Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education

3:06 pm

Photo of James PatersonJames Paterson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is great to be back for a new parliamentary year. Welcome back, colleagues. I regret to say, though, that it appears the opposition has decided to start the new parliamentary year by taking the low road. Instead of focusing themselves today on weighty matters of state and substantive issues of policy, they've decided to pursue a strategy of personal smear, personal destruction and personal attack. It's a familiar theme for those opposite and I have no doubt that, further on in the taking note of answers debate, we'll hear more of it. As a government, though, we're focused on the things that actually matter to the people of Australia and actually affect their lives.

Senator O'Neill interjecting—

I'll take up Senator O'Neill's interjection about the banking royal commission. The opposition is very focused on playing petty politics here and on point scoring about who called for a royal commission when. They're very fond of pointing out the fact that they called for a royal commission before we did. What they're less fond of admitting to and acknowledging is that, in fact, there was a time when they too opposed a royal commission and when they voted against a royal commission after the Greens first presented a motion calling for one here in this chamber. We could have a debate about who was first in favour of it and who has been in favour of it longest, or we could instead focus on the 76 substantive recommendations made by Commissioner Hayne, how they will improve the lives of Australian people and how they will improve trust in the banking system.

Of course, when the government received the royal commission's recommendations, the opposition made a big song and dance about how we were taking far too long to release the report and far too long to respond to it. Well, in just a matter of days, the government was able to release, in full, a comprehensive response to the banking royal commission and allow the markets and the Australian public to observe our response. The opposition, on the other hand, who have now had twice the length of time that the government took to provide a response, are yet to provide any substantive response to the royal commission. Prior to the release of the recommendations, they said that they would implement them in full. What a careless, unthinking promise that was to make. Actually, now that they've realised that perhaps there might be a recommendation or two in there that they're not completely delighted by—or, more importantly, key constituencies of theirs, such as the union movement and the industry super funds that they control, might not be completely delighted by—they've instead moved to say that they will adopt all 76 recommendations 'in principle', whatever that means. We're yet to learn what that means. Yet they have the gall to come in here, to this chamber and to the other place, and say that this parliament needs to sit for extra weeks so that we can progress the recommendations that they don't even know what they're going to do with yet—quite a claim.

Another observation made today by those opposite, which no doubt we will hear more of this week, is the 26 times which the government is alleged to have voted against a royal commission. I haven't checked that figure; I'm not sure it's right. One figure that I do know is absolutely right, though, is the 22 times that those opposite in this chamber voted for a piece of legislation that their opposition leader and their shadow cabinet are now desperately trying to amend in the lower house because they've realised the disastrous consequences of that bill.

Every single one of you voted for a bill that your leader and your shadow cabinet now acknowledge could have allowed child sex offenders, murderers and other criminals to come to Australia without any recourse for the minister to prevent that from happening, without any recourse at all. You voted for a piece of legislation 22 times that even the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, recognises now is a dangerous piece of legislation that urgently needs to be amended in the House of Representatives. If they're successful in doing that, I hope when it comes back here that at least some of you have the decency to stand up and admit how wrong you were to hastily vote for a piece of legislation that had been poorly drafted, that had been ill-thought through. The advice of security agencies had not been sought before deciding on those votes; that is on your heads. It is on your heads, not just what you proposed to do but the legacy from your government.

As we heard in question time today, 1,200 deaths at sea occurred under your watch when you last tried to weaken our border protection laws, 50,000 people arrived by boat when you last weakened our border protection laws, 800 boats arrived, 17 new detention centres were established and thousands of children were placed in detention, which this government have got out of detention. We've been able to get the kids out of detention and off Manus and Nauru because we put in place, first and foremost, a strong border protection regime that discourages people from getting on boats in the first place. Yet again, you have proven you have not learnt the lessons of history and that you're prepared to make the same mistakes again.

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