MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Western Australian State Election – 13 Feb 2017

Rarely do I come into this chamber expecting to have a lecture from someone like Senator Reynolds. I am used to it from Senator Brandis—we can even have a bit of banter about it between us. But for Senator Reynolds to jump up and spend a good 10 minutes of her speech so sanctimoniously telling us what we do wrong on this side and how everyone should be more tolerant is just beyond belief. I would like to reiterate everything Senator Siewert said. I was going to mention some of that, but I will not go over that as well. Senator Reynolds obviously did not watch Insiders yesterday and did not see Senator Sinodinos talk about how sophisticated One Nation have become. I will leave that at that.

Rarely do we get senators on this side of the chamber standing up to defend the words of former Prime Minister Howard. We heard Senator Dastyari do that, and I am also going to, because one of the few wise things Mr Howard said was that One Nation should be placed last on every Liberal Party how-to-vote card around Australia. We know that some people on that side, including Senator Brandis, are not that keen on Mr Howard—Senator Brandis famously referred to him as, shall I say, an unflattering member of the animal kingdom—but even Mr Howard did not stoop as low as the level that we have seen in Western Australia, that I think we will probably see in Queensland and that I will be very surprised if we do not see nationally. It is a sad day when the Liberal Party show such poor leadership that they cannot even listen to a piece of advice from one of their elder statesman.

Last week I made a contribution to the debate about the lack of leadership within the Liberal Party. With this recent announcement from Mr Barnett and the Liberals, perhaps I made my contribution to that debate a little bit too early. I do not think those who hold the government benches both in Western Australia and in this parliament could show worse leadership than in that decision. Mr Turnbull does not have the leadership to actually stand up and say he will not deal with One Nation, and Senator Sinodinos would not actually say yes or no on Insiders, but this is what I reckon: they will do a national deal with One Nation and they will do over their National Party colleagues. I think we are seeing the extraordinary weakness of Malcolm Turnbull once again. He is beholden to the right wing of the Liberal Party and this is just another example of his weakness showing through.

Only Labor has shown leadership on this issue. We will not be cosying up to One Nation nationally, in Western Australia, in Queensland or wherever it may be. Labor will not make those deals. The Liberal Party leadership has become so feeble that a member of the Queensland parliament elected for the LNP has defected to One Nation. We have to remember that, after 10 years as an LNP MP, Mr Steve Dickson, the member for Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, has left the LNP and joined One Nation. Obviously this is for political gain. In fact, I am sure the whole deal is just for political gain; it is for power at the expense of some of your own colleagues. Who cares as long as they can get and hold power? That is what it is all about. I do not see those on the Nationals side in this chamber jumping up and down, being happy about it and thinking that it cannot happen to them. I think they have probably worked out that pretty soon the same thing might be happening to them.

Despite being in a coalition with the National Party for decades, the Liberals have chosen to preference One Nation even over their national coalition partners. That is the gist the whole debate. Murdoch University political lecturer Ian Cook said that ‘the Liberals’ jumping into bed with One Nation could backfire and jettison the party out of power. He further said, ‘ For the Liberals, it looks like a desperate move to hold onto power at any cost. I’d be surprised if it worked.’ The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Joyce, from the other place, is warning of an all-out brawl, so we know they are not happy. Mr Joyce described the outcome as ‘a disappointing move’. He said he hoped its architects ‘clearly understand the ramifications of the decision’. He raised the prospect of retaliation against the move by the Nationals: ‘The Nationals could stand in every lower house seat in Perth and preference another party. What would that mean?’ (Time expired)