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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9220

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:13): The Labor Party doesn't need to advise the Australian people to have the clarity of vision that they have about the disunity that is characteristic of this government—the chaos of this government. There are people sitting here in the chamber today who aren't able to go to the green place because nobody's there. Nobody's there because this government is running from itself. It's eating itself alive, and it didn't want to put on a show in the green house, so it just decided not to show up. Three words: chaos, dysfunction and disunity. Those are the hallmarks of the Turnbull government.

With the Labor Party, we are fighting for the things that Australians need. We are fighting to protect penalty rates for workers. We are fighting to restore funding to schools and ensure funding is needs based, instead of having the $17 billion cut that this divided government wants to deliver—or has, in fact, delivered. We're fighting to make housing more affordable, fighting to ensure a fairer taxation system and fighting to make sure that young Australians and people who want to retrain don't have to go to university and be saddled with the albatross of a $100,000 debt around their neck. That is what they're trying to push through this place. That's the kind of government they are, and they don't want people to see it.

While they're doing all of this malicious damage to the nation of Australia and our social fabric, the Turnbull government is entertaining itself with massive internal fights. The disunity has become clearer every single day, and in the past fortnight it's been absolutely clear for the whole of the country to see. Mr Turnbull, the Prime Minister, has completely lost his authority. He's lost the confidence of his party and he has certainly lost the confidence of the Australian people. But you don't need to take my word for it; just look at the Prime Minister's actions, which reveal what's really going on. Everyone else, including even in his own disunified party, was ready to show up, but Mr Turnbull makes a call, a captain's pick of his own kind. Why? Because he is absolutely running scared of his own backroom.

Senator Cameron: He's a jelly-back.

Senator O'NEILL: He is a jelly-back indeed, Senator Cameron—one of your more colourful phrases and well used in this context when we're trying to describe this lily-livered, jelly-back Prime Minister.

This isn't something that's just happening here in the bubble of Canberra, though. The disunity of the Turnbull government is having a real and tangible impact on the lives of Australian men and women. Instead of being here at work debating 53 bills before the lower house, including legislation on a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Prime Minister decided not to show up this week, because he is scared of what's going on behind him. He knows that he knifed a first-term sitting prime minister and he knows they're all lining up behind him as he's falling over as we speak. The actions of Mr Turnbull are a clear reflection of the arrogance, of the born-to-rule attitude that we see from this government. What kind of message does this cancelling of parliament send to young children? If you're uncertain, you just run and hide.

This cancelling of the House of Representatives is just one revelation of the state of disunity that so disables this dysfunctional government. It seems like every day we have a new report of a different flavour of disunity. It is like a menu; you can choose your flavour every day of the week. It's the disunity of an MP telling the media he or she is threatening to quit the coalition unless Malcolm Turnbull makes a change or is dumped. Or it's the disunity of the same MP talking to the Australian Conservatives about whether he might jump ship to join Mr Bernardi's party. We know what that sort of discussion does to a government. Or it's the other flavours of disunity: cabinet leaks. There is not just one; you can have that in two flavours. There is the disunity of MPs and senators coming forward, no longer anonymously, actually talking on the public record about how terrible Malcolm Turnbull is as a leader. Just today George Christensen said that Mr Turnbull is having a hands-off approach and is not a true leader. If you've got somebody on your own side describing you as that, you're in big, big trouble.

Mr Turnbull is not fit to govern, and his incapacity is seen by those who are closest to him: those who are sharing the government benches here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. They know him. They're saying he's not a leader. They're saying he's unfit. They're divided and they are showing all the signs of disunity, of a dysfunctional government, because Malcolm Turnbull is an unfit man to be the Prime Minister. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I remind you please to refer to MPs in the other place by their correct titles.