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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1973

Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (16:27): I rise to speak about the continued dysfunction and chaos that has been evident every single day since 1 July, when the coalition were returned to the government benches, and that continues. They have no idea what they are doing. They have a leader who had a plan to become Prime Minister of this country. The only problem was that when he was elected Prime Minister he had no plan. Today we have again had it demonstrated that he has no vision and no plan for this country.

It always delights me to follow Senator Macdonald's contributions in this chamber. Once again he talked a whole heap of nonsense. He is trying to rewrite history: every problem in the world today has been caused by the former Labor government. Well, that was too long ago now; the reality is that the problems we have in this country now and the disunity Senator Macdonald has in his party are caused by a lack of direction and lack of leadership from the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull.

We know that every time Mr Tony Abbott has the opportunity to get in front of the cameras he does everything he can to help the Prime Minister! But what do we have with the Prime Minister? When I am out in the community, most people say, 'Where is Malcolm Turnbull?' because we do not know who he is anymore. What they do see is a pale shade of Mr Abbott. There is really not a lot of difference when it comes to their policies. After telling us for months and months that they have stopped the boats coming to Australia, those opposite come up with this new thought bubble that Mr Turnbull caught as it was floating past. They thought, 'Let's get attention away from our own internal problems, from our own disunity and dysfunction.' Every time this government get into it any difficulty—and we know that Malcolm Turnbull's popularity is going down the drain—they turn either to national security issues or to 'Let's bash refugees!' What did they do? They went after the refugees. The Australian people are actually getting quite fed up with that, because they know, as everyone in this chamber knows, that a divided government cannot fulfil their obligation to provide good government for the Australian people.

When the Prime Minister addressed delegates at the Liberal state conference in my home state of Tasmania, with the demonstration of the sort of commitment and innovation that this government has created, what did the Prime Minister talk about? He talked about nine jobs that have been created in Tasmania. I for one am happy for every additional job that is created in my home state. But for a Prime Minister to swagger go on about nine jobs being created from this innovative, agile government was a joke. It was an embarrassment. Then we had the former Senator Richard Colbeck making his contribution, talking about—this is not the Labor Party; this is a former Liberal Senator from Tasmania—the disunity in his own party. He himself encouraged the party to come together. He knows, from talking to people around the community, that disunity is death to a government.

As I said, most people in the country are saying, 'Who is this Malcolm Turnbull?' He has lost his sense of self. They have no idea who he is. He has sold out on all of his principles, and we know that he has done that to the far right of the Liberal party. Today, we hear that Mr Turnbull is about going back on his word again on 18C. For months he has been saying that he will not relent on this policy. He said, 'The balance is right on 18C.' So what has he done again? He has done another backflip to appease the right within his party. Mr Turnbull will do and say anything to remain Prime Minister. We know that the numbers are being counted on that side. The problem is that there is not a clear candidate. Otherwise, Mr Turnbull would meet the same fate as Mr Abbott did. That is the state of play with this government.

There have been a number of thought bubbles. If you recall not so very long ago the Prime Minister went out and said, 'Oh, there is a thought bubble; let's increase the GST to 15 percent on everything.' Then, because they finally understood that the community would not support that, he let that thought bubble go again, and it went floating off. But it landed in Western Australia. Then we had the Liberal Premier of Western Australia wanting a bigger share of the GST.

Senator Smith: Quite rightly so!

Senator POLLEY: And I know, Senator Smith, you are very vocal in standing up for your state. And that is a good thing. But 15 percent on everything for everyday Australians was a no. We will never—never ever—support an increase of the GST to 15 percent. No one has forgotten about the massive tax break that has been given to big business over the next 10 years.

As I said, there has been one thought bubble after another floating across the sky. When things get hard for the government, yes, they grab another thought bubble. Now, they have turned it on to the refugees—wanting to permanently ban refugees from coming to Australia. That thought bubble will end up where it should be—on the floor. This internal dysfunction and chaos within this government continues to reign free when housing prizes continue to rise, living standards are falling, people are worried about their jobs and access to health. Mr Turnbull, as I said, cares about one thing. He cares about one job—that is, he his concerned about keeping his job as Prime Minister of this country. He has to ensure that he dances to the tune of those in the right for fear that Mr Abbott may end up getting the numbers and coming back. After all, Mr Abbott went to the United Kingdom and told everyone that would listen that he was going to be Prime Minister again of this country. I do not know where that thought bubble came from, but, from the information I have from those on the other side, Mr Abbott will not have the numbers to come back. They are still just trying to get the numbers for who it will be. Will it be Mr Morrison? Well, I was told, 'No. That's a B rating. Mr Morrison doesn't have it to become Prime Minister.' Does Julie Bishop have it? No, she does not have it because she does not understand loyalty. She chops and changes leaders probably more than some Australians have hot meals.

We know that this government has an incompetent minister for health—the worst Minister for Health and Aged Care that this country has ever seen. She lacks not only any vision or passion but any interest at all when it comes to older Australians. She is unashamedly the worst minister for health and ageing ever. Well, I should correct myself: it is not 'ageing', because this government does not give a damn about ageing. What she is is the Minister for Health and Aged Care. We also have the worst Treasurer. This Prime Minister and incompetent Treasurer are running the risk of this country losing the triple-A rating. Shame on those on the other side. We know that all their talk about debts and deficits during an election campaign means nothing because when they get into government they lack the vision for good policies. They are only interested in looking after the top end of town. And here we are: the gold-plated, triple-A credit ratings from all three global rating agencies are under threat because of Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison.

As a former investment banker you would have thought that Mr Turnbull would have a better handle on economic policies. But, unfortunately, no, he does not. The plan that he had when he came to the House of Representatives was to become Prime Minister. And he has succeeded. You have to take you hat off for him. He knifed Tony Abbott and now he is Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he does not know what to do with it. This is a time when we need a Prime Minister with strength, vision and the capacity to bring together not only his party and his government but the nation. I have to say that he is a very, very poor reflection of a good prime minister.

Then we had today—and we debated it this morning—about the former Senator Bob Day and the relationship with the government. Back in February 2014—almost three years ago—they knew there were problems with Mr Day and a property he owned because the Department of Finance advised them not to enter into any agreement. But, once again, they only listened to the advice that they wanted to hear. (Time expired)