FACTS HAVE BEEN STRANGER THAN FICTION FOR AUSTRALIA'S 46TH PARLIAMENT

FACTS HAVE BEEN STRANGER THAN FICTION FOR AUSTRALIA'S 46TH PARLIAMENT Main Image

06 April 2022

My youngest daughter loves to play the game ‘two truths and a lie’.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a game of spot the lie and she’s very good at it.

As we approach the midnight hour of the 46th Australian Parliament I have been pondering the facts that have been stranger than fiction from the past three years.

I want you to cast your mind back to May 2019. Scott Morrison is the newly minted Prime Minister of Australia – the self-described miracle man of Australian politics.

Which of the following would you have believed were the truths and the lie?

  1. Prime Minister Scott Morrison goes on a holiday to Hawaii with his family while Australia faced catastrophic bushfires. When criticised he says it’s no problem because he “doesn’t hold a hose”.
  2. His Coalition government is forced to pay back $2 billion for illegally chasing non-existent Robodebts for people on Centrelink, which the Federal Court calls a “shameful chapter” in Australian history.
  3. The world would be plunged into a pandemic where millions of people die from a deadly virus and Scott Morrison says getting vaccines is not a race.

(I think you’ve spotted my trick there. Three truths no lie.)

I don’t think anyone could have dreamed up any of those stuff ups. And there were plenty more where those came from. Who can forget Scott Morrison defending Clive Palmer’s attack on Mark McGowan trying to protect Western Australia from COVID.

I think I can also safely say, not in our wildest dreams would we have ever thought an Australian Prime Minister could refuse to take responsibility for, well, anything really.

In fact, a lot of this 46th parliament has been marred by grubbiness.

I am in a good enough place (now – thanks to my therapist) where I can look back on 2019 with clearer, wiser eyes.

There have been some great moments since then. Some heroic, some heartening. Here are some of the memorable moments for me.

I am proud to have been a shadow minister for this opposition team.

Under Anthony Albanese we fought to protect Australians of faith from discrimination, but not at the expense of other Australians. Unlike Scott Morrison, we sought to unite the nation, not divide it.

We continued our fight for a federal ICAC.

And we have committed to implementing all 55 recommendations in the [email protected] report.

It was reassuring to see five Liberal MPs cross the floor to join Labor and crossbenchers to back changes to the Sex Discrimination Act.

Then there was the moving speech beamed into the Australian Parliament from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, thanking Australians for our support. It was as a spine-tingling moment when we could see our efforts were helping a nation gripped in the terror of war.

For the past three years I have been the Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Government Services.

One of my proudest career achievements was uncovering the illegal Robodebt scheme and helping 443,000 Australians have money they never owed the government put back into their pockets.

The Robodebt scheme was not only shameful, but it also held a mirror up to the past nine years of Coalition Governments.

Many of Scott Morrison’s front bench either oversaw the illegal collection of debts or had a hand in playing down its vile roots and reasonings, but not one of them was demoted or was removed from cabinet.

Nevertheless, this was a win that went straight into the poolroom.

A couple of other things I am proud of is holding the government to account over its treatment of people with disability,

Labor managed to stop the Morrison Government’s planned Independent Assessments, which were purely designed to stop people with disability accessing the NDIS or getting the supports they crucially need.

Fighting for people with disability as the shadow minister has been a challenging joy. An oxymoron I’m sure but nevertheless true.

I have met thousands of people with disability, workers and leaders in the sector over the past 12 years of my political career.

You have to conclude the NDIS has been mismanaged to the point that the Australian Government is treating it as an ATM to rip money out of.

A moment that made me smile was when my good friend Kimberley Kitching won the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights award.

While the sadness of her recent passing is still too raw to even really contemplate, her legacy will live on.

And a funny moment, one that always makes me laugh, was when One Nation leader Pauline Hanson appeared to forget her birthday.

How do I even describe this farcical moment in the Senate? I recommend googling it for yourself. You won’t believe your ears.

On a final note, we are weeks away from the next federal election. Only a Labor Government will restore Australia’s trust in good public service and responsible government.

We have all had three years to have a good look at what Scott Morrison has to offer and it is clearly time to Vote 1 Labor.

Bring on the 47th Parliament!

Bill Shorten is Shadow Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Federal Member for Maribyrnong and former Leader of the Australian Labor Party.

This opinion piece was first published in publication The West Australian on Wednesday, 6 April 2022.