SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

24 October 2015

NEW PM, SAME OUT-OF -TOUCH GOVERNMENT

TOPIC: SENATE ESTIMATES

Senate Estimates has shown that not much has changed inside the Government despite the change of Prime Minister.

Tony Abbott might have gone, but his replacement has picked up where he left off with cuts for families, and contempt for the Parliament.

The Department of Social Services admitted it had not modelled the financial impact of the Government’s harsh cuts to Family Tax Benefits A and B.

This is despite the new package of cuts announced this week hurting almost 140,000 single parents and 76,000 couples.

Arthur Sinodinos at least confirmed what Labor has known all along – that the FTB cuts are linked to the child care package for political purposes.

Department of Industry officials confirmed that Christopher Pyne has linked additional automotive assistance to the same FTB cuts in negotiations with crossbench Senators.

The Department of the Environment confirmed the Turnbull-Abbott Government still plans to abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – an economically and environmentally reckless plan that defies the Parliament.

The Department of Communications confessed that individual electorate profiles have been prepared on the rollout of Mr Turnbull’s second-rate NBN but these profiles have only been provided to Coalition MPs.

New Arts Minister Mitch Fifield revealed he was all-at-sea on the arts slush fund he inherited from George Brandis, his new Senate Leader.  Weeks after his appointment Mitch just can’t work out how to put lipstick on this pig of a program.

The Office for Women revealed the Government has no strategy for evaluating the effectiveness of the Government’s $100 million package for addressing Domestic Violence.

We learned a little, but not much, more about the “on-land” operation by Border Force that involved planned – or at least announced – visa checks on the streets of Melbourne.

It can be confident Peter Dutton’s office knew about the operation, but no more confident Peter Dutton understands why Australians were aghast at the prospect of random visa checks on the street.

The head of Infrastructure Australia admitted the West Australian Liberal Government is the only State or Territory Government not to submit a list of priority projects – despite a September deadline.

Barnaby Joyce’s department couldn’t say if any changes had been made following allegations a former Liberal candidate misappropriated $300,000 of funds belonging to Horticulture Innovation Australia.

Like the Turnbull-Abbott Government, we’re none the wiser about which minister has responsibility for water policy.

Health officials were forced to defend the decision to pay $56 million to the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party Government to dig a hole, fill it with concrete, hold a media event, then fill the hole with dirt again.

We learned the Government had spent $31 million of taxpayer funds to sell its politicised Intergenerational Report, and has told AusTrade to spend more money, in a shorter period, on Free Trade Agreement advertising.

The sad truth about the Government’s foreign investment policy was revealed, with National Party Senator John Williams describing the Coalition’s new red-tape run-around for foreign investors as “tightening up selling off the land”.  So much for “open for business”.

We learnt from Treasury that there has been no economic modelling or modelling of price impacts associated with the introduction of an effects test – a major change to economic policy and our competition laws.

Like the Harper review that recommended an effects test in section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act, Treasury acknowledged “there will be a level of uncertainty with the new law”.

Treasury officials also confirmed the number of women in senior roles has gone backwards, from two last year to zero.

Education has a new minister, but nothing else has changed. Simon Birmingham confirmed $30 billion in cuts to school funding are here to stay under Mr Turnbull.

Senator Birmingham later refused to answer basic questions on child care funding, taking 15 questions on notice in 15 minutes.

The Department of Employment confirmed that the report used to justify the $1 billion Work for the Dole expansion had no evidence that the program actually helps unemployed people into jobs.

Mixed amongst his “unsubstantiated hyperbole”, the Director of Fair Work Building and Construction was forced to correct multiple inaccuracies in a media report used by the Government to justify its ideological argument for a return to the ABCC.

Senator Brandis rejected media reports that senior public servants were to be made permanent members of the National Security Committee of Cabinet – confirming that Government sources had misled the Daily Telegraph and its readers.

Officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet might need a good copyright lawyer. They used, without attribution, an extract from ABC TV’s Utopia to defend an FOI decision refusing the release of invoices for wine bought for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott by taxpayers to lubricate failed efforts to keep his job.  The reason? Personal privacy.

Senator Cory Bernardi made a pitch to join the Utopia season three script-writing team by describing the marble table that was not, repeat not, smashed by Jamie Briggs as just a bit “chipped”.

And on Friday officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet finally admitted they spent $37,000 on empty hotel rooms in the Torres Strait Islands during Tony Abbott’s trip in August.

All this in just five days, just four weeks into the life of the Turnbull-Abbott Government.

A new PM, but nothing much has changed.