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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 283


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (15:14): This is a government of chaos and this is a government that cannot be trusted. That has been proven by the Prime Minister's own admission today when he said, 'Good government starts today.' Well, what have we been living with for the last 500 or so days? We have been living with a bad government. The fact is that another broken promise has been made by the Prime Minister today, and that is: good government does not start today; it is the same bad government because it has the same bad policies. It is only going to be a matter of time before those in revolt on the backbench in government realise that nothing has changed—that it is the same old bad government that Australia has been putting up with for the last 16 months. And why? Because it has the same bad policies.

It is not going to take long, I believe, for the backbench to start figuring that out—so much so that Julie Bishop has declined to say how she actually voted yesterday in the spill motion. We know she is keeping her leadership options open. On top of that, we know that Malcolm Turnbull is keeping his leadership options open—so much so that he gave a very fine, some would say, leadership speech, just at the end of last month, in the US. It was a leadership speech where he articulated what leaders should be—what a leader of a country should be, no doubt. 'Leaders must be decision makers,' he said. 'It is vitally important,' he said, 'that, as a matter of social justice and political reality, structural changes are seen to be fair across the board.' That sounds to me a bit like a pitch from someone vying for the top job. We know how far Mr Turnbull will go to get that top job. In recent reports he said he would sell out on climate change, his No. 1 policy issue—the policy issue on which he said, 'I want to be leader, if I have a team that is committed to climate change.' But, when it comes to the top job, if that is what it takes—selling out on his principles and his conviction—he will let the issue of climate change go.

And we know that Julie Bishop is in a similar vein. You have Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott—three leaders: one currently in place as Prime Minister and trying to convince his colleagues that his good government starts today, and the other two waiting in the wings.

But what has not changed through all of this? It really does not matter which one of these three will be leader at any point in time during the term of this government; it does not matter about the leadership of this government, because what is bad about it is: its policies, which continue to hurt Australians. And we know that Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull have supported those policies. They have supported cuts to pensions, cuts to family payments, a GP tax, $100,000 university degrees, and cutting pay to Defence personnel. They have supported, with Tony Abbott, this government's agenda. And that is why it does not matter which one of them becomes leader in the future.

Australians are aware of this. Australians are aware that they are living under the regime of a bad government, and they are also becoming increasingly aware that the only way to get rid of these bad policies is to change the government. And that day cannot come soon enough, because Australian people deserve fairness. The Australian ethos of a fair go has been lost under this government. Those on the backbench of this government know that; that is why they revolted yesterday. That is why the spill motion came on.

But Tony Abbott came in today and said, 'Good government starts today.' His own admission, therefore, is that he has been leading a bad government—a bad government with bad policies that hurt all Australians.

Labor stands for the complete opposite of that. We stand for fairness. We stand for compassion. We stand for equality. And we stand for social justice. That is what a Labor government will deliver—unlike this mean-hearted coalition government that continues to hurt all Australians.