Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Coalition Government

2:32 pm

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

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the administration of the Commonwealth—namely:

That the Senate:

(a) has no confidence in the Government;

(b) notes that the Government can change its leader, but it can never unite its party; and

(c) calls on whoever is the Prime Minister to visit the Governor-General by no later than 5 pm today to call an election immediately, so the people can decide who runs this country.

Leave granted.

I thank the Senate. It is very clear from question time today why we should suspend and why we should debate this motion and why we should express no confidence in this government. It is very clear from question time today that Australia does not have a functioning government. Australia does not have a functioning government. We have a rabble of self-interested people masquerading as the representatives of Australia. We have a Leader of the Government in the Senate who could not even answer the simple question of how many ministers there are. They don't even know how many ministers they have left in their cabinet and in their executive. We have a leader of the National Party up here who couldn't even say in whom he had confidence as Prime Minister. He just said 'whoever it might be that the Liberal Party choose'.

The fact is, Mr President and members of the Senate, we don't have a government; we have a rabble. We have a self-interested rabble. Just look at the benches opposite where we sit. We can see that they are disunited. But do you know the one thing on which they're united? They're united on one matter and one matter only: their complete inability to govern. It is the only thing that unites them: their complete inability to govern. We see Minister Cormann, or former minister Cormann—Senator Cormann—the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has resigned; Senator Cash, resigned; Senator Fifield, resigned; Senator Fierravanti-Wells, resigned; and assistant ministers Seselja and McGrath, for those who have heard of them, resigned. This is a government that is now so devoid of talent, so devoid of numbers and so devoid of unity that the most senior minister opposite is Senator Nigel Scullion. Really? Where are we?

But I do want to make this point about what we have seen this week. It has been an extraordinary spectacle. It has been an extraordinary spectacle of disunity, division, personal hatred, enmity and ill-discipline. It has been all of those things. But the most telling aspect of what we have seen on offer this week is this: when you ask the question 'Who matters to the Liberal Party?' you get one answer—themselves. The only people that they care about are themselves. They don't care about working Australians who are struggling with the cost of living; they don't care about pensioners who are trying to pay their electricity bill; they don't care about families who need to see a GP; they don't care about Australians in crowded emergency departments, or nurses run off their feet; they don't care about older Australians, and their families, waiting for home care packages; and they don't care about kids, kids who want a decent education—

Senator McKenzie interjecting—

Interject all you like, Senator McKenzie. Every Australian can see what your priority has been this week. It is holding onto government—holding onto government at all costs. It has not been to govern for the Australian people, and that is what we are sent here to do. We are here to represent the Australian people, and you are governing for you and not for them. The only people who matter to the Liberal Party are themselves.

People will remember the famous Menzies speech about the forgotten people that the Liberals always get doe eyed about. You know what? You've forgotten about every Australian but yourselves. You've forgotten everyone but yourselves. That's what we've seen this week, over and over again, with each act of ill-discipline, each act of internal hatred, each act of disunity, which have resulted in a government frontbench which has Barry O'Sullivan down the end. That's what a government that is entirely focused on itself has resulted in: a government incapable of delivering to the Australian people.

It's been a week where we've seen—actually, it started last Friday—a man who is Prime Minister in name only, and the clock is ticking, who capitulated on everything that he said was important. We've seen that over and over again. And then we have Mr Morrison, the man who wanted the corporate tax cuts in the first place; and Mr Dutton, the worst health minister the country has seen and the architect of the GP tax. This is what is on offer to the Australian people. And they can't even sort it out.

One thing I would say is at least this lot in here have bothered to turn up, which is why we've actually got members of the press gallery here. At least we actually had a Senate team who did bother to turn up. Of course, it's because they don't have the numbers to adjourn as yet. In the House, the chamber of government, the government abandoned the chamber. They ran away. They ran away from the parliament because they couldn't field a frontbench and because the Prime Minister of the day had no confidence that he could survive the day—or that the government could survive the day. They didn't even bother to turn up. They are so irretrievably divided, they have no interest in governing and no ambition to govern.

Well, I think Australians have had enough. Australians know that the parliament deserves better, but, most of all, Australians know the Australian people deserve better. The Australian people deserve better. The Australian people deserve a government focused on their needs and not on the selfish, self-obsessed, hatred-filled games we have witnessed minute by minute over this last week.

What is abundantly clear is that those opposite, the Liberal Party of Australia—perhaps a party in name only—cannot provide the leadership that the Australian people deserve. And what I say to them is this: if you can't provide that leadership, instead of running away from parliament and turning up here with this huddle of ministers that you've been reduced to, you should resign. You should resign. You should resign, and you should call an election now. You should call an election so the people have a chance to elect a party who's actually interested in the people themselves and enable the country to be governed by a party that actually looks to the needs of the Australian people, a government that is a stable and united team that is focused on Australians and not on itself, and a government that is committed to delivering what the Australian people need and what the Australian people want: affordable and decent health care; education for all based on ability, not postcode or wealth; decent care for our elderly; decent wages; and proper penalty rates. It is absolutely clear that the only party that would be capable of delivering that government and governing for all Australians is the Australian Labor Party.


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