Monday, 3 December 2018
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Morrison Government, Federal Election
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to questions without notice asked by Senators Cameron and Urquhart today relating to processes for the selection of Liberal Party candidates.
This government is in absolute chaos. This government is an absolute rabble. This government is so busy carving each other up and doing deals to keep the extremists in parliament while kicking women out of parliament that the general public has got no faith in this government at all. This is a government that has lost the confidence of Australia. The party room is divided. Those in the Liberal party room are at each other's throats. This is a destructive government. No wonder they're being called mad. No wonder they are being called muppets. They are a divided government. There is a schism right through this government. This is the government that told people they were going to be a grown-up government. What has been grown-up about this government in the last period of time?
When the community wants action on health, when the community wants action on education, when the community wants action on infrastructure spending, when people want action on TAFE, when they want action on skills, when they want more apprenticeships for the kids, this government is too busy carving each other up. When regional communities need more spending in regional communities, this government supports cuts to penalty rates. Some of the poorest people, the working poor in this country, get hammered by this government. When housing is a huge issue, when young people are faced with a massive inequality, when the biggest single inequality issue for the future is housing, this government has got no policy on housing.
It is a pathetic government—a government that has run its race, a government that needs to go to an election as soon as possible and let the public decide what's in the interests of this country. It's not the coalition. It's not the division in the coalition. It's not the lack of decent policy. It's really a need for a change of government so a government can focus on the needs of this country. When you get the climate change deniers, the extremists in the coalition such as the member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, being supported by this Prime Minister to maintain his position when his views are clearly not in the long-term interests of this country, it shows you the depths that this government has sunk to.
I think one of the happiest people around will be the Labor candidate for Hughes, Ms Steinwall. She is looking at the key issues. All that Craig Kelly wants to do is go on Sky News at night with all the extremists and run the same rubbish on climate change, the same rubbish on global warming and the same rubbish on renewable energy. This is a government that doesn't get it.
I'll tell you what else they don't get: they don't get the need to make sure they are representative of this country. Fifty per cent of the population are women, and what does this government do? It kicks out a senator, Senator Gichuhi, who was enticed to come across to the Liberals to try and give them another number in the Senate. What happens to Senator Gichuhi? She gets kicked out. Senator Molan, a former general, gets kicked out, yet all of the extremists get kept in. All of the women get kicked out. Look at what's happening: Jane Prentice, the member for Ryan, Ann Sudmalis, the member for Gilmore, and Senator Gichuhi—women representatives in this place—are kicked out, and we see Craig Kelly kept in. I think that says it all about this government. They have lost the plot. They are an absolute rabble of a government. They have got no idea what the Australian public need. They are pathetic. (Time expired)
I think that speech really tells the whole story we need to know about Labor's priorities, and that story is this: the story we've just heard from Senator Cameron is that he is interested in politicians talking about themselves, sniping and carrying on. We, on this side, are focused on the substance. He says that the Australian people want action on jobs and health and education. They get it from this government. We've just heard an hour's worth of questions that were about the petty squabbles of people talking about themselves. On this side, we're focused on getting the real stuff done. He didn't ask a single question—no-one on that side asked a single question—about jobs, not a single question about health and not a word about education, but they were happy to talk about the petty nonsense.
Here, we like to get on with what matters. That's why every time they come up with something petty and silly, we will come back to the fundamentals—that is, Australia's economy is growing at 3.4 per cent, more strongly than at any time since 2012, and that was at the height of the mining boom. They can talk all they like, but they have no plan for Australia's economy. Under this government, Australians have had the first opportunity in a long time to start to see their assets grow in value, to start to see their wages move up—and they have started moving, Senator Cameron, you'll be pleased to know.
There are more jobs available for Australians now than there have been in any time since 2013. In fact, from 2017 to now, we have had more jobs created in this calendar year than in any other year on record. Let's have a think about that. That is enormous. That makes an awful difference when you consider that these aren't more public servants being put on—these are overwhelmingly full-time, private sector jobs for Australians. Even better still, there has been the largest number of young Australians getting their first job in the last year than in any other year on record. This is not small stuff. These are huge achievements. Those opposite will talk about petty nonsense because they want to run from the facts, that when you face the big picture, when you look at what is really going on in the lives of Australians, there is more opportunity for success coming to every Australian than has been the case in more than a decade, and that is really very good news.
The percentage of working-age Australians who receive welfare in this country has fallen to just 15.1 per cent. That's the lowest rate of welfare dependency we have seen in this country in over 25 years.
It's a great news story. We are giving people who are struggling an opportunity for something so much better than welfare, and that is the economic freedom, the pride and the self-morale that come from work, and that's a really wonderful thing. To back that up, as those people move into work, as those people start to go from being those needing help from the taxation system to those contributing to it because they're in work, we are providing tax relief. In the year ahead 4.4 million Australians will get tax relief in the nature of around $530 a year. In fact, over 10 million taxpayers will get at least some relief. It's enormous what we're able to do for Australians when we start to get the fundamentals of the economy right, and it's wonderful to see that this is really happening.
Senator Cameron can carry on with his petty snipes as much as he likes, but the facts don't lie. We have so much to be proud of as a nation, and this is a terrible way of talking down the things that Australians are achieving every day. It's Australians—their efforts to build businesses, their efforts to employ other Australians, their efforts to help their communities get ahead—that we should be celebrating here. They are making enormous strides, more than you will ever see under a Labor government and more than was achieved under the past Labor government, when people struggled with lower economic growth and higher welfare costs. There was so much less available to spend on Australians and their essential services under the Labor government, every day of the week.
Just before I do get to the substance of the motion to take note of the answers given today by Senator Cormann, I listened to Senator Stoker. I know it's a tough gig when you're tapped on the shoulder and told: 'Can you take note? We have no idea what we're going to be talking about.' Senator Stoker, if you think the shambles of this government are petty nonsense, you are sadly delusional and stuck in the Canberra bubble. It's the same for the senators on that side who want to talk about giving opportunities to young Australians but can't wait to get in here and gain the support of the crossbench and some of that lot over there, particularly One Nation, to rush through as quickly as they can the opportunity to slash penalty rates for 700,000 Australians. I'd really like to talk to all the people out there whose kids rely on a part-time job, who probably don't have a union agreement through, say, Coles or Woolworths or Red Rooster or McDonald's or something like that. It would be interesting to know how many on that side, as they went through university—not all of them went through university; there are a few real people over there, like Senator Williams—how would they have felt if their penalty rates were slashed? Listening to the nonsense that somehow brilliant jobs will be created if we can take penalty rates backwards and that there will be opportunities for young kids to work their way through life and earn a few bob while they're studying: unbelievable. I have to tell you, I've seen the movie and read the book, and the sad part is here: how many people in the gallery respect your politicians? Put your hand up if you do. Absolutely none. I don't blame you.
Sure. Yes, okay; no worries. I thought you were saying, 'Hear, hear!' What a shambles this government is. Tell me the last time we had a statesperson in control of this nation. We have seen three PMs taken out—their throats slashed out the front—for what reason? Because they're full of hatred. There is absolute bile flowing through that side of the chamber as they fight themselves. If you don't believe me, go back to who were the frontbenchers each time there was a Prime Minister rolled then look at who the frontbenchers are—the ones who can't wait to get in line and say, 'I'll give you my vote. Slice this one's political throat and then I'll get a promotion.' What we see over there—seriously—is they don't give a flying toss about those things that matter to us as Australians. You're no different from us over here. We're worried. We have mortgages, kids. We've got grandkids and that's what's in the front of our minds—we want the best for the next generation to come. We're not worried about who sits on those frontbenches while they're slicing each other up—absolutely disgraceful.
Every Western Australian I talk to wants to talk about the opportunity for employment for their kids. They want to talk about the opportunity for their kids to get a great education. They want to talk about world-class medical. They want to talk about being safe in their home. They want to talk about all the things we all want to talk about. What do we see from our government? The internal fights, the anti-women. When they get taken out and belted up, it's amazing they all come out with the same line: 'I now want to move on,' and 'I want to spend more time with my family,' and we're supposed to believe that—seriously. I tell you what, there were friendships over here that will never be joined again. Do you know why? Because they hate each other that much. My colleagues will tell you, they can't wait to share their anger with us.
There are some decent people on the other side of the chamber. Some people go into parliament who actually do want to make a change. They want to leave it better for the next generation, they put their life on hold, they nominate and they get preselected. They go out and raise money, they get volunteers and then they work day and night to represent their electorate, their state. I tell you where all this trouble starts. The trouble starts normally from those on the other side who have had their nose put out of joint because they didn't get promoted or those senators who are No. 1 on the ticket normally, because they've got six years and don't have to face the people, or the ones who are in a safe seat. Their lives are on hold trying to represent their people, trying to do the best for the people in their electorate while this lot have the internal slicing up. It is absolutely disgraceful. And you wonder why people have no respect for us? You wonder why people hold us so low? In the employment chain, I don't think there are many people below us. I don't think that I'm wrong. And it actually hurts, when a lot of us come from decent jobs. But we didn't come here because we had an epiphany in the play yard one day that we want to become a senator; we come here because we want to make a difference for the next generation. Thanks for nothing.
Can I continue? You sit and listen. People on $37,000 income or less, you'll take their credit away because they saved a bit of money and bought some shares. Is $37,000 a high income? Outside, they're very good at blaming us for their mistakes. Let's talk about the penalty rates. Let's look at the facts of it—no porky pies, no fibs, nothing misleading. The Labor Party set up Fair Work Australia. Fair Work Australia set up the Fair Work Commission. The Labor Party appointed the commissioners. And they said, 'Every four years, review the standards.' This is a fact, Senator Cameron. So the independent body set up the umpire to set wages and made a decision to have a slight reduction in penalty rates from 2.75 to 2.5 in various industries—
We can go there. Remember, you lot, when the shearers started your party under the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine? The Shearers Party. Any shearers on that side? Not a one. Wouldn't know how to load a hand piece. You wouldn't know how to knock the wool off a sheep. There are only two shearers in the parliament—three actually, with Mark Coulton—Andrew Broad, Mark Coulton and me—all National Party people from the bush who understand what bending a back is like and having a go. While you took them out on strike for wide combs—
What happened to Senator Singh—a good senator from Tasmania—in a preselection? Ah, they dumped her three years ago! They put her down the ticket and she was good enough to get up on her own, wasn't she, Senator Urquhart? Where is she this time? Down off the ticket again!
The hypocrisy of this place is amazing to me at times. Senator Cameron was talking about cuts to regional Australia. That is absolute rubbish! How many mobile phone towers did you build in the bush in your six years? Answer: zero! Not a one. The only thing you cut were live exports of cattle to Indonesia—what a great way to treat your neighbour! And you want to block them again. You want to stop them again. You want to get there with the Greens and the people pushing you in the crossbenches and ban our live exports so other countries will fill that gap. You know how to treat our neighbours: 'We'll cut the supply of meat off! That's the way we'll go. Don't fix the problems, we'll just cut the whole thing down.' We weren't shipping cattle to Indonesia, instead, we were carting them from the top of Western Australia down to Inverell, where I live, to the abattoirs. What a journey on a truck! That's what you did; what a mess! Of course, as far as the friendship-building goes, what a great way to treat your neighbours! As I said, the hypocrisy is amazing in this place.
Then we come to mining and the Adani mine talk today. Who opposed the Adani mine? Mr Shorten and the Labor Party opposed it. That is for sure. Mr Shorten said it's not necessary. I can't believe how the former CFMEU, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, has given money to the Greens in the past. The Greens hate construction, they hate forestry, they hate mining and they hate energy, unless it's renewable. But they donate to the Greens political party and then they donate to Labor, and here is Labor not supporting it. We're building all these new coal-fired power generators around the world. I highlighted a few weeks ago the number being built: 270 power stations are under construction around the world as I speak. We have just 22 in Australia. Are they going to burn the cleaner, more-efficient Australian coal or are they burn second-rate brown coal out of Indonesia, China—you name it—and put more emissions into the atmosphere? This is their answer: shut down all Australia's industry. I can't believe how the CFMEU can support you lot over there, I really can't. You've betrayed them, the people who got behind you! You don't like coal mining, you don't like jobs and you don't like mining at all; you're just begging to the Greens, that's what you're up to.
Of course, with the criticism of us in government: in April you'll see the black print finally on the bottom line of the budget. It's something the people over there promised under the Treasurer named Wayne Maxwell Swan: 'Next year there'll be a surplus,' but we didn't see it. Then it was: 'Next year there'll be a surplus,' and they borrowed $50 billion. At least come this April—not far away—we'll see the black print and the stopping of borrowing, until that lot over there get control. We know where the debt will go: to where Labor has taken it all of my life. State or federal, it's borrow, borrow, borrow and spend, spend, spend. They buy their way into government and mortgage the children's future. You talk about futures for children: don't leave them wallowing in debt, because that's what you've done all your lives! (Time expired)
I too rise to take note of the minister representing the Prime Minister's answers this afternoon to questions relating to the ongoing chaos of this government. When this government was elected in 2013, the member for Sturt stated that the adults were now in charge. Well, look at how far and how fast they have fallen! What a do-nothing farce they have become! Three prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers and three treasurers in just over five years. Former prime ministers are commenting publicly on the decisions of their successors—nay, haunting them; members from the moderate wing are now sitting on the crossbenches; and members from the conservative wing are threatening to do the same. Others are talking openly about being courted by minor parties. Backbenchers are fighting to save their preselections and seeking to have results overturned when things don't go their way. And, of course, we have a sitting calendar that would see this chamber sit for just five days before May. These are all signs that this government has descended into chaos. They have ceased even pretending to govern in the interests of the Australian people. Every day there are new revelations about the infighting, the chaos and the dysfunction of those opposite. The news is coming so fast that it's hard for observers to keep up.
Today The Australian reported that former Prime Minister and former member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull was urging colleagues to deny the current Prime Minister, the member for Cook, his plan to save the preselection of the member of Hughes by having the New South Wales state executive automatically declare all incumbents preselected, and, at the same time, reported that the former member for Wentworth revealed that he and the member for Cook had agreed to go to an election on 2 March to try and save the New South Wales government, which has enough problems of its own, from becoming embroiled in the federal coalition's nightmare. It's no surprise, though, that this government wants to hide from both preselectors and electors. That news followed reports in the Fairfax papers over the weekend that a deal had already been done behind closed doors to stitch up the remaining preselections, including the preselection of the member for Hughes, and that now seems to have occurred. This followed reports about the state of civil war in relation to the New South Wales Senate ticket, and, of course, the decision of the member for Chisholm to defect from the Liberal Party last week and sit on the crossbench, with her speech timed to the minute to coincide with the member for Cook's announcement about the date of next year's budget.
In the words of the member for Chisholm, referring to the leadership coup:
Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves—for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition …
This followed the Wentworth by-election, when voters in their thousands abandoned the Liberal Party after the removal of Mr Turnbull. It also followed the Victorian election last weekend, when voters did the same, the aftermath of which has led to the resignation of the state president and further infighting about the direction of the party. And, of course, it followed the Liberal Party leadership coup itself, when senators opposite were so divided between the former member for Wentworth and the member for Dickson that the current Prime Minister was able to slide through the middle and take power for himself. I note that the Prime Minister, the member for Cook, has still not been able to explain why he's now the Prime Minister.
Websites such as The Betoota Advocate and The Shovel are often regarded as satirical. I suspect their writers must be getting increasingly concerned that it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between their material and reality. Or is it actually a deeper tragic comedy that we're seeing at the moment? Is it Shakespearean or a tale from Dickens; Twelfth Night or maybe A Christmas Carol? While the chaos and division of those opposite is good fodder for the satirists, every day that this government spends focused on itself is a day it is not focused on the interests of the community—on education, on health, on fair workplaces, on properly addressing climate change. It is surely now well past time to put an end to this chaotic and divided government. To take a quote from Twelfth Night, as we approach the twelfth night, 'the whirligig of time brings in his revenges' and it's coming for those opposite.
With regard to those comments made by Senator Sterle earlier—that One Nation voted for cuts to penalty rates—I want to put on the record here that, in March 2017, One Nation actually supported the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take-Home Pay) Bill 2017, a bill by Senators Cameron, Di Natale and Lambie. The bill summary states:
The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take-Home Pay) Bill 2017 will ensure that modern awards cannot be varied to reduce penalty rates or the hours to which penalty rates apply if the variation is likely to result in a reduction in the take-home pay of an employee.
Further, the bill:
… provides that any determination of the Fair Work Commission made on or after 22 February 2017 … is of no effect.
Even at that time, Senator Roberts, the One Nation senator for Queensland, tried to move an amendment to that to restore penalty rates to fast-food and hospitality workers. He was denied leave to move that. These penalty rates were actually introduced in the first place by Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, in the lower house. He destroyed the penalty rates when he was a union leader.
I am so annoyed that One Nation is continually accused of voting against penalty rates and cuts to penalty rates, which was not the case when we voted with Labor on their bill here in this parliament. I just wanted to put that on the record. Thank you.
I rise to take note of the answers given by Minister Cormann to my question, which related to the Adani coalmine. We can still stop the Adani coalmine. My question listed three methods that either this government or the Labor opposition could use to stop this mega coalmine, right when the international scientists are begging us to not put any more coal in the system; right when 58 per cent of Queensland is in drought and doesn't need a water-hungry coalmine; and right when half of the state is on fire from climate induced extreme-weather events.
I listed the three ways under our current weak laws that this mine could be stopped. Of course, the mine could be stopped if Labor would agree with the Greens to simply not let the Galilee Basin be opened up and not let new coalmines proceed. But, even if that is not going to be the case, because they take money from the coalmining companies, this government has the power to overturn the approval for the Adani coalmine. There are three ways they could do that.
There's new information, which is a trigger for the minister to revoke the approval given to the Adani coalmine. There is a whole long list of new information that, legally, could be the basis for that approval to be revoked: whether it's the IPCC's latest climate instalment, which says we are running out of time and cannot afford to mess about and put even more coal into the system; whether it's the evidence about Adani breaching their environmental conditions overseas; or whether it's the evidence about Adani breaching their conditions here in Australia, that they have been investigated for by the federal department and are being prosecuted for by the Queensland government. It beggars belief that both sides of politics are still backing this ridiculous proposal for a company that has a litany of environmental breaches. They both crow about how strong the conditions are. This company has a track record of ignoring those conditions. I take no comfort at all from the minister's think these conditions written down on a piece of paper will be complied with. The company has shown they won't comply with those conditions.
The minister agreed it's also true that they could stop Adani's mega coalmine from going ahead if they simply didn't tick off on their groundwater management plan. Like I said, more than half of our state is in drought. Why should this mine get free groundwater—while everybody else has to pay and tighten their belts—on top of the 12½ billion litres of surface water that they've been granted by the Queensland state government? It shouldn't. It's water management plan could be not approved, and therefore their whole approval would fall over.
The third thing that this government could do—or Labor could commit to doing—is refuse to approve the pipeline for this mine. Again, Adani does not have all of its approvals. This government or the Labor Party could simply commit to reviewing those approvals—to refuse the water pipeline and refuse the water management plan. The people are going to stop this mine, and it's about time you lot got out of the way.