22 August 2018




Today we have seen a line-up of Liberal politicians facing the media one by one, telling the story about themselves, defending themselves, explaining themselves, and wondering if they have a job or don't have a job and who will be the leaderan extraordinary display that says more about the character and the content of the cabinet of the Turnbull government. We saw a government bleeding todaynot bleeding for the country but bleeding for themselves and their own jobs. We see a divided cabinet. We see a government so hopelessly in disarray that the best alternative for a leader they could think of did not even support the national apology to First Nations people in this country.

For shame! What have they become?

They fight over energy, they fight over climate change, they fight over tax, they fight over industrial relations, they fight over education, and they fight over principles that they have long since abandoned. They fight for their own jobs, but they will not fight for the Australian people.

While this internal bickering continues and the member for Dickson rallies his troops, the people of Australia suffer, and the people of the Northern Territory suffer because of the lack of housing. We hear the minister stand up in this house, talking about thousands and thousands of jobs that are being created across the country for First Nations people. Well, where are those jobs? Where I sit and where I travel across the regions of remote and regional Australia, they are not there. Industries are closing, businesses are closing, and there are not enough housescertainly for those who are homeless and certainly for those people who have been demanding their fair share and rights to homes in this country.

Last week in this place, we saw a vote against a bill to restore the rights of the territories. That is because the government only care about themselves. They certainly did not care about the people of the Northern Territory when we sat here last week in this parliament. Last week, we saw Senator Jane Hume say that, due to the Territory's small population, the people of the Northern Territory were incapable of making decisions on complex social policy issues. Why do I raise that? It is not because it was part of the debate in the political arena but because it was a statement that was made on Sky News after the debate and its devastating outcome for the people of the Northern Territory. It wasn't enough that the people of the Northern Territory felt enormously aggrieved, deeply hurt and completely betrayed by this house; they were then insulted. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound. It wasn't enough that you won the vote by two, mind youand we're going to have another go at some point. It wasn't enough; you had to go out there and insult the people of the Northern Territory. I've written to the Prime Minister, demanding an apology, although I doubt he will have time to even think about the people of the Northern Territory now that he's busy trying to save himself.

On that point, the Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull, that isstands in front of the press conference today and talks about how 'we must give back to the people of Australia', how 'we must govern for the people of Australia'. Yes, that's right, you must, Prime Minister. However, you very much contributed to eroding the rights of citizens in the Northern Territory and in the ACT, not because you believed that they shouldn't have equal citizenship but because you did not want to have that as a problem in the House. That's not governing for all Australians, and that's not doing it in fairness, for what this country stands for and for the values of democracy in this country. You were so busy trying to prevent a debate going to your House that you were going to do anything to make sure that, in this place, senators voted the way you wanted them to vote, even though it was a conscience vote. That is a clear example of your inability, and the inability of the Turnbull government, to progress any coherent policy or legislative agenda in either this place or the other one.

It is shameful that this parliament decided that the people of the Northern Territory are second-class citizens. We do deserve the same rights as all Australians. And, while we wait for the government to decide whom it should have as its leader, the Northern Territory suffers, just like every other jurisdiction in this country. And, while we wait and continue to wait, we wonder about the pieces of legislation and policy that this mob over there should be progressing to improve the lives of Australians.

The city deal for Darwin, for example, sits on the Prime Minister's desk, gathering dust. The funding for Central Arnhem Road and Buntine Highway remains unclear and unaccounted for, and yet you stand up here saying that it's in the budget. But the amount of money that's in the budget is only going to cover a couple of hundred kilometres. The Central Arnhem highway goes for 600 or 700 kilometres. So don't do us any favours in the Northern Territory. Be genuine and real about what you're trying to do. But you can't, because you're distracted. You're too busy looking at your own selves. The funding for our schools remains unaccounted for. The funding for our hospitals remains unclear. Every day that the government talk about themselves is another day that Australians pay the price of nothing getting done. Our costs for accessing health care are higher than ever. Energy bills and the cost of livingwhich you on that side cannot seem to get sortedare skyrocketing under the Liberals, and wage growth is lower than ever.

These are not conditions in which the people of the Northern Territory, or the people of Australia, can thrive. These conditions only make our situation worse. This is a government that claims to stand up for regional and rural Australians. Really? Really? A pic fac out in Forbes says you care? Come on, guys, get your act together. You cut funding to ABC short-wave radio, allowing China to fill the void in the South Pacific. You cut funding to Charles Darwin University, damaging our future in the north. And don't let me go to the north Australia policy. What about the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility$5 billion over nearly four years, and what have you got to show for it? You keep hanging it out in front of people who desperately need the infrastructure to build, the businesses to grow. You tease the people of northern Australiayou tease themand then you come back here, and you jostle for your jobs, you jostle for the leadership: who's gonna be in the cabinet? You're too busy wondering whether you're gonna get that extra dollar. And yet people out there are hungry. They're starving, they're homeless, and all you can do is think about yourselves.

You've stuffed up the NBN. You've cut funding to our primary schools and high schools. You've neglected even the First Nations media organisations, with no policy direction or new funding commitments and no support for creating real jobs and career pathways. And what about the royal commission into youth detention, which was caused by an incompetent Country Liberal Party government bearing your brand?

You continue to impose the disastrous and discriminatory CDP program in remote communities, despite empty promises of change and illusory improvements. What you're doing is entrenching poverty among the most disadvantaged Australians in this country. But you wouldn't be thinking about that right now, would you? The entrenched poverty out there can keep going so long as your wealth in here gets sorted. This government is a shambles. Not only has this government lost the confidence of its own team, its own party, its own cabinet; this government has lost the confidence of all Australians.