Senate debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020


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

8:26 pm

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Let's just turn to the words in the message from the House of Representatives: 'It is important to respect the parliament.' I want to pick up on the word 'respect', because this is a government and this is a prime minister who do not understand what it is to respect. The do not understand what it is to respect the Australian people, to respect hardworking Australians who are doing it tough during this pandemic. We know that right now in Australia there are 1.5 million people on JobSeeker. We know that there are two million Australians—our fellow citizens—who are relying on the coronavirus supplement. While there is promising news about vaccines, we don't know when a vaccine is going to come. We don't know what is going to happen in the economy over the next few months. We know the government spent $15 million to come up with one word, 'comeback'. They think the economy is coming back. They made a $15 million bet that it is. But we know the snapback didn't occur. We don't know that the comeback is going to occur, and that's why this chamber, this Senate, believes it is important that the minister have the power for discretion to respond to changing circumstances. She doesn't have to use it, but she should have that power and she has even agreed she should have that power.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is correct. We are here because the Prime Minister respects only one thing: his own ego and his own standing in the community. He doesn't care about Australians who are doing it tough. If we want to talk about the lack of respect from this Prime Minister, let's talk about the lack of respect he has for Australians in aged care. He gets delivered a report called Neglect from the royal commission. It talks about older Australians—our parents and grandparents—starving in their beds, with wounds with ants and maggots crawling out of them. Does this Prime Minister respond? Does he allocate money sufficient to give a response? Does he ensure that there is a plan in place when a deadly pandemic hits our shores? Does he deal with the fact that he has an incompetent minister who is censured by this Senate? No. The disrespect that this Prime Minister shows for older Australians in aged care is the sign of his disrespect not just for the parliament but for the Australian people and for older Australians in aged care.

Let's talk about his disrespect for workers. Dnata workers were deliberately excluded from JobKeeper by this Prime Minister and this government. These are Australians citizens who paid Australian taxes and worked hard in Australian jobs, but this Prime Minister disrespected them and discarded them from JobKeeper. Let's talk about the Qantas workers. This Prime Minister disrespected them. Two thousand Qantas workers got the sack this month. They got the sack. Their jobs were outsourced; their jobs didn't disappear. Let's understand this: this wasn't a pandemic problem; this was a privatisation and outsourcing approach by Alan Joyce and Qantas, and they were allowed to do it by this Prime Minister.

An opposition senator: And they got JobKeeper.

Qantas was given JobKeeper by this government. What did it do? This government stood by, with no plan for aviation, no plan for workers, and let Qantas disrespect. So don't talk to me about respecting the parliament, Prime Minister. You haven't shown respect.

You're not showing respect to the victims of the bushfires. You told us you don't hold a hose, Prime Minister. You haven't even had the decency to deliver one cent—one cent—out of the emergency relief fund for bushfire victims. People are still living in caravans on the South Coast of New South Wales because this Prime Minister disrespects the trauma of their experience.

And let's talk about the lack of respect that this Prime Minister has for First Nations people. He has fundamentally rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the First Nations Voice to the parliament, the makarrata commission. They have rejected every cry from the heart from First Nations people. Shame on them! Shame on them! And then there was the most appalling display last night as we listened. I was inspired and I was proud to be a senator in this chamber with the likes of Senator McCarthy, Senator Dodson and First Nations senators from the Greens and the Independents, who stood in this chamber and spoke from their experience in their communities about the racist nature of the cashless debit card. Don't talk about respect, Prime Minister, when you have fundamentally disrespected the oldest continuing culture on earth, our First Nations people. You have rejected their voice and you have disrespected them.

And let us talk about the Prime Minister's lack of respect for veterans. Veterans and their families know the scourge of veteran suicide. They have called for a royal commission; they have demanded a royal commission; they have pleaded for a royal commission. What did this Prime Minister do? Did he respect their views? Did he listen to them? No, because it's all about him. If he hasn't had the idea first, it's not a good idea. If he can't claim credit for it, if there's not a marketing campaign in there for him, he just rejects it. There's no respect from this Prime Minister for our veterans. Don't talk to us about respect, Prime Minister. Don't send a message to this Senate about respect.

Let's talk about the lack of respect for workers who helped us through this pandemic: nurses, teachers, cleaners, childcare workers, police officers, aged-care workers. What does he do? What's his Christmas present to them? It is an industrial relations bill that will cut their pay. The Morrison pay cut, that's what workers are getting: WorkChoices 2.0. It is in their DNA. He has disrespected the workers who put themselves on the line, put their health and wellbeing on the line, to ensure that Australians were able to have fundamental services. Retail workers, grocery store workers, the people who stock the shelves, the truck drivers—all of these people are going to get the Morrison pay cut for Christmas.

Don't talk to us about your respect, Prime Minister, and the esteem you hold it in. If you had respect for people you would never have introduced robodebt when you were the social services minister. If you had respect for people, you would have woken up to the fact that thousands of Australians were dying after they got robodebt notices. This is the Prime Minister who invented robodebt, proclaimed robodebt and banked his false surplus off robodebt. So don't talk to us about respect, Prime Minister. And, if you really had respect, you'd hold your ministers to account. Richard Colbeck has been censured by the Senate. Angus Taylor created fake documents and was never able to explain where they came from. Come on! What happened to ministerial accountability here?


No comments