Speech on the Dysfunction of This Government

3.25pm | August 16, 2017

The British futurist and writer Alan Moore said:

The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic.

The truth of this government, of course, is that it is utterly chaotic. It may be comforting, in the delusional state that they've got themselves into, for their tactics team to believe that there is a conspiracy out there to undermine the government and destabilise the government, but, sadly, that doesn't align with reality. The reality is that their government has been destabilised by one very, very simple fact: the Deputy Prime Minister, until very recently it seems, was a New Zealand citizen. It's actually very embarrassing. I understand why their political leadership is desperately looking for an alternative narrative, a story other than, 'Whoops, we made a mistake,' because their backbench are deeply embarrassed by the performance of their frontbench at today's question time and more generally out there in the world.

I watched their backbench today. I watched them as Senator Brandis provided increasingly desperate answers to sensible questions from people on this side of the House. They weren't looking up, all agog, in admiration of their fearless leader here in the Senate. They were watching Senator Brandis and then they were looking down at their phones. They were looking at their phones because they could not believe what they were hearing. Senator Brandis was talking about conspiracy theories that are barely credible. They're not credible to anyone in the media, they're not credible to anyone who's watching this extraordinary performance, and they're certainly not credible to people on this side of the chamber.

I want to go to the kind of detachment from reality that is required to prosecute a conspiracy theory of this kind. Today, Senator Brandis was asked some fairly basic questions about things which have been said in the public domain—things that are written down; transcripts that you can look up on the internet. Even then, he was unable to accept the reality of what transpired yesterday. He was asked about whether he accepted the position that was set out by the New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs, Peter Dunne, when he explained that the confirmation of Mr Joyce's New Zealand citizenship was, in fact, instigated by media inquiries. How did Senator Brandis answer this? He said, 'I don't accept that this is what he said.' I can read the tweet that was put out by the New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs. He said:

"This is so much utter nonsense—while Hipkins' questions were inappropriate, they were not the instigator. Australian media inquiries were."

This is on the public record; this is still on Twitter. Yet what does Senator Brandis say? He says, 'I don't accept that this is what he said.' This is deranged, this is detached from reality and it is not a sustainable political argument to make in this place.

Given that Minister Bishop has said that she doesn't accept Mr Dunne's version of events, Senator Brandis was asked whether Minister Bishop has informed her counterpart that she considers that he's lied on this occasion. What did he say? 'That is not what she said.' Again, I can read from the transcript. I, like every other person in this place, can actually read. What happened was that the journalist said:

"Minister, the New Zealand Minister, the relevant minister Dunne, has said today that it's utter nonsense to suggest that the Labour Party's question played any role and that it was actually media enquiries and not the Labour Party's question. What do you say to that?"

What's her answer?

"I don't accept that."

She clearly repudiates the statement made by her counterpart in the New Zealand government, and yet, when asked about this, what does Minister Brandis say? 'That's not what she said.'

Well, I've got something to say to the government and those sitting behind government frontbenchers: you cannot wish away reality. That is not an option. For all that people might wish to believe that this is over, we are still living in a reality-based community, and on this side of the chamber we will continue to prosecute our arguments based on fact—based on what actually happened, not based on some version of events that you wish happened. You'd do well to return your thoughts to reality as well.

Question agreed to.