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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1979

Senator WATT (Queensland) (16:54): When he grabbed power from Tony Abbott just a little over a year ago, we all remember the current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, making a lot of promises to the Australian people. He was going to restore economic credibility. He was going to solve climate change. He was going to usher in all sorts of social reform in his beautiful leather jacket that he used to parade on Q&A. As a Labor person, I remember actually being a little bit concerned by the number of people I came into contact with who were visibly not only breathing a sigh of relief that Australia had finally seen the back of Tony Abbott and all of his cronies but also very excited that perhaps at last Australia had a grown up in charge.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator O'Sullivan ): Senator Williams, on a point of order?

Senator Williams: I ask that you request that Senator Watt refers to those in the other place by their correct title, not just by their Christian surname. That is way this chamber has operated in the eight years I have been here.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, you might recognise that protocol.

Senator WATT: I am happy to do that for the remainder of my speech. As I said, I remember people being visibly relieved that, perhaps with the new Prime Minister, we had an adult in charge. But it has not really taken very long for us to be so sorely disappointed by this government. Not only is it clear that we do not have a grown up in charge in the current Prime Minister and his government; we do not even have a bunch of children in charge. This government is worse than a bunch of children. The only analogy I can think of to describe the way this government operates is a children's TV show: The Muppets.

We have all sorts of characters out there who come straight off a TV show. Recently I as well as several other witnesses had to endure an inquiry into the actions of the Solicitor-General, one of Australia's foremost legal minds, which subjected him to haranguing by the Senate's own Statler and Waldorf, Senator Macdonald and Senator O'Sullivan, for hour after hour. We saw it again in Senate estimates with Senator Macdonald back in action yet again.

Of course, The Muppets is also an apt analogy because the government is led by its very own Kermit the Frog. Kermit's most famous song is 'It's not Easy Bein' Green'. It seems that the Prime Minister has also found it not very easy being green in a party as right-wing as his own has become.

The Muppets, of course, is a puppet show, and we know who the puppetmaster in this government is. He is beaming in on a daily basis through his Twitter account wearing all sorts of caps, and that puppetmaster is Senator for South Australia Cory Bernardi. He is out there in New York as we speak, telling Australians that he is out there proudly campaigning for Donald Trump. He not only says he is going to make American great again with Donald Trump but is also threatening to come back to Australia and make Australia great again, which is quite an admission about the lack of performance from this government over the last couple of years.

In preparing for this speech this afternoon I challenged myself to come up with 10 examples of how this government has stuffed things up the, what, three or four months it has actually been in office. Not only did I get to 10; I could actually go above 10 without even trying to think about it. First of all we had the double-dissolution, called because apparently we needed the ABCC to start reimposing the rule of law on Australian construction sites. Of course, we did not hear one thing about the ABCC during the election campaign, and now this government has to keep deferring it because it has not got the numbers to get it through.

Second is section 18C, the section of legislation which is designed to prevent racial hatred. I remember when this was first floated by coalition senators led by Senator Bernardi just after the election. This Prime Minister said that this was not a priority. Of course, in the last few days he has had to crawl back from that because he is crawling up to Senator Bernardi every moment he gets. Very clearly this Prime Minister is about to sell out yet again on something he believes in by backing an inquiry to remove the prohibition against racial hatred.

We had the royal commission called after those terrible events about the treatment of young people in detention in the Northern Territory were brought to light, but this government could not even find a commissioner who could remain in that role for 48 hours. Very quickly they had to come up with a replacement. There was census fail, which all Australians know way too much about. Within weeks they were losing debates on the parliament floor, the first government to do so in decades. Even today the government in the House of Representatives has seconded a motion moved by Labor criticising the government for the way it is dealing with pensions. We have had all sorts of tax changes that were taken to the election by this government: superannuation changes, backpacker taxes and company taxes. The government has walked away from them, all election commitments, at a rate of knots. They have had a plebiscite that they cannot get through this chamber. They have had dodgy guns-for-votes deals that they tried to get up to before they were exposed. They have absolutely brutalised the Solicitor-General until he has had to resign. Now we get to this week, where they are relying on Senator Day in the new offices-for-votes scandal. This government is not adults. They are not children. They are a bunch of muppets.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Back ): The time for the discussion has expired.