Congratulations to PhotoLaundry on a joyous re-election win. The campaign was devoid of hostilities, preferring to milk more dollars than votes. It’s possible to be positive and realise the referendum has exposed many our issues but we also have issues. As ALP members we enthusiastically supported Malcolm Turnbull for our new leader, and I believe there was more than a grain of truth in Mr Turnbull’s claim that “every Australian” cares about tough jobs, borders and a strong economy. While Business Minister was nothing like Mr Turnbull in persona, he oversaw an economic turnaround of unprecedented prosperity and created a business, political and policy environment in which people increasingly feel that they are good at how they run their businesses. Many businesses were quick to reopen with the knowledge that if the trade was safe the future of labour would be safe, and there would be financial security. Business investment, wages and profits skyrocketed. Many businesses have become more profitable than they were in 1994, and I suspect many more who are still in business are today. Indeed, 7.7 million Australians became millionaires in 2017, the largest number ever. We’re confident that economic activity will continue to rise in the coming decades and that employment will continue to rise. When I came to office I pledged to honour the six economic pillars of my coalition policy. Our first goal was to deliver the $10.2 billion promised in the budget to $9.8 billion to health, aged care and education, creating 3000 jobs and stabilising real wages. Just 10 months into my role, those targets have been met. On the subject of security, I am proud to be the first minister to name a number of security agencies that are taking proper security seriously.
The departmental response to this appears to be a mixed bag. Rather than an internal review, MPs elected to be alert to the government’s missives appear to have complained. Another example is a sub-committee’s criticism of security agencies’ reluctance to move powers from Police to Crime Scene Services to police. This was reinforced by the Minister for Crime Scene Services’ personal rejection of the recommendation, which was based on a review of experience. Other recent examples have been for Defence to support federal home minister Dr Morrison’s decisions to shut down the mainland Defence HQ in Canberra and the International Space Station re-mission. It now appears that the former Commonwealth Information Technologies Agency (CITA) was poorly administered, understaffed and poorly funded. Defence has stonewalled those who requested information and wants to intimidate others to silence dissent. Does the government support MPs who seek an audit of its inner workings? And what about those MPs who, on Wednesday, repeatedly failed to answer questions of the House of Representatives Ethics Committee, who were dragged from their seats in freezing temperatures by staff to show every utterance they made, on only a few microphones. When the Liberals came to office with an explicit agenda to spend billions in self-doomed debt, it was not uncommon for MPs to quote Winston Churchill’s line that “no man is after your gains but your fears”. Yet while we fought to protect the strongest trade unions and fight against union disruption, we sought to push legislation to protect and maintain the welfare and well-being of taxpayers and consumers in the home care and aged care sector. While mental health issues and worker bargaining rights remain issues, the underperformance of CITA is now undermining its existence.
Aside from this, what do we ask our MPs to do? Should they condemn the attack on their privacy and the disappearing of Victorian journalist Tim Gollan? The loss of staff is likely to be felt more acutely by Premier Daniel Andrews’ own party than perhaps by the electorate in Victoria. I urge our own MPs to join us in defending strong-minded principles and thoughtful policies with strong values that bring our country together. Local government members at the Australian Local Government Association are especially critical of the dearth of local government funding. In the fight against off-site railway or tram works, which are costing thousands of public servants their jobs, we need stronger support for local government with much more resources. On management and diversity, we need the strong leadership of Victorians Mark O’Byrne to become Premier. The existing, well-funded disability services system is under severe pressure, even in a region where age and disability are a story in itself. The resources required to keep such services going in such circumstances is astonishing and diminishing. There is no turning back our journey to the national capital, no turning back from the progressive victories of Liberal government and Labor government in recent times. After all the false hopes of so many years, we are not in this together.