June 21, 2021

My question is to the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet—the assistant minister representing a Prime Minister whose incompetence, lack of empathy and obsession with political marketing over policy substance is hurting Australians. Last year the Prime Minister presided over Australia's first recession in nearly 30 years. This was a recession made worse than it had to be by the policy failures of the Morrison government. This year the Prime Minister is repeating the mistakes of the past. He's mismanaging the response to COVID, bungling the vaccine rollout and bungling the need for quarantine facilities. That mismanagement is delaying Australia's economic recovery. It is squandering the opportunity to build back a better Australia after last year's economic and health crisis.

Prime Minister Morrison is failing the Australian people. The first fundamental failure of Prime Minister Morrison is that he refuses to take responsibility. The federal government is responsible for international quarantine—it's there in the Constitution—but Prime Minister Morrison has refused to do his job and implement federal quarantine facilities. Instead, he handballed the hotel system to the states and then blamed everyone else when things went awry. The federal government is responsible for aged-care regulation, but, when COVID-19 hit elderly Australians in nursing homes, Prime Minister Morrison blamed everyone else: he blamed the states; he blamed the aged-care workforce; he even blamed the families. Australians know a blame-shifter when they see one: never doing his job, never taking responsibility, never holding a hose and always finding someone else to blame for his own incompetence and carelessness.

The second fundamental failing of this Prime Minister is that's he's all announcement and no follow-up. He makes plenty of big announcements to get the headlines, but, once the media caravan has moved on, he fails to deliver. He junks the promises made to the Australian people and moves on to the next flashy announcement and piece of marketing spin. He is all talk, no action: no follow-through and no delivery. He is a shyster and a conman whose broken promises left Australians worse off. Before the 2019—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The member will withdraw that.

Mr CONROY:  I withdraw. Before the 2019 federal election, he promised a $4 billion emergency response fund for natural disaster recovery and response initiatives. After the election, not a cent was spent from this fund during 2019-20, a year when thousands of Australians saw their homes and communities destroyed by bushfires. In January 2020, Prime Minister Morrison made another big announcement: a $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund. Eighteen months later, less than one per cent of the bushfire recovery funding announced for primary producer support, telecommunications upgrades and native wildlife rehabilitation has been released by the Morrison government.

The third failure of this Prime Minister is that he treats taxpayer money like Liberal Party money. Under this government we have seen the systematic misuse of taxpayer funds for the Prime Minister's political benefit. The sports rorts scandal, where the Prime Minister's office used grants that were meant for community sport organisations to bankroll Liberal Party election campaigning. The Leppington Triangle deal, where the Morrison government paid nearly $30 million for land in Western Sydney that was valued at only $3 million. The rorting of the Safer Communities Fund, where the minister siphoned money that was meant to be used for community safety and directed it to projects designed to bolster support for the Liberal Party.

Such is this government's contempt for taxpayers' funds and their preparedness to use it for their own political games, that the minister the Prime Minister blamed for sports rorts, Senator McKenzie, looks set to be returned to cabinet post the demise of Deputy Prime Minister McCormack. Such is the punishment for someone found misappropriating government funds for political advantage: they spend a year on the sidelines and then they return to cabinet. That's actually a grave punishment compared to what happened to the cabinet minister responsible for rorting the Safer Communities Fund. This is a program where the proceeds of crime money—literally blood money—which are there to protect victims were used to advance marginal seat interests. What happened to Minister Dutton, the minister responsible for it? He gets promoted to defence minister. With this cavalier attitude towards taxpayers' funds it is little wonder that the government is budgeting for debt to hit $981 billion in 2025. Nearly $1 trillion in national debt with no lasting benefits to show for it.

My question to the assistant minister is: does the Prime Minister understand that his refusal to take responsibility, his broken promises and his misuse of taxpayers' funds are all making life harder for Australians struggling with the impacts of the pandemic and the recession?