SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

13 February 2019

SPEECH TO PARLIAMENT ON REARRANGEMENT OF LEGISLATION WITH RESPECT TO THE HOME AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2018

THE SENATE

CANBERRA

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The Manager of Government Business in the Senate talks about giving up pretence. Well, do you know who has stopped pretending? Mr Morrison has stopped pretending even to be Prime Minister. He can’t even pretend to be Prime Minister. He’s Prime Minister in name only. He’s leading a government that is so riven by chaos and division, it has no agenda and no positive plans for the Australian people. If you needed any display of that, have a look at the House yesterday—the first government since 1929 to lose a vote on the floor of the House on its own legislation.

Let’s remember the many positions this government has taken on the bill that is before the chamber, or the message that is reported. First Mr Morrison said, ‘It’s a stupid bill. It’s superfluous.’ Then this Government, in a shameful act, leaked classified security information in an attempt to undermine it. Then they whipped out of the Prime Minister’s pocket some advice saying it is unconstitutional, and, when they lost the vote, suddenly it didn’t matter again. So one minute it’s superfluous and the next it’s the end of the world. One minute it’s a constitutional crisis and the next it’s irrelevant.

Do you know what this is? It is a pattern of deceit. It’s a pattern of deceit and desperation from a man who is desperate to cling to office, a man who has nothing left but deceit, fear and smear—a man who has nothing left but deceit, fear and smear. At least we have had the leaking of classified security information by this Government being referred to the AFP.

Scott Morrison wants to manufacture a fight because fear is all you lot have left. You can’t campaign on your record, because your record is chaos and cuts. You can’t campaign on stability, because you’re busy fighting each other.

Mr Morrison’s speech this week really confirmed that he has no agenda on the things that matter to the lives of the people we represent—nothing on schools, nothing on Medicare, nothing on hospitals, nothing on the NBN, nothing on wages, certainly nothing on climate change, and nothing about what he would do the fix the banks. It is very clear this Government has nothing left but a fear campaign.

On the message regarding the bill that is before the chamber, Labor has always made clear that we believe it is possible to have strong border security policy but also to ensure that the people who we have a responsibility for who are ill and sick are treated appropriately by medical practitioners. So our two clear objectives have been making sure that sick people get the care they need and making sure that the minister has the final discretion when it comes to medical transfers.

We will never let the people smugglers back in business. We have been clear that we support offshore processing, turnbacks when safe to do so and regional resettlement—and we are responsible.

You don’t see us leaking classified information for political purposes—a completely shameful act by those opposite, by those who represent those opposite. We act on the advice from agencies, as demonstrated in the constructive negotiations and the amendments which were put and agreed against the votes of the Government in the lower House.

Those amendments enhance the security arrangements, extend the time frame of the Government to refuse transfers and ensure that this legislation is ring-fenced. They only apply to a fixed number of people who are already in regional processing.

The bill requires the Government to listen to the advice of doctors. It is not prospective and, of course, this legislation will continue the practice where people who are transferred for medical will continue to be held in detention as a default, and only the minister can approve their release.

There are lies being told about this bill by those opposite, and they are doing it because they are desperate. They are desperate. They are led by a desperate Prime Minister, who is leading a bitterly divided Government. He is clearly only concerned about one thing: clinging on to his job. That is the only thing this has always been about. The shenanigans we saw at the end of last year: filibuster, filibuster and then sending the House of Representatives home before you could deal with a national security bill. There was brinkmanship with national security.

The Telecommunications legislation was a national security bill, and you packed up shop in the lower house and played brinkmanship with national security! And you have the gall to come into here and talk about being responsible? You know the party that was responsible on that day? It was the Labor Party. And we will continue to be responsible while you play politics with national security. Well, we don’t. We don’t. Rather than running these lies, why don’t you just call an election?

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.