Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Treasury Laws Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Employer Register) Bill 2017; In Committee

10:34 am

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

I think we have to consider what has just happened here. We now have an absolute disgrace of a government—a government that their own Prime Minister describes as muppets—coming together with One Nation and with Senator Hanson, whose speech was incomprehensible. It was absolutely incomprehensible. I just don't get it. Why would One Nation and this decaying government attack defenceless workers in this country? Even worse, there is the involvement of the so-called Centre Alliance, the former Xenophon party. One thing you can say about former Senator Xenophon is that at least he treated issues seriously. The Centre Alliance senators don't seem to have any rhyme or reason about them at all. Why would Centre Alliance attack backpackers? Backpackers are defenceless when they come to this country and they have been exploited continually by farmers, by contract companies and by gangs in this country. As you heard in Senator Hinch's speech, some of them are being sexually abused and sexually harassed. It is a nonsense. I think that, as a nation, we owe it to the young people who are coming here on a working visa to protect them.

Yet, this government, because it has done some dirty deal with Senator Leyonhjelm, is prepared to throw the protections for young backpackers out of the window. The sooner we get to an election and the sooner the Australian people can have a say on getting a decent government in this country the better, because this government is now scraping the bottom of the barrel. To try to keep itself alive, to try and keep itself afloat, it's doing deals with Senator Leyonhjelm, with some of the most extreme views in this place. I just think the time for an election has come. We have a government that is described by its own leader as a bunch of muppets. What have we come to in this place? What is the problem with this rabble of a government that just can't seem to get an agenda together, that continually stabs its leader and that is always fighting? The Nationals don't like the Libs. The Libs don't like the Nationals. And the Libs don't like each other. That's what we've got now. That's the situation we have in this country.

We don't have any substantive legislation before this parliament. It's clear that they don't have an agenda. This new Prime Minister has no idea what he wants to do in terms of improving this nation. We've had the COAG meeting cancelled, a meeting that looks at trying to make things better for Australians across the country. Because this Prime Minister and this rabble of a government don't have an agenda, don't have a strategy and don't have a plan for the future, what they are doing is simply cancelling a meeting. It's an absolute disgrace.

And they have to cuddle up to One Nation to get legislation through. They have to make concessions to a party that espouses racism, a party that would come in here and simply attack other nationalities in this country, a party whose leader can't put two words together without reading them—and even then can't read them effectively or properly. That's what we've come to under this government—relying on a senator who is incomprehensible; a senator who attacks other nationalities; a senator who has become rich off the back of the electoral system in this country; a senator who can't even keep her own team together; and a senator who simply looks after No.1. That's what we've come to—and the government depend on One Nation.

One Nation and this government are well matched. You know, Senator Hanson was a Liberal. Senator Hanson was a Liberal who was thrown out of the Liberal Party because of her so-called extreme views. Well, Senator Hanson hasn't moved. She's still got the extreme views. It's just that nobody on the other side has got the backbone, nobody has got the bottle and nobody has got the principles to actually stand up to her and her racist positions that her party adopts. It's an absolute disgrace.

This is a government that just don't get it. This country is crying out for leadership. This country is crying out to get a decent health system and a decent education system, and to get rid of an industrial system that has seen wage stagnation and families battling to put food on their table. Are we debating any of those issues in this place? No, we are not. What we are debating now is how you make it harder for young people coming to this country who are in a vulnerable situation. The Nationals, the Liberal Party, One Nation and Centre Alliance have banded together to make it harder for working people in this country. It's just about time that they conceded that they can't govern, they won't govern.

All the three-word slogans that you can think up and all the evangelistic speeches that you can make just won't cut it, because this government are in complete chaos. This government have got no agenda. The reason this bill is on is that they've run out of bills that would make this country a better place. They can't think about it, because they're too busy carving each other up. They are too busy stabbing each other in the back. They are too busy bullying women in their own party. Is it any wonder that women won't join the party?

And, imagine, Senator Reynolds stood up here and made this great speech about bullying. Senator Reynolds gets a promotion, and that's her. She becomes mute—becomes absolutely mute on the issues that she claimed that she was standing up for. They have got no principles. They have got no capacity. They are an absolute disgrace of a government.

We know what's going to happen after the next election—we've seen it: there'll be fewer women in that party. We've had senators, we've had MPs, stand up and talk about bullying, and yet when they've got a chance to do something about it, what do they do? They take a promotion, and they go quietly. What a joke. That shows you how decaying the government are. That shows you how bad the government are. It just shows you that they have got no agenda. They've got no respect for each other—absolutely no respect for each other, never mind having any respect for the population of this country.

All they want to do is crawl over each other to try to get on the front bench, backstab each other, destroy their own Prime Minister because their extremist views on climate change have to be the dominant position. They don't care about young people in this country. They don't care about climate change. They don't care about decent industrial rights. They don't care about a decent health system. They don't care about a decent education system. All they want to do is kowtow to the big end of town and stab each other in the back; that's the basis of this government. They are absolutely pathetic. And when your own Prime Minister describes you as 'muppets', it doesn't leave much room for a defence, does it? Because Prime Minister Morrison actually got it right—they are a bunch of muppets.

If you look back at what this government was about, in 2014 it brought a budget down that attacked pensioners. It brought a budget down that attacked families and family benefits, and it brought a budget down that would increase retirement to 70. It's okay, if you're sitting here on these comfortable benches at 70 years old getting a $200,000-a-year base wage, to say to somebody who's on a building site or to a fitter or a rigger that they should work until they're 70. But these people don't have a clue what it's like for ordinary working people. They just don't get it. They are so divorced from reality that all they want to do is carve each other up. I mean, the muppets look sensible compared to this lot. At least you can get a laugh at the muppets. You can laugh at this lot, but I tell you, while you're laughing, this country's going down the tube because they have got no capacity to deliver for Australian people.

This is a government that is decaying. It's a government that is absolutely on its last legs. It's a government that doesn't have an agenda. All those opposite do is sit over there and, with the extremists in One Nation and the Liberal Democrats, attack working people. That's what they do. This is not what Australians want from a government. They want a government that can actually make things better and build a decent society in this country.

We've got a Prime Minister who has got there by default. We know the extremists wanted a different Prime Minister. We know the leaks are still coming from the cabinet in this government. We know that those people who have been denied the opportunity to get on the front bench are going to do everything to continue to destabilise this government. We know that this government is just hopeless. Those opposite are absolutely hopeless. They don't have a legislative agenda to come here, so what do they do? They attack the rights of backpackers—young, vulnerable backpackers—to get protection. What a pathetic mob. What a pathetic rabble of a government. No wonder people just shake their heads when they talk about this so-called government. These were the people that were going to be the grown-ups. Well, have you seen any grown-up behaviour? I know what grown-ups do—they protect young people. These so-called grown-ups have just attacked young people who are vulnerable, young people who depend on decent laws in this country to give them a fair go. But you won't get a fair go from the muppets across here. You won't get a fair go from this decaying government. Those opposite are just pathetic, and this bill shows it in stark reasoning. They are pathetic.


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