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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 2361


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (16:30): Knocking off a Prime Minister takes a bit of effort. It is hard work. There are those months of meetings in dark corners and those whispering phone conversations all done under the cloak of darkness. It is a really tough thing to do and it takes quite a bit of effort. You have to really want the job if you are going to knock off the Prime Minister to get it. Now that it is done, people are asking themselves: what the hell was the point of that? What was the point?

For a while, it looked like things would be different—yes. The tone of the debate changed. We saw some of the rhetoric soften. We saw some of those extreme fringe policies that Tony Abbott took to the Australian people abandoned in those first few months, and it was like a breath of fresh air. The country was relieved that Tony Abbott was gone. Now here we are, just a little more than a year after Malcolm Turnbull decided he wanted Tony Abbott's job, and what we have seen is the return of the Tony Abbott agenda.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Ketter ): A point of order, Senator Williams?

Senator Williams: Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Di Natale should have been here long enough to learn that you refer to the Prime Minister by the correct title with a bit of respect, please, not just by their Christian name and surname.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you Senator Williams. Senator Di Natale, I remind you to refer to the Prime Minister by his correct title.

Senator DI NATALE: Tony Abbott is no longer Prime Minister—Mr Abbott. The Abbott agenda is now well and truly on display. We have seen a change in Prime Minister; we have not seen a change in policies. It is remarkable when you think what is dominating the current coalition party room at the moment. It is: how do we make it easier for racists? How do we give the green light to hate speech? It is not housing affordability, not the fact that people are struggling to afford decent health care and not the fact that young families are struggling to get an education for their kids. It is: how do we make it easier for racists in this country? That is what is dominating the coalition party room right now.

You look at what the Prime Minister promised when it came to climate change, something that he staked his leadership on only a few short years ago. We saw the government—it must be said with the support of the Labor Party—take half a billion dollars away from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. They are the cheerleaders for the Adani coalmine, the biggest mine in the Southern Hemisphere. We have seen them forcing young Australians into the streets by stripping them of Newstart. They want to remove the charity status of a number of organisations. They want to weaken environmental protections. They wanted to slash Medicare-funded dental care for young kids; in fact, the department was putting out misleading information telling them the scheme was already closed. Then we had the joke of the plebiscite—a plebiscite that was going to unleash the homophobes and bigots in the community and give them a platform to say to those young people that how you feel is something you should be ashamed of.

And then, of course, in recent days, we have seen this announcement to say that no innocent person seeking asylum in this country who is found to be a genuine refugee would ever come to Australia. It is remarkable, when you consider that they keep touting how successful their policy is, that they want to take this debate further into the gutter. We have just today voted to impose control orders on 14-year-old children. Let us think about that: 14-year-old kids, who can be rounded up by the Australian Federal Police and not be told about what evidence is there before them and be deprived of fundamental liberties, and if they breach a control order there is a five-year imprisonment sentence waiting for them. This is the agenda of the new-look coalition government. This is Tony Abbott light. What we are seeing is a continuation of that agenda which belongs in another century.

What the Prime Minister needs to learn is that you cannot negotiate with those far right extremists within his own party room. You give them a little win; they will want another one. They will never be satisfied, and they have the Prime Minister right where they want him. What we have now is a government with a Prime Minister who is a hostage inside his own party room. What that means is bad news for the country—no agenda, no plan and no vision for what this country needs to create jobs, to address the growing gap between the rich and poor, to do something about the climate crisis that lies ahead of us, and to do something towards those innocent people who are looking for a humane approach when it comes to trying to make a life in this country. What we need to see from the Prime Minister is leadership, and it is lacking. There is no agenda, there is no vision, there is no plan, and it is about time the Prime Minister stood up, grew a backbone and took on those extremists inside his own party room.