Peter Khalil: I get—and I think some of us here get—that most punters aren’t really watching the ins and outs of politics up here in Canberra every day. I know that. Most punters usually cast their eye over politics when election campaigns come around. But what I’m noticing when I’m talking to punters and constituents in my electorate, when I’m having those conversations, is that people are starting to have just that doubt around the Prime Minister and this government. That little niggling feeling is coming out in the conversations—that something is not quite right about the Prime Minister and this government.
They saw a lot of the PM in the campaign. He was bouncing around. He was bouncing balls. He was bouncing them on his head. He was kicking balls. He was throwing a few. He was hitting a few. The whole baseball-cap-wearing daggy dad routine was an amusing distraction—but a distraction from what? The answer to that question is becoming increasingly apparent to the average working Australian. It’s becoming apparent that the Prime Minister and his whole government are just all smoke and mirrors, that this whole act, his whole schtick, has distracted Australians from the fact that there is no substance to this Prime Minister and that the coalition policy cupboard is bare.
They have no answers to the pressing needs that this nation faces—no answers, whether it be on social justice, meaningful action on climate change, addressing economic inequality or our place in the world. The fact is that in the first few months of the Morrison government Australians have been offered nothing but obfuscation, distraction and bluster. The PM’s act is losing its superficial gloss. The schtick is wearing thin. The carry-on no longer hides the gaping policy holes that are at the heart of this government and that are now having a very, very real impact on people’s lives.
As well as having no answers, now, more than ever, they try to hide it. They try to hide it by being loose with the truth. Let me give you a few examples. The Prime Minister has claimed that ’emissions are at their lowest in 29 years’. That’s just not true. It’s provably untrue. Emissions are rising under this government. That’s a fact. They have risen every year since this government dismantled the system built by the Labor Party when they were last in power to bring down emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy. When he’s called out for being lose with the truth, the Prime Minister attacks the messenger. He tries to undermine the credibility of those relying on established and overwhelming scientific evidence about climate change. Maybe that’s why, instead of going to the UN climate change conference, he visited Macca’s, or Mickey D’s as they call it in New York. That’s what he was doing: downing cheeseburgers while the rest of the world were mobilising to tackle a climate emergency. The Prime Minister should know that in an emergency you don’t clock off and go to Macca’s. You don’t order 70 reviews in your first couple of months of government. In an emergency, you act to protect people from harm.
The fact is that this government has no answers. The Prime Minister and his government simply don’t care about the interests of working people. It’s the only explanation for the failure across such contrasting policy areas, and it explains the misleading tactics that they use to cover up that failure. For instance, with skills and training, the gap between promises and reality gets wider and wider. The government promised 80,000 new apprenticeships, but they have destroyed more than 150,000 since they took office. There are fewer apprentices today than there were 10 years ago, and that’s because they ripped off $3 billion from skills and training. That’s the substance of their policy. The PM’s schtick is: let’s pay a TV tradie a lot of money to distract people. They promised to build hundreds of dams. They haven’t built a single one, even as drought and climate change hit our farmers harder than ever. They’ve done a review about dams, they’ve produced a glossy pamphlet and promised to build 100 dams, but what they haven’t actually done is build a dam. It’s amazing!
This policy failure, and the subsequent attempt to hide it, is more and more apparent in their economic mismanagement. Under this coalition government, everything is going up except people’s wages. They claim that they’re actually good economic managers, yet the truth is that they’re terrified to take any action. The Treasurer is sitting behind the wheel of a car. He should be driving the economy, but it’s veering off the road and all the Treasurer can do is hope that Philip Lowe reaches over and takes control of the steering wheel for him. They seriously try and tell us that they’re good economic managers. I wouldn’t trust the member for Kooyong to ride a tricycle through a kindergarten. Australians deserve a better government than this—not used car salesmen trying to sell policy lemons. Australians deserve a government with a plan, a government with substance, a government that cares. They deserve a government that actually provides the answers that this nation needs.