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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 179


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (11:18): I am pleased to participate in the address-in-reply to the Governor-General, and I will take up some of the issues that Senator Bernardi has raised in his contribution. For those who are listening in, bear with me; I have had the flu. A lot of people will understand how bad it has been for some people, so I hope my voice will last for the full 20 minutes.

This is the 45th parliament. It is a parliament where we see a weakened government and a weak Prime Minister for this country. I think that is the biggest threat to this country—not what Senator Bernardi has been talking about, but the threat of a weak Prime Minister; a Prime Minister who would stand up to Senator Bernardi. It is a bit rich for Senator Bernardi to be talking about outside influence when he has been influenced by the United States Tea Party and by some of the most right-wing groups ever in the US, and he brings that type of political culture—a culture of dividing the community—back into this country. It is a culture of destroying multiculturalism, a culture of denying that climate change is a serious issue in this country. So I will not be lectured by Senator Bernardi on anything to do with morality or the right thing. Senator Bernardi is the last person who should be standing up here lecturing anyone about people's judgement in this place.

If you had proper judgement you would not be taking the position Senator Bernardi is taking in leading the coalition on. He leads the right wing of the coalition in this place, and he is about destroying the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull. When I use the term 'leadership' I use it lightly, as the current Prime Minister has not demonstrated much leadership at all. He is completely at the mercy of people like Senator Bernardi; he is completely at the mercy of people like the right wing of the coalition, who hold the most extreme views in this country. You only have to look at the press over the last few days to see who is leading this Prime Minister by the nose. I will come back to the issue that Senator Bernardi raised a bit further down the track, but first let me get to the key issues I want to get on the record here today.

As I have said, we have a weak Prime Minister, a vacillating Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who owes his job to the right-wing extremists in the Liberal Party. We have a Prime Minister who said he had a plan for the economy during the last election, but let's remember what the plans for the economy were that the Prime Minister was backing. You cannot simply say that conservatism and liberalism in this country started afresh when Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister. It started under Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister, with the lifters and leaners argument when he tried to divide the community by attacking those who were at the bottom of society in this country—attacking unemployed youth, attacking pensioners, attacking the working poor—while defending the big end of town and defending the banking industry in this country. We see that thread go straight from Prime Minister Abbott to Prime Minister Turnbull—a clear position—where they will defend the big end of town, where they will defend those who are rich and powerful against the working poor in this country. That is why we see Senator Bernardi so determined to attack Senator Dastyari, because Senator Dastyari has been exposing day in, day out this linkage between the right wing of the Liberal Party and the big end of town, and between the Liberal Party in general and the big end of town.

So what did we get from the Prime Minister before the election? He indicated that he supported every aspect of that 2014-15 budget: young unemployed people with no money for six months; cuts to pensions; cuts to family tax benefits; cuts to the poorest in this country; attacks on penalty rates; attacks on the trade union movement—all designed to diminish the living standards of ordinary people in this country so that the money can flow back to the big end of town. That is what the current Prime Minister stood for. He stood for every aspect of that 2014-15 budget that increased inequality in this country and made this country a poorer country, because we would not stand up and look after the poorest people in the economy.

So then we had Mr Turnbull stab Mr Abbott in the back. We had Mr Turnbull take over the leadership on the basis that he was going to articulate the issues that were required for the economy. He had a plan while the former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, did not have the capacity to articulate the issues that were important for the economy. Well, Mr Turnbull has been an abject failure. It is not just Labor people who are saying that; the press are saying it and his own party members are saying it when you talk to them. They say: 'This guy is not delivering. He's weak. He won't stand up for anything. He's got no values. He's got no principles.' You have only got to look at how he performs every day. Having a deep baritone voice and presenting your case as if you are a Queen's Counsel does not make up for the fact that your case is wrong, that your case is bad, that your case is just not resonating with the Australian community.

This guy squeaked into power. If the election had probably gone another week, we would be sitting over there and the Liberals would be sitting on this side, because he was so incompetent. He just would not put the hours in. He was just lazy, incompetent, and had no vision, no policies and no priorities for ordinary working people in this country. That is the Prime Minister that we have at the moment in this country—a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted. Worse still, we have a Prime Minister who is incompetent. So he just gives up his values and his principles, if it means that he will personally benefit.

Let's talk about people who personally benefit. Let's talk about Prime Minister Turnbull: he personally benefited by knifing the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott—the biggest personal benefit anybody would have: you knife the Prime Minister and you become the Prime Minister. You say you have a great plan for the economy, so what is the first plan you come up with? The first plan you come up with is a goods and services tax—a tax that will put more strain on working-class families' budgets, more strain on their standard of living and increase inequality in this country.

That was the first economic plan from the Prime Minister, and the states said: 'No way. This is not fair. It's not good for our constituents.' Both Liberal and Labor premiers said: 'You've got it wrong. We're not going to accept this. This is not a plan that is fair. It's not a plan that is equitable. It's not a plan we're prepared to accept.' So the Prime Minister's first plan for the economy lasted a few weeks and then it just died. Then the Prime Minister, this incompetent Prime Minister, moved on.

So what was the next big plan? The next big plan was reforming the Federation: the federal government would fund the private school system and the state governments would fund the state system. We all know what that would mean. It would mean that private schools would continue to get access to funding that would give them an opportunity to have wealthy families have their kids looked after in private schools while public schools would absolutely struggle to get more funding into the schools. So that was the second proposition: we would give taxing powers to the states, and the federal government would opt out of these areas.

This is classical conservatism—that you want small government. But I have to alert you to the fact that small government means nothing for Kerry Packer, for the billionaires in this country. It is not a problem. But if you are a working class family, if you are an Aboriginal person, if you are sick or if you are trying to get your child educated and you do not have a lot of money, small government means that you will never get a fair go in this country. You will never get a fair go. So, when you hear them talk about cutting taxes, when you hear them talking from the other side about small government, realise what that means. That means that working-class families in this country will get screwed by the conservatives. That is what it means.

That was his second big economic plan, and it was torpedoed. It did not last long. I think it lasted one day. I do not know why. I will tell you what. I do not think any Leader of the Liberal Party should ever go to the Panthers stadium in Penrith again, because every time they go out there they stuff it up so badly. You know that the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, went out to the Panthers stadium and talked about no cuts to tax, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to the SBS and no cuts to the ABC, and in the next budget they did all of those things. And then we had Prime Minister Turnbull going out and, in the morning, announcing this great change, the reform of Federation; the next day it was off the agenda.

Prime Minister Turnbull is simply incompetent. Prime Minister Turnbull just has not got it. I cannot think of a better analogy than Paul Keating's analogy: he is all tip and no iceberg—absolutely all tip and no iceberg, this guy. His own people do not believe he is competent, because they sacked him when he was the leader. They do not believe he can take this government through the full term, because he is incompetent. We know he is incompetent. Look at the two economic plans, and look at the third economic plan. This is his third economic plan in 12 months.

His third economic plan was jobs and growth, innovation, $50 billion of tax cuts to the big end of town, and what he describes as export trade agreements. Well, I do not see the jobs and growth. All I see is, in places like Elizabeth, in South Australia, jobs disappearing as the coalition—which Malcolm Turnbull was part of—chased GM and Toyota out of this country and destroyed high-skilled, high-paid jobs in this country. I do not see the jobs and growth there. On innovation, they were setting out to destroy the CSIRO. They had no care about innovation until the public said, 'We want to keep our scientists.' And tax cuts: $50 billion of tax cuts, including $8 billion of tax cuts to the banks that are ripping people off, day in, day out—$8 billion of tax cuts to the banks. Where is the economic sense and credibility in that? Again, the Prime Minister and his team are incompetent—absolutely incompetent.

Trickle-down economics has failed. Look at the United States. You can draw a graph in the United States from when Ronald Reagan slashed the taxes in the United States. If you put another line up against it which is inequality in the United States, you see taxes coming down for corporations, taxes coming down for the wealthy, and inequality shooting up. Well, this is Australia, Mr Turnbull; this is not the United States. Trickle-down economics has failed, and we will fight trickle-down economics. We would rather spend $50 billion on health, on education, on infrastructure, than hand it over on tax cuts on a failed economic theory.

Let me just go back. I just want to say quickly that I am very pleased to have been appointed shadow minister for skills and apprenticeships and shadow minister for housing and homelessness. We had Homelessness Week, and not one minister in this government thought it was important enough to make one statement about homelessness in this country—not one minister. I think that says everything about this government. It will look after its mates in Collins Street and at the big end of town, but if you are a rough sleeper, if you are living in overcrowded accommodation, if you cannot afford to buy a house, that is just bad luck. You are collateral damage to this mob's economic theories. This is a bad government. This is a weak, incompetent Prime Minister. I do not think they will see the three years out.

I just want to finish up on this. I have not known Sam Dastyari for that long, but I do know Sam Dastyari, Senator Dastyari, and I am convinced that Senator Dastyari is honest and capable and a good politician. Senator Dastyari himself, I think, has conceded that he made a mistake, and he has come in and he has indicated that here this morning. I think that what has been put forward by Senator Bernardi today is a big overstep in terms of the coalition. If you want to talk about corruption, let us talk about Stuart Robert. If you want to talk about corruption, let us talk about Senator Sinodinos and his appearances at ICAC. If you want to talk about corruption, let us talk about the Millennium Forum and the money that gets poured in by the big end of town, into the Liberals' pockets, day in, day out. Let us talk about the brown paper bags getting handed over in the back seats of the Bentleys in Newcastle. Do not come here and try to come after a decent politician, a good politician, on the basis of one mistake, when there have been systematic breaches of the law by the Liberal Party in New South Wales.

Do not tell me that if you are getting handed a brown paper bag in the back of a Bentley by a property developer, as a Liberal politician, you do not know there is a problem. Well, there is a problem. There should be a forensic examination of every Liberal politicians' election fund in this country, and then we will see where the Chinese money is going, then we will see where the money is coming from—the big end of town—and then we will see where the property developers' money is going.

Sam Dastyari is a decent human being. Senator Dastyari has stood this mob up on their ears. He has exposed their link to the big banks; they do not like it. Senator Dastyari will continue to do that. He will be a great politician in this place, and I support Sam Dastyari.