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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 341


Senator DASTYARI (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (16:29): It is the start of a new Senate year, and what a start it has been. We have seen a government that is divided and falling apart. It is the Seinfeld government: it is a government that has recalled parliament, brought us back here today, for the simple reason that it was on the calendar—there is nothing to actually do. There is no legislation, there is no purpose and there is no point. All we are doing here is pretending that this is a government that has some kind of control. They started off on the first day with some terrible polling numbers—54-46. None of us in this business follow polling; there is only the one poll that matters, the one on election day. But that news suddenly got surpassed by Senator Bernardi quitting the Liberal Party—quitting a party that it appeared he was running; quitting a party which, in the seven months since the last election, had done everything he asked for. He could not point to any policy difference, but he left—a complete vote of no confidence in Malcolm Turnbull.

On top of that, what have we seen this past week? This is something that has frustrated me: we are hearing politician after politician and senator after senator talk about the establishment and talk about the insiders. Let us be clear: if you are an old, white, rich, male senator you are the establishment. You are the system. We are hearing these government ministers talking about the establishment and saying, 'We will make Australia great again,' running their Trump lines. They are the government. People like George Christensen from the other place and Senator Bernardi and others go out and talk about making Australia great again, but they have been running this country for over a term now. They have set the rules. They have set the policies. We hear all about insiders and outsiders, and we have commentator after commentator going on shows like Sky News talking about how they have been silenced and they do not have a voice anymore. If you have your own nightly television show you are not being silenced this country. Maybe no-one is watching, but if you have two to three hours on either radio or television every single day you are not someone whose voice has been silenced.

There is this whole debate about where things are heading. You have a government that is folding on 18C and the rights of individuals. Why? Because of the power of right-wing shock jocks. You have a government that has fallen over already on the issue of marriage equality. It cannot come to a position. In the paper on the weekend we read that a handful—and perhaps even more than a handful—of backbenchers and others want to see marriage equality happen in this country, but they have been silenced. Their voices are not being heard in the Liberal Party.

It is madness that we put so much focus on and so much effort into going after people on Centrelink benefits and yet the government talks about $50 billion worth of tax cuts for Australia's largest companies, over $7 billion of which will go to the four largest banks. We talk about inequality, and it is growing. We also talk about housing affordability—in a place like Sydney the median house price is $1.2 million.

Senator Williams: Move to Inverell. Go to the country.

Senator DASTYARI: Nothing says 'average' like $1 million. Senator Williams says go to Inverell. I would love to, the only problem is you have cut so many regional services and regional jobs that, unfortunately, people do not actually have the opportunity or ability to move to these places. Perhaps if you actually believed in rail and perhaps if you were prepared to do something about climate change or even the jobs of the future there would be more opportunity and hope—and perhaps if you could even get the NBN up properly out there. Oh, that is right; Tony Windsor made sure you could! It is a government that has already fallen apart. It is a government that is spiralling out. It is a government that goes from one crisis to another, and for the nation the sooner we are rid of this mob the better.