Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Why did Mr Morrison tell the March 4 Justice protesters that they were lucky not to be met with bullets but when protesters marched across Victoria threatening to hang the Premier—and one had a gallows—he spoke about how he understood their frustrations?
It is a problem in this place, in relation to the way in which questions are put and conduct occurs, when statements are taken significantly out of context. I do reject the premise of this question. In doing so I note very much that the Prime Minister at the time, if my memory is correct, was noting that in countries like Australia—
Which indeed is what makes the right of all to protest in this country a safer one and should be a safe one, unlike in so many other parts of the world so tragically. That shows in terms of the context of this question the extent to which those opposite seek to take the low road in politics. We on this side note the appalling absence of questions related to policy from those opposite.
We are proud as a government to be leading a country that has achieved some of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19, some of the highest vaccination rates in relation to COVID-19 and some of the strongest economic outcomes in managing through this disaster and challenge. We're proud as a government to have seen some 700,000 jobs come back from the worst stages of the COVID-19 economic hit and to see record numbers of apprenticeship commencements occurring as a result of our policies. These are the types of policies those opposite could choose to ask about but don't ask about, because they choose to make it personal and they choose to take the low road. (Time expired)
On the weekend the protesters whose frustration Mr Morrison said he understood heard from one speaker: 'Are we willing to go to the absolute end? Is it fair to say that we will go to any length necessary to rid our parliament of those traitorous politicians?' Are these the frustrations that Mr Morrison says he understands?
Honourable senators i nterjecting—
Interjections are always disorderly. I was trying to listen—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I was attempting to listen to the content of the question, which presumably you want me to do, Senator Wong. Minister, you have the call.
The comments that were quoted clearly deserve condemnation. Such comments have been condemned by the Prime Minister, by me and by many others—many times and continuously—during events since those protests occurred. Again, it's an example of the type of character destruction and the personalisation of politics those opposite are trying to undertake, all to cover up their policy vacuum. Those opposite should reflect on the fact that they are continuing to try to exacerbate and to highlight the types of problems and divisions that do not help us as a country in terms of sensibly dealing with the challenges we face. As a country, through COVID-19 we have overwhelmingly dealt with issues sensibly and successfully as a nation.
Minister, the same speaker said at the protest, 'There is no doubt in my mind that we are winning.' Would protesters who are willing to go to any lengths necessary still think they were winning if they hadn't been backed by the Prime Minister of Australia?
Again, I reject the premise of that question. The Prime Minister was very clear in relation to his condemnation of violence and very clear in relation to the fact that it has no place in a protest or in any other such activity, nor do those seeking to provoke or promote acts of violence in any way.
For those opposite who want to keep repeating and repeating and repeating a falsehood or an assertion, it is a matter for them to explain why it is that rather than wanting to come into this place and debate the issues for Australians around their jobs, their lives and the many challenges that people face. Pleasingly, we have seen us come through COVID-19 in such a successful way, with some of the lowest fatality rates around the world in this country, some of the strongest economic outcomes and some of the highest vaccination rates. This is a testament to Australia's success.