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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1062


Mr MARLES (CorioDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:25): As we gather here this afternoon, on the 66th day of its third term, there is one question above all others that screams from this place: what is the point of the Morrison government? I know what the point of the member for Dunkley is: she came here and, in her wonderful first speech, talked about a commitment to the reform and funding that our health system needs and to do whatever is required to ensure that Australia trains, retains and invests in the healthcare professionals and researchers who make our system great. But, if you are expecting any action from that side of the House with respect to health, you are sadly mistaken. For the last six years, they've cut money from health, and that's all we can expect over the next three.

I know what the point of the member for McNamara is, because he stands here ready to help ensure that our First Nations people are duly recognised in Australia's Constitution. But, if you're hoping for action on recognition by the government, we saw everything we needed to see when the Minister for Indigenous Australians made his statement and was cut down by the Prime Minister within 24 hours.

I know what the member for Jagajaga stands for. She believes there is a climate story powerful enough to drive the action that will allow humanity to survive and to flourish. But all we've heard from that side of the parliament in the last six years in relation to climate change is the steering of this country to a place of being a pariah in the international community when it comes to our action on climate change.

I know what the member for Canberra stands for, because she said:

We should invest in our nation's children and give them the best start in life. Social security is one of the most powerful tools governments have to address and prevent poverty.

That was said by a person who understands what social security can do to address poverty. But, if you look over to that side of the parliament, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister is a former Minister for Social Services, all you see is a policy-barren wasteland when it comes to social security.

And I know what the member for Lilley is about. She's here because nothing has more power to make or dismantle this nation's future than this House. The work this House does shapes lives now and long into the future. But, if you were hoping for action from that side of the House to make this place more purposeful, you are sadly mistaken. They cannot even fill the speakers list with respect to their own legislation, and we are watching, as we stand here right now, the Senate, in its third week, running out of business.

When you look at the wonderful first speeches that were made by the Labor members of this place—bursting with a sense of optimism, a sense of purpose, a sense of intent; why they have come to this place and want to make a difference on behalf of Australians all around this country—you cannot feel anything but proud of being a member of the party that we belong to. But, on that side of the House, there is absolutely nothing.

The date of 18 May was significant. To be honest, it was a moment that harboured a lot of pain for those of us on this side of the House. But there is no group of Australians who are more surprised to be sitting where they are right now than those opposite. They spent most of last year and all of summer thinking about what they were going to be doing after politics. They were wondering where they were going to be going on their holidays. Now they are sitting there wondering what on earth it is they're actually going to do.

To give them a little bit of credit, they have managed to kind of effect a smugness distillery. You only need to look at the faces of all the members of their frontbench to see smugness in its purest form. If you look at the Prime Minister, it is literally dripping from him. The younger at heart amongst them no doubt have been bouncing back into the ministerial wing late at night when no-one's watching. They're doing the snow fairy on their blue carpet. You can imagine the cabinet meetings where they're all getting round, wondering what to say and comparing which department has the best chesterfields and which departmental secretary is offering the best Scotch. But don't for a moment think that they have anything that resembles a policy and agenda for this country.

The only people who have been busy at all are those responsible for spin. This week they came up with a line which was: whose side are you on? There's a certain irony about that, because the one thing we know about these people is that they are certainly not on the side of the Australian people. If it is measured by who they are focused on, the only side they seem to care about is this side. Because, since 2 July, when they came back here, the only thing they have done in this parliament is seek to wedge Labor.

In the very first week, the week of 2 July, we were seeking to put $1,000 into the pockets of nurses, shop assistants and people who work in restaurants. But the government urgently wanted to hold all of that hostage to a tax plan which wasn't going to come into effect for six years, and they did that because they wanted to wedge Labor. Last week, the Leader of the Opposition attended the Bush Summit in Dubbo. He made clear to all assembled that Labor was willing to support a drought package of whatever size the government wanted to put forward out of recurrent funding and wanted to ensure that that package actually got into the hands of farmers right now. But what we had from the government was a proposition which sought to attach all of that to the Building Australia Fund, a fund which they have been trying to destroy since the day they were elected to office back in 2013. What's worse, not a cent would flow from their proposition for an entire year.

Of course, we've had old faithful: national security. The Minister for Home Affairs came up here and talked about temporary exclusion orders, a regime which he knows we support. But he has tried to attach it to the junking of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, a committee which has done critically important work in this country to make sure that national security legislation is fairer, better and stronger for our nation.

Whatever else is going on here, there is no agenda for the Australian people. Anyone in this parliament would know it, and people in this town know that the government haven't been governing for years. It's why our economy is stagnant right now. It's why we've got net debt which, under this mob, has doubled. Gross debt is at a record level. Indeed, debt is growing faster now than at the time of the global financial crisis. When they came to office, we were the eighth-fastest-growing economy in the OECD. Today we are the 20th. There is not a worker in this country who doesn't know that the stand-out stat in the economy today is stagnant wages, and this government has been responsible for the single biggest deindustrialisation in our economy since Federation.

Since 2013, we have had one of the most severe droughts that this country has ever faced. Yet do you imagine that we would get anything like a long-term strategic drought policy from the government? We've had none of it. What we have had is a drought envoy, a drought coordinator, a drought summit and a drought task force. Now we're going to get a drought parliamentary committee. But, if you think our farmers are going to get a meaningful drought policy from the government, you've got another think coming.

When it comes to national security and the very difficult issue of our borders, at a time when we have the largest number of displaced people on the planet since the Second World War, what you have is Labor coming to the table every day with sincerity, trying to solve a wicked problem in a way that stops people dying and has Australia taking its part in the world. But what you've got over here is deep cynicism. You've got a Prime Minister who went to Christmas Island this year to do nothing other than put out a welcome sign by opening the Christmas Island detention centre in the most cynical way in the lead-up to the election. And whenever you hear that number from the Minister for Home Affairs, as we did today, of the 1,200 people who lost their lives between 2010 and 2013, just remember that 650 of them died after this mob cynically stopped the Malaysian solution back in 2011.

So what I do know is that they are not for the Australian people, but I also know this: when you look at the wonderful first speeches from this side of the House, when you look at the intent and purpose which they embody, that is the spirit which is going to carry us from this side of the House to that side of the House in three years time when we face the people.