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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 647

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (15:31): I am disappointed that Senator Hanson is not still here, because I had to commend her on the smackdown and the refreshing honesty, injecting a bit of history and truth into this debate.

Senator Dastyari: It is not true. It is just not true.

Senator DUNIAM: So say you, Senator Dastyari. I want to start with the points that Senator Brandis made and this convenient ignorance around democracy and the fact that there were enough Australians who voted for One Nation senators to represent them in this Senate.

Senator Dastyari interjecting

Senator DUNIAM: You do not like that, and I am glad that you conveyed your message to One Nation voters that their votes are worth nothing. It is quite disappointing that you have lowered yourselves to that level, that this is the disappointing point you made in the debate today and that you have highlighted this as the most important take out of question time—some insider political deal that you have asked your first two questions about. You are making this the issue you want to talk about. I understand that is what the MPI is about this afternoon. But to suggest that because the government, because of what democracy has delivered on the crossbench, needs to work with crossbenchers, a mature parliament—

Senator Dastyari interjecting


Senator DUNIAM: that actually tries to get legislation through in the interests of our country and our future, to suggest that by working with parties of all persuasions on the crossbench—

Senator Dastyari: Was Howard wrong?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Duniam, resume your seat. Senator Duniam has the right to be heard in silence. I would ask all senators to refrain from continually calling out. Thank you, Senator Duniam.

Senator DUNIAM: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy President. I have to confess that I did not give Senator Dastyari the silence he probably deserves. The point I was making is that to suggest that because a government which recognises democracy, given a vast array of different views on the crossbench, is working with them we are somehow 100 per cent agreeing with what they believe in and stand for is just ridiculous. I cannot overstate my disappointment when it comes to the fact that the Labor Party in this place, the alternative government—maybe one day—have chosen this issue to spend time on today. It goes to exactly what people are sick and tired of hearing of in this place.

Today I had the opportunity to reflect on an article in The Australian. In fact it was yesterday. It referred to a couple of comments that the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, made with regard to some activity in the other place last week. It refers to Mr Shorten trying to reset the political debate by pledging to take the high road:

Conceding he did not always stick to the standard he sought to apply, the Opposition Leader declared the government was "on notice" and Labor would not "take the low road".

I must have missed something, because here you have the opposition picking something, an insider issue that actually does not matter to Australians. It is not health, it is not education and it is not jobs. It is insider political deals that they are worried about today. How is that going to advance our cause? He says in the same article:

… voters were "sick and tired" of the leaders' "petty schoolyard arguments" and squabbling over issues "that has nothing to do with them".

Mr Shorten said:

The message is loud and clear to me since I left parliament (on Thursday) and people here today—

wherever he was—

were reiterating it: Bill we want the politicians, you and Turnbull, to focus upon our issues, the issues of the people.

I want to know which people they went to meet with over the course of the weekend, since he got this message loud and clear from voters, who wanted to bring up what is happening in Western Australian politics and whether the coalition is doing a deal with one party or another. I do not think many punters raised that with them.

I am pleased that Senator Polley is here, and Senator Urquhart as well, because in my home state of Tasmania a well-known radio presenter, Brian Carlton, made mention of this this morning. He sort of roughly echoed Mr Shorten's sentiments, which sadly have gone out the window insofar as Labor tactics today have gone. But on his program just this morning, he said, 'Just on politicians who tell us they understand, they get what we are banging on about when we say, "Guys, guys, you've lost touch; you're really not dealing with issues that affect people."' 'So what are they doing today?' he asks. 'They will go: "Yes, yes, yes, we will pay more attention. We'll get things right. It's all about you guys."' 'So what are they arguing about today?' he asks. He says, 'Today's big argument is preference deals, preference deals for the Western Australian election.' And he expresses nothing but disappointment in the fact that the political representatives from his home state are spending their time talking about this. And here we are today, using up the take note debate, to talk about this specific issue. So while power prices are spiking, as he says, the NBN switch is going to cost extra, fuels are up et cetera, he says, 'This is what opposition politicians are asking about: preference deals in Western Australia.' And I say: get out of the gutter and start focusing on real issues like you said you would. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Roberts, the time for this debate has expired.

Question agreed to.