Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO SENATE CAUCUS - CANBERRA - MONDAY, 13 NOVEMBER 2017

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This week in Canberra, the Senate is the only game in town.

And this morning the newspapers are full of the Liberal Party civil war.

Cabinet Ministers are now briefing out they no longer trust Mr Turnbull's judgement.

Julie Bishop has tripled her photo opportunities - very unusual.

And of course, Mr Turnbull who has been wrong on just about everything that he’s offered an opinion about, he continues.

He was wrong about Barnaby Joyce. He was wrong about Fiona Nash. He was wrong that the High Court would ‘so hold’, and he's wrong in the way that he is handling the current citizenship crisis.

Now he just wants to give us legal advice. Now the Prime Minister of Australia, when he is representing Australia on the world stage in Vietnam, is demon-dialling poor old crossbenches in Adelaide in the middle of the day from Vietnam. Our Prime Minister surely has more important things to do than offer legal advice to crossbenchers.

The problem is that while he's being so cavalier about the jobs of his colleagues, the citizenship fiasco continues to mean that the Parliament and the Government are not focusing on the issues that matter to Australians.

But, of course, Labor is not standing back, we are standing up.

It was great to see Jenny McAllister and Sam Dastyari alongside Tony Burke in Bennelong on Sunday.

Let me be very clear about the by-election in Bennelong: Labor is behind the eight ball - it is a 10 per cent margin for the Liberals, but we are going to give it every effort, because the nation deserves to have a choice about the direction in which the nation is headed.

I have to say that one point we will be making in Bennelong is that because of the increasing and disturbing closeness and proximity between One Nation and the Liberal Party, that a vote for the Liberal Party in Bennelong is effectively a vote for One Nation on the national stage.

When you look at One Nation's voting record in the Senate, nearly 90 per cent of the time they are voting with the Liberals.

So for the voters who think they are voting for One Nation as a protest against the Government, they are not. And for people who vote Liberal because they don't agree with some of One Nation's extreme views, they are, in fact, endorsing them.

But then we get to the work of the Senate this week.

And I think it shouldn't go without remark, the outstanding work that so many of you performed in Senate estimates in the previous session. I have to say to Murray and to Doug and to Kimberley watching as, unusually I did watch Senate Estimates, watching your pursuit of the truth, I have to pay you what I think is the best compliment I can give you - you were reminiscent of Penny Wong.

And when it comes to that Minister Cash, we do need to find out what she knew, we need to find out when she knew it and we need to find out when she told Malcolm Turnbull.

This is a Minister who for years has traded-out and dined-out on lecturing unions about transparency and accountability. It is about time she lived up to the standard that she so rigorously tries to set for others.

Of course, one other very big matter this week will be on Wednesday at 10am when we find out the result of the postal survey.

Now, I don't know the result, I suspect it is more likely than not that it will be a majority 'yes' vote. Then I believe that the nation will be looking, all eyes, to the Senate yet again this week.

I believe the nation expects us to move on with the legislation for marriage equality and be done with it this year.

I notice that the elements of the government are again peeling off and saying that there needs to be delay and new conditions put on it.

If Australians vote 'yes' on marriage equality, the one question they were asked was on marriage equality. And I think that if we were not to implement a decision on marriage equality, the nation would throw up its hands and give up on the Parliament.

We need to help re-energise Australians' faith in the Parliament.

So when it comes to citizenship, our proposal is very, very clear. We believe in universal disclosure. We don't think that there should be one rule for one party and one rule for another.

Everyone puts their material on the table, puts their case. Are they or are they not citizens of other countries? And where they are dual-nationals, what reasonable steps have they taken to renounce the citizenship of another country? That is the story which is the High Court's standard and myself and Penny have had meetings, even with Turnbull himself.

What we have said is that everyone should put their information, all of us, at the same time – December 1st at lunchtime – give the Parliament the chance to review it and then see what has to happen, whether or not there is any need for referrals to the High Court.

The Government is saying that they want to keep it to December 7th in the House of Representatives at least.

We say that there should be no need to reconvene the Parliament at taxpayer expense of nearly $1 million a day.

So we want to be done with the citizenship fiasco, with one rule for everyone. I notice that Mr Turnbull keeps trying to pressure and bully our backbenchers into providing documentation.

Imagine if we don't do it all in a universal disclosure? Imagine what cover-up the Liberals will have. Because the Liberals, every time they say: ‘that is the end of the matter’, there is some new scandal that emerges from their ranks.

Let me be very clear to you and through you to the Australian people: Labor has nothing to hide. We will put forward our information. We have done our homework. We have got our legal advice and we think there should be one rule for all.

I do not doubt the extent of the loss of faith of the Australian people in the Government, and through the Government's ineptitude, in the Parliament.

We are prepared to work with the government to resolve this crisis and we are prepared to do so in a timely matter which restores people's confidence.

So between that, the transparency and accountability of Minister Cash, and arguably most importantly legislatively this week, marriage equality. We are ready.

We are determined to help advance the case for the nation and we will do so in a way which redeems and restores people's faith in the Parliament.

Thank you very much.


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