Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Australian Greens

8:38 pm

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight as a witness—the only witness, if you believe the reports in The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Vine and The Guardianto the hypocrisy, duplicity, pretence and double standards that we heard recently in this chamber from Senator Ludlam. These are adjectives that I do not mention lightly, but I have to say that too many Australians have come to associate them with the Australian Greens.

One can only question why my presence in the chamber during Senator Ludlam's contribution was noteworthy, rather than my speech on the incidence of forced underage marriages in Sydney, which I gave, I think, when Senator Moore was in the chamber. I still lament the physical and psychological suffering of those girls who are subject to underage marriage. Whilst my resolve on this issue does not waver, I feel impelled to air my concerns and the concerns that many Australians have shared with me about Senator Ludlam's diatribe.

My colleague Senator Sinodinos, and Senators Brown and McEwen from the opposition benches, were also present for Senator Ludlam's vicious and malicious tirade, but I note that their presence was not reported by the media. Instead, the media chose to report such gems of spite and malice as:

Prime Minister, you are welcome to take your heartless racist exploitation of people's fears and ram it as far from Western Australia as your taxpayer funded travel entitlements can take you.

While we are on the topic of taxpayer funded entitlements, it should be noted that Senators Cash and Johnston are fulfilling their responsibilities as ministers and as senators representing the state of Western Australia—and I have to say that taxpayers have every right to expect that of them.

Given the collapse of the Green vote, as evidenced in Tasmania, I muse about whether a seat up the front of QF719, the 7.10 pm direct flight to Perth this evening, is where Senator Ludlam might be. In last year's federal election, the Greens lost around half a million votes. In last Saturday's Tasmanian state election—and I would like to take this opportunity to extend my full and hearty congratulations to Premier-elect Hodgman and his terrific team—the Greens' support collapsed to 13 per cent. This is not just symptomatic of Tasmania. It is a key performance indicator for the Greens brand across Australia. Who would have thought their woes could be attributed—and I cannot believe I am saying this—to the absence of the former leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown?

The Australian Greens remind me of the free-range chooks that my parents had in their back garden: when one of the chickens is decapitated, it keeps on staggering around, living, notwithstanding the fact that it lost its head some minutes before. In recent times, we have seen a number of examples where the Greens have lurched from one slump to another. Here, in the 2012 ACT election, as my colleague Senator Seselja will well attest, the Greens lost a third of their vote. In a typical parasitical fashion, the Greens recorded small triumphs in New South Wales and South Australia at the expense of their alliance partners, the Australian Labor Party—just like ticks on a sheep, dare I say. It has been speculated that any retention of the Greens vote in South Australia was due to disillusioned Labor supporters looking for a refuge in the flotsam and jetsam of the Left. In the words of the most well-known whip in popular culture—and for those who do not follow House of Cards, I recommend you tune in—'You may think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.'

It is quite amusing to hear Senator Milne try to rationalise and defend the rapid decline in support for the Australian Greens. 'Blame Labor,' says Senator Milne. 'No-one liked us sharing power with them.' I have to say it is pretty funny, but I could have sworn that I heard the same defence coming from the Rudd and Gillard governments when they were trying desperately to excuse their abysmal polls. How silly of us to assume that a resounding election defeat should be a comment on a party's management or mismanagement, organisation, accountability, transparency and policy objectives. Indeed, we should all borrow Senator Milne's rose-coloured glasses and muffle our amusement when she says:

… this will be as good as it gets for Tony Abbott and the Liberals.

This brings us to Western Australia. It is little wonder that Senator Ludlam got a little hot under the collar a fortnight ago. In the Western Australian state election last year, the Australian Greens lost a quarter of their vote.

In that state, under the leadership of Premier Barnett and his Liberal team, they have seen the economic impairment and mutilation that has plagued Tasmania under the Greens experiment. Tasmania's record levels of unemployment and fiscal stagnation show us that the Greens are not to be trusted with any form of economic responsibility. It speaks volumes of the coalition's track record and the exceptionally strong economic team in the Abbott government that the Tasmanian people have resoundingly entrusted the Hodgman team to clean up after the Labor-Greens fiscal vandalism. Time and time again, it falls to this side of the political spectrum to pick up the pieces after a Labor-Greens break-up.

When people are up against it, when their backs are against the wall, things can get nasty—and things certainly got nasty on Monday, 3 March. One of Senator Ludlam's many deceptive remarks was:

… the Abbott government will appear as nothing more than a thin, greasy layer in the core sample of future political scientists drilling back into the early years of the 21st century.

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

What a load of drivel.

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is utter hogwash, and I take the interjection from my colleague Senator Fierravanti-Wells, who said, 'What a load of drivel.' A party that espouses such vitriol should look within itself before casting aspersions on others. Senator Ludlam asked the Prime Minister to leave his 'excruciatingly boring three-word slogans at home'. Maybe Senator Ludlam was a little confused. Maybe the intergalactic flight from the land of his former leader, Bob Brown, and his fellow 'earthians' gave Senator Ludlam a bit of jet lag! Or maybe he is just plain wrong—because on the Greens MPs website you are bombarded with a multitude of excruciatingly boring slogans, such as 'sick of coal', 'rallies for refugees', 'stop government snooping' and 'defend climate action', or, if you want a two-word slogan, 'save Medicare'. It is riveting stuff! But I do not suggest you go there unless you want to waste precious minutes of your time.

No wonder the Australian people are turning away from the Australian Greens quicker than you can say 'carbon tax repeal'. There is no vision for Australia's future, no plan for saving jobs, no action plan to directly help our environment. There are no infrastructure strategies, no transport blueprints, no economic strategies and certainly no plans on that website to help small businesses. There is a policy vacuum coming from the crossbenches, from the Australian Greens, without a doubt. Education policy? Nonexistent. Defence policy? Missing in action. Communications policy? I am going to avoid the pun. It is nowhere to be found.

Senator Ludlam thanked Prime Minister Abbott because:

… every time you open your mouth the Green vote goes up.

I wonder, then, why Senator Ludlam has not spoken about the election result in Tasmania and why he flees this chamber as soon as the carbon tax and the mining tax—two items of business before the Senate that, as I have said, directly impact Western Australia—come up for debate! If there are two policies that directly affect the people in our west, it is those two, yet he is not here to make a contribution to those debates. Nor would he mention today's polling prediction that on 1 July there will be three Liberal senators, two Labor senators and one Palmer United Party senator sworn in to represent Western Australia.

We need only listen to Senator Ludlam's question to my colleague from Western Australia Minister Cormann about the Greens jobs policy. It was pretty breathtaking, listening to that question from the crossbenches—from people who would not know how to run a business if one were gifted to them. We know, and the people of Western Australia know, that to think of the Greens and jobs is oxymoronic, to be straight-up. The Australian Greens have done everything they can to kill the Australian manufacturing industry, to drive Qantas offshore and to make sure that all Australians are struggling under the rising cost of living. If anyone thinks that I am being partisan in suggesting that here, they only have to look at what has happened to the economy of Tasmania since the Greens have wielded such influence in that state.

Tomorrow, my colleague from Victoria Minister Fifield will move a procedural motion that enables the carbon tax and mining tax repeal bills to be put to a vote in the Senate this week. I ask: do Senator Milne and Senator Ludlam want to listen to the Australian people, or do they want to delay this vital vote until after the Western Australian Senate election? The Greens have a number of clear choices in the days and months to come. They can support the interests of Australian workers who honestly want clean unions and a clean building industry, or they can prop up the corrupt union bosses who want business to be conducted as usual. They can continue to pursue foolish, dangerous and peculiar campaigns, supporting Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks movement or advocating for the traitor Edward Snowden.

I urge Senator Ludlam to do his bit for Western Australia and vote to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax. The Australian people have made it known, loud and clear, that they want these taxes gone. They voted with their feet at the federal election last year. The Australian people want action, not prolonged and repetitive filibustering on items of legislation that have been before the Senate since December. In this chamber, we have now been debating the package of carbon tax repeal bills for in excess of 33 hours. I say to Senator Ludlam: do maintain your silence, because it is clearly the only sound policy that the Australian Greens have.

Senate adjourned at 20:52