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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10089

Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:27): I expect this may be my final speech for the year, which I'm sure everyone in the chamber is very happy about—

Senator Reynolds: Never!

Senator WATT: particularly Senator Reynolds. It's therefore proper to reflect on the year that we've had and, in doing so, take note of the answer to the question from Senator Wong.

What a year it has been! Australia has faced many challenges. It's been a good year for some, a bad year for others. But you'd have to say, if you had been following Australian politics this year, that Australian politics has not had a good year, and in particular this government has had an absolute shocker. If you look back over the course of this year, all you can see is one crisis after another from this government. The list of achievements is very small, very bare, but when it comes to the chaos that has enveloped this government the list is very long.

I've got to the point over the last few sitting weeks that when I have arrived in Canberra I've been expecting a crisis for the government. You can always sense it when there's something bad that's going to happen to the government, usually because they've spent the week beforehand leaking against each other. Things have become so bad for the government that you start the week expecting one crisis and, by Tuesday at the latest, find that something completely different has come up for this government, because they've so lost control of their agenda and their own internal ranks. It really has been a year of chaos and crisis for this government, and, unfortunately, Australia has paid the price for that.

There's the citizenship crisis, which has enveloped so many members of the government and has meant that they've taken their eye totally off the ball of governing for Australia and doing the right thing by the Australian people. We've obviously had months and months of division within the government. I was trying to think how we'd started the year, and it was with division over changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, where the free speech warriors within the government were out there saying people should be able to racially insult other people, while some more moderate elements within the government opposed it.

We then had the incredible levels of division, which we're still seeing on display today in the House of Representatives, about marriage equality. Of course, there's been the incredible division, particularly between the Liberal and National parties, over whether we should be having a banking royal commission. On top of all of that, there is the constant division, the constant leaking, on each other. We had another kind of leak, being the leak out of Senator Cash's office, about the police raid on the Australian Workers' Union offices. So, whether it be on policy issues like racial discrimination or marriage equality or whether it be just the way the government is being run in leaking information to the media, it really has been one crisis after another for this government. As I say, the tragedy in this is that the people of Australia have been the losers.

It's not as if our country is without challenges. We do have some serious challenges facing us right now and in the future, but because this government has been so distracted by the crises that have enveloped it, unfortunately these challenges remain unaddressed. I'm thinking about things like wages in this country growing so poorly that it is the lowest wage growth on record that we have ever seen in Australia. It's no wonder that people are feeling the pinch with cost of living pressures and worried about their future when their wages are just not growing. That's directly a result of this government's policies that it actually implements in terms of its own workforce within the Public Service.

In regional Queensland, we have a really big problem around insecure work, with people being unable to find permanent full-time jobs. Increasingly, their only options are casual positions, contract positions or labour hire. It is another issue which this government has just taken no action on and which regional Queensland members have done nothing about at all as well. Of course, penalty rates is another thing which so many people heading up to Christmas really depend upon to be able to put a bit of money aside to buy presents for their kids. This government has nodded and supported all the way along as those penalty rates stood to be cut.

In Queensland terms, you have to ask yourself: who is responsible for this? And we can look no further than the regional LNP members from Queensland, who come down here, stay absolutely mute about all of these things that are happening in their electorates that are hurting average people and just line up behind Prime Minister Turnbull time and time again to back in the cuts that he's making. Australians do have one party on their side. Labor have put forward policies to deal with each of these challenges: wage growth, labour hire, permanent jobs, secure work for people and restoring penalty rates—and we'll do it again next year. (Time expired)