MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
SPEECH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2014
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2014 is the year that Tony Abbott wants us to forget.
Unfortunately for him this is a year Australians will remember for the rest of their lives.
The proposition which I advance today as a matter of public importance is this is not what the Prime Minister says is a year of achievement, laughable as that is.
This has been a year of underachievement from a government that has let the Australian people down.
Every government gets elected with the goodwill of the Australian people – but no government has burnt its bridges so quickly.
When we think back to 12 months ago the Treasurer had just goaded Holden into going, losing thousands of jobs and now we find out that was so he could clear the decks for a Free Trade Agreement.
But the list of job losses in this country is far longer than just Holden. Rio at Gove, Toyota, Alcoa, Forge in Western Australia – thousands more jobs in smaller business, in manufacturing, defence construction and the renewable energy sector at risk.
And when the Australian people were beginning to worry at the start of this year about the issue of jobs - sadly confirmed in the last few days by the National Account figures and unemployment numbers, we discovered in March of this year that the Prime Minister’s plan for jobs was to came up with that idea of knights and dames.
It has been a most extraordinary year.
But just for the record – the Labor Party will have no problem debating this curly question at our national conference, we have opposed the Imperial Honours system since 1916.
Today is the end of a shocking week, in a dreadful year, of a terrible Government.
This bunch opposite behave in a dishonest fashion, they have no fidelity between their election promises and what they do in government.
They are out of touch - a point I will come back to - and clearly they are incompetent.
And let’s think about 2014, some of the earlier months of this year, because the problem with this government is an embarrassment of riches to oppose and every week of problems make you go, maybe it’s a cunning strategy by the government to make bigger blunders the following week so you forget about their blunders the previous week.
But remember the Commission of Audit. Indeed it was their plan B, they put it out before their plan A.
But I do not expect a single Victorian Liberal member to be saying ‘it’s a good document’ because at least when it came to defending their Senate position in Western Australia, defending the Liberal Party in South Australia, and indeed Tasmania, the Commission of Audit, they sat on it and sat on it and sat on it so as not to compromise their electoral chances.
They did not show that same courtesy to the former jewel in the Liberal Crown, Victoria.
They couldn’t wait in the first week, they thought ‘dear Denis, just before I come down and hug you I want to put a petrol tax on’.
But of course, when you look at the issue of underachievement no discussion of the underachievement of this government can possible go without looking at who gets the trophy of the member of this gang for the biggest underachiever.
Possibly, possibly the Minister for Foreign Affairs, gets the top banana – easily the best performed woman in the Abbott Cabinet – she’s going so well that the PMO decided to make her take excess baggage to Lima – the Minister for Trade.
Joe Hockey—what a year he has had! Two great publications—he launched a budget and he launched his book. It is hard to know which one his colleagues like more.
Then of course we have had his John Farnham style tour—trying to one more time sell his rotten budget. Then we will never forget the gig he had with Jacqui Lambie—that did not end so well!
And of course Joe Hockey has memorably given us the arguments that the strong economic reforms need.
'A GP tax? That's just a couple of beers'— that line worked! 'Pensioners have never had it so good'—I would not go there again, Joe! And don't worry about the petrol tax because 'poor people don't drive cars'!
And in the other house there are some contributors. Senator Brandis made two noteworthy contributions. The first was 'the right to be a bigot'!
And then there was the interview on metadata, which was the most awkward piece of television since the 70-second staring competition the Prime Minister had with Mark Riley!
And then of course we had 'old charm offensive' himself, Senator Abetz—more offence than charm—bobbing up on the project. That must have been a set up. I have heard the expression first time guest, but this was a first-time viewer. And he gave us some 1950s medical science.
And then there was the Minister For The Environment—whose title is sheer irony.
He has defended the Antarctic walrus, the Tasmanian tiger and any other animal he finds on Wikipedia!
We had of course the Minister for immigration, who was working relentlessly on ‘operation self-promotion’.
And then there was the Minister for Communications. He is cutting the ABC and the SBS. I think it might be time to hang up that leather jacket, Malcolm!
And speaking of communicators, there is Christopher Pyne. He has been texting in his CV to be the Minister for Communications —or perhaps the minister for unsolicited communications!
And this is the mob who want to put the adults back in charge!
Of course, 2015 promises to be a potential follow on from this year of underachievement.
Will Senator Johnston be the Minister for Defence?
Will he keep his rhetorically flourishing canoe up his unparliamentary creek? We know what Stuart Robert is cheering for!
Will Barnaby Joyce visit Shepparton? Or has he wiped it off his mental map like Whyalla? And then of course there is the longest ‘position vacant’ stint—will we have an Assistant Treasurer again in Australia?
So we look then at the promising contenders.
There is the colt from Kooyong, there is the member for Moncrieff or there is that fast-finishing country thoroughbred the member for Wannon.
All of this would be even funnier if the following were not true: Australia cannot afford a year like the one that has just passed.
We cannot afford to have unemployment at 6.2 per cent went Labor left it at 5.7 per cent.
We cannot afford to have a 13-year high in youth unemployment, which is now at 14 per cent.
There are 42,000 more unemployed people around the country following the government's damaging budget.
We certainly cannot afford to have another year of the Prime Minister's broken promises.
Australians are better than this government. Australians deserve better than this government.
We need a government with vision and a plan for the future, not a government that is adrift both domestically and internationally.
Labor in 2014 is standing strong for fairness. We have been standing very strong.
We have been defending Medicare.
We have been fighting for families who are under pressure from the increased costs of living.
We are fighting for a fair pension—and we will keep fighting to we make sure that your cuts do not go through.
Dignity in retirement, we believe, is the birthright of all Australians. And yes, despite faux mini-me Churchill on the other side, we will keep fighting the government's unfair changes to universities.
Throughout the course of 2015 we will outline our plan for the future—a plan for inclusive growth and a smart, skilful and fair Australia.
We do not believe that growth and fairness are mutually irreconcilable; in fact, each drive the other.
We certainly cannot afford to have the destruction of confidence that we have seen.
The national account figures yesterday are a most concerning development.
This government has slammed us into an income recession. We are dangerously reliant on iron ore and minerals with very little else in our economy to help us.
We are seeing wages and profits contract in this country under this government. How long will this government keep blaming everything and everyone else for their inability to do their day job?
We have seen higher taxes under this government.
Even some of the blue blood supporters of the Liberal Party, surely, are not excited by the fact that they now pay over 50c in the dollar in tax because of this government.
Above all, nobody believes in the multi-millionaire paid parental leave schemes.
I know that in their beating hearts the government desperately want us to succeed in convincing the Prime Minister to drop that unloved scheme of his.
Let's look at the real challenges of next year. Under this government the deficit has doubled and all the projections are looking grim. The government have colluded with the Greens to extend the credit card.
They laugh! They probably do not even know what their leader is doing. They are cutting public investment.
The reason why we regard it as a matter of public importance to debate the Prime Minister's year of underachievement is that I do not believe there is a single Australian who is not disappointed by the Abbott government—from their conservative boosters, right through the spectrum of Australian opinion.
We on this side understands that growth comes from extending opportunity—from making sure that kids can go to university, right through to making sure that pensioners get a fair deal—and we will promote this next year.
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