Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Consideration of Legislation
GALLAGHER (—) (): The Labor Party, the opposition, will be supporting Senator Patrick's motion for the suspension of standing orders to bring on the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill. We think it's an important debate to be had. We think that the Australian people rate it as a significant priority for this parliament to deal with matters around ensuring integrity of politicians and other senior officials. It was something that came up before the last election. The Prime Minister promised to deal with it. He promised to implement and create a Commonwealth integrity body, and that was 1,080 days ago. It is clearly not going to be managed by this government, and that is why the Senate has a responsibility, I would argue, to support Senator Patrick, as we have supported other attempts to bring on debate over a Commonwealth anticorruption commission. I would say that it is clear.
I take the speech by Senator Ruston as giving the most detail I've heard about why they don't want an anticorruption body to be put in place. We have heard the constant comments from the government that it's all the Labor Party's fault, that they have merely had their hands tied by legislation that the Labor Party doesn't support. It doesn't seem to stop them from introducing other bills in this place. I think there is a reasonable amount of contested legislation that comes before this chamber that doesn't always have the Labor Party support, and that lack of support hasn't stopped the government. It is only this bill that they've decided to apply this test to: if there is no support from the Labor Party then they will not introduce it. The reality is they either don't have a bill ready to go or they've got a bill and they're too scared to introduce it into the chamber because they know it will be amended and they will lose the vote on that. That would mean that what would be passed through this chamber and possibly the other place would be a model that the government doesn't have control over.
I think that's the real story: they can't introduce it because they can't guarantee the numbers in the House and they can't guarantee the numbers in the Senate. They can't guarantee the numbers because this deeply divided government has lost control of the parliament, and we saw that reflected in the sitting pattern that was released yesterday. The Senate will sit for three days in the first half of next year—some may like that. The government are prepared to allow the Senate to sit for three days in the first half of next year in this chamber because they are worried that they will continue to lose votes. They have lost their way, they have no agenda and they have managed to divide this parliament to the point that there is a logjam in the Senate because they're unable to get any of their legislation through. That's the reality.
We know that, if there were an integrity commission in place, this government would be at most risk from having that body in place. We've had sports rorts, the Western Sydney airport land, the 'pork and ride' car park rorts. We've had forged documents from ministers. We've had the 'grassgate' affair. We've had robodebt. We've got breaches of ministerial standards and ministers that get rotated off team A, back on the timeout bench and then back in the cabinet as soon as they think they can get away with it. We've got blind trusts, with millions of dollars being given to ministers with no accountability, and we've got a raft of jobs for mates everywhere you look, the last being the chair of Infrastructure Australia, Barnaby's mate being appointed. That is what these people fear. They fear that the rorting funds, where we have calculated $6.9 billion was spent through various funds—the Urban Congestion Fund, the Commuter Car Park Fund, the Building Better Regions Fund, community development grants, the Safer Communities Fund—and where $5.7 billion was directed to coalition or target seats. Eighty-two per cent of billions of dollars of public funds were funnelled for political purposes—not in the national interest, not fairly shared across the country, but for the narrow political interests of the governing party. That is why we need an anticorruption commission. That's why the people of Australia want an anticorruption commission. It's because this government is trashing the standards that existed before that people could trust. There is no trust. We need it, and that's why the opposition will be supporting the suspension.