Feb 5, 2020

Matters of Public Importance – Morrison Government – Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:32): Everyone knows that this has been a summer of disaster. For the Prime Minister and this government, though, it’s been a summer of complacency. It’s been one where their arrogance and their hubris has been on full display before the Australian people, one in which the Prime Minister refuses to ever admit that he made a mistake, one in which facts are twisted to suit the Prime Minister’s own political position, one in which the Prime Minister has been exposed as an ad man without a plan—without a plan for the nation’s economy, without a plan for the bushfire crisis, without a plan for social advancement, without a plan for this nation’s future and, certainly, with no plan for energy and no plan to deal with the challenge of climate change.

The fact is that, on this government’s watch, economic growth has slowed since the coalition came to office, productivity growth has halved from 2.2 to 1.1 per cent and wages growth is now the worst on record. Those opposite, presiding over an economy that is flatlining, have no strategy to lift the economy, no strategy to boost jobs and no strategy to boost wages. They think that if they just get out of the way the market will sort it out all out. Well, what the market is doing is having more casualisation, less security in the workplace, more fly-in fly-out jobs and fewer secure jobs. People working next door to each other doing the same job are being paid sometimes $50,000 or $60,000 less than the person they’re working next to. They have no plan to deal with enterprise bargaining in our wages systems. They have no plan for the country’s future. They have no plan to support business. Business investment is down by 20 per cent since the Liberals and the Nationals came to office. It’s now at its lowest level since the 1990s recession.

This summer Australians came to realise that the Prime Minister isn’t the man he pretends to be. And it’s not like he wasn’t warned. Way back in 2008, the Garnaut report said:

Recent projections of fire weather suggest that fire seasons will start earlier, end slightly later, and generally be more intense. This effect increases over time, but should be directly observable by 2020.

We know that the fire chiefs tried to meet with the Prime Minister and that he treated them with contempt. What would they know? Just hundreds of years of experience. We know the Department of Home Affairs produced a national disaster risk reduction framework in 2018 that said:

However, with the driver of a changing climate there is growing potential for some natural hazards to occur at unimagined scales, in unprecedented combinations and in unexpected locations.

They ignored it completely.

In November we wrote to the Prime Minister with eight practical suggestions—not playing politics but putting forward constructive ideas like, ‘How about there be a national approach?’ Bushfires don’t recognise state boundaries, nor should this approach. What we had from the government and from the Prime Minister day after day, week after week, month after month was: ‘This is a state issue. It’s not our fault.’ He said—remember those words?—’I don’t hold a fire hose.’ We had a circumstance whereby he was simply missing in action when it came to what was required. He was complacent throughout it all. He wrote back saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get COAG to meet should the need arise.’ Bear in mind we’d already had Queensland fires, North Coast fires and Mid Coast fires. The Gospers Mountain fire was already off and running. We had fires throughout this country, across different states, and we had no national leadership.

Today in question time we spoke of the measures we called for: the call-out for and support for increased involvement of our Defence Force; increased aerial firefighting, a capacity that we took to the last election in accordance with the recommendations of the experts; a national approach; a disaster plan being updated; climate change mitigation and adaptation measures; the support that we called for on an ecological audit about the impact on our native animals; and the support we called for on mental health. On all of these, it took weeks and months before the government finally acted. The truth is: if Scott Morrison had been captain of the Titanic, he would have been the first person into the lifeboats after it hit the iceberg. And then he would have denied that there was an iceberg! Indeed, if ‘Captain Morrison’ had been asked by anyone about the iceberg, he would have disagreed with the premise of the question. And then he would have said that the iceberg was unsourced gossip. And then he would have said that it was an editorial. And then he would have said that it wasn’t an iceberg; it was just a bubble that you could just go through.

That’s what we saw today in question time, whether it was about the bushfire crisis, whether it was about the sorry sports rort saga where we had the corruption of a program—the Auditor-General’s report is very, very clear. It says that decisions were based upon the marginality of seats and that they were political decisions not based upon merit. Today in question time we asked the Prime Minister a very simple question—it was asked twice: could he say that the projects were funded based on merit? Instead we got obfuscation—all the usual nonsense. This is a Prime Minister who cannot answer a straight question. He is someone who thinks that Liberal-National party money is the same as taxpayers’ money. They have gone out there and thrown Bridget McKenzie under the bus but they are still defending this scheme. The member for Brisbane did quite well out of it, in his seat. The member for Longman announced that the Prime Minister made a strategic decision, along with the secretariat, about the $500,000 that went to the club up in his area that he is a member of. We had Georgina Downer, not even a member of this place, with a big cheque with a photo on it, and her name, as if it was her money. We had the rugby club get money for women’s change rooms—they didn’t have any women!—and the AFL club down the road, in the member of Kingston electorate, not get money. We had clubs that rated 98 out of 100 not get funding.

The fact is that this government, wherever they are, just act on politics. We asked today about the political advertisement that was done at the height of the bushfire crisis. The Prime Minister made an announcement—and what were the instincts of his office? ‘Let’s do an ad. Let’s use all the military facilities that we can. Let’s have photos of warships. Let’s have music. And let’s link it to a donation box for the Liberal Party!’ And on that day the Prime Minister couldn’t pick up the phone to Shane Fitzsimmons and tell him that this was happening—the same person who could pick up the phone to the New South Wales Police Commissioner over his mate Angus Taylor, who remains on the front bench. And Bridget McKenzie must wonder how she is not on the front bench but the member for Hume is still there.

This is a government that is characterised by its arrogance. It is characterised by its sole purpose being to look after its own interest, not the national interest. This government is always behind even when it does something good like it has done today on the issue of veterans affairs months after Labor called for just such an initiative and for action in this area. This is a government that is arrogant and complacent. It has been involved in a victory tour since May last year. They don’t have a plan for the economy. They don’t have a plan for climate change. They don’t have a plan for the ongoing bushfire crisis. They just have a plan for day-to-day internal management of their crises. And that’s why they can’t act on climate change. You’ve got a Deputy Prime Minister who just today has done an interview in which he once again denies the human link with climate change. So they can’t act. This is a government that is not worthy of staying in office. (Time expired)