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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 680


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (17:38): It is not often I get the opportunity to follow Senator Back in a debate. I am very pleased to be able to do that today. Listening to Senator Back thrash around, regurgitating the same old rhetoric that the Australian public have rejected, is just pathetic—absolutely pathetic.

Let us go to one of the issues that Senator Back raised: the issue of jobs. The key players on jobs are the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and what have they said today about this incompetent, arrogant, unreal government? One hundred thousand more Australians are unemployed since the last election—100,000 jobs gone under the watch of Prime Minister Abbott and the rabble that he presides over. It is really is an issue where the only job that the Prime Minister cares about is his own job. The unemployment rate is the highest it has been since 2002. We had Senator Ruston in here earlier, and Senator Back, waffling on about what great economic managers they are and what a problem they inherited, and they have been demonstrated today again to be economic incompetents and to be absolutely incapable of dealing with the issue of employment growth in this country. There has been a 1.1 per cent spike in youth unemployment under the watch of the coalition government. This is the same government that wants to make sure that unemployed youth do not get access to any government support for six months. What is wrong with this government?

In South Australia, where this government basically told the car industry to go away—'Go and find an investment somewhere else'—and get out of the country, we now have this big jump in unemployment. It has the highest unemployment in the country, at 7.3 per cent, and that is before the car industry job losses hit South Australia. It is at 7.3 per cent now, and the car industry losses are to go on top of that. There has been a deal done with the Spanish government to build the submarines in Spain, and that will mean more job losses in South Australia. This government does not care about jobs. All the leadership of this government care about is their own jobs—that is all they care about.

Look at the pathetic performance we have had in South Australia. Senator Edwards was dragged kicking and screaming to stand up publicly for jobs in South Australia. We never heard a peep out of him when Senator Johnston, the former defence minister, said that South Australians could not build a canoe. There was not a peep out of any South Australian senator—not a word. They just copped this diminution of the reputation of South Australian workers, and they did it without a peep—not a mention of that issue.

Then, suddenly, the South Australian senators understand they have a political time bomb ticking away underneath them and that this is not acceptable. On top of destroying the car industry, the coalition are destroying the submarine and shipbuilding industry. That political time bomb ticks away and what does Senator Edwards do? He has an epiphany. He suddenly recognises that there are jobs on the line in South Australia, an area with high unemployment, the highest unemployment in the country, with the government not caring about South Australian workers. So he actually does the right thing and he starts standing up for South Australian workers. But then he does a deal with the Prime Minister that he would provide his vote to the Prime Minister in return for an open, competitive tender. The Prime Minister gives him that commitment. Senator Edwards goes out the next day, parades himself as being a great hero in South Australia and says, 'I've delivered a competitive tender for South Australian industry. Look how good I am.'

As soon as he got the words out of his mouth, he was being hammered into the ground. I feel sorry for Senator Edwards—I really do feel sorry—because at least he did the right thing in the end. He was doing it belatedly, but he got there and he eventually did the right thing. He traded his vote for the promise in return of trying to help employment in South Australia. The competitive tender did not last too long. It became an 'open evaluation process', or whatever it is being called—something that nobody knows what it means or what it is about. Then it became an 'opportunity to participate'.

Senator Edwards tried to go out and defend himself in the media—not very successfully, I do not think anyone would argue—but then he was humiliated again by South Australian frontbencher Mr Jamie Briggs, who came out and basically accused Senator Edwards of lying. In all my watching of politics in this country, I have never heard a government minister accusing a fellow member of their party of lying. This is something new in politics and it shows you exactly the problem we have with an incompetent government that is only interested in maintaining jobs, maintaining the perks of office, and is not prepared to look after the workers in this country. So I really feel sorry for Senator Edwards. His reputation is now that of someone who has lied. That is the reputation Senator Edwards has. And it has not been brought about by the Labor Party—because we do not believe he did lie. It has not been brought about by his political opponents on this side, it has been brought about by his political enemies on the other side. Senator Edwards is a much diminished figure after this fiasco. He does not deserve to be treated like that because, eventually, he stood up for jobs in South Australia. Senator Edwards, in my view, should continue to defend his reputation before it is gone forever. Senator Edwards, for all his faults, for all his ideological incompetence, for all his economic incompetence, tried to do the right thing and has been absolutely buried by his own side.

This is something I have never seen before. What is he trying to do? He is trying to do what the Economic Development Board in South Australia is that right thing, and that is to build the submarines in South Australia. The Economic Development Board in South Australia have said that Australia would be around $525 million a year better-off if the submarines are built in Australia—a half a billion dollars a year benefit to this economy by building the submarines in Australia—and 3,000 more Australian jobs will be saved every year over the 40-year life of the project if the submarine is built in Australia. These are massive figures, massive amounts of jobs, and I am glad Senator Edwards belatedly come to the view that he should stand up and fight on that position.

The unemployment rate is only one aspect of the failure of this government. The biggest failure of this government is a failure of trust and a failure of credibility. You see, no-one trusts this government. It does not matter whether it is Senator Ruston, Senator Back or Senator Cormann who gets up and runs the same rhetoric that has been run by this government since it came into power, people have stopped listening. And do you know why? It is because they do not trust you. You cannot lie continually to the Australian public and get away with it unscathed. I remember clearly when, on the night before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott, then Leader of the Opposition, went to the Penrith football club and said there would be no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS. Well, not one of those commitments has been kept.

Attacking the ABC, one of the most respected organisations in this country, is, I think, a bit low. The ABC is clearly an independent organisation that is delivering what the Australian public expect—a news service that can be respected and is independent. I have heard Senator O'Sullivan attack the ABC. I have heard him say that was one of the good things the government has done. Senator O'Sullivan, I do not think the constituents out in rural and regional Australia really think that is a good thing to do. I think your constituents actually believe that the ABC provides a good service to the community and that it is worth paying for.

I think your constituents need a National Party that is going to stand up for their needs out in rural and regional Australia—not a National Party that simply does the bidding of the Liberal Party, is a pale imitation of what the National Party used to be and is not prepared to stand up for rural and regional Australia on health, education and welfare. The National Party are so pathetic. They are not prepared to stand up for their own constituency, and that is why the voters in rural and regional Australia are looking for alternatives to the National Party. That is why we are seeing Liberals and independents getting elected in rural and regional Australia. The Nationals have abandoned the needs of rural and regional Australia.

Where are people depending more on jobs? In rural and regional Australia. They need jobs in rural and regional Australia. Where are people who are on welfare? The majority, or a lot of them, are in rural and regional Australia. What is the National Party sitting back and letting the Liberal Party do? Cut $80 a week over 10 years out of the pensions. Have you actually gone out and told the constituents of rural and regional Australia that you are sitting back dumb, sitting back and say nothing, when the pensions will be reduced by $80 a week over a 10-year period? I do not think so.

There are many unemployed 23-year-olds in rural and regional Australia. They are being cut $50 a week, which is 18 per cent of the income. There is nothing fair about that. That is why the Australian public have said that the budget that this government delivered is one of the most unfair budgets this country has ever seen. A single parent with an eight-year-old child will lose $60 a week, which is a 12 per cent cut in their income. Where is the fairness in that? It is just not there. For families on $65,000 a year, their income will be cut $6,000 a year.

That is why the coalition have lost the confidence and the trust of the Australian people. That is because you have acted on ideology and not the interests of the Australian public. You come in here and you mouth the same rhetoric, day after day, hoping it will see you through. The robotic rhetoric of Senator Cormann is not cutting through. You have got a Treasurer who is not cutting through. You have got a Prime Minister who is totally incompetent and does not even have the confidence of a massive amount of his backbench.

Senator O'Sullivan: What nonsense!

Senator CAMERON: Senator O'Sullivan says, 'What nonsense.' This shows you that these people are just defying reality. They just do not accept reality. It was not the Labor Party who had the vote in your party room and it was not the Labor Party that was rebelling; it was your own backbench that was rebelling, because they are now listening to the Australian public and the Australian public are saying that your budget was unfair, you have not done the right thing and you cannot be trusted. You cannot be trusted and that is why you are in the position that you are in, where your party room is falling apart and where your Prime Minister is on a day-to-day probation. If there is another mistake, you are gone and the Malcolm Turnbull minions are in control. That is the problem you have got. You took the schoolkids bonus away, you cut $36 billion out of education and you cut $80 billion out of health—no wonder the Australian public look at you guys askance.

It is not only the Australian public. You have got the Council on Foreign Relations, who promote themselves as supporting globalisation, free trade, reducing financial regulation on transnational corporations and economic consolidation into regional blocks—on it goes. It is a right-wing organisation. What does one of their experts say in the Council of Foreign Relations' journal? They say:

Is Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott the most incompetent leader of any industrialized democracy?

I can answer that question very easily: yes. They say:

There are world leaders who appear dangerously unhinged, making policy based on whims, advice from a tiny handful of advisers, or some other highly unscientific formula.

They name a few of those leaders, such as Korea's Kim Jong-un and Russia's Vladimir Putin. They say:

But none of these leaders run a rich and powerful democracy… Tony Abbott, however, is in charge of a regional power, a country that is the twelfth largest economy in the world and the only rich world nation to have survived the 2008-9 financial crisis unscathed.

That was thanks to the Labor Party.

Yet in less than two years as prime minister, Abbott has proven shockingly incompetent, which is why other leaders within his ruling coalition, following a set of defeats in state elections, may now scheme to unseat him. They should: Abbott has proven so incapable of clear policy thinking, so unwilling to consult with even his own ministers and advisers, and so poor at communicating that he has to go.

That is only the start of the analysis from the right-wing think tank. The coalition are in political trouble and economic trouble. They will not survive because they are unfair and untrustworthy and have lied their way into power. (Time expired)