Senate debates

Monday, 9 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

4:49 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

First, can I ask: would it actually be possible for someone to put forward an MPI which isn't saturated in cliches? There are only 19 words in this MPI and it's got two cliches—two cliches in 19 words. That takes some talent. It's more concerned about passing the buck than coming clean. Is it actually possible to draft something that's clear, simple and direct, that has good grammar and that people can look at and say, 'Yes, I know what that means'? This has all the hallmarks—

Senator Chisholm interjecting—

I'll give you some cliches, Senator Chisholm. It's a dog's breakfast. It's a mare's nest. I can think of some other cliches which are probably not parliamentary. I look at it and think: where is the substance? Is it missing something? There's a comma there between 'accountable' and 'more'. It's as if maybe there were meant to be some words there. Maybe those on the other side couldn't decide whether they wanted to talk about car parks, whether they wanted to talk about robodebt, whether they wanted to talk about the member for Pearce or whether they wanted to talk about something else. It's all froth, to use another cliche. There's no substance in this thing, absolutely no substance in it whatsoever. It's bereft of substance.

If I went down the main street of the area in which I'm located, in Springfield, and I asked, 'What do you think is a matter of public importance?' I don't think I would come across anyone who would say that this nonsense is a matter of public interest or public importance. It's quite the contrary. It's the sort of nonsense which gives all of us in this place a bad name—the sort of cliched nonsense that gives everyone involved in politics a bad name, and that is unfortunate. It looks like a group drafting exercise gone wrong. I'm not sure if anyone is going to come clean as to who actually drafted this. I'm not sure whether they're going to take responsibility or they're going to pass the buck. It's a good example of why Thomas Jefferson, when he drafted the Declaration of Independence, was sitting in a room by himself, as opposed to being engaged in a group drafting competition.

Let's go to the substance of the resolution. It was interesting to hear all the different subjects that have been raised during the course of the debate, none of which appear in the MPI or were defined in the MPI. Car parks aren't mentioned in the MPI. The member for Pearce isn't mentioned in the MPI. Certainly the pipeline up at Townsville is not mentioned in the MPI. Of all the matters the debate has traversed in relation to this matter, none of them are actually mentioned in the text of the MPI.

Let's go to the substance, with respect to what substance there is. I think my colleague Senator Rennick hit the nail on the head—to use another cliche—that is, that this is Labor simply playing the man and not the ball, to use another cliche again. Let's see how many cliches Senator Scarr can get in his speech! You got two cliches in 19 words. Let's see how many I can get in my speech in the next six and a half minutes. There's a competition for us!

This is all about the opposition tipping a bucket—there's another cliche—in terms of their political discourse, rather than tackling the substance of the matter. It's all froth. I'll give you a quote, Mr Acting Deputy President, and you tell me—you probably can't tell me from the chair, but you might be able to tell me afterwards—whether or not this quote indicates someone who is not taking responsibility. I hope Australia is listening. Here is a quote from our Prime Minister, Australia's Prime Minister:

I take responsibility for the early setbacks in our vaccination program. I also take responsibility for getting them fixed and that we are now matching world's best rates, with more than a million doses every week.

'I take responsibility.' How can you say our Prime Minister doesn't take responsibility? There's a quote: 'I take responsibility.' How is that someone not taking responsibility? 'I take responsibility.' I just don't get it. I don't get it.

In terms of being held accountable, the Prime Minister fronts up every day this parliament is in session. He turns up at question time and gets stones thrown at him—there's another cliche, or maybe it's a metaphor—by those opposite. Bricks are thrown at him from the sidelines, and he answers. He provides answers on the record which are broadcast to the Australian people. How is that someone not being responsible and accountable? I just don't get it. If you've got a prime minister—or anyone—who says, 'I take responsibility,' then they've taken responsibility. Hold them accountable, sure, but don't say that they haven't taken responsibility when they clearly have taken responsibility, because that's disingenuous and it misrepresents the facts of the matter. Those opposite should deal with the facts of the matter as opposed to dealing with some sort of fictional set of circumstances which don't apply.

The Prime Minister has taken responsibility. He can also take responsibility for the fact that this country has, based on projections, saved more than 30,000 lives during this pandemic. He can also take responsibility for the fact that, through JobKeeper, over three million Australians were assisted through the pandemic. He can also take responsibility for the fact that one million Australians were back in work after the JobKeeper program was lifted. He can also take responsibility for the hundreds of millions of dollars of support which the federal government is providing to people in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and, indeed, all jurisdictions hit by the lockdowns which are occurring.

The Prime Minister does take responsibility. He should take responsibility and it's important that he does so, but don't act as if our Prime Minister is not taking responsibility when the clear evidence and his direct quotes are to the contrary. Let's bear in mind that throughout this pandemic the Prime Minister has taken the best technical and expert advice that has been available. He has taken the best technical and scientific advice that has been available, including with respect to the vaccine rollout program—as he should. He obtains the advice from the best sources of that advice, he considers it and then he acts upon it. And then things can come. Things can arise. Circumstances change, such as the delta variant, and then you have to respond to the changed circumstances. Those opposite don't have to respond to changing circumstances—they're always the same. In the two years and one month that I've been in this place it has always been the same—the carping negativity. It doesn't change. The circumstances change but the carping negativity never changes. It never changes. They're just throwing rocks and bricks from the sidelines, and the Australian people see that.

You could have come into this place with a well-drafted MPI and actually spoken about a matter of substance, a matter that was truly a matter of public concern. But, no, you've forgone that opportunity, and it's all about base politics saturated in cliches. What a great shame. You could have come into this place and talked about the geopolitical situation the world is facing. You could have come into this place and talked about the mental health issues this country is facing and the best way for us to do things such as address the youth suicide rate in the Somerset Regional Council. Lowood has one of the highest youth suicide rates in this country—it's an absolute disgrace. How do we address that? How do we get all the agencies working together? How do we get the public sector agencies, the non-government organisations and our whole community mobilised to address the suicide rate in places like Lowood? That's something which is of concern to the Australian public.

Infrastructure spending is something that is of concern to the Australian public. We in Queensland—and Senator Roberts will know—are all sitting there waiting for the Queensland government to actually build some effective infrastructure apart from the Cross River Rail tunnel, but all their eggs are in the same basket—there's another cliche. About three or four electorates in the whole of Brisbane are going to get trains that will be maybe 10 minutes earlier because of the cross-river tunnel. What about the rest of Queensland? That's a matter of public importance. Why is it that my home state of Queensland has the lowest infrastructure spending per capita of any state in Australia? There's a matter of public importance, Senator Chisholm. Do you know why? Because they're broke. They managed to go through the biggest mining boom the world has ever seen and end up going backwards in terms of debt. It's an absolute disgrace. They have too many media and public-relations flunkies in the Premier's department and not enough people with picks and shovels actually building things in our home state.

Let's talk about Paradise Dam. That's a matter of public importance. Instead of building a dam they're tearing down Paradise Dam. That's a matter of public importance to the people of Queensland. Any number of matters of public importance are all ignored by Labor. (Time expired)


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