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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 82


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (09:55): I seek leave to move that this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Leave not granted.

Mr SHORTEN: I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Maribyrnong from moving the following motion forthwith:

That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Seventeen months ago the Prime Minister promised Australian voters a stable, mature and adult government. What has happened? There have been many promises broken by this government, but the promise to run a stable and mature government is arguably the biggest broken promise of this sad government's last 17 months.

The Australian people, unlike those in the parallel universe the government inhabits, have watched with amazement in the last few weeks and days as the once-great Liberal Party huffs and puffs its way up to a leadership spill. Australians know this government is not working for them. I say to the Liberal backbenchers of this government and to the Liberal frontbenchers: it does not matter who you choose. The problem is not the salesperson; the problem is what you are selling to people.

As for the member for Wentworth, who we just heard from: never has a member wanted so much yet would do so little to get the position! He, the Zorro of the dispatch box, has said that he wants the job but he will not fight for the job. He is prepared to injure his Prime Minister but he leaves his supporters hanging. He is a veritable ball of ambivalence!

But this is not new in his political career. For two long, excruciating decades we were with the Hamlet of the Liberal Party—to be Labor or to be Liberal, that is the question! Oh yes, we like your look. But in the end, John Howard had a better chance of beating Kim Beazley, so lucky Liberal Party! The ball of ambivalence chose the Liberals. And then what did he do when he came to parliament? He stalked poor old Brendan Nelson. What did Brendan Nelson ever do to deserve Malcolm Turnbull stalking him?

But, of course, the member for Wentworth was angsting on the spill motion over the weekend. He was able to be conned by Godwin Grech—and we will never forget that! Then he could not even come to terms with Nick Minchin. And there, the man who would be if he could be, got beaten by Tony Abbott! Not once, not twice but time and time again.

Mr Pyne: Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition appears to have taken the wrong speech from his office today. Perhaps they were not prepared for the outcome of this morning's meeting? He clearly appears to be talking about the wrong member of the chamber and you should draw him back to the motion, which is about the Prime Minister.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House makes the point that this is a suspension motion and that the Leader of the Opposition should indeed refer to the suspension motion.

Mr SHORTEN: I take the point of order from the member for 'hedging your bets'! I was going to come to the Prime Minister. I do not often agree with the Prime Minister's policies—in fact I very rarely do. But I felt a little bit on Tony Abbott's point of view today. I mean, he is not as articulate as the member for Wentworth, but he is a bundle of fight, our Prime Minister. He is superglued to that seat, member for Wentworth, and you are going to have to blast him out!

I admit that our Prime Minister has a lot of energy. He runs around constantly biting his own tail. But at least he knows how to fight for something, member for Wentworth. The real shame of this debacle today—the real shame today—is that it is not who leads the Liberal Party; it is that we have heard not a word of repentance from the government about their unfair budget. Australians sat there, perhaps waiting to see the outcome of the spill that never was. But they waited to see any humility from any member of the government. The Minister for Finance let it out of the bag yesterday on Insiders. The interviewer asked the Minister the Finance:

Has anyone in the ministry ever complained to you about the budget? Have they suggested to you that it was unfair?

And the Minister for Finance said, 'Not a one.' Some of them may seek to blame Prince Philip and the knighthood, some of them may seek to blame the absentmindedness of Australian voters, some of them may seek to say that it is the internet or social media and some of the may care to say that if only people understood what they were selling then things would be better. Wrong, wrong and wrong again, people. The problem with this government is that it brought down a budget which broke all the promises it made. They broke their promises. 'No new taxes'. Tell that to the people paying taxes. 'No cuts to education'. Tell that to the states losing their funding for schools. Remember the promise about no changes to health care? Tell that to the people paying the GP tax. This nation does not need a new Liberal leader; it needs a new government.

The Australian people are resilient despite this circus that those opposite are running. People are going to work every day, small business is investing and young people are studying and working in the restaurants—working hard. You have got the nurses caring for the sick and the infirm. You have got a lot of people out there in Australia pulling pretty hard, though what you have got is a nation of lifters being led by a government of leaners, and that is the problem in this country. In the last two, three, six and 18 months we have seen this government fail time and time again. This government will not admit that it is not the opinion polls which really matter here. What we have is a government who will not admit that their budget has beaten them. Forget the embroidery of the Australia Day announcement. Forget the embroidery of knights and dames. That shows we have the Prime Minister with a romantic urge for the 1950s—that is life.

It is not the political ineptitude of the government which I worry about; it is their wrong priorities for the nation. They are more interested in Buckingham Palace than Beijing. They are more interested in forcing down an unfair budget, cutting opportunity and cutting hope. If this government wants to learn anything from the last 18 months, we give you this advice: do not cut the pensions, do not cut Medicare, do not introduce a GP tax and do not introduce $100,000 degrees. While you are at it, why don't you build the Navy submarines in Australia like you promised too? While you are at it, here are some other positive ideas from Labor: maybe we could have a mature debate about becoming a republic in this country? While we are at it, why don't we do something meaningful on the climate change that the on-again, off-again member for Wentworth believes in?

A government member interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: He believed it then, but of course we know and Australia knows that in order for the member for Wentworth to blast the Prime Minister from his seat, he has to sell out whatever views he had on climate change. What we see now is a government causing great disarray with the confidence of Australians. There are clear signs on what this government should do. In the next 12 months you should—

A government member: What would you do, Bill?

Mr SHORTEN: You are asking what we should do? Do not cut Medicare. Do not wreck the higher education system. Do not touch the pensioners. What we need is a strategy for growth in this country and you do not have it.

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: There is the Treasurer, the ultimate hollow man of Australian politics!

The best proposition we have for this nation is that you drop this budget in its entirety, admit that you have wasted 18 months of the nation's life that we will not get back. Furthermore, we need to stop the marginalisation of the middle class of Australia. You opened up an attack on the minimum wage in this country. You opened up an attack on the aspiration of Australians to have a decent income. You have abandoned the manufacturing sector in this country. This government dares to tell people that if they had a different message-maker then all would be good.

The fundamental problem in this nation is that the Liberal Party has drifted too far to the right. You no longer represent the mainstream of Australian thinking. In that last budget you certainly bit off more than you could chew, and it was because you broke the covenant of trust with the Australian voters. You can sit there and you can put your hands over your ears and say, 'None of this is true.' But the truth of the matter is that Australians have low tolerance for a government who lied their way into office. You do not need different social media. You do not need to have different leaders. What you have to do is to not tell lies to the Australian people. This morning was a debacle. We know it was a debacle, and you know it was a debacle, as are these constant references saying that somehow you have sorted all your issues out. Until you sort out the budget and until you sort out your attack on the working people of Australia, and until you stop intimidating and oppressing the poor and the vulnerable in Australia, your problems will never be fixed.

The Liberal Party has moved the political debate in this country far too much to the extremes. You are an extreme government motivated by an extreme ideology and the member for Wentworth, no matter what he has said in the past, has shown that he is a man prepared to say and do anything to be the Prime Minister of the Liberal Party, and that is not good enough for this country. Australians have not only worked out this Prime Minister; they have worked out the member for Wentworth—a man who will say and do anything to be in power. The answer is clear: we need to have a government who will not cut pensions, who will not introduce— (Time expired)