Doorstop - Brisbane (3)

26 August 2016


SUBJECT/S:  Prime Minister’s leadership; One Nation preferences; Budget savings; Superannuation; Marriage Equality

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership is defined by weakness: on superannuation, on marriage equality, on hate speech and now on One Nation preferences. Malcolm Turnbull is a wholly owned subsidiary of the knuckle draggers in his own party. He has sold his soul to the extremists in the LNP, and now to Pauline Hanson as well.

If Malcolm Turnbull was any kind of leader he would have marched into the LNP Conference today and demanded that they put One Nation last. If he was not so beholden to the far right in his own party, he would have insisted on no deals with Pauline Hanson. His failure to do so speaks volumes about the weakness that is diminishing him and diminishing his prime ministership.

He has the nerve to talk about the sensible centre at the same time he does the bidding of the extreme right. It has been so long since Malcolm Turnbull has visited the sensible centre he would need directions to find his way there.

We now know that when Malcolm Turnbull talks about ‘reaching across the aisle’ he is talking about reaching for the hand of Pauline Hanson. If he was fair dinkum about consensus on fixing the Budget, he would pick up the phone, he would consider Labor’s very sensible alternative Budget improvements and he wouldn’t be proceeding with a $50 billion gift to big multinational corporations.

The sum total of Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget strategy is to blame Labor, punch a $50 billion hole in the Budget with that multinational corporation gift and to let George Christensen re-write his superannuation policy.

Now Labor’s in the cart for Budget repair that is fair - we have been leading this discussion in the absence of leadership from the Prime Minister. We have proposed sensible alternatives, we are ready to work with the Government on those alternatives as Bill Shorten outlined at the Press Club. And we have offered Malcolm Turnbull a way forward out of his superannuation mess which doesn’t require him to let George Christensen rewrite his superannuation policy.

Malcolm Turnbull being unwilling or unable to work with Labor to fix the Budget in a fair way is a sign of weakness, not strength. We saw yesterday Tony Abbott give Malcolm Turnbull his instructions about not working with Labor and as usual Malcolm Turnbull is just meekly doing what he’s been told; following his party, but not leading it.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister in his speech today called on Labor to move to the sensible centre, as he calls it. Any prospect of Labor being sensible like that?

CHALMERS: Labor’s been sensible in this discussion about the Budget since the beginning and for some years now, proposing very good alternatives. We’d love for the Government to pick up those alternatives and to work with Labor to repair the Budget in a fair and sustainable way.

When Malcolm Turnbull talks about the sensible centre he does so knowing that when the extreme right of his party says ‘jump’, he says ‘how high?’. The nerve of this Prime Minister to talk about the sensible centre, when he knows that the extreme right in his own party won’t let him visit it.

JOURNALIST: George Christensen spoke there too saying that he is confident that there will be some amendments to the superannuation situation. Will Labor consider that sort of amendment?

CHALMERS: George Christensen’s confident about his changes to superannuation policy because he knows that when the extreme right says ‘jump’, Malcolm Turnbull says ‘how high?’ There has not been an example yet of Malcolm Turnbull standing up to the extremists in his own party.

This humiliating spectacle of the Prime Minister going around the country, waiting to be dictated too on his superannuation policy.  And the hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull demanding consistency from Labor at the same time as his own super policy is being re-written by the knuckle draggers in the LNP.

The hypocrisy of a Prime Minister demanding a final position from Labor at the same time he is unable to get his ‘iron clad’ superannuation policy through his own party room.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, what are the odds of Labor blocking the plebiscite in Parliament?

CHALMERS: All of Labor’s effort is into getting a parliamentary resolution on marriage equality. We want to see marriage equality a reality in this country. Those who support marriage equality want to the Parliament to do its job. We do not need to go through an expensive and divisive plebiscite to determine this question. The politicians should do what they are paid to do. I’m ready to do that, my Labor colleagues are ready to do that. We want a parliamentary resolution and we want marriage equality in this country.

There’s no greater sign of Malcolm Turnbull’s weakness, having said that he wants the Parliament to deal with it, to now meekly follow the instructions of the extremists in his own party who want to use the plebiscite as a way to delay and destroy the prospects, the hopes, the dreams and the aspirations of all of us who want to see marriage equality in Australia.

JOURNALIST: George Christensen says he wants you guys to block it, which sounds like you are quite willing to do, because it will make people like him – conservatives on that side of the Liberal Party - very happy if you do. So in a way you're sort of playing into their hands. And do you accept if you block it, there will be no vote and nothing’s going to change for at least another three years?

CHALMERS: I’m not prepared to give up on a parliamentary outcome. The best outcome for Australia, and for Australians, is for the Parliament to do its job and to resolve this issue. It’s long past time for marriage equality to be a reality in Australia. It speaks volumes that George Christensen is the leading spokesperson for Malcolm Turnbull’s LNP when it comes to this issue. If Malcolm Turnbull was delivering even half the leadership that he promised when he took over from Tony Abbott, he would stick to his principles, he would push for a parliamentary vote with a conscience vote. The fact that he’s not doing that speaks volumes about his weakness. It speaks volumes about Malcolm Turnbull being a wholly owned subsidiary of the far right of his own party. 

JOURNALIST: What would you say to the proposition that Labor is far more interested in playing politics with the plebiscite than actually achieving a result? When it may not be the best option from your point of view but if the plebiscite is the only option, if you’re prepared to burn that one, you’re actually more interested in playing politics?

CHALMERS: Nothing can be further from the truth. What Labor wants to see here is a speedy resolution to a question that has been unresolved for too long. Labor is committed to marriage equality in this country. The best, least divisive and least expensive way to make marriage equality a reality is to let the Parliament to do its job, to follow through on what Malcolm Turnbull said he believed in, to allow the Parliament to vote to give Australians the marriage equality that is long overdue in this country.