Senate debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020; Consideration of House of Representatives Message

8:11 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

That says something about the debating style, doesn't it? You can defend on a technicality but not on the ethics, because you know this bloke relied on a forged document and doesn't have the decency to front up. But he's still there. That's respect for the parliament under Scott Morrison. Do you want to know the second name? It's Senator Richard Colbeck—censured by this chamber, turns his back on the Senate chamber when he's asked to explain his role as minister when so many Australians have died. And now we have the representative of the Prime Minister coming in and doing Mr Morrison's bidding, obediently trotting in here and saying, 'We have to respect the parliament, so we don't want you to insist on the amendment.'

What this really shows us is the pettiness of this Prime Minister. What it really shows us is the pettiness of this Prime Minister. He doesn't want to compromise. This is a provision—I'll say it again—that the minister told the opposition she had no problem with. I accept that they've been come over the top of—your Senate team. I accept that those in the PMO who advised Mr Morrison have said, 'No, we can't possibly compromise.' But the reality is that she knew the truth of it. She knew the truth of it—that the amendment that was moved by this chamber simply put the minister in the position she was in already, whereby she had the discretion to extend the supplement. That's the pettiness of the Prime Minister.

He's a bloke who pretends to be the daggy dad. But you know what he actually is? He's a bloke who never holds a hose. He's the bloke who never holds a hose. He's the bloke who never takes responsibility—never takes responsibility. It's always about the optics and the photo shoot and the headline and the story, and never about the reality. We see that here again today. We see that here again this evening, where he can't even cop an amendment that his minister knew was acceptable because he doesn't want to have a loss. Really? That's what we want the leader of the country focusing on? This message and these reasons for the decision demonstrate very clearly the sort of man that leads this country—prepared to talk about respect for the parliament but not prepared to demonstrate it.

I say to the Senate we should vote to insist on this amendment. I will also say—and the Australian Greens know; I made this clear to them before—we had a very productive discussion with the government. I'll come back to that. We have taken a responsible approach to this legislation because we believe we understand how many millions of Australians are relying on the continuation of these payments. So, unlike Mr Morrison, we're not going to play games.

I do want to say something about the shemozzle that we've seen in these last few hours, where the government belatedly realised it did not have the numbers to defeat two amendments and was unable to get those resolved. It was in this context that the discussions were had, where the minister made it very clear that she could live with this amendment but not with the other one. To her credit, she did what was requested of her. She explained to the chamber—to the Australian Greens and to the Australian Labor Party—why the government could not live with the second amendment. It was a shemozzle, and the government should have sorted it out earlier and should have explained it earlier; it should have made sure that it could actually run the procedure and the numbers. But, leaving that all aside, we didn't make a big song and dance about it, and we tried to find a way through because I understood what she was saying and so did Senator Siewert. How is this chamber met by the Prime Minister in the face of that cooperation? He's given us the proverbial finger. Let's be clear, he has. This statement of reasons makes it really clear: there is no substantive reason why the government can't accept this amendment that has no practical effect. The minister knew that and she told the truth. The only effect is on the Prime Minister's, Mr Morrison's, ego.

The fact that he's prepared to do this, in this way, with a bill that is about support for so many Australians, says something about his character. It says something about what his priority is, because it isn't the people who are supported by the bill. It's himself. And that's the consistent theme, isn't it? It's always about him—how he looks, the spin bike, the daggy shorts, the chicken coop. All these great picfacs are always about him, not about the people we're supposed to be helping and representing, and, in this bill, not about the people who are doing it tough. It is pathetic. It is a pathetic display—first, an incompetent display from the government, but we all make mistakes; worse, a display of pettiness and lack of character from the man who's supposed to lead the nation. 'I don't hold a hose, mate'—that's who he is.


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