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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 2363

Senator WATT (Queensland) (16:36): I would also like to join in this debate today, which is about something that is pretty obvious to anyone who watches Australian politics, and that is that we are led by a Prime Minister who has no authority and no agenda. The other day in talking about this government I made what some thought was an unflattering comparison to the Muppets—and, when I say 'unflattering', a lot of people thought that was unflattering to the Muppets rather than to this government. I would like to expand on that somewhat. There is one of our Muppets sitting over there now. I have not quite worked out if you are Statler or Waldorf, but it is one or the other.

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

Senator Williams: Mr Acting Deputy President, the language of Senator Watt is unparliamentary, and I ask that you ask him to retract it and to show some respect in this chamber.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, it would be helpful to the chair if you would withdraw those remarks.

Senator WATT: I withdraw. As I was saying the other day, this government is led by its very own Kermit the Frog, the Prime Minister. As I was also saying the other day, the most famous Kermit the Frog song is 'It's not easy being green', and that is the position which this Prime Minister finds himself in. It is not very easy being very green in the modern LNP—the Liberal Party or the National Party. Once upon a time, this Prime Minister paraded himself as a bit of a green. He believed in climate change. He believed in taking action on climate change. But he has found that it is not very easy being green if he wants to be Prime Minister.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, there are a few other new Kermit the Frog songs that he could sing as well. He could sing 'It's not easy being pro marriage equality'. That is something else that he had to abandon—something that was a really long-held belief of his, which he had to walk way from in order to retain the prime ministership. The song could also be 'It's not easy being sensible about refugees'. Just this week he was led, yet again, by his appalling immigration minister, Peter Dutton, to another ridiculous policy about the treatment of refugees rather than doing something sensible about resettling people from the hell holes of Manus and Nauru. The song could in general just be 'It's not easy being moderate in the Liberal Party'. The Prime Minister, despite apparently being a moderate, has somehow found that it is not easy to remain being a moderate. And even just this week the comments made by one of his backbench members, Russell Broadbent, have also shown how hard it is to be a moderate in the Liberal Party these days.

This Kermit the Frog of a Prime Minister has been upstaged. The show has been taken over by his support acts. We have got our very own Fozzie Bear, the immigration minister, Peter Dutton. I was reminding myself what it was about Fozzie Bear—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator O'Sullivan, on a point of order.

Senator O'Sullivan: Mr Acting Deputy President, you have already brought to the senator's attention, and he has accepted it, that he cannot make remarks like that and reflect on those in the other place.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: On the point of order, Senator Watt.

Senator WATT: Mr Acting Deputy President, I think it is fair enough to make a comparison in a light-hearted way to a TV show. It happens all the time in this place. I will refrain from calling any individual a Muppet, if that makes the senator happy. But surely some analogies are allowed within the robust debate that we have here.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, I would consider that, whilst you might refer to similar characteristics, to actually refer to somebody as Fozzie Bear is something that I would ask you to refrain from doing.

Senator WATT: I am happy to refer to the immigration minister as having the characteristics of Fozzie Bear, if that is more parliamentary language. The thing about Fozzie Bear, which is a similarity held by this immigration minister, is that poor old Fozzie Bear is known for his disastrous and, frankly, weird attempts at comedy. We saw one such attempt from the immigration minister this week when he tried to make some sort of weird joke that fell completely flat. I remember the creator of Fozzie Bear saying that what distinguished Fozzie was that he cannot afford good joke writers and he cannot write good jokes himself. That does seem to sum up the actions of the immigration minister this week.

We also have an Attorney-General who resembles the characteristics of Dr Bunsen Honeydew, the bespectacled scientist. Attorney-General Brandis is prone to experiments and inventions that typically go wrong. We see that every time the Attorney-General gets to his feet. Whether it is about taking out the Solicitor-General or whether it is about his ongoing attempts to take out the President of the Human Rights Commission, he really does have the touch when it comes to experiments that go wrong, just like Dr Bunsen Honeydew. We have our very own senators who resemble the characteristics of Statler and Waldorf—one of whom I see in this chamber with us right now—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

Senator WATT: in Senators Macdonald and O'Sullivan; the grumpy old men who like to heckle everyone from the peanut gallery have been doing it even while I speak today. Statler and Waldorf are very good at heckling, but also very good at undermining the authority of this Prime Minister.

In addition to that, we have the member for Dawson, George Christensen, who resembles the characteristics of Animal. I must admit that Animal was one of my favourite characters from the Muppets when I was a kid, but I do not really like to see our parliamentary version of Animal. Animal is the crazy drummer who drums out of control and goes nuts every single time. We have seen that time and time again from the member for Dawson. As he was walking out of the chamber today, I noticed that he was carrying Donald Trump's autobiography—yet another crazy action from the parliament's very own Animal.

The team which undermines this Prime Minister's authority is capped off by a senator who resembles the characteristics of Sam the Eagle, and that is one Senator Bernardi—the upholder of conservative values, lecturing people about what they should do. The Senate's own Sam the Eagle is in America at the moment, presiding over what appears to be a very, very worrying development, which is the possible election of Donald Trump as President. Some people agree that that is a very worrying development. As I was saying on Twitter earlier today, if the Prime Minister is worried about his authority having been undermined by Senator Bernardi, or someone who resembles the characteristics of Sam the Eagle, he had better watch out for what happens. You can feel Senator Bernardi's head swelling from across the Pacific, across the Atlantic and even across the galaxy. He has learnt how to win an election. He has learnt how to bring down democracy in America, and he is going to bring it down here when he gets back. Look at the havoc that he has been wreaking from thousands of kilometres away. Can you imagine the havoc he is going to wreak when he is sitting only a few metres away from me on the other side of this chamber? This Prime Minister's authority has been completely undermined by this ragbag of characters from the Muppet Show, or people who resemble the characteristics of people from the Muppet Show—if that is a more polite way of putting it.

All jokes aside, this is actually a very serious issue because, apart from being undermined and having no authority, as days pass it is being revealed that this Prime Minister has absolutely no agenda for this country. We went through the longest election campaign this country has ever experienced, with a Prime Minister who went out day after day to talk about jobs and growth. He had no policies to back that up. Unfortunately, what we have seen from this Prime Minister since the election is exactly the opposite of jobs and growth. That is where this issue becomes serious. Not only does he not have an agenda; but what little agenda he has is actually taking Australia backwards, particularly when it comes to jobs and growth. All we have seen from him in the last few weeks is refugee bashing, deals about guns, legalising racial hatred—all sorts of fringe issues that are designed to appeal to people like his own Sam the Eagle, Senator Bernardi, and Animal the drummer, George Christensen.

But what is the government actually doing to help the average person in the street in Queensland and all other parts of Australia? What they are doing is presiding over a catastrophic collapse in the number of full-time jobs. Just last month alone, Australia lost 53,000 full-time jobs. That is the biggest monthly fall we have seen in Australia in five years. I think the tally for the year as a whole shows that up to about 112,000 full-time jobs disappeared under this government. It is no wonder when they are presiding over the collapse of the car industry, they are seeing the mining industry fall apart, with no action being taken to do anything about it, and they have no plans whatsoever for how we grow new jobs. They are bringing in a backpacker tax which is killing the tourism industry. Every one of Queensland's main industries is being torn apart by this government, and people are paying the price through full-time jobs falling apart.

In regional Queensland, in particular, we have a growing unemployment crisis. Almost every part of regional Queensland is struggling through unemployment rates well above the national average. We have youth unemployment well above 20 per cent in many parts of regional Queensland, and what do the government have to offer? Nothing at all. They are bringing in a backpacker tax which is actually going to make things worse. They have all the infrastructure plans and all the infrastructure funds where they do not spend a single dollar. They like to get out there and talk about regional roads. They have buckets of money—hundreds of millions of dollars that they put out press releases about—but they have the inability to spend a single dollar. They have no plans for how we can deal with regional unemployment. Really, what it comes down to is that this is a government that is beholden to free-market extremists. They do not believe that government has a role in the economy and, unfortunately, people are paying the price. What we are seeing from the government is that it is led by a Prime Minister with no authority. He is being led by a bunch of people who resemble the characteristics of The Muppet Show characters. He has absolutely no agenda, and ordinary Australians are paying the price.