Motions – Morrison Government Ministerial Standards06 February 2020
I might start by expressing my gratitude for Senator Ayres’s contribution this afternoon. I very much enjoyed it. He delivered it very well and, like all great acts of fiction, it entertained me. Much like Homer’s Odyssey, The Grapes of Wrath or Gone with the Wind, it was very much a journey into the land of the untrue. It is important at this point to speak to Senator Gallagher’s motion, and it is important at this stage to point out what I consider to be the flawed nature of the motion itself. In fact, one would have to say that one would quite comfortably reject the very basis upon which the motion was framed because, quite frankly, what it’s seeking to do is muddy the waters in relation to the government’s performance in a fairly typically disingenuous way that we’ve seen from our friends in the Australian Labor Party across the way.
The truth of the matter is that the Morrison government hit the ground running following its May 2019 election win. The fact is that this government has been prosecuting arguments for good government since 2013, and this is a fact which, clearly, is not getting through to those on the other side. This government has been delivering real results for Australians. It’s been consistently delivering on key issues for our country and it’s topical at this stage to review some of the more recent achievements that this government has been able to deliver. I think that certainly gives a point of distinction between the criticism that we see in this motion, which, in my view, is quite unfounded. We’ve had delivery of defence projects and we’ve had the efforts in relation to bushfire recovery. It needs to be said that, really, the only unprecedented thing about these bushfires has been the extraordinary manner in which the government has responded and has mobilised. We’ve seen the drought relief project and the government ably managing what has been an extraordinarily difficult period of time in this country’s history, in relation to drought. We have seen infrastructure project after infrastructure project.
This government ultimately won’t be swayed by criticism of this nature. It has a plan for what is already a strong economy to become an even stronger economy. This government will do that by continuing to lower taxes and reduce costs for families, couples and businesses; reducing energy costs by continuing its program of deregulation; equipping Australians with skills; expanding our trade borders; building infrastructure; and, overall, keeping our budget strong—all of this in the face of global economic headwinds and what has been a devastating summer in the last few months. It has been a devastating summer for Australians facing this bushfire crisis, and that’s why this government has committed to doing whatever it takes to get Australian families and businesses, towns and communities back on their feet. The Morrison government is doing all of this without taking reckless risks with our economy and this country’s way of life.
We know of course that that certainly would not have been the case had the Australian people elected a Labor government—and, specifically, a Labor government under Bill Shorten—at the last election. This would’ve been a complete and utter disaster for this country, particularly knowing what we now know about the challenges we face.
There’s no better way to confirm this than to look at the government’s approach to, for example, emissions. Australia’s emissions fell one per cent in the 2018-19 financial year, and it’s instructive to note that they are now lower than when the coalition government came into power and at their lowest level since 2015-16. They’re lower than in any other year Labor was in power. Australia is now a world leader per capita in investing in clean energy, with more than double the investment of countries that claim a particular expertise in that area, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France. It’s an achievement of which this government and all Australians can be proud, because this government, at the end of the day, is not going to be bullied into ruining our economy. These measures confirm that this government takes a balanced and responsible approach to its role, not the reckless, crazy mechanisms of the Australian Labor Party—the spendthrift nature of the Australian Labor Party—or, worse yet, the sorts of catastrophes which would be inflicted on us by the Australian Greens.
We’ve recently seen this government react in, as I’ve already said, what is an unprecedented manner, with a compulsory call-out of ADF reserve brigades in bushfire affected communities. This is an action which has never been seen before, with 6,500 Army personnel, including 3,000 reservists, called up. That is no easy task, and it is an absolute credit to the people of the ADF and the department.
This government has recently announced the establishment of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, delivering alongside an initial $2 billion of funding to support recovery. Ultimately, it is instructive once again to note that these are the sorts of measures that this government has prepared for, by way of its incredibly diligent management of this economy and the budget. These are the sorts of measures which simply would not be achievable had the economy not been managed in the way it was. Money does not grow on trees, and this government’s respectful and considered approach to financial management and prudential financial management is the reason we are able to spend the sorts of moneys we are in these times of need.
Had the Labor Party taken office in May last year, we would almost certainly have been hit with a drought tax and bushfire tax and a whole host of other taxes, in addition to Bill Shorten’s proposed $387 billion of taxes across the board. This would’ve been an absolute disaster.
This government has stopped the boats and is keeping our borders secure. It has cancelled the visas of over 4,400 foreign nationals who would potentially have committed serious crimes. We’re talking about serious criminals: murderers, rapists and sex offenders of all sorts. So this government does not take the criticism lightly. We will continue to defend Australia, its economy, its values and, ultimately, our way of life.
If one were to sit down and list the achievements of this government in its time, and particularly the Morrison government—the government which ultimately is the subject of criticism this afternoon by way of this motion—we would certainly be here a very, very long time. But it is instructive to once again note some of those very significant achievements and milestones. One of the most significant was the August 2018 conclusion of negotiations between Australia and Indonesia in terms of the economic partnership agreement in Jakarta, which is a significant trade deal. We saw this government deliver the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in October of that year. We’ve seen the announcement of a $5 billion Future Drought Fund, and the Drought Summit, which I touched on earlier today. This government will cut $300 million worth of red tape in relation to small and medium-sized businesses over the next four years. I touched on that earlier in relation to the role this government has played in deregulation. There is $1.25 billion in the Community Health and Hospitals Program in my home state of South Australia. Also in my home state of South Australia, in December of 2018 this government announced the Australian Space Agency to be located in Adelaide, at lot 14 in the City of Adelaide, which will of course be an enormous driver of economic activity in my home state and my home city. In February of 2019, we saw a $662 million aged-care package to support older Australians. The Adelaide City Deal was signed in March 2019 to tie in with the aforementioned Australian Space Agency. This government has taken road safety initiatives, with $2.2 billion to boost road safety countrywide.
Across the board, there have been achievements. In March 2019, this government introduced tough new laws to prevent the weaponising of social media platforms to protect Australians from live streaming of violent crimes. The list goes on and on and on. There was a crackdown on social media platforms and online predators in May 2019, prior to the election. We’ve seen, in this very early portion of the year, as I said earlier, the announcement of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. We have seen support for affected communities in South Australia which has been unprecedented. We are in difficult times. My home state of South Australia has been dramatically affected by the bushfire, and in particular Kangaroo Island, which is a very special place for South Australians. This government, in January of this year, announced additional support for fire affected communities, providing grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses and $15,000 for primary producers. The list goes on and on. I’ll resume my seat.