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Thursday, 27 August 2020
Page: 5826


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (15:23): This week, the nation has been scandalised by the news of a thuggish operation at the heart of the Victorian Liberal Party, with racist messages denigrating members of the Indian community; sexist insults levelled against colleagues and their wives; rorting of taxpayer funds for political purposes; and thugging fellow MPs and senators, including the member for Menzies. The architect of this project is none other than the Assistant Treasurer. I might be the shadow Assistant Treasurer, but there's nobody in this parliament who is more shady than this guy.

The member for Deakin, the Assistant Treasurer, has spent more time skulking in the shadows than assisting the Australian people in this time of economic crisis. He has spent more time undermining the public's trust and faith in democracy than protecting Australian jobs. He has spent more time spending taxpayer dollars on personal political goals than on overseeing the Australian tax office. I've argued for many years in this place for a federal independent commission against corruption, but there is not a man or woman in this House who makes a better argument for a federal ICAC than the member for Deakin. He has abused public office for his own private purpose. When the aged care royal commission—

Government members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): Yes, I ask the member for Whitlam to withdraw. There will be no allegations of improper motive.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: While the aged care royal commission has told us that up to 50 per cent of residents in aged-care homes are malnourished—starving—and they don't have the staff to look after the residents, the member for Deakin is using his staff to go out and stack branches against his opponents. Not satisfied with misusing—

Mr Tudge: On a point of order—

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Oh, come on!

Mr Tudge: these are serious allegations which the member is pushing here, which, if they were repeated outside—

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members on my left!

Mr Tudge: would be defamatory.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members on my left will be warned—if I can't hear what the point of order is, there's an obvious problem. I'm listening closely. There wasn't a point of order.

Mr Tudge: I'm asking him to withdraw comments which he made which, if he repeated them outside, would be defamatory.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm listening closely. The member for Whitlam will continue.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Very sensitive on these issues! I can understand why other members of the Victorian Liberal Party are as sensitive as the minister at the table.

But, not satisfied with the behaviour in his own office, he's been caught red-handed trying to interfere in the administration of the office of the member for Menzies. How can we believe anything that this member has to say? If it's not bad enough that he produces flyers, and distributes them amongst his electorate, that he knows to be full of lies—he knows that they are untrue—he uses taxpayers' money to do it! This is the minister responsible for the tax office!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'll just get the member to pause. I'm going to request that the member seriously considers reflections on members and imputations of improper motive and continues on.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I thank the Deputy Speaker for this guidance. But serious allegations have been made against this minister, and we know that the Liberal Party treats them seriously as well because none other than the Treasurer has ordered an investigation into the Victorian branch of his own party; none other than the Treasurer is consulting with colleagues to see whether an investigation and then a takeover of the Victorian branch is warranted because of the behaviour of the member for Deakin. I can understand why members opposite find this very hard to hear. They find it very hard to hear—and so do the people of Australia.

If you are looking for a standard to judge this behaviour by, look to the standard set by the Prime Minister, because, in July this year, he called it 'corruption'—corruption on an industrial scale. It might be hard to hear, but, if this is the test of leadership, if this is the test that the Prime Minister has set for this parliament, then he must apply it to the member for Deakin. When similar events occurred in Victoria, the Premier sacked the responsible minister before lunchtime. I don't think decency and swift action should be the exclusive domain of the Australian Labor Party. John Howard would have wasted no time sacking this bloke and the aged care minister at the same time. They'd have been out the door before lunchtime. He is the minister responsible for tax law in this country, but he has shown contempt for taxpayers and contempt for the law. He has to go. There is no shortage of government backbenchers who would happily take his job. None of them could do a good job, but few of them could do a worse job than the member for Deakin. I've had my disagreements with the member for Goldstein, but there's no doubt he's been spending the last two years polishing his CV as well. No wonder the member for Goldstein is a little bit nervous; the member for Deakin has been spending more than a little bit of energy trying to shoehorn him out of the seat he's in.

There should be no place for the member for Deakin on the front bench in this House. He's been responsible for the Australian tax office, but he's led Australians to believe they can have no trust in the way he administers taxpayer funds in his own office. A corruption-busting QC had this to say on national television this week: 'He should be sacked. There is a prima facie case of crime. He should be sacked.' What is the Prime Minister waiting for? It's not as if he's protecting a minister who's had a sterling career in this place and has contributed to a body of public policy. It's not as if he's an invaluable colleague who's contributed to the front bench.

This guy has the Midas touch in reverse: everything he's touched—well, it hasn't turned to gold, that's for sure! He's responsible for the administration of the superannuation early access scheme. On his own watch, that scheme has seen millions of dollars stolen, fraudulently, from some of the lowest-paid people in this country. He froze the operation of the scheme for a few days, but not one single cent has been paid in compensation from the Commonwealth to those members who have had their money stolen from them because of the operation of this scheme and the hopeless administration of this hapless minister.

As the member for Blaxland reminds us, the member for Deakin is responsible for the HomeBuilder scheme. If jobs were created by press releases then every builder in this country would be in full employment. But not one single dollar has been paid out under this scheme. So if the Prime Minister is going to expect this House to play a Team Australia moment he should do the right thing and sack this minister who has done everything within his power to bring disgrace upon this House and every single one of us. (Time expired)