Monday, 13 February 2017
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Pauline Hanson's One Nation
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science (Senator Sinodinos) and the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to questions without notice asked by Senators Wong and Sterle today relating to preference arrangements with Pauline Hanson's One Nation.
Last week in this place I described the Prime Minister as
… a man who has sold his soul for leadership. A Prime Minister so weak he’s only allowed to remain in the job for as long as he betrays virtually everything that he ever stood for.
Now, with Malcolm Turnbull's capitulation to Senator Hanson, we can remove the word 'virtually' and confidently declare that this government is undeniably led by a man who has betrayed everything he has ever stood for. Last year in the middle of the election campaign, Mr Turnbull said of Pauline Hanson:
Pauline Hanson is, as far as we are concerned, not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene.
Now he boasts that he and his government will work very closely with One Nation Senators. He defends his Western Australian Liberal colleagues in doing a deal that not only preferences One Nation above Labor but against his own coalition colleagues, the Nationals.
I say to the National Party: I suppose you are experiencing what everybody who has dealt with Mr Turnbull is now finding out about him. That is, he stands for nothing but himself and he will junk any cause, any belief, any friend and even members of his own government if it stands in the way of Malcolm Turnbull's one and only interest, and that is Mr Malcolm Turnbull. This is the man who used to believe in marriage equality; this is the man who used to believe in the Australian republic; this is the man who said that he would never lead a party that was not as serious about climate change as he was. We now see him leading the charge against serious action on climate change. And now, today, the man who just nine months ago promised the Australian people, declared to the Australian people that Senator Pauline Hanson was 'not welcome' is now bending over to do deals with Pauline Hanson, even at the expense of his own coalition colleagues here in Canberra.
Senator Sinodinos defends this backflip because he insists that Senator Hanson and her party are now 'more sophisticated'. Well, you have to wonder whether this is yet another thing that Senator Sinodinos might not be able to recall in the future, because you would have to ask: what is more sophisticated? Is it Senator Hanson's plan to scrap the GST and replace it with a two per cent tax on everything including pensioners and the poor? Is it One Nation's plan to force everyone to sign a prenuptial agreement? Is it her plans to fingerprint everyone in the nation and then force them to provide their fingerprint before they can access Medicare? Maybe it is her belief that vaccines cause autism or that fluoridation amounts to the mass poisoning of the population. Maybe it is her plan to set up a patriotic broadcasting commission or her belief that Australians should be allowed to keep military style firearms in their homes or her admiration for President Putin. Or is it that she is now targeting Muslims instead of Asians?
I thought it was very significant this morning when asked to provide evidence, an answer to the question as to where One Nation had become 'more sophisticated'—to use the words of Senator Sinodinos—the Prime Minister could not name a single policy, not a single one. Because the truth is, when it comes to One Nation, nothing has changed. Nothing has changed since another Liberal leader, with a lot more conviction and more principles than the current leader, declared in 1998 of the then member for Oxley and I quote Mr Howard: 'She is fanning racist sentiment. She is, I believe, appealing to racist sentiment.' And he went on to describe a speech she had given as 'not only an inaccurate, dishonest speech but it verges on the deranged in various places'. As Senator Hanson herself said, just last month, 'my policies have not changed over the years'. At least she is up-front. It is not One Nation who has changed; it is Malcolm Turnbull. He is so desperate to hang on to office he will trade any belief, any conviction and even his own colleagues if he thinks it will buy him a little time.
Today in question time, Senator Sinodinos told the truth. When asked why he believes that One Nation was 'more sophisticated', he said this: 'Let me begin by saying they are more sophisticated because in this chamber since they have been here they have supported important pieces of government legislation.' That is what it all comes down to. This is a government that is prepared to sell out on its principles to do what John Howard was not prepared to do, to trade with One Nation and Senator Hanson, because they are desperate to govern with them and they now believe they will not be re-elected without their support.
Senator Wong, I know you have a sensitivity about One Nation. I know that you have what is bordering upon an unhealthy obsession with Senator Hanson but, Senator Wong, get used to it. You do not decide who gets to represent the Australian people in this chamber any more than I do. The Australian people make that decision and they made that decision at the 2016 election.
At the 2016 election, the Australian people decided to elect four One Nation senators including two One Nation senators from my state of Queensland.
Senator Dastyari interjecting—
I will come back to you, Senator Dastyari. And it is our obligation as senators to deal with all of the people that the Australian people send to this chamber. The Australian people decided that the government should not have a majority in the chamber. The Australian people decided that the opposition should not have a majority in the chamber so they gave the balance of power, as they more often than not do, to the crossbench. One of the largest elements of the crossbench is the One Nation Party. We are not doing our job if we do not respect the fact that the Australian people sent every one of the 76 of us into this chamber with the expectation that we would deal with each other, not that we would agree with each other, because there are many issues—I daresay most issues—in which I profoundly disagree with Senator Hanson. But, nevertheless, unlike Senator Wong, I do find it perfectly easy to treat her with professional courtesy. Unlike Senator Wong, who, in an unprecedented display of petulance, actually walked out and boycotted Senator Hanson's maiden speech.
Dead right, she interjects. This chamber, ever since 1948, has been elected on a proportional representation franchise and that means, as we know, that it is a rare occasion that the government has a majority. So every government whether it be Labor or whether it be Liberal has an obligation, not out of anything other than respect for the Australian people, to deal with all elements of the crossbench and in doing so—unashamedly doing so—we do not say we agree with them. There are occasions on which the government last year accepted support from the Greens. We do not have any time for the Greens either but that does not mean to say that we do not respect our constitutional obligation to respect the wishes and the decision of the Australian people.
As for you, Senator Sam Dastyari, clownishly yelling out 'shame, shame'. What were you doing last Thursday, Senator Sam Dastyari? Because I am reliably informed that you were in Senator Hanson's office trying to do deals with her. So let us not have any crocodile tears from you, Senator Sam Dastyari, because that is what I am told.
That, Senator Dastyari, is what I am told.
In the short while left to me, let me touch on one issue that Senator Wong raised in her contribution, and that is the question of marriage equality. She attacks Mr Turnbull for allegedly reversing his position on marriage equality; he has done nothing of the sort—unlike Senator Wong, who in 2010 was an advocate against marriage equality and has now rediscovered herself as an advocate in its favour. Last Saturday was 11 February. That was the date on which we were supposed to have a plebiscite on the question of marriage equality—
Another Labor administration in the ACT cannot keep the lights on.
Nobody doubts that, had there been a plebiscite, there would have been a vote in favour of marriage equality, and we would have had marriage equality legislation before this chamber today. But, because Senator Wong with overwhelming moral cowardice was prepared to sacrifice the interests of gay people to the political games that Shorten bade her play, we do not have marriage equality today. That is thanks to the likes of you, Senator Wong. (Time expired)
What an extraordinary rant we just saw there from Senator Brandis. It goes to show that he misses the point of what this is all about. Once upon a time there were Liberals and Nationals in this chamber who were prepared to stand up and call Senator Hanson out when she was making racist and bigoted comments. That is not what we see from the Liberals and Nationals today. Instead we see the complete opposite. They are prepared to go out of their way to do deals and legitimise One Nation. We will absolutely stand up against them and highlight the damage that they will do to Australian society.
What we have seen over the last 24 hours is an astonishing about-face from the Liberal Party in a concerted effort to justify their decision in Western Australia. It is pretty obvious that the key word from the Liberals has been 'sophisticated'. They have used that repeatedly in the media and they have also used it in this chamber today. They claim that One Nation is more sophisticated. Let's look back to 1998 when we were last dealing with One Nation. What did we see? We saw racism, cheap populism and demonising of minorities. We still see exactly the same today, only with some conspiracy theories added to the mix. Even the discredited two per cent 'Easytax' has made a comeback. This is what we are seeing from One Nation. The only thing that is more sophisticated is that they use Facebook Live to espouse these same views. Use of a social media platform does not make one more sophisticated, especially when those views belong deep in the dark ages of Australia.
It is not One Nation that has changed; it is actually the modern Liberal Party. Senator Wong hit this nail right on the head. It is ironic that the leader of this effort to make a deal with One Nation has been Senator Sinodinos. Senator Wong correctly identified that he has at times had a dodgy memory. We are all well aware of this. Clearly he remembers none of the lessons from when he worked with former Prime Minister John Howard. John Howard was someone who was prepared to stand up and advocate that all Liberal parties—not only the national Liberal body but also all state Liberal parties—put One Nation last. That is what a leader of the Liberal Party did at the national level back in the nineties.
But in question time Senator Sinodinos let the cat out of the bag. He was clear that his view of their being 'sophisticated' is based on One Nation's support of the government in the Senate. That is what the government are relying on. They are so desperate to keep their threadbare agenda going and to stave off leadership tensions inside the Liberal Party that they are willing to deal with anyone to keep the government afloat. Senator Brandis's performance was very, very mediocre. When you compare it to Liberal leaders of the past, his failure to condemn what the WA Liberal Party has done was a very, very poor effort.
Today we have also seen Nationals speak out about this deal, but they are not speaking out about the Liberals doing a deal with One Nation; all they are speaking out about is that they put One Nation ahead of the Nationals. Once upon a time you used to have giants of the National Party like Senator Ron Boswell, who was prepared to come in here and fight One Nation. Indeed in his farewell speech to the Senate this is something that Senator Boswell said:
In the fight of my life, against Pauline Hanson, I risked everything to stand up against her aggressive, narrow view of Australia. Defeating Pauline Hanson and One Nation in 2001 has been my greatest political achievement.
What a sad bunch this current group of Nationals are in this chamber. They once had a giant of conservative politics in Queensland and in Australia whose defining legacy when he left the Senate was defeating One Nation, whereas all we see here from the current mob are people who are tripping over themselves to do a deal with One Nation and govern with their support.
Again, look at what John Howard said when he was asked about the Western Australian Liberals and whether they should put One Nation last in 1998: 'Yes, I think it was the right decision so you have a uniform, consistent position in the Liberal Party throughout Australia in both lower and upper houses.' He went on to say: 'Let's not deal with the periphery. The Liberal Party which I lead will put One Nation last.' (Time expired)
Isn't it amazing what comes across this chamber? Wow, you must be really worried about One Nation, because you have spent your time on this—that a preference deal has been done. The whole fact is that Labor have approached One Nation for preferences.
You should know him, Senator Chisholm; you were a former state secretary in Queensland. He called up my staff on 25 January this year and wanted to do a grubby deal with us. Listen to this: Evan Moorhead wanted One Nation to run dead in all Queensland Labor seats and in return Labor would run dead in One Nation strongholds or in seats they had no chance of winning. So don't talk about grubby deals.
The fact is, I will not apologise for being a patriotic Australian—for standing up for Australian values and for the Australian people. So you can do your deals with the Greens, and all the rest of it, who want to see Australian coal destroyed, jobs destroyed and opening up for extremists in this country. Do your deals with them—that is absolutely wonderful! That is not what the people want. It was right when Senator Brandis said that 600,000 Australians voted for One Nation at the last election. Are you saying they all got it wrong? I don't think so.
You should get out your tissues for the tears running down your cheeks, because you have not been able to do preference deals with us. The fact is, you have lost your way in this nation. Whether you have held government in the states or federally you have run this country into the ground. You have gone so socialist with your policies. You have the CFMEU, the unions, running you, so you have no control over your own destiny. People cannot rely on you at all, so don't talk to me about grubby deals.
I have worked hard and I have put my policies out there to the Australian people who voted for One Nation—not only myself, but two senators in Queensland, one in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. It was based on our policies—what the Australian people want.
The Labor Party has well and truly lost its way. I am not going to stand here and support the Liberal or National parties either, because I think they all have a lot to learn about what grassroots Australians really want. From the very beginning I said that when it came down to doing preferences in Western Australia I was going to do what I thought best for getting One Nation candidates elected to the floor of parliament, and that is exactly what I am doing.
I am not here to prop up the Colin Barnett government, and I am certainly not here to ensure that Mr McGowan is elected into the parliament either. That is a decision for the people. When they go to vote their preferences belong to them. The how-to-vote cards are only a recommendation. They belong to the voter. That is my message to the people. I will put myself out there with my candidates. We will put our policies up and the people will decide.
You waste time in this chamber talking about this when we have over 200,000 homeless. I am fighting for the cane farmers up in Queensland who are about to go under—the cattle producers and everyone. And here you are in this chamber talking about One Nation and the preference deal in Western Australia. That is a state issue. It has nothing to do with matters federally. I really think it is pathetic. You should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves for the people watching this to think that you raised this as an issue. The people of Australia will be watching this and they know that I am out there fighting for them and their issues. If I say anything extreme they will judge me. But it is a shame that you have actually judged me because you are in fear of losing your seats to One Nation. I will put myself up against you any time—the Labor Party, the Liberals, the National Party or the Greens—based on my policies and how I fight for the Australian people.
I am going to get in trouble for saying this. My issue is not with One Nation or with Senator Hanson. One thing that Senator Hanson has said is true: this is the same party that it was 20 years ago. They are the same policies and the same views. They have stayed true to what they said 20 years ago as an organisation. My issue is with a Liberal Party that will fundamentally change. Bill Shorten could not have been clearer about this: we will never do a preference deal—have not, will not, shall not and cannot. It is in our platform that we will not.
I quite like Senator Roberts. We disagree on, I think, everything. We have never done a preference deal with them and we will never do a preference deal with them. I cannot believe that it has fallen to me to talk about the great legacy of John Howard when it came to preferencing One Nation.
I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate has had some choice words in the past about the former Prime Minister. But on this issue the former Prime Minister was incredibly strong. Yes, it took Prime Minister Howard a while to come around, but when he did in 2001 he said, 'My view on one nation preferences is very clear. They should be placed last on every Liberal Party how-to-vote around the country.' He even went on to say, 'Flirting with One Nation will damage the Liberals.' But it is this notion that these extremist views are acceptable, that they are mainstream.
My issue is not with them. They are entitled to those views, and they have been strong and consistent. What has changed? The only thing that has changed is that you have become desperate. The only thing that has changed is that you need them in this chamber. It's funny how none of the National Party senators are here defending it. The National Party in Western Australia has most definitely been thrown under a bus. National Party in Western Australia was the long-term coalition partner with the Liberals. We heard what Barnaby Joyce had to say this morning about all of this—they certainly were not the nicest of words. But to do that based on no principle! How is it okay that, 'We are being swamped by Asians,' has now been replaced by, 'We are being swamped by Muslims'? How does that make it acceptable? How does that make it okay? How does a party policy platform that has been consistent for 20 years and holds views that are abhorrent make it okay?
There was this notion that was being projected by Senator Sinodinos on the weekend, which I found despicable—the idea that it is because they have changed They have not changed. They will tell you they have not changed. They are the same party they have always been. And that is why since 1996, on every single how-to-vote, the Labor Party has seen to it that the One Nation party is placed with the other fringe bottom dwellers at the bottom of our how-to-vote ticket—every single one. We have been clear with them and they have been clear with us, because the ideological divide could not be greater. I respect them as individuals. I quite like some of them as individuals, but that does not mean that our policy agenda, their views and my views are alike.
Senator Brandis, I actually think you have had quite a respectable tenure, but if this is a Liberal Party that will go that far, to that extreme, I think you are going to look back on this period and it is not going to be a period of pride for the Liberal Party, just as in the Labor Party, when we look back on eras like the Calwell era, we look back with a sense of shame. Prior to the Whitlam resurrection, if you will, the Labor Party was founded with White Australia as our founding principle. It is not something we are proud of. We should acknowledge that. I believe this will be looked back on as the Labor Party looks back on that dark chapter of our own history.
So say you, Senator Dastyari. I want to start with the points that Senator Brandis made and this convenient ignorance around democracy and the fact that there were enough Australians who voted for One Nation senators to represent them in this Senate.
Senator Dastyari interjecting—
You do not like that, and I am glad that you conveyed your message to One Nation voters that their votes are worth nothing. It is quite disappointing that you have lowered yourselves to that level, that this is the disappointing point you made in the debate today and that you have highlighted this as the most important take out of question time—some insider political deal that you have asked your first two questions about. You are making this the issue you want to talk about. I understand that is what the MPI is about this afternoon. But to suggest that because the government, because of what democracy has delivered on the crossbench, needs to work with crossbenchers, a mature parliament—
Senator Dastyari interjecting—
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy President. I have to confess that I did not give Senator Dastyari the silence he probably deserves. The point I was making is that to suggest that because a government which recognises democracy, given a vast array of different views on the crossbench, is working with them we are somehow 100 per cent agreeing with what they believe in and stand for is just ridiculous. I cannot overstate my disappointment when it comes to the fact that the Labor Party in this place, the alternative government—maybe one day—have chosen this issue to spend time on today. It goes to exactly what people are sick and tired of hearing of in this place.
Today I had the opportunity to reflect on an article in The Australian. In fact it was yesterday. It referred to a couple of comments that the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, made with regard to some activity in the other place last week. It refers to Mr Shorten trying to reset the political debate by pledging to take the high road:
Conceding he did not always stick to the standard he sought to apply, the Opposition Leader declared the government was "on notice" and Labor would not "take the low road".
I must have missed something, because here you have the opposition picking something, an insider issue that actually does not matter to Australians. It is not health, it is not education and it is not jobs. It is insider political deals that they are worried about today. How is that going to advance our cause? He says in the same article:
… voters were "sick and tired" of the leaders' "petty schoolyard arguments" and squabbling over issues "that has nothing to do with them".
Mr Shorten said:
The message is loud and clear to me since I left parliament (on Thursday) and people here today—
wherever he was—
were reiterating it: Bill we want the politicians, you and Turnbull, to focus upon our issues, the issues of the people.
I want to know which people they went to meet with over the course of the weekend, since he got this message loud and clear from voters, who wanted to bring up what is happening in Western Australian politics and whether the coalition is doing a deal with one party or another. I do not think many punters raised that with them.
I am pleased that Senator Polley is here, and Senator Urquhart as well, because in my home state of Tasmania a well-known radio presenter, Brian Carlton, made mention of this this morning. He sort of roughly echoed Mr Shorten's sentiments, which sadly have gone out the window insofar as Labor tactics today have gone. But on his program just this morning, he said, 'Just on politicians who tell us they understand, they get what we are banging on about when we say, "Guys, guys, you've lost touch; you're really not dealing with issues that affect people."' 'So what are they doing today?' he asks. 'They will go: "Yes, yes, yes, we will pay more attention. We'll get things right. It's all about you guys."' 'So what are they arguing about today?' he asks. He says, 'Today's big argument is preference deals, preference deals for the Western Australian election.' And he expresses nothing but disappointment in the fact that the political representatives from his home state are spending their time talking about this. And here we are today, using up the take note debate, to talk about this specific issue. So while power prices are spiking, as he says, the NBN switch is going to cost extra, fuels are up et cetera, he says, 'This is what opposition politicians are asking about: preference deals in Western Australia.' And I say: get out of the gutter and start focusing on real issues like you said you would. (Time expired)