Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

4:06 pm

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

A letter has been received from Senator Cameron:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

The inability of the divided, unstable and illegitimate Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government to govern for all Australians.

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand time has been allotted for each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to be able to make a contribution in this Matters of Public Importance debate on the inability of a divided, unstable and illegitimate Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government to govern for all Australians. If we were to start with the first—divided—the evidence is reasonably clear. If you move from the Hon. Tony Abbott to the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull to the Hon. Scott Morrison in a reasonably short space of time, then you very clearly have a lack of majority support for the elected Prime Minister throughout the term of their government. I think it is very clear that the Hon. Tony Abbott has been the best opposition leader in the country—and he didn't refute that claim; he merely acknowledged it with a wry smile. Since being deposed, there has been clear unequivocal division right throughout the Turnbull prime ministership.

And there has been abundantly clear instability. Take one brief example of that. The minister says he has a deal on the NEG. The Prime Minister says, 'I have the support of my party room; no problem.' Questions across the chamber here in question time allude to those detractors from the policy, who say, 'Don't worry about that. It's been through the party room.' Not only was it not unequivocally supported, despite the claims to the contrary, it was dumped. I think that happened on Tuesday in the party room and, by Friday, it was dead and buried. They probably threw out the minister at the same time because he was still arguing that it was a good policy after it was dumped—quite an incongruous position.

It is exceedingly clear that the evidence about division is uncontested. You cannot contest that this period of coalition government has been divided. 'Unstable' is a very kind word for what's been happening. They've white-anted, they've undermined and they have detracted from ordinary delivery of government services with their bitter, ceaseless infighting in this period of government. It would all be quite entertaining if it weren't actually so serious and if the consequences for the average Australian were not so severe.

A few moments ago in taking note, I alluded to one of the problems we get when we cancel COAG. COAG was actually going to look at something which all Australian electors, of whatever political persuasion, would want fixed. There are 173 young people in aged-care facilities and this was one of the issues that was going to be alleviated, decided or helped along in the COAG process. This is where COAG needs to look at how the NDIS fits in with the health system to make sure we don't have young people falling through the cracks. So this is one tiny microcosm of the myriad problems that the government faces: 173 young people falling through the cracks of the NDIS system and not being treated appropriately because of the inability of this government to be unified, cohesive and the like.

I put on the record, and I'll put it on the record again, that, since I have been appointed as the deputy chair of the oversight committee for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there have been quite a number of ministers—

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

How many?

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Five ministers is my understanding. One of them was actually the Hon. Scott Morrison. This is an area where there's no debate; this is bipartisan policy. The ministers have been the Hon. Kevin Andrews, the Hon. Scott Morrison, the Hon. Christian Porter, the Hon. Dan Tehan and the Hon. Paul Fletcher, who is current. That's in a short space of time: 2013 to now. How is it possible that the electorate is getting the government that it needs when there's been this inordinate amount of change? It is akin to musical chairs. Who you support as Prime Minister, in some respects, means that you become a minister.

Clearly, in the case of the Hon. Dan Tehan—who's been in three portfolios in nine months, and in seven portfolios in two years and seven months—he has barely had time to get his head around the various jobs he has been asked to undertake. That's not good public policy. That doesn't engender good outcomes in government. I have the greatest respect for the Hon. Dan Tehan. I think he did some excellent work in the veterans' affairs area. But he's no longer in veterans' affairs; he's in there trying to fix up the problems created by the Hon. Simon Birmingham in education.

If you look at COAG again, you'll see that the Hon. Simon Birmingham left putting out the debate and the contested different positions in education, and that the Hon. Scott Morrison has had to put in place someone who's mother, I think, was actually the education minister in Victoria. He'll give it a go, but he's starting behind the eight ball because a lack of continuity in the Prime Ministerial position has meant an inordinate amount of loss of continuity in the subsidiary positions. And that is right down to our ordinary old Senate process here. Us backbenchers, we love our Senate process!

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee had a very vital inquiry which couldn't become quorate because our chair and deputy chair, the Hon. Linda Reynolds and the Hon. David Fawcett, had been promoted. So it doesn't just stop at the ministerial level; it flows right down to the work of the entire parliament. There we were in Brisbane and Townsville with veterans who had very widely-held and deeply-felt contested positions. They wanted resolution, they wanted fairness out of their government and they wanted their hearing dates to be honoured and for them to be able to contribute, and we couldn't even do that! The division, the dysfunction and the instability is absolutely catastrophic in all facets.

I dare to say that there are ministers on the other side who haven't got their charter letters yet. I dare to say that there are people who haven't had their charter letters. In other words, their responsibilities and their duties are not clearly defined, so they're still getting briefings about what they might possibly be looking after. How on earth is it possible that that can look like good government? How on earth is that possible? We know from the estimates process, as I mentioned in taking note, that the Hon. Christopher Pyne and the Hon. Marise Payne appeared to be having quite a contest between each other about what was going to be in those charter letters and about the areas of responsibility they were going to take respectively, because it was quite some time after their ministerial appointment that the charter letters were actually confirmed to have been delivered.

You have a situation where dysfunction, division and instability are endemic in the coalition. I don't think you can actually characterise it any other way. It has been a guerrilla war conducted by the Hon. Tony Abbott. It was a nuclear option conducted by the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull: 'Show me the 43 people who are against me. I want to see their names. I want them recorded in Liberal Party history. Show me the 43 names.' That has never been heard of before. A leader would normally call a party room meeting on a number of names. He wanted 43; he wanted the majority of those people against him to sign their names. It was really interesting to read what some people signed on it. They signed the petition but said, 'I support the Prime Minister.' My goodness!

It's obvious that people played both sides of the fence. There is one person in the chamber, the Hon. Mathias Cormann, who backed three people in three days! He was on three different potential prime ministers' sides in three days. If you want a better example of what division, instability and lack of governing for the Australian people looks like, when you see them up there on the back bench—don't worry; they were only there for six hours. He then came into the chamber and said: 'We want a more powerful economy. We want more employment.' I'm sure he does, but he's not doing a very good job of delivering it because the division, the instability and the lack of good governance has catastrophic outcomes for the electorate. The concerns of those 173 kids in aged-care facilities should be addressed. They should be out of there, and COAG should be meeting to do it.

4:16 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the matter of public importance introduced to this place by our very dear friend from the Australian Labor Party Senator Doug Cameron—always cheerful, always merry; 'Senator Bagpipes'; a happy chap. It was beautifully followed by his dear friend Senator Gallacher, who again is a very cheerful man. I actually didn't realise that Labor could waste taxpayer money while in opposition, but I'm absolutely certain that I heard exactly the same speech in take note of answers only half an hour ago. That's quite extraordinary. The taxpayers already paid once today for that drivel that we heard from Senator Gallacher, so that is quite an extraordinary achievement. I think you should be very, very proud indeed!

If you want a party that really cares about governing for all Australians, you can look over here; if you want to see a party that doesn't care a jot about ordinary Australians, all you need to do is look over there to the opposition benches. On this side of the chamber, it's quite clear we have a plan that's working for all Australians. We are making Australia strong. The government's policies are working. The economy is growing at 3.4 per cent. That is the strongest growth since the height of the mining boom. It's growing at a stronger rate than the world's seven largest advanced economies—the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Japan. It's growing faster than the OECD average.

Over the past five years alone, the coalition has demonstrated that it gets the results that Australians expect from their government. The Liberal-National Morrison coalition want to do things. The Labor opposition want to stop things. We are putting in place policies that actually matter. Think, for instance, of the instant asset write-off that has recently been renewed. If you want proof that the coalition is the only party that backs small business, look no further than the instant asset write-off. In Australia, more than 350,000 small businesses have taken up the instant asset write-off. This is a policy that would not be possible without the coalition in office.

Have a look at small business tax cuts. We've given tax cuts to more than 3.3 million businesses, and further tax relief has been legislated to reduce the rate from 27.5 per cent to 25 per cent for businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million. For unincorporated businesses with a turnover of less than $5 million, we've introduced a tax discount of eight per cent capped at $1,000 and have legislated a further increase to 16 per cent.

As you can see, we don't scoff at small businesses. We don't make fun of small businesses. We don't poke fun at small businesses. We understand their needs, and we are backing them. The coalition is the only party that can ensure that less red tape falls to businesses, reducing those excessive compliance costs. Individuals, businesses and community groups have had their compliance costs cut by $5.9 billion since 2013, including through things like simplified business activity statements, a small business superannuation clearing house and thousands of other decisions that make life easier for small businesses.

We have fixed the budget—in fact, over $41 billion in budget savings have been delivered since the 2016 election alone. We have halved the growth in spending, which was out of control under the six years of Labor government—out of control. We have halved the growth in spending from four per cent a year under Labor to 1.9 per cent under the coalition. That is the most restrained of any government in more than 50 years. The budget deficit in 2017-18 is projected to be $18.2 billion, which is less than half what it was two years ago, and we are on track for a balanced budget in 2019-20, a year earlier than anticipated.

The outcome that I'm most proud of is the promise that we made in 2013 to deliver one million new jobs to the Australian economy within five years, and we have delivered it in spades. In fact we promised it within two terms of government and we delivered it one year early, within five years, with 1,114,500 more Australians in work since September 2013, and over half of those are in full-time jobs. The vast majority of jobs have gone to women, and, in the last 12 months alone, at least 100,000 have gone to regional Australia. In 2017-18 alone, 349,500 jobs were created. That's the best financial year result since 2004-05, over a decade ago. Most importantly, of those jobs, over 100,000 went to young Australians. In fact, growth in youth employment is the best that we've seen in 30 years. The unemployment rate sits at 5.3 per cent, the lowest level since 2012 and well below the level we inherited from Labor in 2013 at 5.7 per cent.

If you want to see division, if you want to see instability, if you want to see illegitimacy, you need look no further than those opposite. They're very good at throwing stones but they've got a bit of a glass jaw over there. When we start talking about things like border protection, you can see the whites of their eyes, because they are divided on border protection. They don't know where they stand on border protection. When we talk about things like the Israel-Palestine relationship, you can see the whites of their eyes. They don't know where they stand on Israel and Palestine. They certainly don't know where they stand on the TPP. We've seen the leaks coming out just this week alone. They don't know whether they're Arthur or Martha. Are they in favour of the TPP? Are they against the TPP? I can assure you that, if you want to see stability and you want to see good government, you will only see that from the coalition. We're not here to fight about it; we are here to fix it.

4:23 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What a coalition of chaos we have opposite. The Prime Minister has cancelled next month's COAG. There won't be one until December now. But, lest we think that that was a level of dysfunctionality, in the other place in question time, the Prime Minister said, 'We can't have COAG on 4 October because we're having a drought summit on 26 October.' Two meetings at both ends of the month—it's a little bit hard to handle when you're so dysfunctional.

The Prime Minister can't get any clear air because there are so many things going on in the Treasury benches. He can't get any clear air because Liberal woman after Liberal woman has come forward to complain about a culture of bullying and intimidation within the Liberal Party. He can't get any clear air because his cabinet colleagues keep leaking documents and policy initiatives. He can't get any clear air because they keep moving the deckchairs around, and he can't get any clear air because everyone's so concerned with watching to see how many ministers are wearing their Australian-flag lapel badges.

Going back to the bullying complaints, the latest woman to come forward was the member for Gilmore, who said there was behaviour from 'boys who should know better'. The Liberal Party has, of course, decried the use of quotas, or maybe it's just the word 'quota'—it's a little bit unclear for everyone else at the moment—although, the Liberal Party disproves its own current argument on quotas because it has had quotas since 1944. When Sir Robert Menzies was looking to match the ALP's support base, he went to the inheritors of the suffragette movement—some of the largest women's community groups of that time. Those women struck a hard bargain—if only that were the case in this day and age. They said, 'If you want our numbers, we want fifty-fifty quotas throughout the Liberal Party organisation,' and Sir Robert Menzies agreed. Now, though, this party that started out so well has gone backwards. They are moving so far backwards that, in fact, after the next election, because they haven't preselected any women, they are likely to have fewer women than the Saudi Arabian legislature, and that is a disgrace. It was a party that started out so well but has now become a party where so many women feel shut out.

What does the Prime Minister do with these complaints? Does he listen, does he acknowledge these complaints and does he acknowledge that his party has gone backwards? No. What he does is he tries to offshore these women. He's offered the New York United Nations post to the member for Chisholm. She rejected it. Now he's offered it to the member for Gilmore. She's considering it. But it's pretty insulting to use a posting as a 'there, there, don't worry' consolation prize. But fear not, because the Prime Minister did say he's 100 per cent confident that bullying is not a problem in the Liberal Party. That's good to know—and oh so convincing! Of course, that was a couple of days ago. Now he's asked a Liberal Party organisation to investigate the member for Gilmore's complaints. That was yesterday. I guess we need to wait until tomorrow to see what happens with those complaints and whether there's actually going to be any action taken.

In another shooting-in-the-foot incident, the Prime Minister self-described the coalition as a muppet show. The Muppet Show, we could say, is a vaudeville variety act, and that's what we've been seeing for the last few months. Just as a fun exercise, let's ask ourselves: which muppet character does the Prime Minister mostly resemble? Is it the straight man Kermit the Frog? No, because Kermit actually gets the show running and keeps it running. I'm not sure we can say that about the Prime Minister. Also, Kermie would probably never use Fatman Scoop's lyrics to be put to such a discombobulating use. Is he Miss Piggy? No, because they don't really encourage women over there on the treasury bench, and Miss Piggy is quite a forceful personality, so it's probably quite unlikely she would ever get preselected in the first place. Is he Statler or Waldorf? No, I think that might be Senator Macdonald or Senator O'Sullivan—although, having said that, I don't believe those senators have a proprietary ownership on that type of personality. Maybe he's Gonzo. You know Gonzo—Gonzo who plays the end of the opening song, but it never quite goes to plan. He never manages to quite hit the right note. I feel that Gonzo is probably our Prime Minister.

One of the great Labor prime ministers said in 1990 about a hopelessly divided Liberal Party, 'If you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country.' He said it as a qualifying standard—a pre-election test for any party seeking to govern. Nearly three decades on, we see the truth of Bob Hawke's assertion, for this great, exceptional country and this prosperous, productive, culturally diverse and inclusive society is governed by the worst of the worst—by B-graders, rank amateurs, petty squabblers and backstabbers.

This government aren't governing. This great, exceptional country—the envy of our neighbours, a beacon of strength in our region with so much opportunity and so much promise and potential—is governed by a government literally without an agenda. In fact, they've moved legislation off the agenda today, literally filibustering their own legislation, and they've deferred COAG meetings because they have nothing to say. This government isn't governing. This great, exceptional country, which rightly spends billions on our national defence and on border protection, is revealed to have an immigration minister who, while he pretended to be a tough cop on the beat of our border, was in fact secretly allowing Liberal donors and mates to smuggle in illegal workers to work as their servants. The tough cop on the beat of our border has been revealed to be nothing more than, essentially, a people smuggler for the aid and comfort of Liberal donors and mates. The government aren't governing.

We have a coalition that disagree on nearly everything except hating each other, hating unions, cutting essential social services and appointing mates to government boards, tribunals and embassies. And let's not forget that the Prime Minister doesn't like Tasmanians either. The government aren't governing. They disagree about energy. They have no credible energy policy. They have had multiple proposals and can never agree on them. Margaret Thatcher, however briefly, once exhorted us to deal with the challenge of climate change. The government have refused to countenance four energy policies in nine years. Silicon Valley's cutthroat venture capital industry, as keen on profit as any other investor, is applying tens of billions of dollars of capital to improving renewable energy technology. Yet, this do-nothing, deeply confused, totally self-obsessed government regard Margaret Thatcher's green period and the world capital markets as mad lefties embarking on a renewables rampage. You don't even have to accept the scientific consensus on climate to embrace the simple fact that the sun, the wind and the waves don't cost us anything to use as a form of power. They disagree about tax. They disagree about complying with our international treaty obligations, like the Paris accord. They disagree about leadership. They disagree about My Health. They disagree about so many issues.

Australians don't expect miracles out of Canberra. But we do expect our leaders to put the national interest first. We do expect our leaders to insist on clean, accountable government that is willing to explain its decisions: explain the visas it grants, explains the grants it gifts to environmental groups, and explain its policies and its agenda for the future. We do expect our leaders to be focused on the kind of country we leave to the next generation.

That's why I believe, should Labor earn the trust of the Australian people at the next election, that a Shorten Labor government will address the big issues confronting all of us: maintaining Australian prosperity, ensuring Australians share in that prosperity with a decently paying job or the help they need, holding together the great social infrastructure that keeps Australia the most liveable place on the planet, defending our land from polluters within and enemies without, and ensuring that our country always passes the toughest test. That test is set out for all of us in Matthew, chapter 25, verse 40:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

The single most important measure of our society is how we treat the vulnerable: the single mum with kids struggling to make ends meet; the elderly man in a nursing home with no visitors and no voice; and our most recent arrivals, who so desperately want to succeed here and will, if we give them a chance.

That's why I'm here. I think there are many in this country who look on with horror at this government and wonder why they are here—for this government isn't governing. This exceptional country, with its magnificent people, deserves a government that works as hard as Australians do. We shouldn't have to wait for this government to crawl its way to the latest date an election can be held, but it seems we will have to. (Time expired)

4:34 pm

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

I'm so pleased Senator Cameron raised 'the inability of the divided, unstable and illegitimate Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government to govern for all Australians' because it allows us to take a trip down memory lane and relive the divided, unstable and illegitimate Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government Australians had to endure. Remember former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? His own right-wing powerbrokers said they'd had enough of what they called Kevin Rudd's chaotic prime ministership. Those words came from none other than Bill Shorten. Then they wheeled in Julia Gillard, who was Australia's first female Prime Minister, and their factional divide ruined her too.

Labor stuffed up the mining tax and installed a Speaker in the House of Representatives who didn't mind giving blokes a touch-up when he got on the sauce. Labor signed a poisonous coalition deal with the Greens in 2010 to ensure they could get their legislation through the Senate. Although Julia Gillard promised there would be no carbon tax, the deal she did with the Greens meant every single household and business got slapped with the tax, which nearly sent pensioners to the wall. So much for her saying, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.' Labor propped up Craig Thomson, who had a filthy past involving hookers and boozy nights at the expense of the Health Services Union.

Labor launched the atrocious $50 billion NBN, which has been a dog's breakfast under both Labor and this government. Labor had 50,000 illegal boat people claim refugee status, costing this country billions upon billions of dollars, until this government put a stop to the boats. Labor took our economy from a $57 billion surplus to debt of $300 billion. The coalition is no better. The coalition is spending $50 billion—maybe higher, up to $200 billion—on subs. Immigration levels are the highest of the OECD countries and others at 1.7 per cent. Foreign ownership and assets gone—that's Australians. Both of you have destroyed our nation, identity, economic stability and credibility. The people will decide at the next election: get rid of them both.

4:36 pm

Photo of James PatersonJames Paterson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One can only assume that the Labor Party settled on their topic for today, moved by Senator Cameron no less, before opening Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper this morning. Had they done so, they might have appreciated the irony of accusing others of being divided, particularly given the starring role that Senator Cameron himself played in that newspaper article. For those playing at home who haven't read the journalism of Mr Rob Harris this morning, he helpfully detailed the profound and deep divisions within the Labor Party on the question of trade and, in particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not only was Mr Harris able to go inside the Labor caucus and recount in some detail the exchanges between Labor colleagues over a profound issue of national importance—that is, free trade—but he was helpfully able to do so by relying on effectively a transcript of the proceedings—a transcript so detailed that it was able to recount exactly what each member of the Labor caucus, including the shadow ministry, had to say on the TPP.

This is a party which is self-evidently hopelessly divided on a key question. We had frontbenchers getting up and speaking against each other on a major policy issue. On the one hand, you have people like Jason Clare, the shadow trade minister, speaking in favour, with Senator Penny Wong, the opposition's leader in the Senate, backing him up. On the other hand, you have Senator Doug Cameron apparently moving a motion to recommit to debate and re-examine in their caucus again this week the issue which they had apparently resolved last week in their caucus. I presume that the opposition tactics committee in the Senate hasn't got their subscription to the Herald Sun up to date. They haven't been receiving their papers in the morning. I can only encourage them to make sure they are reading Melbourne's biggest-selling newspaper before they settle on their questions or MPI topics.

Of course, this is a political party which only a few months ago had an alternative leader in Mr Albanese, was openly trailing his coat for the Labor leadership. In the lead-up to the by-elections in Longman, Braddon and elsewhere, Mr Albanese was helpfully posing for nice photos for newspapers, granting tell-all interviews about his personal story and background, and openly flaunting and showing his wares for all of his colleagues to see. This is a party that, were it not for some slightly better-than-expected results in the by-elections, fortunately for them, would now be in the midst of a serious debate about their own leadership—and may yet be again, because we know they have a track record in this area.

By contrast, the Liberal-National government—our government—is not only governing for all Australians; it is actually delivering for all Australians. This is a government which, before the 2013 election, promised that we would deliver more than one million new jobs in our first two terms of office. We promised that we would do that. When we did so, at the time, we were told by Labor and the media that it was a fanciful and ridiculous promise and there was no way we could ever meet it.

Not only have we met that task, not only did we meet that task early; we've comfortably exceeded that task, with 1,114,500 new jobs created under this government. That's more than one million lives changed for the better because of the successful policies of this government, implemented while we've governed for all Australians. More than half of those jobs have been full time. Almost 350,000 of those jobs were created in the 2017-18 financial year alone. This was the most jobs created in any financial year since 2004-05, back in the glory days of the Howard government. More than 100,000 of these jobs were for young Australians, and that is the most for any year on record. That's 100,000 young people's lives improved. They're getting a good start in life, a step on the first rung of the ladder of opportunity—which those opposite used to talk about—thanks to the policies of this government.

According to figures released by the ABS, 2017 was the first full year in which employment rose every single month since the ABS began collecting that data in 1978. This didn't happen by accident. This didn't happen by coincidence. This happened because of a series of policies implemented by the Liberal-National government over the past five years that were deliberately aimed at creating employment and opportunities for Australians. It's resulted in an economy growing at 3.4 per cent, higher than at any time since 2012 and the height of the mining boom. Under this Liberal-National government, our economy is growing at a faster rate than many of the world's largest advanced economies, including Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Japan. It's the direct result of the policies we put in place—for example, the first and vitally important stages of our enterprise tax plan. We have legislated a five per cent cut in company tax for all Australian businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million.

This will deliver the lowest small business tax rate in half a century. It's already benefitting more than 3.3 million businesses which, between them, employ about seven million Australians. Even more businesses and Australians working for those businesses would have benefitted if it hadn't been for the opposition of the Labor Party and the Greens in this chamber. Sadly, even those businesses which have benefitted from this reduction in tax—and those workers and shareholders of those businesses and customers of those businesses who have benefitted from this new opportunity—are under grave threat if Mr Bill Shorten and his Labor team win the next election, because we know they're planning to substantially reverse those tax cuts for small business.

It hasn't only happened because of our small business tax cut plan. It's also happened because we've restored the rule of law in the building and construction industry. We've re-established the Australian Building and Construction Commission. We've established the Registered Organisations Commission. Together they are cracking down on the wanton lawlessness in that industry perpetuated by some unions—in particular, the CFMEU—and, again, this is at threat if Mr Shorten becomes Prime Minister. It's also because of our free trade agenda—a comprehensive free trade agenda that we don't just talk about on this side of the chamber but we actually deliver on, in stark contrast to the previous Labor government, which liked to talk so much about its embrace of a multinational trade agenda but never delivered anything tangible. We've delivered free trade agreements with our most significant trading partners, not only with China but also with Korea, Japan, Peru and the one we were talking about earlier, the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 major nations.

This is the very same Trans-Pacific Partnership that the opposition advised us to abandon. Mr Shorten, Mr Clare and others said it was a dead agreement, that there was no hope and that, once the United States pulled out, it would not proceed. How wrong that advice was and how lucky it was that this government, particularly our previous trade minister, Steven Ciobo, did not follow that advice. How lucky it was that they continued to prosecute that trade agreement, now successfully signed, and, I hope, soon successfully legislated through this chamber.

4:44 pm

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

I rise to speak on the MPI today. Division, instability and illegitimacy are characteristics that no government wants to be associated with. The division amongst the Liberal Party on energy policy is just one example of how disunity, coupled with a leader who lacked the courage of conviction, can cripple a government. The PM made a wrong decision and paid the ultimate price. However, we should not forget that it is not just the decisions of government that affect Australians; it is the decisions of all of us in this place. We have a responsibility to ensure that we are aware of the consequences of those decisions.

That brings me to division on this side of the chamber in relation to the TPP. Labor is voting for the TPP enabling legislation, in contrast to its national platform. It's going to allow ISDS provisions to be included in the TPP agreement. It is also going to allow the waiving of labour market testing. They are going to do that knowing they could stop it. Centre Alliance, One Nation and the Greens are prepared to vote it down and only need Labor to stop those cancerous provisions being in that particular bill. They know they can stop it, but they have no courage of conviction. That has led to the same situation that Senator Paterson was describing before, where we now see, inside the Labor Party, significant division and we are starting to see leaks popping out through media channels. That, of course, is exactly what happened on the other side of the chamber.

So my message is to both the government and the Labor Party. The government should seriously consider introducing an emissions intensity scheme to deliver industry and consumers significant reductions in power prices. The Australian Labor Party should seriously reconsider its decision to wave through the TPP without any changes to the ISDS clauses and with labour market testing waived. They need to remember who their supporter base is.

4:46 pm

Photo of Patrick DodsonPatrick Dodson (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Senate)) Share this | | Hansard source

A good government would govern for all Australians. It would ensure that it worked to bring Australians together, rather than constantly allowing division and discord, hatred and lies and attacks on those who cannot defend themselves in this parliament, which takes place from time to time. First Nations people do not see the current Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government leading or, in fact, governing for us. We saw the debacle that took place when the Uluru statement came to this place. It was not even immediately brought to this chamber. It was leaked to some newspaper in Queensland and dribbled out to say there was no interest in acknowledging First Nations people either by way of legislation or by way of constitutional guarantee.

Then we get the absolute absurdity of an envoy being appointed to represent First Nations people. I'm not sure to whom—is it to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, or the Prime Minister, or is it for the First Nations to be representing themselves back through this envoy, Mr Abbott, to one or other of those ministers? I don't know what resources he's got. I don't even know what he's going to do. He's appointed himself to be the schoolmaster of Indigenous kids around Australia, as if many of those families can't look after their own kids. There is an assumption that we cannot look after ourselves and we need a special envoy. One of my friends, who is very ill, when he heard of this—he's a West Australian—said, 'What we need is an Abbott-proof fence. We need to keep this bloke away from us.' Because when he came into power and was supervising the place as the Prime Minister, he called the homelands, where people live in poverty in remote communities, a lifestyle choice. He said the Eora people basically didn't exist. There was empty bush, and the invasion of these lands was a blessing upon us. In 2014 he said, 'When you look around at the glorious city of Sydney, as we see the extraordinary development, it's hard to think that back in 1788 there was nothing but bush.' This is the envoy to the First Nations of this country. What an insult. What an arrogant position the current Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, has taken. He hasn't defined what his position is. He hasn't shown us what he is prepared to do. He hasn't even made a statement as to the obligations of this particular envoy.

Again, when Mr Abbott was the Prime Minister and Mr Hockey was the Treasurer, they slashed the budget to Indigenous programs, which has left us with legacies that we're still trying to mop up. We've seen in recent times the role of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs—I don't know what his role is in relation to this envoy—in slashing the remote housing program, one of the key factors to get social determinants of health actually fixed and to give people, kids and families a decent quality of life. This government have just slashed that and decided that Western Australians, Queenslanders and people in South Australia are of no regard—these are remote Indigenous peoples.

Again, under the community development scheme—I hope the envoy is going to fix this because people are penalised by this draconian program that puts people on penalties for eight weeks, trying to survive without food—in fact, it's a starvation program. It's a horrid program. It creates poverty and despair, and I'm not sure how he's going to help the Minister for Indigenous Affairs fix this or help us fix the problem with his current government.

What we need is a united government that's not divided and can talk to its colleagues, have debates, have arguments but come out with consensus, a clear strategy and a clear approach as to how we're going to get behind the constitutional recognition of the First Nations and social policies that are, in fact, going to lead to equality. We've got some truth-telling to do about how the First Nations people are being denied their rightful place in this country. Thank you.

4:51 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll agree with Senator Dodson on at least one thing: unity is important. On this side of the chamber, we have seen a government that is getting on with the job of delivering for Australians. Senator Watt is having a chuckle over there—and he must have had a chuckle when he read the paper this morning with the inside information on the caucus meeting, showing division over trade revealed for all to see, including very fine detail as to what was actually said in that meeting. I'm sure Senator Watt would have had a chuckle then.

What that reveals is an opposition with significant problems, and it comes at a time when we see right around the world a belief in the benefits of trade being challenged by a return to a populist view of economics. Clearly, that is strongly at play in the Labor Party of today where you've got a risk to the benefits of free trade when Australian businesses, Australian workers and Australians on the whole know that Australia is at the end of the line. We are a trading nation. If we do not trade, we have nothing. We need to trade with the rest of the world. In Western Australia, some 95 per cent of the wheat grown needs to be exported. There is no domestic market for it. With our livestock and so many areas of our agricultural production and mineral wealth that we export to the world, we are a trading nation and an exporting nation. We need to develop those trade links with the rest of the world in order to generate the wealth, in order to drive those businesses and in order to drive the jobs and the wages growth that all Australians want and which this government has been delivering.

My two colleagues who spoke before me, Senator Hume and Senator Paterson, talked about the jobs being created, so I won't go into that in detail. But 1,144,500 jobs—more than achieving the commitment of this government to deliver a million jobs in two terms. What do jobs do? Jobs give incomes to families. Jobs give people hope. Jobs give people dignity. The vast majority of those jobs are in the private sector. The majority of those jobs were full-time jobs. This is an unashamedly good-news story built on the back of a stronger economy and significantly positive economic reforms that this government has undertaken over the last five years.

The last quarterly results that came out show an Australian economy growing at 3.4 per cent, surpassing market expectation significantly. In fact, Australia is now in its 27th year of consecutive economic growth—the highest growth rate since 2012, a year, I will note, that was the height of the mining boom. Our economy is growing at a stronger rate than the world's seven largest advanced economies, the G7: the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan. And we are growing faster than the OECD average. If you listened to those opposite, you'd think that perhaps something very different was the case, but in actual fact our economy is performing extraordinarily well.

And it's not an imbalanced growth; that growth is being shared across the economy and across all states. The strongest growth was, in fact, in South Australia. Victoria is next and then Tasmania—not necessarily the states you would think of as being those driving the economic strength of Australia. But, of course, all states grew in that particular quarter, contributing to that nominal GDP growth rate for the year of 4.7 per cent as of September 2018. That beat the budget forecast of 4.25 per cent.

This means that in the economy no one sector needs to do the heavy lifting. We're not relying on the mining sector to drive economic growth, jobs and opportunities for Australians. It's a broad based economic growth that is good for all Australians. Again, it's good for Australians because it delivers those jobs. It delivers those high-quality jobs—those full-time jobs, those jobs that put food on the table for families and which give opportunities for gain further knowledge, to go and complete more education, and to gain the dignity that exists from having a job in a positive economy.

Household spending is above the long-term average, demonstrating confidence in the economy—confidence by the Australian people. That, in turn, is supporting this strong job creation achieved by the coalition government. And with job creation and a low unemployment rate, that will flow through into wages growth.

For my home state of Western Australia, the consistency in this government has delivered a significant reform to a very intractable problem, which was the GST issue. Since July 2018, along with the release of the Productivity Commission report, we have proposed reforms vital to fixing the issue of GST-sharing arrangements. This government wants to make the GST-sharing arrangements fairer, particularly in light of the situation in WA, whilst also making sure that no state is worse off. Currently—we all know this—Western Australia receives 47c in every dollar. That would jump to 70c and then to 75c under this government's plan. That results in a significant extra amount to spend on things such as schools, hospitals and other services over the next eight years: $4.7 billion. So we see a government that is actually delivering on the ground, delivering for my home state of Western Australia.

What is the flow-on effect of all of this economic growth which I have mentioned, and fixing economic problems like the GST-sharing arrangements and delivering a million-plus jobs into the economy—a vast majority of which, I will say again, are in the private sector and a majority of which are full-time jobs? It's less welfare dependency; it's fewer people who are actually relying on the welfare system. We have seen the percentage of working-age Australians on welfare falling to 15.1 per cent, the lowest rate of welfare dependency in over 25 years. On this side of the chamber, that is unmistakably a positive thing. But I do wonder if that's how those opposite feel.

New welfare reform measures have made the welfare system fairer, more equitable and easier to understand. We have strengthened mutual obligation requirements and are providing more incentives to help people move from welfare to work, and that's what they've done. We have seen jobs created and the welfare rolls fall. This is unashamedly good for the economy as a whole, taking the burden off taxpayers, allowing money to be redirected to important government spending and to tax cuts. It also means that people who are no longer on the welfare roll have a chance of breaking the cycle of welfare dependency that every study shows and everybody knows is so destructive to individual and family wellbeing.

We do believe that the best form of welfare is a job. We've delivered those million-plus jobs over the past five and a bit years, in less than two terms of government, and we will continue to deliver, because that is what this side of the chamber does for the Australian people. We deliver what we say we're going to deliver. We deliver good government and we deliver good economic management, and that allows us to provide such things as income tax relief to hardworking Australians. We're making income taxes lower, fairer and simpler. In 2018-19, around 4.4 million Australians will get tax relief of $530 per year and over 10 million taxpayers will get some tax relief. By the time our tax plan is fully implemented, we will see 94 per cent of taxpayers pay no more than 32.5 cents in the dollar. This is a great economic reform for Australia. It will allow Australian families to keep more of their own hard-earned money and invest that money in their families, their own future, their own education and their own wellbeing. It will give people opportunities into the future—opportunities to perhaps start a small business and create the new jobs of the future, which deliver such benefits to all Australians.

5:01 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the many things you learn as a member of parliament, or even working in this building, is to sniff the air. You can feel the tempo in here. I don't think there's anyone working in this chamber at the moment who doesn't feel this government has lost control—total chaos. We've now got the Governor-General's address-in-reply speeches on the parliamentary schedule—on the Dynamic Red. You know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel when they have to bring up the in-reply speeches to the Governor-General's speech, which was delivered nearly two and a half years ago. We've seen the Liberals come in here and filibuster the most obscure bills during the Committee of the Whole stages. Senator Macdonald has been on his feet for nearly half the time we've been in the chamber this week—break the glass and roll out Senator Macdonald if you want a good filibuster. We've seen it. And what did we see this morning? We saw a piece of legislation written for Senator Leyonhjelm, and a minister who couldn't answer the most basic questions. This government has lost control, but I don't want anybody listening to this debate to think it can be seen just in the small things.

Stretch your mind back to only a week ago. We have a government whose numbers are so tight in the House—they are teetering on the edge of a no-confidence motion—that they had to send a junior minister to one of the most important meetings of the International Whaling Commission in 30 years. They couldn't send the environment minister, they couldn't send the Prime Minister and they couldn't even send the foreign minister. They couldn't afford to let anyone go, because their numbers are so tight in this place that they are hanging onto control by the tips of their fingernails.

The week before that we saw a meeting of the Pacific Island leaders putting out videos, one of which I shared on my Facebook page, slamming the Australian government for their lack of action on emissions and on an electricity sector policy to meet our Paris targets. Yesterday, we heard the chair of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which was recently awarded half a billion dollars of public money, say to a Senate committee that he believed that not only is the Great Barrier Reef in danger from rising emissions but indeed the world's coral reefs are all in danger from rising emissions. This is from a guy who was the CEO of Esso, or ExxonMobil, 30 years ago. He was telling the Senate that all our world's reefs are now in danger on the same day that our new energy minister in that other place was telling the Australian parliament that they have no policy for renewable energy beyond 2020. There is no Renewable Energy Target and no policy for renewables at a time when we most desperately need to reduce emissions.

This is a government that has a by-election looming in the seat of Wentworth. This is a government and a political party that is wracked by internal divisions following the second knifing of a Prime Minister in the last four years. If you want to see how divided this political party is, just have a look at the last votes when Mr Scott Morrison became Prime Minister elect by his own party. Not only did he fail to take more votes off Mr Peter Dutton than Mr Malcolm Turnbull did but he actually lost five votes to Mr Peter Dutton. That's how serious the situation is in the Liberal Party. I've seen it, and it goes back to that first comment about the tempo; even today's flaccid attempt to stand in here and mount some kind of resistance on their government doing a good job—

Photo of Jim MolanJim Molan (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's not very nice!

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, some men don't like that word. I do appreciate that, Senator Molan! Their flaccid resistance in this place today to mount a case for their government is very much what we've seen all week. More than half their senators aren't in here helping. They're not in here helping. I haven't seen them on speaking lists, probably because half of them have been moved from the frontbench to the backbench in recent weeks. This government is on the edge of losing control, but that's okay, because we want an election and we want to boot them out. (Time expired)