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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10086


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:17): We heard that quiet and reasonable apology for the way the government is treating Australia that Senator Abetz tried to put forward, but what they cannot hide is that this is a totally dysfunctional government that is eating itself alive as we go into Christmas. There'll be no Christmas pudding down there; they've already enjoyed feasting on one another throughout the year.

Let's talk some of those numbers that Senator Cameron was mentioning—numbers that matter in terms of what the Australian people believe about the viability of this government. I think there's a very important number that we should discuss, the number 7, as it relates to this government. We should figure out what is in common with these seven people. I see there are a few here in the chamber who might be interested. This is the quiz for the afternoon. What happens with this list of seven: Jamie Briggs, Mal Brough, Sussan Ley, Stuart Robert, Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan? What do they all have in common? I'd love to be able to ask Senator Anning to give us the response. It's hard to keep track of how many things fall out of this government and how many things fall apart. But, just for those who'd like to know, what do these seven people have in common? They all resigned. Every single one of them, each ministers, has resigned from Malcolm Turnbull's ministry since he became the Prime Minister just a little over two years ago. That's a pretty impressive rate of losing ministers.

Senator McAllister: It's a big list.

Senator O'NEILL: It's a big list of seven. What a long two years it's been—seven ministers resigning. It is seven in total so far, but who knows what may be around the corner? Barely months into his prime ministership, this crisis began to engulf Mr Turnbull. It started in December 2015, a little over three months after Mr Turnbull had become the Prime Minister. Jamie Briggs was forced to resign after a female public servant made a complaint against his behaviour.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill, I remind you to refer to people in the other house by their correct titles.

Senator O'NEILL: Mr Briggs was forced to resign after a female public servant made a complaint about his behaviour. The Prime Minister didn't lose just one minister on that day; there was a second minister that he lost on that day, and that was Mr Mal Brough. He was stood down due to an AFP investigation into the well-known James Ashby affair—you should remember that. A few months later, in February 2016, he was forced to formally resign. That was No. 2 of the seven.

Let's continue with the list. Literally just a few days later, under the leadership of Mr Turnbull, who promised so much in that day that he took over from Prime Minister Abbott—a first-term Liberal Prime Minister—Stuart Robert breached ministerial standards, and, of course, he was forced to resign. No. 3. Three down.

Senator McAllister interjecting

Senator O'NEILL: Well, I don't know if we should believe there are any on the record, there are so many questions around the departure of Mr Robert. But I do believe it was that significant trading interest that we have with China. Just when you thought there were no more resignations and our new year's present for this year was going to be stability, instead we had the resignation of Ms Ley. She was forced to resign because of the scandal that developed from her use of travel expenses and entitlements. So we're down to No. 4.

There are a range of reasons why these ministers have had to leave. There's no theme that I can see that connects them; it's just another sign they can't even be unified in the theme of departure. They've all left over a multitude of sins. We know what happened to Mr Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister—and I'm happy to acknowledge him as so. Now he has returned after his period of exile, having been the fifth minister to resign. Then we lost Senator Nash and Senator Canavan as well. All of this, just in a matter of a few months. So, seven it is. As we come to the seven days of Christmas, maybe there could be a moment to recall each one of those as they leave.

But today we have seen, in the question that Senator Wong asked, a list of the things that are characteristic of this chaotic, dysfunctional and disunified government under Mr Turnbull. All they know is how to divide, not how to deliver. These resignations really beg the question: how can Mr Turnbull possibly lead a nation when he cannot even lead his own ministry? He can't keep his team together, he can't keep the ministry together and he's certainly not keeping the country together, as we see with the passage of legislation after the most disunifying effort of engagement with the marriage equality matter. (Time expired)