Bill's Speeches

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2016

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What a busy week it has been, and it is only Tuesday. 

Cabinet leaks directly defying the Prime Minister's orders; a public split in the Liberal party room; the Liberal party room now a live blog site for different factions of the Liberal Party; the extreme right wing calling the shots; the member for Warringah airing his views to all and sundry about all and sundry; and a parliament in chaos—a government Senate with no business to do. 

The last time we met, those opposite could not wait to go home, and now they are here they have got nothing to do. 

This is a government in chaos. Let me correct myself: this is business as usual, another week in the busy life of the Turnbull government. 

Let's cast our minds back to a year ago, the fateful 14 September. It was the beginning of new politics, and our friend the Prime Minister said it would be the end of slogans. The future was here. It was the second coming of the Sun King. We were going to see the heroic mould of individual leadership shining brightly like a lone star over this benighted Liberal government and we were going to be rescued by none other than Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister. 

Of course, we were told by some of his boosters—indeed, some in the media—that this was a marvellous development for democracy. No longer would we need the outmoded two-party system; we had the Turnbull-party system. And what a year it has been since then! I concede there has never been a more exciting time to be Malcolm Turnbull, but unfortunately for the member for Wentworth, the Prime Minister, the Sun King, the man who invented the internet it hasn’t gone to plan.

A year later, this Prime Minister is the great national disappointment. 

From Messiah to mediocrity; from agile to fragile. Never before has a Prime Minister promised so much and delivered so little. 

He claims, in a remarkable statement, that this has been a substantial year of achievement, but in fact it has been marked by dithering, delay, dysfunction and disunity. 

It has been a year marked by cowardly retreats and by the betrayal of everything the old member for Wentworth pretended to care about. 

It has been a year of weakness, not strength. It has been a year of moral cowardice, not leadership. 

A year when at every turn, on every issue, the Prime Minister has allowed himself to be bullied by the right-wingers in his backbench. 

The promise the Prime Minister made, to be able to say that he could lead and unite his party, was that he would deliver a massive electoral mandate to the government. 

In the first 10 months of his government that was the promise which even the most optimistic Turnbull boosters hung on to—that he would deliver the electoral dividend that would mean he would at last be able to stamp his authority on the party. But that did not happen. There are 17 fewer coalition members sitting on that side of the parliament because of this Prime Minister, a Prime Minister to whom no-one in the government owes anything. 

Authority is not granted by title; authority is granted by the ability to deliver. We on this side understand very bitterly that the government won the election, but we also recognise a wounded, weak leader, with no agenda or authority, just waiting for the next mistake.

Every time his backbench have demanded more and more of him he has caved in. 

He surrenders on every issue that he has ever said he believes in. 

On climate change, the once heroic figure who would cross the floor is now letting the climate sceptics write his climate change policy. But at least he is in charge, he says. 

On marriage equality, in the month before he rolled Tony Abbott, the Member for Warringah, the Prime Minister said that he believed a free vote in parliament was the best way to go. He knows it is the best way to go. 

Why are we led by a man who will, when knowing the best option, recommend to Australians a second best option? 

That is moral cowardice. He can claim his mandate for a plebiscite, but we understand that he knows that if he was actually in charge of his party he would not be having this plebiscite. 

So Australians are presented with a leader claiming to lead the country when he cannot lead his own party in the way which his own conscience demands he should. 

But we have also seen him on superannuation, a matter very important to millions and millions of Australians. 

The changes that these vandals opposite, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, made with their agenda-less government in the last budget have critically undermined the confidence of every Australian in superannuation investments. 

I acknowledge we have to rein in the excessive concessions at the top, but the way this ham-fisted government went about their business means they have created a question mark in the minds of millions of superannuants: why do we even bother doing this?  It takes some going to trash the superannuation system. 

He says he has got an absolutely ‘ironclad’ policy, and then he uses his weasel words and his weak retreat.

He is already explaining to people: 'Well, I might've said that then, but I certainly can't say it now. And I'd better check with some of my backbench in case I can say what I said today tomorrow.' 

And what does he always say when we have these problems? I am sure what he says to his few remaining desperate backers—he shrugs his shoulders and he says:

'What do you expect me to do? I'm only the Prime Minister. You must be realistic. You have unrealistic expectations of me. All I wanted was the job. Why do you ask me to do anything with the job?' 

But you do not have to take my word for it; the reviews are in a year in. 

Michelle Grattan: 

Since the coup that installed Malcolm Turnbull, many Liberals are disappointed and surprised he has turned out, so far,”  love your optimism Michelle, “so far, a mediocre Prime Minister. He struggles in adversity, anger on display, firing bullets of blame. His graceless election night address was appalling.” 

Andrew Bolt, not exactly a true believer:

How bad is Malcolm Turnbull? Even he struggles to name one thing he’s achieved since becoming Prime Minister. 

The official list of achievements is so embarrassingly tiny that his staff have padded it with things stolen from Abbott’s.”

Or what about that memorable exchange between Jeff Kennett and Andrew Bolt, which I concede I failed to watch. 

But I repeat: 

Bolt: Can you name the achievements of the Turnbull government one year in office?

Kennett: Not easily.

Bolt: Can you name one? I am not asking this as a trick question …

Kennett: I want him desperately to succeed.

Bolt: That's right, but can you name one?

Kennett: No, not at the moment.”

But I think Michael Gordon summarised this government best by quoting Neil Young:

It sorta starts off real slow and then fizzles out altogether.

A year ago when he launched his coup, the current Prime Minister said about his predecessor:

'Ultimately the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs.'

Let us look at his economic leadership in those fun 12 months.

Plan A: a 15 per cent GST on everything. He sends out poor soldier Morrison, and then abandons him and runs away—and do not ask poor old Premier Baird what he thinks about Malcolm Turnbull's spine!

Plan B: which the Prime Minister called, with his characteristic trademark humility 'a once in a generation reform' double taxation. Why didn't we all think of that? Because you need to be as clever as Mr Turnbull to come up with an idea as absolutely dumb as that idea.

Plan C: a $50 billion giveaway for multinational companies. I must record that when we went into the lock-up on budget night, I saw my Shadow Minister for Finance and my Shadow Treasurer and they were surprised. They were stunned.

They said, 'You'll never believe it!' And I couldn't.

A $50 billion tax giveaway! Even Goldman Sachs says $30 billion of that will go overseas; the big banks will pay $7.4 billion less tax, profit to their bottom line.

They want to look after multinationals to send more profits overseas. We want stronger Medicare.

They want to give the banks a tax cut. We are determined to seek justice and give Australians a banking royal commission.

Indeed, when we talk about the lack of conviction of this Prime Minister, what we have to look at is marriage equality.

The idea that he will provide $7.5 million to the no case and $7.5 million to the yes case, to be supervised by five MPs and five citizens, is an atrocious idea. 

It shows the retrofitting of a bad idea being reinforced by even less sound planning.

This nation does not need to spend nearly $200 million of taxpayer money on a government opinion poll when we have a budget repair situation requiring hard choices. 

That is all this plebiscite is; it is a government opinion poll. But even worse, this government and this nation need leadership from the Prime Minister.
We know the Prime Minister's heart is not in this plebiscite. He desperately wants the issue to go away. 

ENDS


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