Dec 5, 2019

Matters of Public Importance – Morrison Government – Thursday, 5 December 2019

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:19): One of the songs of those great Queenslanders the Regurgitator is ‘I Like Your Old Stuff Better than the New Stuff’. We certainly like the old stuff, in terms of what this Prime Minister said he would do, better than the new stuff, what he is actually doing as Prime Minister in this government. That song also had the line, ‘You’re nothing like you used to be.’ This Prime Minister is nothing like he pretended to be prior to this election. Remember that prior to the election he said that he wanted to speak up and stand up for quiet Australians? We now know that what he meant is silent Australians. He wants everyone to just listen to him and for no-one else to have a voice. He wants no-one else to have a say. He put the ensuring integrity bill through all three stages in this House without a single word being spoken. That never happened under John Howard, Menzies, Hawke, Keating, Abbott or Turnbull. This is the greatest jackboot administration that we have seen.

Today, in sacking five departmental heads, what they have also done is centralise power. If you have multiple cabinet ministers with a single department, what you have is no co-ords about the issues, even when there is conflict. All power gets centralised to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The fact is that this government regards democracy as an inconvenience, one that can just be dismissed at any time.

What this Prime Minister—arrogant, shouty and full of hubris—has done is travel the land and in here on a victory lap since May, as if he received 100 per cent of the votes. Well, we’re not a one-party state; we’re a democracy. We’re entitled to actually have proper debate in this place. But when the Prime Minister loses a vote, as he did last week in the Senate, what he does is throw all the toys out of the cot. That’s what we’ve seen today. We’ve seen him abuse Senator Hanson and abuse Senator Lambie—all of them out there. That’s a great way to persuade them to change their minds on the anti-union legislation: tell them that they don’t tell the truth and abuse them. That’s what we’ve seen. The fact is that at the same time as they crunch through the anti-worker legislation, they can’t even keep the commitment that was made to bring in legislation arising from the banking royal commission. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. They voted against it on 26 occasions.

This government doesn’t support freedom of association. We know that they don’t support freedom of the press. When the raids occurred on the ABC and on News Limited, remember the Prime Minister, at the time in the United Kingdom, saying, ‘Well, these processes have to take place.’ There was not a word of concern for that. We also know that they don’t even support freedom to protest, because they regard all of that, anyone having a say, as being a secondary boycott.

The fact is that this government, when it changed those departments today, had no consultation with those departments. Those departments found out from a phone call yesterday afternoon. They found out they’d lost their jobs. That is this government’s approach to proper processes. At the same time as they sacked those five departmental secretaries, we have a minister who sits there, Angus Taylor, who has kept his job. First we saw the watergate event: an extraordinary amount of money paid for water, which apparently didn’t purchase any. Then we saw ‘grassgate’, where the minister sat in meetings and dragged the Treasurer into the scandal. We don’t see any response from the government about that. It was: ‘Nothing to see here.’

Then, of course, ‘Angus horribilis’ came into full bloom, with the clear mislead about the document that is clearly forged. It doesn’t even make sense, that the mayor and her nine councillors in the City of Sydney could spend $1.4 million per head in one year. What we’ve had is something that this minister could have cleared up on day one and he wouldn’t have been in this strife over this issue—there would have been others but not this issue. Yet, what he did was obfuscate. He still continues to insist that the document was downloaded from the website even though all the metadata is quite clearly there. No wonder the appropriately named Strike Force Garrad has been set up.

Today’s performance really did top it all. I was wondering earlier today, with everything that happened, whether Naomi Wolf would get up on TV tonight. I think she might. There was the extraordinary attack on Naomi Wolf, who was in New York and was not a roomie at college in the United Kingdom at that very time. In that very year she had the No. 1 bestselling book in the world. This wasn’t someone obscure. What did he do? He ripped into her: ‘Nothing to see here’. She should apologise to him—to him! He is, once again, a victim. This Prime Minister continues to run a protection racket for this bloke.

Mr Brian Mitchell: It’s the ‘witless protection program’.

Mr ALBANESE: It is the ‘witless protection program’ that this man has. The fact is that when this Prime Minister is held to account he talks of a bubble. What’s a bubble like? It’s all surface and no substance. It’s see-through. It’s full of hot air. If there’s a bubble boy in this place, he sits there during question time, because this Prime Minister just runs from any scrutiny whatsoever. He doesn’t want scrutiny from the media. He doesn’t want any scrutiny or processes in the parliament. When gets questions he says things like, ‘That’s just in the bubble’ or ‘That’s just gossip.’ When you raise questions legitimately about why he won’t give straight answers to questions, he smears and he says, ‘You’re saying something untoward about me and who I am.’ Well, we’re not. What we are simply saying very clearly is that, when you are the Prime Minister of the nation, you are accountable to that nation. You can’t regard democracy and these processes as just an inconvenience, and that’s precisely what this government does.

At the same time as they had this, they introduced the legislation and crunched it all through today. What is their actual agenda for 2020, the new decade? They don’t have an economic plan for wages, for dealing with productivity, for dealing with consumer demand and retail spending, for dealing with growth. They don’t have a plan for energy and for dealing with climate change. They don’t have a plan to deal with aged care, where the royal commission is showing an absolute crisis. They don’t have a plan to deal with robodebt where they got knocked over in the courts last week. They don’t have a plan for the nation. All they have is a plan for themselves.

They think that, if they just sit there with the born-to-rule mentality that they have and tell everyone else to just keep quiet, it will all be okay. Well, it won’t be. I’ll tell you what we’ve been doing in that meantime. We dusted ourselves off and picked ourselves up after May. We’ve had our review and now we’re looking forward. In two days time I will be giving the third vision statement in the series, following on from jobs and the economy. Ironically, I’m going to have to rewrite it after today because it’s about democracy, it’s about our process, it’s about scrutiny and how we increase participation and ownership over the direction of the country, over the future of the country. You can’t have ownership if we’re a one-party state and if everyone just keeps quiet.

There are big challenges that this country has. The government think that if they just stand up and get people asking Dorothy Dixers and say, ‘We’re very confident and everything is hunky-dory,’ those challenges will go away. They won’t. The problem for this government is it’s scared of the present but terrified of the future. It won’t address the future challenges that are very serious. We will hold them to account. We have done that today and we’ve done that in this parliament. When we come back, we will continue to hold the government to account, but we’ll also be pursuing our positive agenda for the nation because this nation needs a Labor government.