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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9508


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:56): I rise, as Senator Cameron has, to take note of answers to questions that were put to the government with regard to the comments of Mr Barilaro and also Senator Cash's behaviour in recent times. I'm still quite shocked by the language used to describe a member of the National Party. As a Labor politician I'm used to hearing Senator Brandis and his colleagues on the other side admonish Labor in the most egregious terms. But it was pretty indicative of how chaotic, dysfunctional and lacking in unity this government is when they described the remarks of Mr Barilaro. And let's just get those remarks on the record. He said on Friday on Alan Jones's program that 'Turnbull should give Australians a Christmas gift and go before Christmas.' Well, it would be a nice Christmas gift. I could do with that wrapped up. I'd be very happy to see that under the Christmas tree. Mr Barilaro went on to say, 'The Prime Minister is the problem.'

Senator Farrell: He's right about that.

Senator O'NEILL: He absolutely is, Senator Farrell. He's certainly right that the Prime Minister is the problem. If Senator Brandis had any respect—just a skerrick of respect—for the partnership that they pretend to the Australian people exists between the Liberal Party and the Nationals, he would hardly be describing Mr Barilaro's comments as 'the dribblings of some obscure politician'. I'm offended for the Nationals party. My heart is fairly breaking for the Nationals—what they've had to put up with in being the doormats to the federal government, to the Liberal Party, walking all over them. They suffered that terrible experience of a vote decline up in Queensland. They were going to take out the Palaszczuk government. They were all set to deliver for regional Queensland. Sadly, they came fourth in the seat of Rockhampton. It's been a disaster for them. The Attorney-General should have been a little more generous in his comments. Instead, he describes not the deputy premier of New South Wales—because Ms Berejiklian's not around—but the premier of the biggest state of Australia right now, Mr Barilaro, who doubled down today in his comments and said, 'Let my comments stand.' Let his comment stand, and let Mr Turnbull wrap himself up into a little ball and put himself under the Christmas tree of every Australian and say: 'I give up. I know I'm doing a bad job. I'm going to give you a Christmas present. I'm going to take the pressure off you. I'll give you a great turn. We'll have somebody else.' But who else? And Mr Barilaro said that too.

Well, I haven't got any idea about who else, and no-one over there has. There's no unity. There is no functionality. There is constant disarray. We've had, just in the last half-hour, a move to suspend standing orders yet again. That only happens when a government's not functioning well. Last week they had one to actually bring legislation on. Today they changed their mind halfway through the day because things weren't looking too good. 'Oh, no, we'll take it off.' That's what we see here every single day from this government: disunity, dysfunction and chaos—the three hallmarks that mark them out.

I'm very concerned about this sort of behaviour, which would be a disaster for any organisation outside this parliament—and certainly a disaster for a small business. I grew up in one; I know what it's like. If a small business ran their small business the way this government runs the parliament, a lot more people in Australia would be unemployed, and that's hard to say considering how bad the government are doing in that regard.

I also want to take note of some of the comments about the ROC. The problem with this government is that, when they're not focusing on the infighting and the division, they're attacking what is the only other major source of support for the Australian community—that is, they're after the unions at every single chance they get.

Senator O'Sullivan: They're going for the CFMEU.

Senator O'NEILL: They've decided to have an arms-length inquiry. They've gone after the AWU—

Senator O'Sullivan: Just the CFMEU.

Senator O'NEILL: I'll take that interjection from Senator O'Sullivan—thank you very much, Senator O'Sullivan—who says that he's only after one union. That's not the truth. They're after every union. They're after the members of the union. They're after the money of the members of the unions. They're after the unions every single chance they get. But when they're called to account they don't want to answer questions. Senator Cash had an outrageous and shocking show just last week. The partisan behaviour by the Registered Organisations Commission— (Time expired)