Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (16:54): The Prime Minister's bad news week will continue when he returns to Sydney. When he goes to his Point Piper mansion on that multimillion dollar street he will have to navigate his way around a giant sinkhole. A giant sinkhole, believe it or not, has opened up. So we have this perfect metaphor. Not only is he falling into a hole in terms of how he is handling his policy work in Canberra; he will literally have to navigate his way around one when he returns to Sydney.
Some people were led to believe that when Malcolm Turnbull became the Prime Minister there would be some good news there—that on climate change and marriage equality things would change, that there would be a trickle-down and, in time, there would be some good outcomes. But on both of these issues he has been gutless. Of course he has continued to be, as he was in his previous job outside parliament, a salesman for the super rich, for privatisation and for profit. That is the driving aspect of this government. That is what they are out to do. That is where the Prime Minister gives leadership—in delivering in that way. He is delivering in a way that brings the hardship, the inequality, the job insecurity, the environmental damage that has now become the hallmark of this government.
I do agree with the analysis that you hear from some that part of Mr Turnbull's problem is that he is locked on to the extreme Right in his party. Yes, that is the case. But it is also the case that the job of the Liberals and Nationals and the job of the Prime Minister is to deliver for their constituency. And their constituency is corporate Australia. Corporate Australia's job, while they are on the earth, is to make profits. How do they increase their profits? They do so by getting this government, the Liberals and Nationals, to weaken environmental standards and labour standards. When workers are not being paid as much and when occupational health and safety conditions are run down, and when you can ignore putting in any standards about clean air and clean water, there will be more profits. That is where this constituency—the big end of town; corporate Australia—is benefiting from the likes of the Prime Minister.
Let's just take industrial relations as an example. This is where you do not see any finesse from the government. It really is a position in which they are out there to smash unions and weaken workers' rights. We saw it so clearly with the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation. Now, as we have seen this week, we have this disgraceful backflip from Senator Hinch. The government wants to make this very ugly piece of legislation even harsher.
The building code, which is a key part of the ABCC, puts in restrictions on the enterprise bargaining agreements linked with Commonwealth-funded work. This is really worth understanding because it highlights the hypocrisy that you hear from Liberal and National senators and MPs in the other place time and time again. The code prohibits not only union-friendly but: enterprise bargaining agreements from including clauses that encourage the employment of apprentices; requiring employers to look for local workers first; preventing unlimited ordinary working hours; allowing construction workers to have a fair and safe workplace. Remember all those fine speeches that you heard from Minister Cash and from the MPs in the other place? This puts the lie to what they actually stand for. On all those things, how could you disagree with clauses about more apprentices, fair working hours, a safer workplace and more jobs locally? But it goes that far. That is what you end up with. That is what Mr Turnbull is overseeing at every turn.
Then the really big standout: there was Mr Turnbull putting $1.75 million into the Liberal Party to, literally, buy the election. We will be hearing more from Minister Ryan on how they are going to clean up political donations. But the furthest they will go is possibly bringing in a ban on overseas donations, and transparency. If we get that, it is all important; very important. But we need to have caps. We need to have limits on the amount of money that can be spent on elections and, certainly, an end to the damaging corporate donations. At the moment, the culture is changing in Australia. We are getting to a point that the super rich like Malcolm Turnbull can buy elections. But it does not look like he can buy his way out of a sinkhole or a policy hole.