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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 2322


Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (15:23): Mr Deputy President, thank you for putting a stop to that ceaseless babble from Senator Polley. It was an extraordinary reinvention of six years of the worst government that we have seen in the history of this country. For some reason, Senator Polley is masquerading as the saviour of people in aged-care facilities when her government disgracefully racked up hundreds of billions of dollars worth of debt and destroyed virtually any opportunity to build this country and build upon the good management that was the legacy of the Howard administration.

It is an extraordinary burden of hypocrisy that they bear when they have to stand up and ask whether money is going back into general revenue. May I remind you and the Australian people that there is some $300 billion worth of debt that needs to be repaid and priorities have to be made. Unlike those on the opposition benches, our priorities are not going to be specifically targeted. Ten per cent of childcare workers decided to sign up to one of the unions that have been terribly, horribly and grotesquely mismanaged. May I remind honourable senators opposite that those the Health Services Union represents—some of the lowest paid workers in the country—were ripped off and had their money stolen from them to use on prostitutes, porno movies and other filth and depravity.

Senator Polley: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I ask you to call the senator to order so that he makes his comments relevant to the taking note issue, which aged care, and does not try to get back down into the gutter.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, there is no point of order. The question before the chair is that we take note of all opposition questions.

Senator BERNARDI: I am very surprised that Senator Polley—a person, I believe, of great integrity normally—is now defending Craig Thomson and his misuse of credit cards on hookers, pornos, flights for his wife and things like that. I think that is quite grubby and it is beneath you, Senator Polley. What we are talking about here is appropriate use of taxpayers' money, whether that takes place in the union movement, where you have low-paid workers who should expect more from their leaders, or in this place. The taxpayers of Australia believe they should be getting a fair go and their money should be put to good use.

The fact is that $300 billion, or thereabouts, of debt was racked up on obscure programs, like pink batts, which of course cost a billion dollars to redo and, tragically, four people died as a result of incompetent and poor administration from those on the other side. Do we remember the cheques for $900 that were sent out at random? There were $10 billion worth of cheques to people, including dead people and people overseas. I remember Senator Polley justifying that it was okay to give it to people to put into the poker machines, because what they do with their money is their business. In principle, I agree with you, Senator Polley, but this is $10 billion worth of taxpayers' money that was randomly distributed to dead people and people overseas, as well as to people in this country. So do not give me and those on this side of the chamber a lecture about how we are applying taxpayers' money, because we are trying to redress the damage done by six years of the poorest administration in the history of this country.

I know that a whole bunch of eager frontbenchers on the other side have moved down. They spent six years on the backbench defending these abhorrent programs and saying, 'It's okay. This is the Labor way,' and now they are on the front bench and they need to defend their legacy, but their legacy is horrible and will have implications for this country for perhaps decades to come, because for every bad year of government it takes four years of good government to redress it. To pay off $300 billion of debt will take decades. We are doing it for our children. Sacrifices will have to be made, but those sacrifices will not be made at the expense of those who have served our nation, which is why we have already enhanced the pension benefits for serving military personnel. It will not be at the expense of the aged and the infirm. It will not be at the expense of those suffering from disability. It will have to be a sacrifice made by those who are working today—people like us in this place; people who are committed to building a better future for their country and to ensuring that we can look after those who are unable to look after themselves.

I contrast that with the actions of those on the other side. When in government, they do not look after anyone except themselves and their union mates. We have seen union slush funds, we have seen grubby deals done, we have seen people employed without any interviews—Mr Mike Kaiser—and we have seen billions of dollars squandered without so much as a business plan. It is rank hypocrisy to hear a lecture about the management of taxpayer resources from those on the other side. They should be ashamed of their performance.