Monday, 21 June 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: International Travel
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister explain to Australians who, for the last 15 months, have been unable to visit dying loved ones overseas, have been stranded overseas and have been separated from their children, why the Prime Minister gets a leave pass to visit Cornwall and pay respects to his ancestors?
If Senator Watt really thinks that was the purpose of the Prime Minister's visit, then he pays even less attention to what's going on than I thought was actually possible.
As the Prime Minister made clear, as I've referenced in this chamber and as Senator Payne has referenced in this chamber—you'd have thought that Senator Watt might have been listening on that occasion—the Prime Minister, whilst at the G7, secured the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Order! Senator Birmingham, please resume your seat. I am not particularly annoyed at the lack of respect shown to me, but this place will become unmanageable if I call senators to order and they don't have a modicum of respect for the standing orders.
The Prime Minister secured the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement—of huge importance to Australian farmers, of huge importance to Australian businesses, of huge importance to ensuring that Australians continue to enjoy the opportunity of more jobs, of more economic growth, the sorts of things that our side of politics has delivered for them. Those opposite want to demean the opportunities created by such trade agreements. They want to demean the opportunities created by the discussions the Prime Minister had with, for example, President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson, about the opportunities to talk about the strategic challenges faced in our region and around the world. They are very serious challenges and they were very important discussions that of course saw, during that time, the NATO countries meet and issue statements in relation to China and the challenges we face.
The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to engage in bilateral discussions with a number of his counterparts. Already during this question time—as Senator Watt would know if he had been paying any attention—I referenced the fact that hydrogen agreements were signed during the recent trip—with Germany, with Singapore—the decarbonisation agreements signed. This is why Senator Watt doesn't actually remember any of these things: because he doesn't shut up during the debate; he doesn't ever listen to any of it. Motormouth Murray over there just doesn't know when to be quiet. He won't pay any attention to the achievements. He won't pay any attention to what's accomplished. (Time expired)
Honourable senators interjecting—
Not yours, Mr President. Why did the Prime Minister pretend that this was an unplanned side trip when we know that he had already commissioned the St Keverne Local History Society to research his family tree? The Prime Minister wouldn't be telling fibs, now, would he?
In the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of a recession, there is the situation where our government, this government, has helped to ensure that Australia's health outcomes are some of the best in the world, that Australia's economic outcomes are some of the best in the world. You'd think that those opposite would care about the jobs of Australians and would want to ask questions about that. But, no, they don't. You'd think they would care about the security of Australians and would want to ask questions about that. But, no, they don't. All the different meetings and discussions that the Prime Minister had when he was overseas—do they come in and ask about any of those? No, they don't. They're just obsessed with the pettiness. They're obsessed with the smear. They want to try to win the next election on smear, not policy. Well, we will stand on policy. We will stand on a record of jobs, of economic growth and of keeping Australians safe, because they're the things that matter to Australians.
Senator Wong interjecting—
When Australia was on fire, Scott Morrison ran off to Hawaii. When his vaccine rollout fell apart, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, went sightseeing in Cornwall—something that no other Australian can do. Why is it that when the going gets tough Mr Morrison goes on holiday?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Mr President, it's the 'senator for smear' over there, and the opposition tactics are completely laid bare. Their tactics for the next election are all about smear, all about denigration. They're not going to bother bowling up any policies. They won't ever come clean on whether or not they'll implement lower taxes for Australians. Indeed, we know that taxes will end up being higher for Australians. They won't talk about the substantive issues that Australia faces. They will just engage in the type of dirt-digging and smear that they think might get them a cheap headline.
On this side, we will continue to stand on our record. We are proud of the fact that Australia's economy is bigger now than it was pre the pandemic and that we are the only economy in the advanced world to have achieved that outcome. We are proud of the fact that more Australians are in jobs today than was the case prior to the pandemic, and we were the first advanced economy in the world to achieve that. We are proud of the fact that most of those jobs coming back have gone to Australian women. We're proud to see full-time jobs coming back, and that side don't seem to care. (Time expired)