Oct 15, 2019

Matters of Public Importance – Morrison Government – Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:13): This is a prime minister who is characterised as being loose with the truth. There is such a vast gap between reality and his rhetoric. The fact is Australians are doing it tough. They’re dealing with wage stagnation. They’re dealing with higher power prices. They’re dealing with higher costs of living. Those on retirement incomes are dealing with interest rates at just 0.75 per cent. Yet this Prime Minister has no plan for the economy, no plan for jobs. We are in circumstances where emissions are rising, but the Prime Minister has no energy plan.

The one area in which this Prime Minister has been genuinely successful is in avoiding answers, because whenever he is asked a question, whether it’s in this parliament, whether it’s at media conferences or whether it’s in TV interviews, there he is, dodging questions like Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in The Matrix—except not quite as cool, it must be said! When questioned, he responds dismissively. He speaks about ‘the Canberra bubble’. He speaks about gossip. He speaks about rumours. He speaks about unsourced reports. He does anything but answer questions and, when all else fails, he blames the media. This is what he said at the Pacific leaders forum and what he claimed were their views of the government’s inaction on climate change: ‘Where do they get their information from? Who knows? Maybe they read it. Maybe they read it.’

I repeat the question I put to him yesterday: why won’t the Prime Minister just give straight answers, whether it’s here or in media interviews? Spoiler alert: he didn’t answer that question either! He didn’t answer that question yesterday, as he didn’t today. Instead, he claims in the government’s talking points that ‘Australia has the strongest-growing economy’. Let’s have a look at the economic indicators. Our economic growth is at its lowest level since the GFC. Real household median income is lower than it was in 2013. Wages growth is the worst on record. Household debt is at record levels. Business investment is at its lowest since the 1990s recession. Consumer confidence is down. Interest rates are at 0.75 per cent. When they were at three per cent during the GFC, they were at emergency levels, according to the coalition. Productivity is declining. Net debt has doubled on their watch. Australia, under Labor, of course, became one of the two fastest-growing economies in the OECD. Where are we now? 20th. From either first or second throughout that period we’ve gone to 20th.

The truth is that, when you examine who is best to manage the economy, whether it’s the Hawke and Keating governments laying the groundwork for 28 years of consecutive economic growth or whether it’s the Rudd and Gillard governments seeing Australia through the global financial crisis, the worst crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s, it is Labor who have the stewardship and who can make the decisions and provide the leadership that this country needs.

Let’s look at other issues. Today we’ve been looking at drought. The Prime Minister wants his members to talk about, from their talking points, $7 billion of drought funding. That’s just a fantasy figure. Of that, $5 billion is for the drought fund. But the drought fund is actually $3.9 billion, because that’s what they took from the Building Australia Fund and put there. What’s the other $1.1 billion? That’s the interest, because they won’t actually be spending anything for such a long period of time. $100 million will be expended in the next financial year from July next year. The drought’s on right now, and not a single cent of that money is available to farmers—not one. What farmers have actually copped is that 600 of them and their drought-stricken families have been kicked off the farm household allowance in the past two years.

We saw this morning the train wreck interview with Alan Jones. Here’s what some of the listeners had to say about the Prime Minister in that interview—’arrogant bloviater’, ‘waste of space’ and ‘talking drivel’. One told the Prime Minister directly: ‘Give us some bloody hope, Scott. My town is dying, the country is dying and you’re not giving us hope.’ They were rejecting the rhetoric and spin of this Prime Minister who won’t actually answer direct questions. It’s not personal with us; he wouldn’t answer Alan Jones’s questions this morning either.

But we see it across the board. He talks about dams. There was his media release we tried to table today. He rejected his own words being recorded in Hansard because they don’t reflect the facts. It says repeatedly in that media release that there’ll fifty-fifty funding, and what we know is that half of that is just a loan and not grant funding at all. Nowhere in the media release did they say that. Of course, we know that some of it is money that was announced three years ago and none of it has been expended at all.

Then we have the consistent prevarication. When the AFP had the raids on journalists, he said, ‘It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.’ That was his response to scrutiny. He went to the UN and engaged on the climate change issue. In a speech to the Lowy Institute, he spoke about ‘negative globalism’, as if Australia has not had a bipartisan position for 50 years of supporting global institutions that we voluntarily signed up for. We have been taking our place in the world. But he’s prepared to press buttons of nationalism out there in order to try to criticise us.

He went to the UN as well and said that our emissions were going down, but we know that all the records say that they’re actually going up and they’ll go up every year until 2030. While he was there, he attacked children for being concerned about the scientifically proven facts of climate change—about caring for the planet that they, after all, will be on for longer than those of us who are no longer young people. He’s like a Scooby Doo villain who’s sure he would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids! That’s his attitude. He says we’re on track to meet our Paris targets. We know that that’s not the case. When he was in the United States he skipped the UN summit on climate change, even though he was there, to visit smart drive-through technology at McDonald’s, of all places. Not even there could he follow through.

The fact is that, during his visit, Scott Morrison proclaimed, ‘We’re making jobs great again.’ As much as we used to mock the former member for Warringah for his slogans, at least they were original. FauxMo can’t even come up with a slogan of his own—that’s the truth of the matter. He also speaks about apprenticeships and training. We know that he’s promised 80,000 new apprenticeships but there are 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when they came to office. And that’s not surprising, because they ripped $3 billion out of TAFE and training. The fact is that the closest this government has come to a concrete achievement was leaking its talking points to the press gallery yesterday.

Claim after claim in those talking points was debunked yesterday. What they say about the medevac legislation is not true. We know, from the facts, that they said before it was introduced that what we would see was an end to our borders existing—there would be armadas on the waters, invading here, to end any border protection. You would think that, given the period of time that has passed since that legislation was carried, the facts would show that that legislation is working—that it is no threat to the integrity of our borders. You would think they would say, ‘Well, we actually have to acknowledge the fact.’ But oh, no. They just doubled down. They aren’t worried about the facts.

When it comes to Newstart, the fact is that people can’t survive on $40 a day. Yet you have a Minister for Social Services who says that the only people that will benefit are drug dealers—a disgraceful attitude from those opposite. The fact is that those talking points just leave us with more questions.

But, if it’s answers you’re looking for, don’t look towards this Prime Minister because he is not prepared to be accountable. He is drunk on power after 18 May, and he’s arrogant— (Time expired)