Senate debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

G20 Leaders Summit

3:26 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to take note of the answer given by Senator Cormann to questioning by Senator Wong regarding the Treasurer's last-minute cancellation of his planned trip to the G20 in Buenos Aires. The G20 is one of the most important leaders meetings in the world. Instead of taking the opportunity to meet with heads of state and central bank governors, for example, from the world's largest economies, our Treasurer has instead chosen to insert himself in the unfolding drama within the Liberal Party in his home state of Victoria following the crushing victory of Labor's progressive agenda over the fear campaign run by the Liberal Party.

Senator Cormann can choose to keep his head firmly in the sand all he wants, but this is not going to change the fact that this week his government was thrown further into minority. You would think that, following the historic swing against the government in Wentworth, some lessons might have been heeded, but oh, no. That would be asking too much from this government. There's been a wave of denials all morning. 'Nothing to see here; move it along,' they say. Indeed, Craig Kelly, the member for Hughes, tipped to be the next to go to the crossbench, when asked if the decision of the Treasurer to cancel this trip was a reflection of a government that had lost control, replied, 'Not at all, not at all.' There would be some beautiful synchronicity if they lost one from their left flank on Tuesday followed by one from their right—a visual representation of former Prime Minister Abbott's arch-conservatives at war with former Prime Minister Turnbull's moderates. They are destroying everything in the process. Of course, the Liberal Party is in existential crisis, with the member for Higgins throwing petrol on the fire. She is reported as saying in a meeting of Victorian parliamentarians with the Prime Minister on Monday—the details of which, of course, were leaked almost immediately—that the Liberal Party is seen as homophobic, antiwomen and riddled with climate deniers.

Just when we all thought that this government couldn't get any worse, this week has unveiled the depth of the shambles that this government is in. The inside of a butcher's slaughterhouse might be a prettier sight than that of the coalition party room this week. This Liberal government isn't working. It's not just damaging the reputation of the main conservative party in Australian politics. Canberra is sneeringly called the coup capital of the democratic world. Ministers of the Commonwealth are so busy worrying about the internal stability of the government that they are not able to participate in international discussions vital to the stability of the world. This is utterly ludicrous.

Of course, it is some politicians' instinct to hang on to office, but Australians are entitled to expect more than just self-interest to motivate those who position themselves as our leaders. The G20 is important, and this decision proves that this is a government that should be put out of its misery. It has proven itself incapable of governing its own affairs and scarcely interested in governing the nation's affairs. Scarcely interested in parliament sitting more than the barest minimum, they've made this into a part-time parliament—and this from a party whose MPs, like Andrew Laming, dared suggest hardworking teachers worked part-time hours. This is a go-slow government trying to eke out every last day in the ministerial wing, every last day of hearing public servants say to them, 'Yes, Minister.' Meanwhile, they have doubled federal government debt, failed to address climate and energy policy, brutalised so many Australians with Centrelink robo-debt calls—remember that cruelty, that debacle?—allowed wages to flatline and penalty rates to be shredded, made deep cuts to health and education, and allowed a whole generation of young people to be cut out of home ownership, all on their watch.

One of Labor's and one of Australia's great prime ministers—and probably our most party-reforming opposition leader, as he purged our party of destructive extremists—was Gough Whitlam, and the words from his famous 1972 campaign speech echo through the ages to this day and to this place. He said:

My fellow citizens‚

I put these questions to you:

Do you believe that Australia can afford another three years like the last twenty months?

He said this in 1972. He asked:

Are you prepared to maintain at the head of your affairs a coalition which has lurched into crisis after crisis, embarrassment piled on embarrassment week after week? Will you accept another three years of waiting for next week's crisis, next week's blunder?

(Time expired)

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