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Monday, 12 November 2018
Page: 7737


Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (15:10): Normally, it's a pleasure to join the take note debate after question time, but more and more I become disillusioned when we get to this part of the day and focus on things that I don't think the Australian people are too terribly interested in.

Question time came after two weeks out of this place—two weeks where all of us should have been out and talking to the people who we represent in this place; the people who elect us. They are people who have concerns and who are struggling to pay their power bills. They are people who want to make sure that their kids have jobs in the communities they live in. I'm sure they would have been communicating to Labor senators who asked questions in this question time about the issues which matter to them. I'm not sure how many Australians sat there and said: 'Do you know what, Senator X, Senator Y and Senator Z? Why don't you go down to Canberra and ask some questions about the Prime Minister from some report by the ANAO from 10 years ago? Go down there and see what you can find out about it. Why don't you go and play the man, not the ball?' Those opposite adopt the usual tactic that they seem to employ more and more as they run out of ideas and as they run out of steam in the lead-up to the next federal election: 'Why don't you go and besmirch someone's character by dredging things up?'

Clearly, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate said in answer to questions on this matter, the Labor dirt unit was working overtime for the last two weeks—not coming up with policy ideas and not thinking about the best ways to combat the next election but just digging deeper and deeper, searching for any skerrick of information that might yield a bit of what they believe is dirt. That is rather than focusing on the issues that actually matter to the Australian people—Australian mums and dads and Australian families.

As was stated, this ANAO report is a decade old. And, as was stated, it's one that was undertaken when we had a Labor government in this place—the Rudd government. But I think the answers given by Senator Cormann in response to those questions around this ridiculous character besmirching that has gone on by Labor today points to a very strong contrast between the Australian Labor Party and the plan they have—or don't, more to the point, given the nature of the questions today—and the record we can point to; the priorities for us. The questions that coalition senators asked of ministers today were around jobs, economic activity and how to look after regional Australians when it comes to matters like telecommunications and regional health. Those things are important. What the Labor senators asked about, and what we're doing the take note about today, is not an issue that Australians are concerned about. This is exactly why they get tired of us here in Canberra, because it is all insider, Canberra-bubble material. It isn't relevant to the kitchen table discussions, as I'm sure my good friend and colleague Senator Watt would agree.

But one thing which has been omitted from all of the discussion around the reports at the time was the comments that were made by the then chair of the board of Tourism Australia, Mr Fischer. He heaped praise on the Prime Minister when he was leaving that role. He said that he did a great job. It's a tough job and there was a time of transformation. The industry backed him in as well, saying that he did a fantastic job in terms of how the board should be structured. Those things have been omitted from the questions today. Rather than focus on the facts of the matter, they've hung things out there—suggestions and loaded language in these questions—to try to cast the worst light possible on the Prime Minister. They've been trying to sling mud, which is, again, something that Australians don't want to see here. People expect more of us; they want us to come in here and have a proper debate about issues that matter, like reducing hospital waiting lists—and we do have the MPI a little later on today, and I'm looking forward to contributing to that.

Of course, there was the matter of food relief, which Senator McAllister asked about. I was surprised that she moved the motion to take note of answers that didn't relate to that matter but on issues, as I said before, which are not important. As has been stated in the answers provided, this group of people, the Australian Labor Party, is looking backward. It is looking 10 years into the past to dig up as much dirt as possible. It is not looking to the future. It doesn't have the answers and it certainly doesn't have the plan. We need to expect more from those who aspire to be in government than what they're delivering. (Time expired)