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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4068

Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (20:48): The Liberal Party has decided to endorse the Liberal branch stackers' and powerbrokers' candidate for Tangney. This demonstrates the moral and ethical bankruptcy that are now fundamental to the major parties.

It is certainly interesting that the Liberal Party believes that Tangney belongs to them, not to the constituents. The branch stackers' and Liberal Party machine candidate for Tangney stated in his email announcing his candidacy for preselection for Tangney to Liberal branch presidents and the state executive: 'It is coming up 12 years since Dennis Jensen was first elected as member for Tangney. I believe that after a decade of doing the same job, it is the right time for both the employer and employee to take stock, make an assessment about the effectiveness and to consider the prospects for the future.' So the Liberal apparatchik candidate clearly believes that his bosses are the Liberal Party, not the constituents. Indeed, he believes he has a right to the seat, as did some Liberal Party powerbrokers. He believes he is entitled to a safe seat. It was about him and about the Liberal Party only. The constituents to him were irrelevant. What they thought of my performance representing them and their issues was irrelevant. It was never about the constituents; only about him and the Liberal Party.

This arrogant attitude clearly runs through the party. Michael Kroger, the Victorian Liberal President—indeed, he is the longest-serving Liberal president in history in Victoria—and powerbroker stated of me on Sky News that:

He may have been popular in the electorate ... but inside the party he wasn't popular.

So I have been an excellent servant to both my constituents and the Liberal Party. But, to Michael Kroger, that does not make any difference. I was not popular with the Liberal Party. Ultimately, however, my constituents come first. I did a lot for the Liberal cause, as many here know—for instance, on the issue of the ETS, which I opposed while most of the party supported it. It was, ultimately, by getting rid of the emissions trading scheme as policy that we became a significant force opposing Labor in the 2010 and 2013 elections—indeed, winning in 2013. I have never simply been an apparatchik or 'yes man'. There is now a Liberal branch stackers' and Liberal machine candidate for Tangney.

If I stand as an Independent, there will be a clear choice—a candidate who has deep Liberal values, but who will fight for constituents first and foremost; a free thinker who will be their voice in parliament without fear or favour. I thank the people of Tangney for supporting me so strongly over the years. Thanks to them, I improved my margin by almost seven per cent. I obtained a record margin for the seat in 2010, and then increased that record in 2013. Just in case it is not clear: I also closed the gap between Tangney and the member for Curtin's seat by over three per cent in my time, despite the member for Curtin having a huge profile.

To me, it is my constituents that matter most. If I run as an Independent, that will be the case more than ever. The people of Tangney would have a member that put their interests first and with a definite Liberal flavour, as those are my core values. Unlike some, I do not sell out on my core values. In Robert Menzies' speech to the 'forgotten people', he said of being a member of parliament:

The true function of a member of Parliament is to serve his electors not only with his vote but with his intelligence. If some problem arises in Parliament about which he has knowledge and to which he has devoted his best thought, how absurd it would be - indeed how dangerous it would be - if he should allow his considered conclusion to be upset by a temporary clamour by thousands of people, most of whom in the nature of things could not have his sources of information, and have probably in any event not thought the problem out at all.

Nothing can be worse for democracy than to adopt the practice of permitting knowledge to be overthrown by ignorance. If I have honestly and thoughtfully arrived at a certain conclusion on a public question and my electors disagree with me, my first duty is to endeavour to persuade them that my view is right. If I fail in this, my second duty will be to accept the electoral consequences and not to run away from them. Fear can never be a proper or useful ingredient in those mutual relations of respect and goodwill which ought to exist between the elector and the elected.

I believe that I clearly fit Menzies' view on what constitutes a good member of parliament.

Ultimately, however, it is not Menzies' view on what constitutes a good MP, or even the faceless men and women who make up 64 people on a preselection panel who decide what constitutes a good member. It is the aggregate view of the entire electorate, expressed at the ballot box, that determines what makes a good member for that electorate, and these will be different for different electorates. In my electorate of Tangney, the aggregate view is that I have done an outstanding job, as is evidenced by my electoral performance. That is an objective measure of how effective or not an MP is in their electorate. Unfortunately, as can be seen by the quote of the branch stackers and the Liberal Party machine candidate, in addition to the view of a Liberal state president on the other side of the continent, that is not what matters to the Liberal Party. What matters to the Liberal Party is conformity, fundraising and branch stacking. Doing a good job as an MP, objectively measured by election results, is irrelevant.

Our democracy has lost its way, and we now see small thinking, and no vision on either side. We have parties that will act in a bipartisan manner on what is in the national interest, unless there is political advantage to be made by opposing it, despite it being in the national interest. There is too much timidity with regard to genuine policy reform. We see fiddles around tax policy, but nothing of critical importance. We have about half of Australia paying no net tax, meaning that the other half of Australia has to fund things for all Australians, including welfare. This is unsustainable and there is nothing fundamental or structural being done about it. These issues need to be addressed.

There is no Paul Keating in the Labor Party to do what is necessary on their side. The coalition are the worst economic managers, apart from all others! This is a travesty. We need to deal with the very real issues facing Australia, and do what is necessary. I believe in doing things in the spirit of President John F Kennedy, who said:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept …

Let us do the things that are hard because ultimately my constituents in Tangney and the people of Australia will thank us for it.

Good government needs members like me to check and assist governments through honest feedback, not through forelock tugging of a party hack looking for his next pay rise. Winston Churchill said, 'Honest criticism is essential to good government'. It acts like pain, signalling where there is a problem needing correction. Our political system has been swamped with carpetbaggers looking for ministerial positions rather than voicing the concerns of their electors squarely and without favour.

One of the issues of concern for me is banks and the behaviour of banks, especially in the wake of the GFC. They received significant benefit from government guarantees, and didn't they use it! They gobbled up a lot of smaller institutions that lacked that guarantee. Remember how they passed on every single increase in interest rates immediately when rates went up in the middle of the last decade? Remember how slow they were to follow the Reserve Bank's reductions when the interest rates went down, and, indeed, often did not pass on the full, or any, interest rate reduction? Now it is being proposed to get the banks, or really the customer, to fund ASIC to look into them. Why would ASIC's performance be any better than it is now? We really need to have a thorough review of the banks; in my view, a royal commission into the behaviour of the banks is needed. The banks have a massive impact on our economy. Healthy banks are critical. Systems that are transparent with banks, and ensuring that they operate in a manner that constitutes fair competition is critical. Public confidence in the banks and their behaviour is critical. So let us do what is necessary with regard to banks. In general, let us do what is right for Australia; let us do the hard things and let us do it in a bipartisan way for the benefit of all Australians.

Debate interrupted.