people are? We know that those opposite wanted to give $80 billion to the top end of town. They wanted to give the big banks $17 billion. That's what this government is all about. What they want the Australian people to take away from today is: 'No, we're not going to do that; we won't take it to the next election.' Well, the real threat is that if a Turnbull government—or a Dutton government—is elected at the next federal election, it will reintroduce that, because that's part of its DNA.

As a government, they aren't doing anything about the rising cost of electricity prices for households in this country. They stood by and allowed penalty rates to be taken away from those who needed them most. They've also failed and neglected pensioners in this country. When we talk about aged care, what have they done there? Since they've been in government, in the last four years, they've gutted the aged-care budget by some $3 billion. We have an ageing population, and the government have walked away from their responsibilities. Just last Friday, finally—three months late—they released the data on the home care waiting lists. We're now due for the June figures. How long are we going to have to wait for those figures? There are 108,000 Australians—older people, some of the most vulnerable Australians—who need packages. We know there are some 50,000-odd Australians who aren't getting any support at all.

That's this government. Those are their priorities. I'm seeking to have the government come to terms with getting a decision about who is going to be the future Prime Minister. If it's going to be Peter Dutton, get on with it; if it's going to be Malcolm Turnbull, get on with it—because they have a serious responsibility to govern for all Australians. At the moment, Australians feel like they can't have any faith in politicians. It's incredible that the government want to go down the track of removing a sitting Prime Minister when, in fact, in the last decade, not one Prime Minister who was elected has seen out his entire term. That's a reflection on all of us. So those opposite ought to stop thinking about themselves, and talking about themselves, and do what's right and what's in the best interests of the country—that is, to get along and get their policies out there, as Labor has done. We got our economic policies out there. We're working on policies, because we're listening to the community. I say: bring on the next federal election. (Time expired)

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