What a week it has been! The Australian people were not shocked at all when they heard from the Prime Minister's lips on Monday that 'good government starts today'—520 days after taking office, and we are still waiting. I can assure the Prime Minister today that the Australian people are in agreement that every day of your prime ministership has been bad government. The Prime Minister's days may be numbered, but I have been saying all week that the Liberal Party may take Tony Abbott out of the Lodge but you cannot take unfair policies out of the Liberal Party.
Whether the Leader of the Liberal government is Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop, it is still the same dysfunctional government. It does not matter who leads this government, because they all voted for the unfair budget and the attacks made on the unemployed, older Australians and pensioners and because of all their broken promises. The Prime Minister promised the Australian people a stable, mature and adult government, but he delivered exactly the opposite. How can the Australian people trust a government that said it would not cut education spending? How can the people trust a government that said it would not introduce any taxes? Yet it has done just that.
Australians know this government is not working for them. They know that this government cannot be trusted because it is a government built on lies. Tony Abbott promised the Australian people so much. He promised stable government, but the Liberal government's disunity and chaos make this commitment by Tony Abbott his biggest lie yet. Yesterday, respected former Premier of Tasmania, Tony Rundle, said that the leadership spill on Monday was amateur hour from a government that is in trouble. Mr Rundle, I actually agree with you. He went on to say:
Abbott is a fighter and survivor but he’s swimming against an ebb tide that may be too strong for even his iron man skills.
The Australian people know too well the record of this heartless and arrogant government. The evidence was the proposed GP tax, $100,000 university degrees, cuts to pensions, $80 billion of cuts to schools and hospitals, a petrol tax, and cuts to the homeless and domestic violence prevention services. The Liberals' unfair budget and their broken promises are hurting Australian families to the tune of $6,000 a year, and not one member opposite will acknowledge just how unfair their budget was. The finance minister, Senator Cormann, said on Insiders on Sunday that not one member of the Liberal Party believes any aspect of the budget is unfair. That shows how deluded and out of touch they really are.
Take the government's attack on Medicare. Let's be honest: it is in their DNA to destroy Medicare. They have a record of tearing up good public policy. Even the AMA and GPs across the country have slammed their proposed new tax on doctor's visits. But we have to give them credit: this is a government that has energised the GPs in this country to mount a campaign. That is how concerned GPs were about this heartless and out of touch, arrogant government. This Liberal government fails to understand that the Australian people want a government that supports their community, that cares for the people and invests in people and jobs. Australians do not want a government that leaves people behind.
In my home state of Tasmania, Liberal member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, has supported every single harsh measure handed down in this budget. In the last two weeks alone during the ongoing leadership instability and chaos of this Liberal government, he spent his time leaking stories to the media which have revealed him to have been begging his colleagues to stay united. Instead of working for the people of Bass, Andrew Nikolic has been feeding the Liberal instability. The saddest aspect of Mr Nikolic's contribution to his community is the fact that he has stood by while his own government has delivered harmful policies to the people of Bass. Where was Mr Nikolic when the government closed the Launceston tax office and cut 20 jobs? He could not be found.
Why isn't Mr Nikolic standing up for the people of Bass and for the great state of Tasmania? He has sat back while the University of Tasmania has contemplated raising student fees, slashing courses and abandoning research. Mr Nikolic has stayed silent. Tasmania has said 'no' to the government's attacks on the universities, attacks that Mr Nikolic is supporting. Where was he when the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, pulled the plug on local businesses and households receiving world-class broadband? Where was Mr Nikolic when the government decided to cut funding to homeless and drug addiction services at Anglicare, Colony 47, UnitingCare and Mission Australia in my state? Where was Mr Nikolic when Tony Abbott vowed to close the National Joblink? Where was Mr Nikolic when Tony Abbott came to Tasmania and told young Tasmanians to leave the state if they could not find a job? He was silent. Obviously, he was in total agreement with this arrogant and out of touch Prime Minister. No wonder the knives are out for him.
Where was Mr Nikolic when the country was debating a fairer pay deal for the armed forces? He remained silent. At every event in his community he is espousing his great record within the Defence Force, but he failed to stand up for those men and women. Where was Mr Nikolic when the government handed down a budget which took away pension concessions and changed the indexation of the pension so that pensioners received less support to deal with the costs of living? He continually attacks me in the local media, saying that I am lying and misleading the community, but we know, and so do Australian pensioners know, what they did. If it were not for the state Liberal Party coming in to do a patchwork to try and help Tasmanian pensioners, they would be in even worse dire straits.
Mr Nikolic has stood silent while this government has continued to hurt the people of Tasmania. Although Mr Nikolic has obviously been out there supporting the Prime Minister in their chaos and disunity this week, he also has stood up in his community and said that he supported the Prime Minister giving a knighthood to the British Royal Family. That is how arrogant and out of touch Mr Nikolic is. We also know that he is obsessed with anyone in our community that challenges his view and expresses a different view about this unfair budget that they brought down. He has been unrelenting in his personal attacks and putting pressure on people who dare to critique this budget. One example was that, as we know, there was a Facebook page where people were expressing their views about his performance, and what did he do? He threatened those individuals that he would go to their employers and complain. That is what he did. What is even worse than that is that now he has actually done that to a constituent, a well-respected member of our community, Dr Michael Powell, who is a well-respected lecturer at the University of Tasmania. He dared to write letters to both the North Eastern Advertiser and the local newspaper in Launceston to question Mr Nikolic on what this government has been doing. So what did our federal member do? He went and tittle-tattled to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania. What was he expecting the vice-chancellor to do? Slap him on the wrist and say, 'Naughty boy; stop writing letters and challenging the federal member for Bass'? How outrageous. He also grapples with the concept that three decades ago—that is 30 years ago—this particular gentleman ran for the Labor Party in the state election. Oh, my goodness! He is not allowed to challenge the unchallengeable member for Bass! How outrageous. What a glass jaw this member has.
But it is even worse than that. Mr Nikolic has been challenged to debate Dr Powell in any public forum anywhere in the electorate. But, no, he is not prepared to do that because he knows the policies the government are bringing down through their budget, even though they are backflipping and doing whatever it takes to get some of their budget through this place, are unfair. He will not turn up to a public debate, because he knows he does not have a leg to stand on, and so do the people of Bass.
Further, Mr Nikolic is out there every other day claiming credit for what the former Labor government did and what the former member for Bass, Geoff Lyons, a hardworking member who actually contributed to his government, did. Mr Nikolic went up to the DSTO in Scottsdale. Once again, it was former Labor minister Snowdon and Geoff Lyons who brought that redevelopment funding to Scottsdale. And on he goes.
Today, Mr Nikolic showed his lack of respect for the people in this country when he walked out while the Leader of the Opposition was giving his speech on Closing the Gap, following the Prime Minister's and by all accounts paying him credit (time expired)