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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9222


Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:23): I join with many other speakers in really acknowledging that today we probably have seen this parliament at its best. After a long and rancorous debate about the topic of marriage equality in our country, we have seen politicians from all sides of the political spectrum come through and finally deliver what the Australian people have wanted for a very long time, which is the right for same-sex couples to be married just as that right has applied to heterosexual couples for as long as anyone can remember. Obviously the achievement in moving that legislation to grant same-sex marriage is historic in its own right, but the other thing that was really on display over the course of that debate and that vote was the power that comes from unity. We did have politicians from the Labor side, the Liberal side, the Nationals side and the minor parties. Obviously, not everyone voted that way, but it was one of those rare occasions in this parliament where you do have some level of bipartisan agreement to deliver some really important reform that will benefit many, many people into the future.

In listening to the concluding speech by Senator Smith, the Liberal senator from Western Australia, one of the points I took from it was his comments that he really noted that that spirit of unity and generosity is something that we could see a lot more of in this parliament. It makes you wonder what is possible in that sort of environment, because amazing things really are possible when you have unity in the political process. But, sadly, that sense of unity is something that is in very short supply in this government. Not a day goes by where we don't see backbenchers in this government—in some cases even ministers—making comments which express a lack of confidence in this Prime Minister and a lack of confidence in this government's direction. All in all, they display incredible levels of disunity.

We've had Senator O'Sullivan doing it about banking royal commissions. We've had Senator Macdonald doing interviews yesterday, effectively, saying the Prime Minister's lost the plot and is not resonating with people in northern and central Queensland. There is the unnamed member of parliament who has said that they're going to leave the coalition ranks before the end of the year if the Prime Minister isn't replaced—the list goes on.

In listening to Senator Abetz's contribution, he tried to pass this off as the diversity that is on offer in the government ranks—and I have to say, sitting on this side of the chamber and looking at the government ranks, I can't see a lot of diversity. He says that the disunity we see on a daily basis from government senators and MPs is all about diversity and that we should celebrate diversity. As an observer of this government, both in question time today and each and every day, I can say there don't seem to be a whole lot of celebrations going on over there. People are demoralised and distracted, and that fundamentally gets back to the division and disunity that we see constantly from this government.

This government is truly racked by disunity. It actually doesn't give me any pleasure to watch that. We see government MPs and government senators suffering. You can see the anguish on their faces as they turn up here every day, knowing that they are part of a government that is distracted, lacking unity and purpose. However, I don't really care that much about how government MPs and government senators feel. I don't really mind too much about their anguish, but I care very deeply about the fact that the Australian people are suffering from the lack of unity and division that we see constantly from this government, because it's not as if this country isn't without really significant challenges that they are turning to their government to solve. Unfortunately, this government is so distracted by disunity and division that it is completely unable to focus on the significant challenges facing our country and get on and solve them. The challenges include jobs. We know that right across the country, particularly in regional Queensland, there is a desperate and urgent need for new jobs and a government that has some plans about what we can do to get new jobs. But, instead, this government is so distracted by its division that it can't even get one project approved for Queensland in its Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. That is just one example. It's the same on health, on wages growth and on infrastructure. This government is divided.

Question agreed to.