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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 155


Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:45): Here we are, the first sitting day of the re-elected Turnbull government. It should be a day of celebration over there you would think, wouldn't you, Mr Deputy Speaker? You would think members opposite should be pleased that they are back, and yet on the first and we have a Prime Minister and a Treasurer exposed in national media as being completely bereft of political and moral authority. We know they are bereft of political authority because the Prime Minister and the Treasurer could not even convince their own cabinet of an important policy matter. It is the first time it has happened since 1974. It is the first time the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the day have gone into the cabinet and said, 'Here's something we want to do,' and the cabinet said: 'Not on your life, Prime Minister and Treasurer. We are not going to let you.' They have no political authority.

It is not unusual for a Prime Minister to grow into the job. It is a hard job. It takes time to adjust. This Prime Minister is shrinking before our eyes at question time, shrinking into the job every single day because he has no political authority within his government. And you know what? He has no moral authority either. We saw him during the election campaign run a scare campaign about negative gearing. We thought: 'This isn't going too well. Maybe it's just because he just isn't up to a scare campaign like the member for Warringah was.' The member for Warringah knew how to run a scare campaign. We will give him that! He was good at that. But it turns out there was more than that. The Prime Minister's heart was not in it because he agreed that negative gearing needed to be reformed. He knew when he said to the Australian people 'this will smash your housing prices' and 'this will wreck the economy' that they were not the arguments he was using behind closed doors in the cabinet room when he was asking his colleagues to agree with him. He was saying one thing to the Australian people and another thing to his cabinet colleagues, and that is why this Prime Minister completely lacks moral authority as well as political authority.

There is a pattern that we see very clearly. The Prime Minister believes in this House dealing with marriage equality but he cannot convince his cabinet and he misleads the Australian people about what he thinks. This is a Prime Minister who used to say that he would never lead a political party that was not as committed to real action on climate change as he is. That was the member for Wentworth. Now he leads a party that has a joke for a climate action policy, which he used to call a fig leaf, and that he claims to the Australian people that he believes in. Yet, we know that he does not. This is a Prime Minister who knows that it is in the Australia's national interest, for the first time in our modern history, to have a serious candidate for one of the most important decisions in the world: Secretary-General of the United Nations. But, no, the right wing of his cabinet will not let him do it. This is a Prime Minister who knows that an effects test is very poor policy but his cabinet and his National Party insist that he implements it. He has a right wing in his cabinet that says: 'Don't you act in the national interest, Prime Minister. You act in our political interest.' And this Prime Minister jumps to their orders. This Prime Minister says, 'That's what we are going to do.' That is why he lacks moral authority.

He comes in here and says that there is a moral challenge about debt. This is a Prime Minister who rejects our offer to fix his superannuation mess. This is a Prime Minister who cannot get his own superannuation policy, which he took to the election, through his party room, let alone his cabinet. The Leader of the Opposition extended a hand and said: 'We will help you fix the mess. We will help you avoid a retrospective policy, which is very bad policy, and we have done the policy work and developed a plan which actually raises more money for the government.' And this Prime Minister said, 'There is a moral challenge about debt, and I'm not taking your offer, because I just want to play politics.' This is a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who bring in a bill and say that we must pass it. Sight unseen, we must agree to pass it, and 'don't you dare even look at it'. The member for Rankin and I have a look at it and we find a $100 million error which the Treasurer appeared to be unaware of, and they say: 'How dare you not pass our error. How dare you not pass our mistake.' The bill has a black hole. No wonder this Treasurer is clearly being regarded as not up to the job. This is a Treasurer and a Prime Minister who are not prepared to lead. This is a Prime Minister who on the matter of housing affordability lectures the Australian people that rich parents should pay for their children's houses when all along he knew there was a better answer. All along he knew there was a better policy to deal with the crisis of housing affordability but he had no authority to implement it. I say this: the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should make way for a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who are prepared to lead the economic policy debate in this country and who led during the election campaign on issues that have been in the too-hard basket for 30 years. This Leader of the Opposition was prepared to say to the Australian people, 'This policy of negative gearing is not fair or sustainable and we will fix it.' We went to the election seeking a mandate for economic reform. This Prime Minister went to the election with an excuse and a slogan, and he should recognise that his leadership is over. (Time expired)