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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1030


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:13): I rise to take note of answers given to questions asked by Senator Joyce and Senator Brandis. What a farce. What an absolute embarrassment. From the answers given today, the Gillard government would have us believe that everything is fine—that they are all happy little vegemites over there—but at its core it is still the same government, a government which has just gone through quite an embarrassing public confessional. It is the same government that oversaw the failed policy implementation across so many areas. There was biosecurity. I am glad Senator Sterle mentioned the BER. There was pink batts, GroceryWatch and Fuelwatch. Time does not allow me to list all the areas of failed policy implementation by the Rudd-Gillard government, but one of particular interest to me is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which is just going on and on providing uncertainty across the southern basin in particular.

This government knifed Kevin Rudd for his incompetence as Prime Minister, and Labor wants Australians to believe that a few hours of peace will actually make up for 4½ years of division and dysfunction. As for how we are proceeding today, Steve Gibbons, the member for Bendigo in north-central Victoria—who, we might remember, sent out that wonderful tweet about the 'psycho Rudd'—is quoted in the local press as saying he makes his own decisions and is 'not accountable to anyone—you moron!' This is how he is responding to constituents, to real Australians who have real concerns about how this government is treating them and their country. The government does not listen. It fails to deliver. It does not understand that we live in a democracy.

Over and over this week and last week we have heard from ALP ministers and backbenchers outlining exactly why this government has failed to deliver good governance. It is a grocery list of projects mismanaged by both the Gillard government and the Rudd government—and we heard it from them. There are no better people to speak about it, I guess, than the people who have actually lived it. The Australian people are tired of a government which fails to listen to them, fails to lead and fails to deliver. Good government is about good policy, not about getting a good headline. And, for the record, rarely does a good headline in the seat of Melbourne—taken from Labor by the Greens at the last election—make a very good headline in Manangatang. I will just give you that heads-up!

The policy needs for regional Australia are unique, and this government fails to get it, over and over and over again. On that issue, I would like to turn my attention to one of those policies, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Minister Burke promised in November 2011, after hearing quite a significant level of angst in regional communities, to halt water buybacks in the southern basin prior to 2013. Communities and industry had been telling the government over and over again to stop it, and the message was the same in Shepparton, in Swan Hill, in Deniliquin and in Mildura, yet the minister announced this week that he will be recommencing those buybacks in the southern basin. This government fails on all levels to listen and to deliver. Last week in Swan Hill farmers and irrigators made very clear the negative impact that water buybacks have on irrigators left in the system, but this government does not listen.

Senator Wong berated the coalition during question time for not standing up for families. Where is the ALP in standing up for families living and working in the Murray-Darling Basin? I would like to see that. Where is the government support for workers being laid off in the small businesses in towns and suburbs right across the country—not just in the car manufacturing industry, Senator Arbib, but in tourism, in food processing and in manufacturing? Where is the ALP in supporting those families? I will tell you where: nowhere.

Regional Australia has lost confidence in this government. Small business has lost confidence in this government. And 30 per cent of the government has lost confidence in this government. No wonder the Australian public has lost confidence. Australia is a great country with a terrible government, and Australians know it. Stop the farce, take us to an election and let the people have a say, rather than subjecting us to another 18 months of failure and mismanagement in policy implementation.