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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 589


Mr FEENEY (Batman) (10:50): I think it is fair to say that while this might be the first week of parliament for 2017, the political year is already old. We saw, of course, that over the summer break this government managed to lose a minister, so it is a very unsteady beginning for this government for 2017. Not only did they put us through the torture of losing a minister, but we were then treated to the vaudeville of Senator Sinodinos filling in as health minister for a period.

Now, with our first week in parliament, we saw the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull resolved to reset the year and reset the debate as best he could. He did that with a speech to the Press Club.

A government member: It was a sensational speech.

Mr FEENEY: As you know, with that speech to the Press Club—and a member interjects saying it was a sensational speech—but the wonderful irony of it is that no-one would know. No-one would know because he successfully bombed his own speech by having the wit to time it on an occasion where the AEC election records were coming out so that his speech theme around transparency was immediately overrun by questions concerning his donation to the Liberal Party. As a consequence, we had the rather remarkable vision of a Prime Minister needing to go on the 7.30 ABC news program that evening so as to clean up the aftermath of his own attempt to reset the year. And his reset for the year, as a consequence, was entirely about his $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party.

A government member: All his own money.

Government members interjecting

Mr FEENEY: By all means, absolutely right. Again, the member makes a final interjection and says it was the Prime Minister's own money. I might, of course, make the observation that given that fact, why it is that he held onto it as a secret rather than being clear about it in the aftermath of the election is an enduring political mystery, because the Prime Minister set himself up so that there would be a full 18 months of speculation and interest in a matter that you insist is mundane. He worked hard to make it the story that it became and, not satisfied with building a year of suspense, then used that fact to bomb his own reset of the year. Once again, we have seen this government's tactical ineptitude make sure that it has lost control of the debate again and again.

But on marriage inequality—this remains a key and burning issue for my electorate—I would like to offer the coalition some free political advice: you have set yourselves up to ensure that marriage equality remains a burning issue in the electorate between now and the next election. Clearly, this is not in your interest. We can get marriage equality done. It can go through this parliament and it can become a fact. I have often made the observation that, the day after we achieve marriage equality, people will wonder what on earth the fuss was about. You have set yourselves up to be pinged by this debate for more years than you need. (Time expired)