Senate debates

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Energy, Morrison Government

3:28 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

What an interesting debate. We're hearing about all the things that the government are doing, yet they are spending their entire time fighting each other. We had the comments from Senator Cormann earlier. In actual fact, I agree with Senator Cormann that Senator Canavan got it wrong when he said, 'Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system.' We're on a unity ticket! We think that that comment is stupid, and the Minister representing the Prime Minister also thinks it's stupid. But the Liberal and National parties are boxing it out. Why is the fact that they are boxing it out so important? Because the economy is in some serious trouble. It was reported late last week that non-paying creditors have jumped by 29 per cent, and that defaults have increased to 64 per cent in 2019 in the transport industry. In 2019, health care went up by 79 per cent. The economy is in trouble, and this is not postcoronavirus and not post the bushfire challenges; these are the problems which exist because this government is in an absolute mess.

We heard a comment before about robots. I think what we're seeing across the other side of the chamber are the robot wars. They're battling it out amongst each other, trying to tear each other's arms off, rather than trying to get the economy to start ticking over in a fashion that everyone needs it to. We see that wages growth is not moving. We see that there is no plan to deal with systematic wage and superannuation theft. We see chronic underemployment—over two million Australians can't get the hours that they're seeking. There is no plan for the economy and there is no plan for energy, but there is a plan for the robots about how to bash each other up and tear each other's arms off. Unfortunately, we're seeing that day in and day out.

I think that universally people thought Tim Fischer, the former leader of the National Party, was a pretty good bloke. He was admired right around the country. And I think his wife has also been greatly admired. According to reports today, it was her pleas for unity that the currently embattled leader, Michael McCormack, was forced to deliver to the divided coalition room. She told Mr McCormack that her husband would 'want us all to stand firm together'. That's an obvious point! That was because the challenges in the economy are significant, and yet the government is spending its time tearing itself apart.

To see the National Party holding a vote for the deputy leader on the same day that we were making condolences for many of their own constituents and for many Australians who fought on behalf of so many others—putting their lives on the line and sometimes losing them—was an absolute tragedy. We have to turn around and look at the sorts of changes that we can make together. But I would say this to the coalition first of all: can you start working out what you're going to do rather than spending your time beating the living daylights out of each other? I agree with Minister Cormann: we have to have a position to make a difference in this parliament, not just an opportunity to watch the other side turn around and tear itself apart.

I know that when we have this number of defaults and creditors in the trucking industry it means that people start losing jobs. The government has no plan. I note that when there are wage freezes and underemployment that people can't provide for their families. But the government has no plan! I see $6 billion being ripped off from the Australian community in billions of dollars of superannuation and wages, and that the government has no plan to recoup it. It's quite clear that all this government has is a plan on how to beat the living daylights out of each other. We've seen this time and time again.

We've seen that with the sorts of divisions there were when Mr Abbott was Prime Minister. We saw the divisions when Mr Turnbull was the Prime Minister. In actual fact, we were reminded by Senator Cormann about his time in the Turnbull government. Well, we're finding the exact same issues right now: fighting at a time of crisis. This is when we need to be making sure that this country is put first, but the divisions in the government and within their parties— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

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