Parliamentary speeches

National Anti-Corruption Commission

August 11, 2021

We should all be so lucky to find someone who looks at us the way the member for Goldstein regards himself! That would be a wonderful thing—I think an impossibility. What we have seen are two quite extraordinary contributions from the government speakers, both very pleased with their sense of their own debating skills but both making clear the case that this side of politics and, indeed, as the member for Ballarat has made clear, that every member of this place and the other place outside the government knows is unarguable—that Australia needs a real national anticorruption commission and we need it now. We need it now.

In the Prime Minister, we see a national leader who has been slow to act and quick to blame at every turn, a person who has been incapable of distinguishing public funds and public responsibility from the electoral prospects of Liberal and National parties, someone who is incapable of taking responsibility and incapable of accepting accountability. He is utterly shameless and so is the government that he leads. They are contemptuous of democratic institutions and that is demonstrated with their disingenuousness over this issue.

We are nearly at the thousand-day mark since the promise was made for a national integrity commission and we are no closer to seeing action—action on their inadequate terms or action at all. This contempt for our democratic institutions, this contempt for accountability in this place, is really contempt for Australians. This is a government that should be serving the Australian people but it stands and stares down at them. It refuses its responsibilities, even through this time where it has never been more important for the Australian people to have a government on their side and a government they can rely on.

I think that the shadow minister for infrastructure, the member for Ballarat, and the shadow Attorney-General, have gone through the litany of sorrow. Time here does not permit it, but the scandals speak for themselves: change room rorts, robodebt—perhaps the greatest scandal of all, actually—regional rorts, sports rorts and car park rorts most recently. I think the worst thing about the car park rorts scandal is that the government saw sports rorts, where they were caught red-handed, and they made a decision about it. The decision seems to have been this: they got caught out under Senator McKenzie because there was a process. So, somehow, when it came to allocating $660 million of taxpayer funds, turning that $660 million into an LNP slush fund, the decision was made to remove any criteria for project assessment—any criteria, none at all!—and to deny any process for application.

Of course, what we don't know is who came up with this. I'm very interested that the minister for urban infrastructure doesn't seem interested in sharing his views with the Australian people in this place or in the media. I'm very interested that the minister then responsible, the member for Aston, says that he never saw the critical document that was the basis for all this. He never saw it! He was the minister at the time and yet a public interest immunity claim has been advanced in support of it. This is astonishing! The minister is admitting to not reading his own briefs. Well, perhaps that is credible but the defence is not—in particular, the defence of the Prime Minister. We see it in his anger, we see it in how he hides and we see it even in the small things, like him cutting the questions on car park rorts from his Facebook page. And he probably should have done that, because his answers were risible.

I said before that he leads a government that is shameless. That's the characterisation of Katherine Murphy of the Guardian. I think it's a really important one because it cuts to the bone: they are shameless in every respect. We see that every day when he stands at a dispatch box that he is unworthy to stand before. But we see it profoundly in his refusal, and the refusal of every member opposite, to accept their responsibility. It is such a privilege to serve in this place and in the other place. It's hard to imagine a greater privilege than to serve in government, and yet these people are demonstrating themselves, with every action—and, in particular, through this inaction—that they aren't up to it. They aren't up to it when it comes to competence. Australians have seen that through the failure in the rollout and national quarantine. But, more profoundly, they fail on character—no-one more so than the person who should be leading Australia. That's why we need a national anticorruption commission now.