Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Coalition Government

2:32 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the administration of the Commonwealth—namely:

That the Senate:

(a) has no confidence in the Government;

(b) notes that the Government can change its leader, but it can never unite its party; and

(c) calls on whoever is the Prime Minister to visit the Governor-General by no later than 5 pm today to call an election immediately, so the people can decide who runs this country.

Leave granted.

I thank the Senate. It is very clear from question time today why we should suspend and why we should debate this motion and why we should express no confidence in this government. It is very clear from question time today that Australia does not have a functioning government. Australia does not have a functioning government. We have a rabble of self-interested people masquerading as the representatives of Australia. We have a Leader of the Government in the Senate who could not even answer the simple question of how many ministers there are. They don't even know how many ministers they have left in their cabinet and in their executive. We have a leader of the National Party up here who couldn't even say in whom he had confidence as Prime Minister. He just said 'whoever it might be that the Liberal Party choose'.

The fact is, Mr President and members of the Senate, we don't have a government; we have a rabble. We have a self-interested rabble. Just look at the benches opposite where we sit. We can see that they are disunited. But do you know the one thing on which they're united? They're united on one matter and one matter only: their complete inability to govern. It is the only thing that unites them: their complete inability to govern. We see Minister Cormann, or former minister Cormann—Senator Cormann—the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has resigned; Senator Cash, resigned; Senator Fifield, resigned; Senator Fierravanti-Wells, resigned; and assistant ministers Seselja and McGrath, for those who have heard of them, resigned. This is a government that is now so devoid of talent, so devoid of numbers and so devoid of unity that the most senior minister opposite is Senator Nigel Scullion. Really? Where are we?

But I do want to make this point about what we have seen this week. It has been an extraordinary spectacle. It has been an extraordinary spectacle of disunity, division, personal hatred, enmity and ill-discipline. It has been all of those things. But the most telling aspect of what we have seen on offer this week is this: when you ask the question 'Who matters to the Liberal Party?' you get one answer—themselves. The only people that they care about are themselves. They don't care about working Australians who are struggling with the cost of living; they don't care about pensioners who are trying to pay their electricity bill; they don't care about families who need to see a GP; they don't care about Australians in crowded emergency departments, or nurses run off their feet; they don't care about older Australians, and their families, waiting for home care packages; and they don't care about kids, kids who want a decent education—

Senator McKenzie interjecting

Interject all you like, Senator McKenzie. Every Australian can see what your priority has been this week. It is holding onto government—holding onto government at all costs. It has not been to govern for the Australian people, and that is what we are sent here to do. We are here to represent the Australian people, and you are governing for you and not for them. The only people who matter to the Liberal Party are themselves.

People will remember the famous Menzies speech about the forgotten people that the Liberals always get doe eyed about. You know what? You've forgotten about every Australian but yourselves. You've forgotten everyone but yourselves. That's what we've seen this week, over and over again, with each act of ill-discipline, each act of internal hatred, each act of disunity, which have resulted in a government frontbench which has Barry O'Sullivan down the end. That's what a government that is entirely focused on itself has resulted in: a government incapable of delivering to the Australian people.

It's been a week where we've seen—actually, it started last Friday—a man who is Prime Minister in name only, and the clock is ticking, who capitulated on everything that he said was important. We've seen that over and over again. And then we have Mr Morrison, the man who wanted the corporate tax cuts in the first place; and Mr Dutton, the worst health minister the country has seen and the architect of the GP tax. This is what is on offer to the Australian people. And they can't even sort it out.

One thing I would say is at least this lot in here have bothered to turn up, which is why we've actually got members of the press gallery here. At least we actually had a Senate team who did bother to turn up. Of course, it's because they don't have the numbers to adjourn as yet. In the House, the chamber of government, the government abandoned the chamber. They ran away. They ran away from the parliament because they couldn't field a frontbench and because the Prime Minister of the day had no confidence that he could survive the day—or that the government could survive the day. They didn't even bother to turn up. They are so irretrievably divided, they have no interest in governing and no ambition to govern.

Well, I think Australians have had enough. Australians know that the parliament deserves better, but, most of all, Australians know the Australian people deserve better. The Australian people deserve better. The Australian people deserve a government focused on their needs and not on the selfish, self-obsessed, hatred-filled games we have witnessed minute by minute over this last week.

What is abundantly clear is that those opposite, the Liberal Party of Australia—perhaps a party in name only—cannot provide the leadership that the Australian people deserve. And what I say to them is this: if you can't provide that leadership, instead of running away from parliament and turning up here with this huddle of ministers that you've been reduced to, you should resign. You should resign. You should resign, and you should call an election now. You should call an election so the people have a chance to elect a party who's actually interested in the people themselves and enable the country to be governed by a party that actually looks to the needs of the Australian people, a government that is a stable and united team that is focused on Australians and not on itself, and a government that is committed to delivering what the Australian people need and what the Australian people want: affordable and decent health care; education for all based on ability, not postcode or wealth; decent care for our elderly; decent wages; and proper penalty rates. It is absolutely clear that the only party that would be capable of delivering that government and governing for all Australians is the Australian Labor Party.

2:40 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

What matters most to the people of Australia is policies and outcomes, and this government, this Liberal-National Party government, has delivered good policies and strong outcomes in spades. We as a government stand proud of a strong record of achievement, and we will continue to deliver on behalf of Australian families, on behalf of Australian households and on behalf of Australian businesses.

We already went through in question time—but I am happy to remind the Senate—the significant achievements of this government, particularly in terms of working through the debt and deficit legacy left to us by the Australian Labor Party, to the point where the budget comes back to balance in the next financial year. That's what people expect a good Liberal-National Party government to do, despite the obstruction and the opposition of those opposite, who at every single step of the way, when a budget savings measure was proposed, voted against it. They blocked it. They tried to be the wreckers and the destroyers in terms of repairing the budget. And, notwithstanding all that they did to block the efforts to repair the budget, we are in a position now where because of the good work of an economic team, Mr Morrison, Senator Cormann and Mr Turnbull, and the work, indeed, of Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey prior to that—because of that teamwork over that period of time—the budget comes back to balance, delivering what Australians think a good Liberal and National government should do. We have delivered on that.

Australians believe a good Liberal-National government should, of course, as well focus on jobs and growth, and 'jobs and growth' is not just a slogan we took to the last election; it is a reality, an outcome—some of the strongest economic growth in the developed world, strong economic growth that has actually delivered real benefits for Australians in terms of jobs growth that has overwhelmingly been jobs growth of full-time employment. As well as acknowledging our economic team, I pay tribute to Senator Cash for her work in terms of jobs growth around Australia, for her work as the minister for jobs and the minister for employment in ensuring that we have jobs growth that has helped more Australians enjoy the dignity of work and enjoy the opportunity to get ahead.

But, what's more, those Australians who have now got a job because of what our government has delivered are going to get to keep more of their hard-earned income. That's the critical reform from this government. Because we've managed the economy strongly, because we've achieved strong economic growth, because we've achieved strong jobs growth, we have been able to bring the budget back to balance and still afford to legislate the most far-ranging tax cuts that Australia has seen—tax relief that will affect and benefit all Australian hardworking households and will ensure that Australians, in terms of the income tax they pay, will no longer be forced and pushed into a higher income tax bracket. Bracket creep has been a disease that has afflicted the Australian workplace for too long, and the coalition government has passed legislation to address bracket creep in a significant way.

But guess what? What do the Australian people face when it comes to bracket creep if there were to be a change of government to those opposite? A return to bracket creep, because the Labor Party plan to roll back tax cuts. They plan to roll back the tax cuts that this government has legislated. In rolling back those tax cuts, bracket creep will be back on the deck for hardworking Australians. As Australians work hard, as they seek to get ahead and as hardworking Australians right around the country go out and perhaps work an extra shift or an extra day, do you know one of the reasons they can do that? It's because of our childcare reforms.

This is a virtuous cycle for Australians. We've created more jobs, we've created the environment where wages are growing faster and we've created the circumstance where people can afford to work an extra shift or an extra day. It's because they no longer have to pay so much in relation to childcare costs. Because of our tax relief, they're also going to get to keep more of their hard-earned income. All of that is at threat because of those opposite. Those opposite promise to roll back the tax cuts for Australian households. They promise to roll back tax cuts for small businesses. They, of course, voted against our childcare reforms.

It's not just the Australian economy that will be at risk. We know from past history that, of course, the Labor Party can't be trusted in relation to our national security interests either. In relation to our national security interests, the Labor Party will no doubt, once again, team up with the Australian Greens, and then we will see a weakening of our border protection policies. We've seen that happen before. We know the track record. Do we remember Mr Rudd standing there before the 2007 election, promising that, in terms of economic management, he would be a careful and prudent manager? And yet he blew the budget wide open. He blew the budget wide open, and it has taken five years of hard work and toil to bring it back to balance.

Mr Rudd also promised that, when it came to national security and particularly to border protection, he would keep all of the Howard government's policies. But what happened? Mr Rudd was found to be telling untruths. He lied to the Australian people before that election. Once elected, the Labor Party systematically went about doing what the Australian Greens wanted them to, which was to dismantle those border protection policies. That will happen again. It will happen again as clearly as day follows night. We know that those in the left wing of the Labor Party opposite—and, indeed, some in the right, such as Senator Keneally—want to dismantle the border security policies that have saved thousands and thousands of Australian lives. That will be a live topic when the Labor Party national convention happens. No doubt, that once again it will take backroom deals to stop embarrassing debate in relation to their reforms and their policies.

The Labor Party can come in here and they can seek to try to make this a debate about politics, but this coalition government will ensure that we continue to focus on the things that will matter to the Australian people in terms of good policies and good outcomes. Our careful economic management has delivered a strong economy, record jobs growth, the opportunity for wages growth and the conditions for us to deliver tax relief also allows us to invest in the essential services that Australians rely upon. Despite the lies we hear from those opposite, there is a record and growing level of investment in Australia's health care and in Australia's education system. We do it in a way that balances the budget and invests more in terms of the health and education for Australians. Despite the lies of those opposite—and we remember the Medicare scare campaign at the last election—we have record GP bulk-billing rates. We have some 86.1 per cent in relation to bulk-billing rates.

Perhaps more importantly, we have listed—or amended—some 1,700 medicines on the PBS. The PBS is particularly important in terms of essential services for Australians. It's important because it gives them access to groundbreaking new drugs at an affordable rate. Do you know what a consequence of the last Labor government was? That, as the budget spiralled out of control under Labor, one of the steps they took was to stop listing PBS medicines. They denied Australians the opportunity to access those cheap, groundbreaking new drugs to help with their health care. That's what we saw last time around, when it all went horribly wrong with those opposite. What we saw last time around was that the Australian Labor Party, in losing control of the budget, took panicked measures such as stripping Australians of the right to new drugs that should have been listed on the PBS. This government, this Liberal and National Party government, has ensured that, when recommendations are made through the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, they are acted on. They are acted on!

So what is at risk for Australians? What is a threat from those opposite? Jobs. From those opposite: higher taxes and weaker jobs growth. From those opposite: ultimately, our balanced budget will be destroyed. From those opposite: weaker border protection. We will ultimately see those opposite go down that track record again, whether it's the PBS or something else. But the next election, due next year, will no doubt be another occasion when we will also see the despicable lies of those opposite. We saw that in the last election campaign. Who could forget the way in which they rolled out the 'Mediscare' campaign. They took the Medicare logo and misused it. They took an approach of spreading lies and mistruths to scare vulnerable Australians, pensioners and others. That is what we saw from those opposite. We saw an approach in the last election campaign where they tried to win it based on scare tactics—scare tactics that were completely untrue, and scare tactics that were based on lies.

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

They can't afford to go to the doctor under you!

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator O'Neill was happily out there spreading them, of course. They can sit there screaming and yelling, because for them it's always about politics.

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source


Senator O'Neill interjecting

Order, Senator O'Neill.

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

For us, it's about policies and outcomes. We have worked as a government to tackle difficult issues—difficult, challenging issues. People said that we'd never manage to legislate our income tax cuts, and we did. People said that we would never manage to legislate to reintroduce the ABCC or the Registered Organisations Commission, but we did. People said that we'd never legislate other key reforms the Labor Party and the Greens proposed—reforms in my portfolio area, such as child care—but we did. People said that we'd never manage to legislate to bring the budget back to balance, but we did, through perseverance and hard work. People said that fixing the GST problem was an intractable problem, yet it wasn't intractable, not at all. All it took was hard work from a dedicated team, who came up with a solution that was fair and reasonable to every Australian. I challenge everyone opposite from Western Australia to go back there and try to explain how it is that they never came up with a credible GST policy, yet this Liberal-National Party government did and is delivering it. And that is absolutely to the credit, in this place, of Senator Cormann, Senator Reynolds, Senator Brockman, Senator Smith and Senator Cash. Each and every one of them worked hard in a team to ensure that we delivered that reform.

We tackled other difficult issues, such as the question around same-sex marriage. People said that a plebiscite or a vote or giving Australians a say would never happen. It did happen. It did happen, and we saw a strong endorsement for change, and we saw this parliament then legislate that. Different people expressed their different opinions. That's what you expect on an important social reform like that. But this government provided the framework for that decision to be resolved and to ensure that it was resolved in a way to provide certainty for all Australians into the future.

When we go to an election next year, the Australian people have to make a choice about the next three years. And the choice that they will face is absolutely a choice between the Liberal and National parties, who have shown through our actions to date that we will back their interests. If Australians work hard, we will make sure they keep as much of their hard-earned money as they can. If they want to grow their business, we will make sure the circumstances are there to grow their business. If Australians want to ensure they can start a business, we've created small business tax policies that are more competitive than what those opposite have.

But it will be a choice. Every election is a choice, and I'm going to give the Labor Party one bit of credit. They have released policies for the next election: policies for more than $200 billion of higher and additional taxes. That choice will be whether Australians want to pay higher taxes on their wages. I look around the full public gallery today. I doubt there are terribly many people in the public gallery or elsewhere who want to be paying higher taxes on their take-home wages. The question will be whether Australian retirees want to see higher taxes on their hard-earned savings. Who'd have thought that Mr Shorten would come up with a tax policy that went after the savings of retirees? But there are retirees in the gallery today, and I'll bet they don't want to be paying higher taxes on their savings.

Of course, the Labor Party also has plans for higher taxes on Australian houses. People want to buy an investment property, get ahead and save a little bit for the future. The Labor Party still has a policy that will see higher taxes in relation to people doing that, and the result of that will be higher rents for many Australians and lower property prices—a devaluation of the major asset that many Australian households have.

Australian small businesses face the threat of higher taxes. So many Australians, more than 40 per cent of Australians, work in small businesses, and under the Labor Party they will be paying a higher tax rate in those small businesses than what has been legislated by this parliament, by this Liberal and National Party government. The result of that will be that those businesses have less money to invest, to grow, to create more jobs and to create higher wages.

Of course, in relation to electricity, this government has tackled again the difficult issue of electricity. Just this week, we have announced reforms that build upon the work we had already delivered as a government. We started out by making sure that we fixed issues around network transmission costs—no more gaming of the system by transmission networks and companies in terms of energy policy, but instead a clear, transparent system where they can't gold-plate infrastructure and slug people on their electricity bills for it.

We ensured, in relation to gas prices, that gas prices were brought down—again, something that many said couldn't be done. But this government made sure that it was clear to businesses who were doing the wrong thing by Australians that we would take whatever action was necessary to keep Australian gas here for Australian energy generation, to drive down Australian electricity prices.

We tackled the retail market and this week went even further in relation to the retail market. We have ensured that Australians will get, in terms of electricity bills, a fair default price. No longer will Australian pensioners find that, when they come out of an electricity contract, they have to go through the confusing or difficult choice of what electricity contract to go on. Instead, because of our policy change, pensioners will know and can have confidence that there will be a default price that is a fair and efficient price, and that they will not be able to be ripped off by those electricity companies. We can have confidence that they won't be ripped off by those electricity companies, because we've put strong penalties in place as well. We have said that, of course, what is required is a range of penalties, including the power to force divestment of assets if required—strong penalties to make sure there is clear action in that energy market. We have accepted and are acting on those ACCC recommendations, including ensuring that more generation capacity can be built.

So the choice for Australians could not be starker when it comes to next year's election: a choice between a low-taxing Liberal and National Party government and a high-taxing Labor government; a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where wages will be taxed at a lower rate and a Labor government where wages will be taxed at a higher rate; a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where small businesses will be taxed at a lower rate and a government where houses will be taxed at a higher rate; and a choice between a Liberal and National Party government where electricity bills will be lower and a Labor government where electricity bills will be higher. That is the choice that is on offer. People will not, in the end, risk their jobs, their wages, their homes, their retirement savings and the potential for lower electricity bills on that mob opposite. They will not risk our national security and the border protection of the country on that mob opposite. Because, in the end, Australians care not about the political stunt of this motion but about good policy and good outcomes. And the Liberal and National coalition government has delivered good policy and strong outcomes in spades, and hundreds of thousands—even millions—of Australians are better off as a result of our doing so.

3:00 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I too look at the people in the gallery who have joined us today and the many millions of Australians who are watching what's going on in this parliament. What they're watching is a national embarrassment. It's a disgrace. It's utterly shameful.

We haven't had a stable government in this country for a decade now. I've got a 10-year-old boy, and he's seen half a dozen different prime ministers. We have politicians in this joint who are far more concerned about themselves and their own self-interest than about governing the country. While the Liberal Party have been tearing themselves apart, 100 per cent of New South Wales is in drought; the Great Barrier Reef is on the brink of collapse; there are floods in India; we've got a 12-year-old girl setting herself alight in Nauru; and we've got kids who are in a catatonic state because they've given up hope, locked away in those offshore hellholes. And what's the Liberal Party doing? They're focusing on vengeance and on payback. They're focusing on themselves.

We've got people who can't afford to pay their medical bills right now. We've got young people who are being priced out of an education. There are 100,000 people in this country who are homeless. There are women who fear going home tonight because one woman a week is killed at the hands of a violent partner. And what have we got? We've got this spectacle, this disgrace! You should be ashamed of yourselves. We have people across the country who are suffering, and look what you're doing. You are so focused on yourselves that you have forgotten what the country elected you to do, and that is to govern—for them, not for you. You don't deserve to govern; you deserve to be turfed out. That's what you deserve.

You walked away from climate change. You walked away from an energy policy. You ditched your economic plan. And why? Because those dinosaurs inside your party room held the Prime Minister to ransom, and he didn't have the guts to take them on. And what has he done instead? What has your party done? We now have the prospect of Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison as the next Prime Minister of this country. Things are pretty crook right now, but they're going to get a hell of a lot worse. I fear for those people in this country who have come from overseas, because we're going to have an election that focuses on race, that fans the flames of racism and division. That's what's coming right now. We're going to have an election campaign in which people are divided and neighbour is pitted against neighbour because you haven't got the guts to stand up and lead in this country.

People have a right to be angry. I understand why people feel angry. Of course they're angry. We haven't seen investment in infrastructure. Our roads are choking. We haven't got a waste policy. Energy prices are going up. Of course they're angry. Young people can't afford to buy their own home. We've got young people who can't afford to get an education. No wonder people are feeling crook. No wonder they want to turf this mob out. But, let me tell you: the answer is not your neighbour; it's not the person who's come from overseas; it's not the Italian or the Greek or the African; it's not someone who doesn't share your religion. It's this mob right here that you should look at who are doing the bidding of the big end of town and who are more interested in looking after their corporate mates than they are in looking after the people who elected them to this place.

And there was one person in this place who was more unhappy than those members sitting over there, and it was Senator Hanson. Do you know why Senator Hanson was unhappy? She was unhappy because she has seen a party adopt her policies rather than stand up to her. Rather than taking a stand against One Nation, the Liberal Party are becoming just like them: a bunch of anti-immigrant, climate deniers with no economic plan. You are a disgrace. You should hang your heads in shame. Make no mistake: we are going to take it right up to you mob in the next election. To all those people who are listening right now who feel scared—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Di Natale, I have shown a liberal approach in this debate, but comments should be directed to and through the chair, and members in the other place referred to by their appropriate titles.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Make no mistake: right now many people across this country are frightened and worried about what the next election has in store for them. That speech we heard from Fraser Anning last week is a taste of things to come. When we have a Prime Minister whipping up fear around African immigrants—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Williams, on a point of order.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, you just made a point to Senator Di Natale to refer to those in the other place by their correct titles. I ask that he does the same here as well. Civility costs absolutely nothing.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Very true, Senator Williams. Senator Di Natale, you know the rules of debate. Please refer to people by their appropriate titles.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

When we have the Prime Minister of this country whipping up fears around African immigrants and when we have the potential future Prime Minister of this country saying that bringing Lebanese Muslims into this country was a mistake and blaming refugees for both taking people's jobs and taking welfare, we know what's in store. The next election is going to be an ugly, calculated attempt at race-baiting to win over One Nation voters, who have a right to be angry at governments for letting them down, but the enemy is not their neighbour who has chosen Australia to make their home; the enemy is the political and economic system that has been bought by vested interests and big corporations, who make massive donations to both sides of politics so that they can get what they want—everybody else be damned! That's what we're facing. In a few months we'll be facing an election. I say to the people of Australia, to all of you in the gallery: the Greens are with you. We'll fight them every step of the way, and we will not let them win.

3:07 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The eyes of Australia are watching this chamber at the moment. People in the gallery are watching, and I'm ashamed of what is going on at the moment. I feel that this censure motion put before the parliament by the Labor Party is nothing but political pointscoring. They say there's a dysfunctional government. I disagree. Even today on the floor of parliament we are still debating legislation going through this chamber. Yes, there are problems within the Liberal Party about the leadership, but people in glass houses should not throw stones. How long ago did the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco happen? Even just a couple of months ago, if the Labor Party had lost any of the 'Super Saturday' seats, it would have been facing a leadership challenge by Albanese, so don't throw stones. This is political pointscoring at its utmost. There's no reason for a censure motion.

To listen to Senator Di Natale and his comments—that was a political speech if ever I heard one. You're gearing up for the next election, as if it's just about to break down—my God, talk about fearmongering! All I've heard from the Greens in this place is fearmongering—the reef is dead, they want to shut down farming, they have no problems with vegetation management, the water is rising, we're all going to be flooded, the climate is completely out of control. Scientists say that, if you shut down everything—electricity, cars, traffic, industry—and turn the lights out, nothing will change whatsoever. That's fearmongering if ever I have heard anything.

As far as immigration goes, the Greens want to open the floodgates for unlimited numbers to come into this country, plus refugees, plus they want to give about $12 billion, if not more, away in foreign aid. They don't care; I rarely hear them talk about the people in this country, the struggling farmers or anyone else. All they're worried about are other people in other countries around the world. I suggest to them: get out of this place and seek a political future in another country. All they seem to talk about is people around the world. I will not apologise for wanting the represent the Australian people to ensure they have a decent standard of living and way of life. If common sense prevails on who is the government here to look at the policies that I have put forward, so be it.

The whole thing is that this is a censure motion, and I believe that the chamber should not be shut down. I'm going to call on my colleagues in this parliament: in all fairness, you have to say that legislation in this chamber is still working. The people of Australia expect us to do a job and to be working for them. I say: let's continue to work for them. This parliament shuts down tonight, so let it run its course. Don't shut it down and don't let the Labor political party pointscore with this censure motion; that's what it's about. The Liberal Party will sort out its leadership, but we are still working. We are here as elected senators in this place. We should keep working for the people, because that's what the people in the galleries expect of us—each and every one of them. They expect us to be here working for them. They're sick and tired of this rabble. Even across this chamber, you all sit there and all you can do is scream across the chamber. You are not—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Collins, on a point of order?

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

There seems to be some confusion about the motion that's before the Senate. It is a motion of no confidence, not a censure motion. It seems that Senator Hanson doesn't quite understand what a censure motion is, nor what a no confidence motion is or means to the program.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

You've made your point, Senator Collins. It's on the record now.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take that back; I was wrong. It's not a censure motion but a motion of no confidence in the government. That's not the case. They are still working and, as long as they still are presenting the legislation here on the floor of the parliament, I will support that. I will not be supporting the Labor Party's vote of no confidence in the government at all. It's up to the people of this nation. When an election is called, the people will have their say at the ballot box, based on what this government has done and based on what your policies will be. On your past performances, you have got a lot to answer for. You're not perfect, that's for sure. Your policies have destroyed this country as well. The people have not forgotten. You cannot manage the economy; you have bad economic managers.

Yes, I don't always support the government either. You yourselves also say that the fact is you're not prepared to work for this country. That's because, when you actually have good policies, you are not prepared to back it on behalf of the people of this nation. You actually knock it back. Even on my private member's bill about immigration that I tried to put up here on Monday to debate, what did you do? You censured it; you stopped it. You stopped the debate. You actually would not allow me to discuss that so it could be put it up for the next election for the people of this country to have a say about immigration. You actually stopped it. The Labor Party, with the Greens, supported by Senator Anning's vote, stopped the debate for the people of this country to have a say on immigration. That's because you want to open up the floodgates.

Why don't you tell the people the truth about where your policies are heading? They are feeling the effects of high immigration in this country. They cannot deal with it. The Liberal Party have not dealt with it either. The big elephant in the room, which has such an impact on this country, is high immigration numbers, plus the rising cost of electricity. You sit here in this place, and you're all worried about your jobs—that's what it's all about. You are all worried about your jobs. Here we have the farming sector that is—

Opposition senators interjecting

You don't like it, do you? You don't like it when you cop the truth back.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Address your comments to the chair, Senator Hanson.

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The farming sector is on its knees. Do you know who is coming to their aid? It's the Australian people, donating out of their own pockets, who are giving donations. It's even other farmers who have gone through tough times. They're donating feed and fodder to their fellow farmers, and what have both sides done? You haven't done enough. It's too little too late. The Australian people know what you have done. All you're doing is worrying in this place about your own futures. You're looking after your own backsides. You don't care about the people out there. I hardly ever see you fight and stand up for them.

But I tell you what. Guess what: you're got me for another four years at least, and I'm going to be in this parliament and, whoever is on this side of the chamber, I will damn well hold you to account for the Australian people, because you are not doing the right thing. Listen to what the people want. Lower the rising cost of electricity, look at immigration, stop foreign ownership of our land and the destruction of our industries and manufacturing, and get jobs for our youth. There's no future for the youth in this country. You've done nothing to address that. The Labor Party, again, is going on about apprenticeship schemes and having a go at me. At least I'm trying to do something for them. You've actually destroyed the TAFE colleges. You shut them down. You have done nothing about apprenticeships whatsoever.

I've got to give credit to the coalition on their ABCC bill. Senator Cash fought for that, and that has seen progress in this country, where there was union thuggery and bullying that went on, shutting down businesses. That has now increased in the country.

So I will be here for another four years, and I'll call for accountability in this parliament, and I'll call it for what it is. You know what? The people may not always agree with me, and I'm up-front and honest with them, but they know what I say. They expect the truth out of me, and they get the truth out of me, not like either side here. You only say what suits you. You will only say what suits you, to see where you can get your next vote from. So start to wake up and be representatives for the people in this parliament with truth and honesty.

3:16 pm

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I shall be brief. I'm old enough to remember the days when we all used to laugh at the Italians. We said how often they changed their government, how often they changed their leaders and what a stupid country that was—how irresponsible and what a lousy case of democracy. Tomorrow, it would seem, an elected Prime Minister will not make it to his full term. An elected Prime Minister, I believe—seeing that the people of Australia elected him, whether it be Prime Minister Shorten or Prime Minister Turnbull—was elected by the people and should serve his or her full term in government. I'm sorry that that will not happen, because tomorrow, it would appear, we'll now have either a Prime Minister Dutton or a Prime Minister Morrison or a Prime Minister Pyne or a Prime Minister Bishop. They're all doing the numbers. I'm told they're all doing the numbers.

I will concede that I criticise this government and I vote against this government. I think what they did in the other place today was a bloody disgrace. They have shut down democracy and the workings of the place. I agree with Senator Cameron sometimes, with his 'rabble'. They're a rabble. They're a terrible rabble at times, and they are at the moment. We do not know who's going to be in the ministry tomorrow. We don't know who we're going to ask questions of. I'll concede a bit to Senator Hanson: the government obviously must still be doing some sort of work somewhere. I guess there's a chance we may have a Prime Minister Turnbull if they can't find the 43 signatures. I still say, though, that I believe a government is the government. It should not be up to us, Senator Wong. It should not be up to us to decide when they should go to the polls and when they should have an election.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

Why not?

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Because the people elected this government, Senator Carr, and the government should decide. Whoever the new Prime Minister is tomorrow, he or she should decide when we should have an election.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

Which one? Which Prime Minister? Which one's going to decide?

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't know. Through the chair, Senator Carr, I do not know. We don't know. But, when that Prime Minister is elected by the party room tomorrow, it is up to them to decide when they call an election. It is not for you to call an election and not for me. It is for them.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

The people should decide.

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you want to take the rest of my turn, Senator Carr?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hinch, please continue your remarks. Senator Carr, please!

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Through the chair, let me say that I believe a government should have the right to call an election when they want to, even though they may be so unpopular that we want them to have an election. I'll be voting with the government on this one.

3:19 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

If the Australian people weren't alarmed enough, Senator Hinch has sent a shiver—a horror—through all of their spines by mentioning 'Prime Minister Pyne'. It conjures dread through the country to think not only has our political system become a bit of a laughing stock but that such thoughts could be taken seriously—or even with remote seriousness—in this place.

I perfectly understand why Senator Wong has moved this motion of no confidence. If you look at the government's track record it has been dreadful to say the least. Not only have they refused to deal with some of the issues that need to be dealt with; they've messed around with people's superannuation, they've run a chaotic and dysfunctional government, and they've thrown everything up in the air and said, 'It's on the table', which basically means they've got no firm principles and no framework in which to discount even the most idiotic proposals. We've had a government that has been committed to emissions trading schemes. They've snuck them through. They've discussed a tax on car emissions and a tax on lawnmowers and two-stroke engines. We've got a year's worth of national electricity guarantee work that was abandoned under the face of a bit of a pressure. We've got money being sent off to bodies without enough scrutiny: $444 million to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. We've got hundreds of millions of dollars shipped off to the Clinton Foundation and the United Nations. There is the signing up to the Paris agreement. You can go through the litany of failures of this government. It's why I'm no longer part of the Liberal Party. That judgement was one that I made, because I couldn't go along with it.

The base politics of moving a no confidence motion is very straightforward, and every failure on this side is repeated on the other side of the chamber. They've done worse: they've knifed two prime ministers; at the moment, the Liberal Party has only knifed one. They've got bigger emissions trading targets. They want to outsource more of Australian sovereignty to international organisations. They want, basically, an open border policy. We know they're going to tax and spend. They're going to tinker with and work harder against people's superannuation again. They're going to change capital gains tax. They're going to overturn negative gearing, which is a principle of business, and they cannot tell you whether they're going to apply it to commercial property, to share transactions or to residential property. We know that half of them have sold out to China, but we also know that that's happened on this side as well.

What politics has become is shameful. It's a crisis. You can look around the place and you can ask the Australian people, and they speak with their votes: about 30 or 40 per cent of people now are voting outside the major parties. That is where the vote of no confidence is coming from. I regret that that has allowed some base opportunism to spring up—people in positions of influence wielding their power for their personal gratification and to aggrandise and big-note themselves rather than do something that is in the best interests of the country.

On that side, they say they want to spend $40 billion on education; on this side, it was $18 billion on education—all unfunded and all uncosted, and there are no educational outcomes available for it. What did the crossbench do? They said, '$18 billion isn't enough; let's put another $5 billion of borrowed money into it.' However you want to look at the decision-making that has been taking place in the last decade of parliament, it is no wonder the Australian people are losing faith and confidence in the body politic.

We are all guilty of it, to a degree. We will all complain about the other team. But the people we are letting down are the Australian people. There are the mums and dads who are finding it difficult to pay their utility bills. Every problem in the electricity market is caused by government interference, government determinations and government regulations—every single one. Every time an Australian person can't afford to pay their electricity bills, we should be hanging our heads in shame. It is because of blind ideology, and this was as forecastable as anything.

So was the crisis that is engulfing the Liberal Party now. The move against Tony Abbott, three or so years ago, was textbook—a textbook repetition of the same failures and the same damage that was done by the Labor Party in getting rid of Kevin Rudd. It doesn't matter whether Kevin Rudd was a dysfunctional human being or whether Tony Abbott was a good Prime Minister.

Senator Gallacher interjecting

You know that's true, Senator Gallacher. In the end, the Australian people have come to expect that the person they elect to be their Prime Minister would at least see out a term. That has been the convention, and when you dump convention you dump the integrity of the system, and that is what we've done. The people on the Liberal side of the chamber who orchestrated and participated in that coup should be hanging their heads in shame. They thought, 'We can take Labor's policy and somehow make it turn out better.' Well, what they did was that they took Labor's policy, essentially took Labor's rejected candidate—because, let's remember, Mr Turnbull lined up there with Graham Richardson and others, seeking Labor preselection, and they said, 'No; we've got enough narcissists in our party already'—so he made his migration across to the coalition, where he has systemically sought to reshape it and change it in his image, which is not the traditional Liberal Party image.

I say to the Australian people: like it or lump it, this mob or that mob, the red team or the blue team, are going to be running a government of some sort after the next election. The choice for you is who is going to influence and shape the outcomes: who in this place can be trusted to put the Australian people's interests first rather than naked political opportunism first. You can only look around the crossbench and ask who has acted, in every vote, with principle—not with shameless self-aggrandisement or political opportunism or something to extract a boast about—who is seeking to improve legislation, voting on either side of the chamber according to the merits of it? I will say that I'm not the only who's endeavoured to do that; there are others in this chamber as well.

But we cannot let down the Australian people through these shameless acts of partisanship. The only ones who are being let down are the Australian people, who once had faith in this institution, who once had confidence that the people up here were actually going to act in their interests. It's time for that to happen again. The font of all wisdom and knowledge is not vested in this place. We have to think that the Australian people can make some determinations and decisions for themselves. That is the challenge for us: rather than getting government out of people's lives—because we haven't improved it at all in the past 10 years—we need to have a very light touch on their lives so that they can make these decisions themselves.

Quite frankly, as I'm not a personal fan of the Prime Minister, I do believe that ultimately these things should be handled at the ballot box for Prime Minister. It is an indictment on this place, as Senator Hinch said, that Italy looks like the paragon of political stability now. We haven't had a Prime Minister since John Howard who has actually lasted a full term after their election. That is a reflection on each and every one of us, people who have participated in the games to bring down successive prime ministers. I know we relish it when it's on the other side, but I look here from the crossbench and I say that it's a shame. It's a shame for all of us. It's a shame for the Australian people. I won't be supporting this no-confidence motion, because I do understand that it's base politics. And as I said in my opening remarks, whatever the errors of this side, they've only ever been reflected or compounded—sometimes even exceeded—by the errors of the other side. I'm not going to support a motion that has what I regard as political intent and is based around hypocrisy.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand that there have been discussions around the chamber about a speaking order, which I'm happy to comply with. I will go to Senator Scullion first.

3:29 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

In the short time I have, I will say that, no, I don't support the motion. But I would like to reflect on some of the opening remarks that have been made. I think it's an insight into the character of the Labor Party. You can recall Senator Wong—arrogant, derisive, sneering: 'What's Senator Scullion doing at this end? What's Nigel doing here?' I'm not really sure what sort of reflection that was—probably a personal reflection. But it's more likely, 'He's from the Territory,' or, 'He's from the bush—he shouldn't really be here.' They're the sorts of reflections. Or maybe it's, 'He's from the National Party.' Maybe that was the reflection.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Scullion. Senator Collins on a point of order.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

The point of order is that the reflections that Senator Scullion is talking about are simply questions about why he's not sitting on National benches and why he was brought forward into Liberal benches, and questions about whether he has moved into the Liberal Party. There was no sneering or arrogance or rudeness in way he's suggested.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Collins, I've let you explain that point. That is a matter for debate—as long as people aren't making inappropriate reflections on one another. I'll call Senator Scullion to continue.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I was standing, so I understand exactly what was said and the manner in which it was said. Perhaps it was that I'm not as important; I'm only the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. That's perhaps what it is. Penny was actually a minister of the day for finance—and we can all remember how that went. Senator Wong was left with a glory box: $20 billion in the bank, $6 billion in an education fund—

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A point of order, Mr President: could the minister refer to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in the appropriate manner, please.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

That is an appropriate point of order. I missed it if it was inappropriate. People should refer to each other by their titles.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

We had a $6 billion education infrastructure fund, another multibillion-dollar telecommunications fund, and nobody knew where it went—it's all gone. One of the great records of those opposite, driven by their leader, who drips scorn and derision on ordinary people—which is the dark heart of the Labor Party—is that they had a record debt. That was their race to debt—$240 billion in debt. And, let me tell you, at that trajectory, we would have reached a trillion dollars in debt. So I don't particularly like being lectured by those opposite about what sort of a hierarchical place we might have in life.

In every single thing we hear from the other side, you'd reckon that regional and rural Australia didn't even exist. Look at the things we've done for drought relief and at our record investment in infrastructure. We now have 21st century communications. We have doctors and health professionals in the regions. We have the effects test. We have the country-of-origin labelling. We've had decentralisation. We're supporting agricultural industries with tax relief. We're backing the mining, resources and energy industries. We are governing this country. We are governing this country in a much better way than you would ever dream of. So, if there are any crocodile tears about dysfunction because someone's changing leaders and it's not a pretty sight, then those are just crocodile tears. To those people who ask, 'Who is the Prime Minister?' I can assure you it's not the member for Grayndler or Sydney or Blaxland or McMahon or Lindsay, and most importantly it won't be the member for Maribyrnong.

3:33 pm

Photo of Tim StorerTim Storer (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I won't be supporting this motion. I do not believe it's appropriate that the Senate pass judgement on the government in this manner. We are senators, and the Senate has convened and is working today, and the government has presented ministers to answer questions, and I think it is appropriate that we continue to do so. So, I do not believe that it's appropriate for the Senate to be calling the Prime Minister to act. There is a Prime Minister and there's a process going on.

But this is a very embarrassing situation for Australia. It is no wonder that many voters are leaving major parties and voting for Independents and other crossbench parties. We've heard from some of them today, and many of the sentiments made in part by some of the crossbench ring very true. We have significant issues at stake to deal with in Australia, in particular with regard to energy policy, for example. It is one area where the people need trust, and certainly even business certainty, to move forward. There are no guarantees of affordability or where it's going in terms of environmental sustainability. There's certainly a need for the government to move forward. There is a Prime Minister in place. The government will look to change its leader. It's unfortunate that this is occurring, and it should not be. The Australian people vote on a three-yearly basis to choose a party and senators to represent them, and there should be appropriate processes such that the government can govern and lead. Australia does not want to see the continual knifing of leaders as has occurred over the last 10 years.

I echo many of the sentiments of the crossbench here today. I hope that the Australian people can have representation both in the lower house and also in a Senate that will approach legislation on its merits as befits this house of review and will do so with principles of integrity, fairness and sustainability and with an eye to the prosperity of the Australian people as a whole. Therefore, I am not calling for the government to go to an election. We have an election coming within the next year, and the Australian people, I think, wish to see the government take its course and make their judgement at that time, when they can choose representatives in the lower house and also, importantly, senators that will independently review legislation brought forward by the government of the day under reasonable and decent principles.

3:36 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Centre Alliance will be abstaining from this motion. It's clear that there are problems on the other side of the chamber, perhaps best characterised as a mess in transition. It's hard to support a motion of no confidence in the context that, I'm sure, over the coming days, we will see a decision on who will lead the party. It's not as though we haven't seen this sort of thing happening on this side of the chamber, and they managed to steer their way through that. So I think it's a bit too early to tell. As I said, we'll reserve our rights. We'll examine what happens and revisit this question if it's necessary.

3:37 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand to support this vote of no confidence in this so-called government. What I have to say to Senator Scullion is: it's not about you. This is not about Senator Scullion. This is about getting a government that can actually deliver on the issues that the country desperately wants a government to deal with—health and education, getting a decent pay system and, for young kids here, climate change. The Arctic is on fire, and these people are just carving each other up.

There is so much that we need to do in this country to build a decent society for the future, and I have to say that cannot be done with some of the contributions that were made here. I just want to say to Senator Birmingham: I know that the Murdoch press are blaming you for where we are, and I think you've got some responsibility but not all the responsibility. What we've seen in this place over a period of time is an absolute obsession of the Liberals and the Nationals with each other. They don't care about what's happening in the rest of the country. They don't care that working people are losing their penalty rates. They don't care that working people have wage stagnation. They don't care that many families are struggling to put food on the table. They don't care that some pensioners can't afford to get an operation when it's needed. They don't care that the public health system is in trouble. They don't care that the education system is being built for the elite. This is about ordinary working Australians getting a government that works for them.

That's why the Prime Minister—if he is the Prime Minister now; I'm not sure—should go to an election and let the public make the choice. The choice is clear, and you've seen it here today in these contributions. The choice is the extremists in the Liberal and National parties linking up with Senator Hanson. We are going to have huge problems with this government—absolutely huge problems. Senator Anning's speech here the other day was about trying to take votes off Senator Hanson, and what's been happening in the Liberal Party is the Liberal Party falling apart because they want to pitch to the worst elements in our society. That's where we are.

What Labor cares about is getting a government that can actually work for Australians; a government that understands the key issues for Australian working families; a government that is not prepared to attack pensioners, as this government was prepared to do in 2014-15. If it had been up to this government, pensioners would have been about $80 a week worse off under that 2014-15 budget. And who's standing for the leadership of the Liberal Party? Peter Dutton, the former health minister under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. And what was his contribution to society? A cut of $57 billion to the public health system. This is the guy who is standing up and saying, 'Vote for me to be the Prime Minister.'

The experiment by the Liberal Party has failed. The Liberal Party experiment was to put someone in as Prime Minister who was supposed to be a moderate, to stand up and appeal to the centre ground of Australia. The extremists, the far Right in the Liberal Party and National Party, were never going to let that happen. And, because Prime Minister Turnbull did not have the courage or the backbone to stand up to the far Right, who will line up with Senator Hanson, they just demanded more and more from him, and he gave up his values, he gave up his principles and he capitulated to this mob.

We must have an election, because we can't have Senator Hanson here, pushing division, in a position of power in a Liberal-National Party. Senator Hanson came from the Liberal Party. Senator Hanson should go back to where she came from; she should join the Liberal Party. She could be a minister in the Liberal Party. That's how poor the talent is in the Liberal Party: she could be a minister—maybe some time in the future.

But what we need is a Labor government who looks after the public in this country, who wants kids to get a decent education, who wants people who are ill to get health care and who wants to make sure that workers can bargain and not have their wages stagnate. These are the issues that are important in this country. We must not allow the extremists like Senator Hanson and those that are trying to pull down—well, those who have pulled down this government, because this government's gone. This government's gone. We must go to an election and we must get a decent, stable government in this country, and that can only be with the Labor Party.

3:44 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

As mover and replier I'll make very few points. A number of crossbench senators made the statement that the people elected the government, and they used that as an explanation of why they don't wish to support the no-confidence motion. I say this to them: yes, the people elected this government, but that does not provide an unfettered right. That does not provide an unqualified right. It provides a responsibility. It gives a responsibility. What we have seen this week, what all of us have observed, is a party and a government that have walked away from that responsibility—a party and a government that have no regard for the heavy, weighty, and honourable responsibility that is conferred after winning an election. What we know is that their hatred for each other is greater than their love for this country. What we know this week is that enmity has triumphed over responsibility. The reality is that Australians have no confidence in this government, and neither should this parliament.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Wong be agreed to.

3:52 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.