Speech on Chaos in the Coalition

10.45am | October 08, 2018

I want to talk this evening to some of the people who this government has forgotten; people who live up and down the east coast of New South Wales in places like Lismore, Casino, Batemans Bay and Nowra. These people live far away from the petty issues that have preoccupied the Liberal Party and the National Party over the last months, and they live far too close to the real issues, like wage stagnation, that this government has completely ignored.

Why is it that the government has ignored these issues, despite the community clamouring for action? Well, for as long as anyone can remember, the government has been busy fighting itself. It has been in chaos. Just this month we have seen the Liberals' newest Prime Minister kill the National Energy Guarantee, leaving the government with no energy policy at all in its fifth year of government. Mr Morrison has confirmed his support for funding cuts to schools and hospitals, and he has completely failed to provide strong leadership in response to allegations of bullying in the Liberal Party. This government is falling apart before our eyes. The coalition is up to its third Prime Minister in five years, and its MPs are resigning and defecting publicly.

This evening the Liberal member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, made an extraordinary speech in the other place. She described the 'bullying, betrayal and backstabbing' inflicted on her by her state colleague, Gareth Ward, in what she has called an act of 'narcissistic revenge'. She has alleged that senior Liberals leaked material against her to the media, that there has been branch-stacking and that supporters on her local federal council were rolled. She has announced that she will not be recontesting her seat at the next federal election and, given what she says she has been subjected to, that is entirely understandable. This is on top of the Nationals member for Page, Kevin Hogan, half-heartedly joining the crossbench in a vain attempt to distance himself from the madness that is engulfing the coalition.

While the government is busy thinking about itself, its antics have real-life consequences for people in this country and people in seats like Page and Gilmore. When the government cut $256,000 from Gerringong Public School, it made it more difficult in concrete ways for the teachers of that school to help our kids learn and grow. When the government cut the penalty rates of workers in Nowra, it made it harder for parents to put food on the table for their families. Because of these cuts to penalty rates, workers in Gilmore are $77 a week worse off. When the government cut funding to hospitals, it made it tougher for older Australians in Lismore to access the medical treatment that they need. When the government scrapped the National Energy Guarantee, it abandoned the only proposal it had come up with in five years to decrease power prices for Australian households.

A new Liberal Party or National Party candidate in these electorates will not change this. Only a Labor government can ensure that everyday Australian people get access to the services that they need. Labor is fully committed to fair funding for schools like Gerringong Public School. We've committed to restoring every dollar of the $17 billion that the Liberals have cut from schools. Every child, regardless of where they live, should have the option of attending a great public school, where they can make strong progress each and every year.

Labor takes working people seriously, like the hardworking people of Lismore, many of whom work weekends and public holidays to make ends meet. Labor believes that our hospitals ought to be property funded, and that the strain on our public hospitals is having a detrimental effect on doctors, nurses and patients. Labor believes that, regardless of whether you live in the regions or in the city, access to health care is a right. Rising power prices are putting stress on our community, and that is why we have a plan to transition our energy system to renewable energy, which is cheaper and creates more jobs.

These policies can only become a reality when we elect representatives with the knowledge and the experience to enact change—representatives like Patrick Deegan, Labor's candidate in Page, a social worker who wants the same opportunities for his kids that he had when he was growing up to access education, apprenticeships and secure work. It's also why I back Labor's candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, who was raised on the South Coast and is now raising her kids in the local area.

The people in Page and Gilmore—and, indeed, across this country—deserve strong, stable leadership and a local member who cares about their needs. Instead, they have been subjected to five years of cuts and chaos. And what is all this about? In the words of one participant who is in a position to know, Ann Sudmalis:

"Certainly not the people who elected me. It was about ego-driven ambition, bullying and betrayal."

Enough is enough. People deserve better than this.