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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4059


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (20:07): After the recent proroguing of parliament, I rise to respond to the Governor-General's opening speech about the resumption of debate on the proposed address-in-reply. We are reliably informed that this might be the last Canberra week of the 44th Parliament. It is an opportunity for some to bow out. I acknowledge all of those MPs who are leaving—some by their own choice, some by colleagues in their own parties suggesting it is time to move on, and some moving on at the election through no fault of their own and some through fault of their own. I wish them all the best. It is a tough job being in Canberra, away from our families and loved ones—ACT MPs and senators aside—and it is tough on families. I thank all of those many people who turn up to support this job of democracy, from the clerks right on through.

I would like to particularly acknowledge the good staff at Hansard. I note the Hansard reporter did smile there, whilst doing his job. Just for those listening, Hansard write up the words of MPs for posterity and, eventually, we even receive a bound copy of these very words that my children or grandchildren can have a look at. It is frozen in time for posterity. I know that if we stumble over certain words Hansard are so kind and attentive that they will fix them up. They will turn slang into standard English and if the word 'pronunciation' is mispronounced, they will turn it into standard English. Sadly, Hansard reporters only record what politicians say in this chamber or up in the Federation Chamber. They do not, actually, record what politicians do. They do not record if politicians are true to their word. So as this is only the third day of this new session of parliament, I thought it timely to explore, in my reply to the Governor-General, that yawning gap between what some politicians have said in the 44th Parliament and what they have done.

This is budget week—I remember that first budget week from 2014, after the 2013 election. Before that, I remember that Joe Hockey had said the LNP would return the budget to surplus in its first year. Instead, the deficit has been at least doubled by the LNP, and Mr Hockey, after that disastrous budget of 2014, has been punished for his incompetence. He earned the title of 'the worst treasurer in Australian history' and has been punished. They did that by sending him to a diplomatic posting in Washington.

Since then, we have had a few changes in those opposite. We have had a change of Prime Minister, a change of Treasurer and a change of a few others of the old guard. We had that strange situation where the Prime Minister—now the member for Wentworth; not the member for Warringah—wrote on 21 March 2016 to His Excellency General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retired). And I have a copy of that letter. It is available. He said:

Your Excellency—

Et cetera, et cetera—a little-used section 5 of the Constitution. And he said:

The reason for recalling the Parliament is to enable it to give full and timely consideration to two important parcels of industrial legislation—

The second one he mentioned was the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill 2014 (Registered Organisations Bill); that is in the letter by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General. He said a few other things. I will skip on. He said:

Although the grounds for a double dissolution under s. 57 of the Constitution exist in respect of the Registered Organisations Bill, it is the Government's preference to have it … passed by the Parliament rather than invoke the s. 57 procedure.

And, in fact, the Governor-General has written 'Noted' right next to that point.

The Governor-General—a man of honour; devoted his life to serving the Australian people; I have a lot of respect for him—made the point of saying that he had noted what the government intends to do. The Governor-General responds. Reading to the joint session of parliament—after the proroguing—the Governor-General's speech, which is available from Hansardsays:

…the House of Representatives—

The Governor-General is working on the instructions from the executive, from the Prime Minister—we, obviously, do not want adventurous Governor-Generals. We saw that back in '75. That did not go so well for Australian democracy. The Governor-General, repeating what the government has asked of him—what the executive have asked of him—said:

… the House of Representatives has three times passed legislation to give effect to the commitment on registered organisations. This legislation has been three times rejected by the Senate.

I have, on the advice of my ministers, recalled you so that these bills can be considered again, and their fate decided without further delay.

My government regards these measures as essential for the rule of law in our workplaces.

My government also regards these measures as crucial to its economic plan for promoting jobs and growth, and managing the transition of our economy from one reliant on the mining construction boom to a more diversified economy.

I will skip a paragraph. And this is Hansard recording the Governor-General's comments in the Senate chamber:

Honourable senators and members, as I declare open this new session of the parliament, you are called together to conclude your consideration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and registered organisations bills.

That was a clear statement from the Governor-General expressing the views that the executive had made clear in the letter signed by the Prime Minister of the day.

In fact, we saw in the draft legislation program for the House of Representatives for the 2016 winter sittings of parliament—it was an indicative program that was subject to change; I admit that—that it said that the resumption of debate on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill was to take place from 9.30 am on Monday 18 April and, if time required, also to take place after question time. Then even on Tuesday 19 April it listed a resumption of debate on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill.

So the Prime Minister wrote to the Governor-General and said, 'This is what we are going to do.' The Governor-General responded. But when you look at the actual draft daily program for Tuesday 19 April you see there is no mention of the registered organisations amendment bill. Parliament was prorogued. Then we had all the politicians flown back to Canberra. All the MPs, all their staff and all the support staff were brought in here so that the government could do what it said in writing it would do. Instead, in the actual program there was no mention of the registered organisations amendment bill. I wonder if the Governor-General is aware that he was told one thing by the executive and then the executive decided to go back on its word. As I said, it is incredible that we would have the Prime Minister saying one thing and then doing another.

As I mentioned, the former Treasurer said that their government would be back in surplus within the first year of government. They have been a million miles from that. This week, government debt is at $424 billion. It is on track to hit $550 billion by 2020. Surely a government of Australia asking the people of Australia to live within their means would not contemplate, when debt is blown out like that, a tax break at this time. We have had the press reporting that it is only going to be a $5-a-week tax break. And it will not be everyone. It will not be for 75 per cent of workers. They will miss out. The government are suggesting a $5-a-week tax break, which, by any traditional budget measuring standard, is not even enough for a sandwich and a milkshake. You could not buy a milkshake for $5 in many cafes in my electorate.

We have the situation where those opposite are the highest ever taxing government as a percentage of GDP, higher than any preceding Labor governments. We have the high-taxing and high-spending government opposite coming in here to suggest to Australians that they need to live within their means. The lifestyle of most Australians that we take for granted took a hammering in the 2014 budget. That budget attacked many of the things that we take for granted.

I will particularly mention the trade union movement May Day holiday in Queensland where people have gone out to celebrate the people who came 125 years before. I note that Premier Palaszczuk was up in Barcaldine, the birthplace of the Labor Party and much of the labour movement. It worked on the eight-hour day, safer workplaces, striving for equal pay for women, superannuation, Medicare—all those great things that the labour movement has delivered for all Australians. Sadly, those achievements were attacked by Treasurer Hockey in the 2014 budget, and I fear that those attacks will continue tomorrow.

We saw in the legislative agenda of those opposite that the Governor-General was informed about and spoke about that the government said they would bring in legislation to establish a registered organisations commissioner who would have powers greater than the general manager of the Fair Work Commission. The thing that separates the Labor side of the chamber and those opposite is that we will always serve the national interest. We believe in doing the right thing all the time. We are not just about economic statements that are about grabbing power. We will always take the right steps to stamp out unlawful behaviour, particularly criminal behaviour, whether it be by a banker or a union official. In fact, I would suggest that Labor people hate corrupt union officials more than those opposite ever will because the idea of stealing from poor workers and union members is something we find particularly abhorrent. Whether by a banker or a union official, the full force of the law should be applied to any unlawful activity—but in an appropriate manner.

We already have agencies empowered to investigate and prosecute unlawful activity in all industries. The Australian Federal Police and the state and territory police forces do a great job. They have the power to investigate criminal activities. Where there is serious organised crime, the Australian Crime Commission has coercive powers that can be applied to investigations as well when appropriate.

Sadly we have seen from those opposite that the best evidence of their motives is in the millions of taxpayers' dollars that they have spent so that former and current Labor leaders could be questioned before the government's politically motivated trade union royal commission. What did that royal commission actually achieve? The government have not introduced any legislation as a result of that commission. The registered organisations legislation and the ABCC legislation that the Governor-General referred to in his opening speech are not a result of that royal commission. Both of those pieces of legislation were before the parliament already when the royal commission handed down its findings, and neither of those bills have been amended by the government since the royal commission concluded.

The government, at great expense to the taxpayer, recalled parliament so that those bills could be debated. Then, as I said, the registered organisations bill just dropped off the Notice Paper, despite that public letter from the Prime Minister to the Governor-General. This was an extraordinary thing for a government to do. It is an extraordinary case of a Prime Minister saying and writing one thing and then doing another.

You would think that with such a lot of money spent on the royal commission and all that money spent on recalling parliament that somehow the bills parliament are debating right now would be the result of urgent recommendations from the royal commission. Sadly, those two pieces of legislation have been kicking around this parliament for years. The registered organisations bill was rejected not once, not twice but three times by the democratically elected Senate. In fact, this bill was no longer even before the parliament when parliament was prorogued. As for the other bill, the ABCC legislation, the government in the Senate voted to reject debating just a few weeks ago.

Prime Minister Turnbull complains that the democratically elected Senate is unmanageable. It is interesting: I have said in Queensland that there is a bit of a campaign by the Liberal and National Party about the change from optional preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting. I did not hear Lawrence Springborg talking about Malcolm Turnbull's card trick in the Senate a few weeks ago. No, suddenly they got hoodwinked by Yvette D'Ath, the Attorney-General and the Premier through changing the voting arrangements. Admittedly, there could have been more consultation. But it was bizarre to see the way Lawrence Springborg and some of those people have been completely silent on Senate reform, but are up in arms because they were outsmarted by the Labor state government.

I think those opposite need to remember that the Senate is a house of review. The job of the Senate is to review legislation. If the Senate just rubber-stamped all the legislation that those opposite put before us, we would now have a GP co-payment.

Mr Husic interjecting

Mr PERRETT: Do you remember that, member for Chifley? The GP co-payment? When all the 20 leaders of the world gathered in Brisbane to hear the great challenges of the Asian Century, what did our Prime Minister say? A GP co-payment. I have never been more embarrassed. It is unbelievable. But if the Senate just rubber-stamped these bits of legislation, we would have a GP co-payment, we would have cuts to paid parental leave and we would have $100,000 degrees—and I could go on.

Labor supports tough penalties for those who do break the law, but I also say that we should do the right thing by people. We should carry out our word, for too often we see politicians say one thing and do another. We see that personified in this Prime Minister when it came to marriage equality: he said one thing beforehand and then change after. I can give you countless examples of this Prime Minister doing this. In 2010, he said:

… I have for many years taken the view that … marriage was or is a union between a man and a woman. That is the traditional view.

That was in 2010. Fast forward to 2012, he says:

If we had a free vote on the matter and, subject always to the wording of the Bill, I would vote to recognise same sex couples’ unions as a marriage.

Then there was a flip again. In September 2015, the Prime Minister said:

I certainly think we should have a free vote and I've been very public about that.

It is unbelievable the way he would say one thing and then change.

We saw it in terms of acting on climate change. He said that direct action was 'fiscal recklessness on a grand scale'. Now, that is his policy. Under that policy, we have seen the carbon emissions go up. We have seen his views on the republic. I remember that referendum on 6 November 1999, where Malcolm Turnbull led the campaign to have a republic. Now, he is totally silent on it. I remember the comments from those opposite saying there would be no unexpected adverse changes to superannuation. We have already seen more changes flagged in the budget. The LNP also said that every $100-million-plus infrastructure project would have a cost-benefit analysis. That has been thrown out the window.

They said that there would be no tax increases. That was changed in the first budget and we are about see more of that tomorrow night. They said they would cut the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent. That has not happened. They said they would provide mothers with 26 weeks of paid parental leave. They said it and did nothing. They said there would be no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS. They have broken both of those promises. They said they would publish a draft amendment for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people within 12 months. It has not happened under Prime Minister Abbott or under Prime Minister Turnbull. They said there would be one million additional solar energy roofs over 10 years. They said one thing before the election and broke that promise after. They said that they would send a Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor whaling—nothing. They said that there would be no Medicare Local closures. Well, we have seen the complete breaking of that.

They said that there would be a great investment in innovation, and we have seen an investment. I have got to say—the member for Chifley would attest to this—there has been a $28 million investment in innovation. Unfortunately, it is only in advertising innovation, when at the same time they have made cuts: they have doubled the NBN rollout and doubled the cost and they have cut back on the number of scientists. I think they have sacked about one-in-six scientists. This is unbelievable. They say one thing but do another. Unbelievable. For too long in politics in this country—three years—people have said one thing and done another. It is time to change. (Time expired)