Peter Khalil: I mentioned in my first speech, on Monday, that often the public is very cynical about politics and politicians. Their expectations are low, but when they are high they are seldom met. I think the public often believe that there is on this stage too much sound and fury without much substance at all. When they look at leadership in this place, the public should probably see at least some potential in our political leaders, because political leaders, through their vision, shape the fate of a nation. We have in the office of Prime Minister a person who has had a tremendous opportunity, a privilege that is given to so few, to make a mark on our country, to change our society for the better, yet in 12 months in the job he has utterly failed in his leadership.
The member for Wentworth has been a comprehensive disappointment to millions of Australians. His promise has been unfulfilled. His vision—if there was one to begin with—is nowhere to be seen. He presides over a bare policy cupboard. He spent the last year frantically attempting to fill it with thought bubbles that popped almost immediately after they came out of his mouth. For instance, we can all recall when the Prime Minister, with his puffed-up chest, lectured the nation about what he called ‘once-in-a-generation reform’. We all remember that. He put forward the idea, if I could call it that, of returning income tax powers to state governments. Two days later—only two days later—the greatest reforms to federalism for a generation, according to the Prime Minister, had ignominiously slithered down the COAG drain. The member for Wentworth scraped the bottom of the 20th century tax-policy barrel with that ill thought-out idea. It was a horrible idea. Interestingly enough, in stark contrast, he authored an article in 1976 where he criticised Malcolm Fraser for suggesting the very same policy idea. The PM and his brains trust, in what must have been a mad scramble to put together something, anything, then sought to replace it—and this is quite remarkable—with a $50 billion tax cut for corporate Australia. This policy was so well developed that the Prime Minister was quoted no less than 18 times as saying he did not even know what it cost. The PM’s former employer, Goldman Sachs, however, certainly did do its due diligence. Goldman Sachs stated that the tax cuts would mostly benefit foreign domiciled companies.
Perhaps he should consult his own cabinet a little more often. We all remember the cringe-worthy debacle of the Prime Minister failing to consult the Treasurer on the date of the budget, leaving government members chaotically uninformed. Now, even though the member for Wentworth may believe in some progressive policies—I am sure he does deep down, maybe some of them—the sadness, the tragedy, of his predicament is that he cannot deliver these policies, because his own party will not let him. It is rumoured that the Prime Minister strongly backed reforms to negative gearing but was rolled by the right wingers in his party room. It is rumoured the Prime Minister was again overridden by the right wing of his party on climate change. He is now peddling a policy that he himself once described, as a fig leaf and a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale. But, it actually could be worse. I may be being too kind.
The most damning indictment of his failed leadership would be—and I think it is—that he has actually traded away his own values for the top job. I am just a new member in this place, a new backbencher, yet in my first week I was confronted by the Prime Minister. On the first day of this parliament in the hallway he proceeded to lecture me about the notion of bipartisan support for a marriage equality plebiscite. I was a bit shocked. I did not know what to say. Then he turned his attack on the NBN and insisted that they were building it, that he was building it. He assured me that they were building it. Such a great statesman was roaming the halls of parliament seeking anyone who may throw a lifeline to his withering legacy. He is in danger of sinking even further into the depths of obscurity than the man he has usurped. The simple fact is that Australia deserves better than this Prime Minister.