MPI - Division and dysfunction within the Turnbull government causing policy paralysis.

I too rise to speak about division and dysfunction within the Turnbull government causing policy paralysis that is hurting Australians. Those opposite are up to their eyeballs in dissent, and the government are in despair.

I've not heard one contribution from government senators that denies the dysfunction and chaos that is taking place within their caucus. Liberal division and dysfunction are in fact on steroids. Last week, Mr Turnbull had ministers threatening to resign and backbenchers threatening to cross the floor of parliament, and all he wanted to do was talk about Bill Shorten. According to the newspapers—and I tend to agree—Malcolm Turnbull is a dead man walking. He might still have the title, but it's quite obvious he isn't the leader of his party.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): I would ask you to refer to the Prime Minister by his appropriate title, thank you, Senator Polley.

Senator POLLEY: Basically, we have a Prime Minister who is willing to lie on the floor, roll over and be the doormat to the right wing of his party as long as it saves his prime ministership. Last month, Mr Turnbull said this about the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten:

This is a leader who has no authority within his own party, he has no credibility, he can't keep the same policy position for a week.

How far from the truth can this Prime Minister be? 'Speak for yourself, Mr Turnbull,' I say. Today we've seen your fifth energy policy in five years and your second policy reset within as little as four days. You are in fact all over the shop. How long will today's policy stand? That depends on the media and whether or not Mr Turnbull changes his mind yet again. The fact is that the Prime Minister is digging an even deeper hole for himself. He called a press conference in which he declared himself 'a hostage of a group of wreckers from the Liberal Party's conservative wing'. The Prime Minister himself has acknowledged that he is a hostage of the right wing of his caucus. This isn't something that those in the opposition are saying or that's happening within the media; the Prime Minister himself has acknowledged that fact.

This is a man who stands for nothing. He promised so much when he went to the people. People in the community thought Malcolm Turnbull was going to stand up for climate change, that he was going to deliver a stable government, that he was going to be the Prime Minister of an adult government. Well, there's nothing further from the truth. On climate change he has caved in to the sceptics within his party. We're seeing now that the former Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott, determined the policy at the very top of government, and this doesn't make a good government. Prime Minister Turnbull isn't leading the party room. The right wing of his caucus are playing him like a puppet. Frankly, it's sad to see. No advanced democracy should have to be witness to such incompetence. With all of his backflips, perhaps Mr Turnbull can get a job with the circus after he's turfed out. He's Tony Abbott's performing seal. That's the reality of this government at the moment.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I'd ask you to refer for the member for Warringah by his appropriate title.

Senator POLLEY: Sorry—Mr Abbott's seal. We have known for some time that the Australian people have stopped listening to the Turnbull government, because it's so chaotic; it's out of touch. We see that there's such division and that it's a weak government that doesn't really stand for anything. Mr Turnbull promised a stable government, as I said, and all he's been offering is instability and uncertainty.

The Australian people deserve so much more. They deserve to know where the Prime Minister stands on issues, and they want to know that the government is putting them first rather than the big four banks and the big end of town. Mr Abbott said recently:

It's no way to run a government—making absolute commitments on Tuesday and breaking them on Friday.

Mr Turnbull's credibility is shredded, and his popularity is in freefall. The people of Australia want consistency and continuity from the Turnbull government, but all they're getting is a government that is 100 per cent focused on themselves and their own jobs and a Prime Minister who will literally say anything it takes to save his own job. We know this because it's the playbook that unfortunately the Labor caucus went through, as we get reminded of, in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd phase. So, we know the plays. We can tell, as the media can and as the Australian people can. We learnt our lesson, but those on the other side haven't, because they're desperate. We know that at least 20 of their backbench would be very uncomfortable, looking at poll after poll showing that they're in deep trouble. We know what will happen: there'll be more and more pressure. And it doesn't matter what Mr Dutton has to say, because the reality of what's in the media and what's talked about through the corridors of this place is, quite frankly, that the numbers are being done, and as soon as Mr Dutton has the numbers there will be a challenge.

But what's been really disappointing is that a former investment banker such as Mr Turnbull has had no influence over the economic fortunes of this country. He's been nothing but a disappointment in that Australian families' costs of living continue to go up. We talk about the NEG and the fact that on this policy he's had so many backflips, whereas now he's in limbo. Nobody knows, really, where the Prime Minister stands. Times are tough, and people are looking to the Turnbull government and to the Prime Minister wanting to know what they're going to do to help them.

Remember when Mr Turnbull told us he was a strong leader? Well, that's not what the Australian people are seeing. What they are seeing and what they are experiencing is stubbornly high underemployment and stagnant wages, which are hurting families under this government. There are still 706,000 unemployed Australians. The number of underemployed Australians is now at 1.123 million. The Australian people are seeing that the youth unemployment rate remains more than double the national average. When it comes to secure, decent jobs, Mr Turnbull is silent. His only plan is to attack workers' wages by supporting cuts to penalty rates. What we have is the wrong Prime Minister with the wrong priorities. The Prime Minister's words after the 'super Saturday' by-elections are ringing in my ears. He said that he 'will look very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly at the way in which the voters have responded' to what the government put forward during the by-elections.

Well, power prices are going up, hospital waiting lists are blowing out, wages are almost flatlining and we now have over 108,000 older, vulnerable Australians waiting for home care. But the only thing the Turnbull government and the Liberals are focused on is themselves and giving the big end of town a tax cut. Since when does corporate Australia come first, before the people? With a merchant banker as its leader, are we really surprised to have such an out-of-touch coalition government? It doesn't matter what trick the Prime Minister tries—whether he tries all his backflips or whether he uses smoke and mirrors—everyone knows that Mr Turnbull is all about the top end of town. Mr Turnbull's big policies, the National Energy Guarantee and the tax cuts for the big end of town, are falling apart, just like the government. Mr Turnbull's one-point plan for an economy is to give $17 billion in new tax handouts to the banks. That's all he's got. The community doesn't buy the neoliberal, trickle-down economic myth. Study after study has shown that no corporate tax cut will lead to jobs, growth or an increase in take-home pay for working people. Australians are firmly against these company tax cuts and they don't want to see them put through. The question really is whether Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have learned from the humiliating lessons they got in Longman and Braddon.

In question time today, Senator McKenzie said that the government's priority was bringing down electricity prices. They say this, but the out-of-touch legislation they currently have before the parliament will abolish the energy supplement for anyone who started to receive a pension or allowance after 20 September 2016. The Liberals' plan to scrap the energy supplement will mean a cut of $14.10 per fortnight, or around $365 a year, for a single pensioner and a cut of $21.20 a fortnight, or $550 a year, for a pensioner couple. No-one should have to choose between turning on the heater and putting food on the table. If this government really wanted to do something about making power more affordable then they would dump their plan to axe the clean energy supplement. This government is in chaos. The time clock is working down for Mr Turnbull. All we can say is: the Australian people want the opportunity to vote this government out.