Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Council of Australian Governments

3:04 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Families and Communities) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) today relating to the Council of Australian Governments.

From that answer it is entirely obvious that the government has run out of ideas. That is also obvious in this chamber because it has run out of legislation to debate. It's obvious in its handling of COAG, and that was the subject of the question to Minister Cormann. Minister Cormann tried to defend the cancellation of COAG by saying that the government doesn't need to hold meetings in order to get things done. In some ways he's right. Holding a meeting does not impact the coalition government's ability to get things done, because this government cannot get anything done. It cannot get anything at all done.

Let's examine the public record to see what happens when the government does take a policy through an extensive process of meetings and consultations. Let's have a look at the NEG. The Prime Minister met with the rogue MPs. The NEG was amended in response to feedback—

Senator Gallacher interjecting—

That's right, Senator Gallacher. It went back to the coalition party room. It was subject to extensive debate, much of which was leaked publicly. It was approved. They got it through the party room—good on them—and now it has been dumped. They had many meetings inside the parliament and outside the parliament, but they still don't have a policy and a plan for energy.

What about COAG is different? Maybe it's a little bit different. What is on the record when the government takes one of its policy proposals to COAG? It was a while ago—and obviously we have had a lot of political turmoil—but do people remember former Prime Minister Turnbull's proposal to reform state and federal fiscal relations? I think that was the one that they came up with in the car park. That was presumably done with the support of former Treasurer and current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, the person now leading the government. This reform effort was announced with great fanfare. Where is it now? What has happened to the proposal that they sought to take to COAG? Are we debating legislation? No, we're not; we're actually having the Governor-General's address-in-reply debate two years after he gave his speech here. This idea has entirely disappeared from view because, like the coalition party room, when the coalition take things into COAG they can't make any progress there either.

Are there meetings that do help the coalition get things done? Here's one—a Liberal Party meeting on the South Coast chaired by Minister Payne. They got a lot done there because, as Ann Sudmalis has detailed, all the member for Gilmore's friends and allies were rolled out of the FEC and replaced with people hostile to her that made, as she said, her position 'untenable'. It led to her resignation. There were vivid stories of bullying, backstabbing and betrayal.

Are there any other meetings where the coalition gets things done? We've heard this week about a 40-minute meeting—for which there was no agenda—with a not-for-profit headed up by their mates in the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

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