MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Turnbull Government – 08 Feb 2017

I rise today to speak on the matter of public importance titled, ‘The inability of the Turnbull Government to Provide stable united leadership for all Australians.’ But before I go into that, can I say that was 17 minutes of my life I am never going to get back—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator BILYK: I know that Senator Macdonald keeps commenting that he has been here for 26 years, but sometimes it is quality not quantity that is important in life. As Senator Macdonald comes back to Canberra and steps into Parliament House, I have this feeling that he steps through the wardrobe, as though he has gone to Narnia or to another land because most of what he said to me was a fiction.

Senator Macdonald started out bagging poor old Senator Dastyari, who has been the deputy whip for the last couple of days, and I am honoured that he has taken the position from me. I am very happy to have supported him in that. To be honest, he has freed me from the shackles—as you would know, Senator Smith—of being a deputy whip. I am glad that he put his hand up for that position.

It has been a really torrid time for the Turnbull government, which is what we are here to speak about today. It is a government at war with itself. It is fraught with its own internal squabbles. It lacks in policy, it lacks in leadership and it lacks in competence to create a brighter future for Australian people. It was bad enough over the summer break that they lost their health minister, who had 29 or 32—and I am happy to be corrected on the exact number—flights to the Gold Coast to buy property at taxpayers’ expense. So Minister Ley is no longer the minister because of that, and Senator Macdonald comes in here and preaches to us about things that have happened on this side. Really, I think that is the pot calling the kettle black. It really is just atrocious.

In the Senate we get Senator Sinodinos, who I quite like as a person. I do get on well with Senator Sinodinos. If anyone in this place has the right to say ‘I cannot remember’ or ‘I cannot recall’, obviously it is me, because I have had brain surgery. But Senator Sinodinos does not have that excuse. He stood up in an inquiry and said 32 times—if my memory serves me correctly, but once again I am always happy to be corrected—that he could not recall something and now he has a post on the front bench. That is absolutely atrocious.

What we see with the government and with Mr Turnbull in particular is that they are always forced to cave in to the extreme right of the Liberal Party. They are forced to cave in to the right-wing ideologues like Mr Christensen and Senator Abetz and, until yesterday of course, Senator Bernardi, who was calling most of the shots. Although I do think that Senator Bernadi in his position on the crossbench will still call a lot of the shots. They will want his vote. If Senator Bernardi really stopped and thought about things and listened to the way he was being bagged out by a number of his so-called colleagues, he might not really vote with them all that often. But I am sure he will still pull a lot of the strings.

Over the summer break, I actually started to feel sorry for Mr Turnbull. I thought to myself, ‘There he is, looking over the waters in his Point Piper mansion, sipping on his cognac and wondering to himself how it all went so wrong.’ A lot of people had a lot of faith in Mr Turnbull when he took over from Mr Abbott, and some people on our side even had some faith in Mr Turnbull because we thought he would be progressive and make some changes. But what do we see? We see that he has actually backflipped on all the key things he said he believed in. He backflipped on marriage equality, on reducing carbon pollution, on an Australian republic, on Gonski and on Safe Schools. They all lie in ashes at his feet since he took over as Prime Minister. This government, as we know, is completely dysfunctional, and part of the problem is that instead of rejecting Mr Abbott’s policies, Mr Turnbull has doubled down on them. I have to say that the Australian people are pretty dismayed about that. I have people coming to me saying they have voted Liberal all their life but would not do it at the next election. Senator Macdonald was bagging out Mr Shorten, as he so often does—it is just a diatribe—but if he was to listen to people around Australia talk about Mr Turnbull, he might not be quite so disparaging. (Time expired)