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MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 29/10/2020

MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 29/10/2020

Mr GEE(CalareMinister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment and Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) (15:57): It is very hard to believe that the Leader of the Opposition and his strategy team are so bereft of ideas that they bowled up such a pedestrian and unimaginative matter of public importance as this. The government's not focused on the interests of Australians? Who writes this stuff? Did you get the work experience kids to do it? My Lord! We know that the Leader of the Opposition isn't focused on the interests of Australians, their everyday issues and getting through COVID. We know that—and I want to folks at home to listen to this—because media reports tell us that over four days recently the Leader of the Opposition spent $10,000 trying to get Facebook likes. So, when the Prime Minister and the folks on this side of the House are working to get Australia through the worst pandemic we have seen in 100 years, the Leader of the Opposition is spending $10,000 just to get Facebook likes. On one day he spent $2,400. How much did the PM spend? $112.

The Leader of the Opposition doesn't care about the interests of everyday Australians. We know that they don't—that they are totally distracted and totally divided—because the good times just keep on rolling. Check out The Age today. It says:

What on earth is going on inside Anthony Albanese’s office?

Then the article goes on to say:

Fed up with teenage-style antics inside the Leader of the Opposition's office, chief of staff … delivered some home truths to his charges …

He was telling them to stop the cliquiness and that he wants them 'to turn the page on bad habits.'

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): The minister will resume his seat. The member for Scullin.

Mr Giles: We don't talk about members' staff. It is well established. You can talk about the members—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member is in order. I am listening and the member is in order, but I would caution the minister to just mind the comments he's making about staff.

Mr GEE: The article, I agree, is very concerning because it goes on to say that sources in Labor's shadow ministry say that they are frustrated about not being included in announcements that concern their portfolios. They are terribly divided over there, which is why they've got these fringe groups having a knees-up at the Otis restaurant in Canberra that the member for Hunter is organising. I bet the member for Hunter doesn't tell the folks at Cessnock Leagues Club that he goes and has a knees-up at the Otis restaurant in Canberra with his fancy wines. I bet he doesn't tell them that. They are hopelessly divided over there and it's very concerning.

Don't come in and lecture us about who's looking after the interests of Australians and their everyday concerns, because the reality is this budget was the budget that saved Australia. The Prime Minister was right today. He was right. You just have to go and walk down any street—it doesn't matter where you are. In your electorates—the members behind me all know—you walk into a cafe, you walk into a restaurant, you walk into a shop and they all say: 'You guys have done well. You've saved my business. You've saved my staff.'

I was in a cafe recently in Orange. The cafe owner said to me: 'We're like family here. To me my staff are like family. We've only been able to keep together because of the government.' She was talking about JobKeeper. That's what this government has done. When Australia was crying out for help on this side of the House we answered the call. We got those programs in which saved businesses, which kept businesses together, which kept families together, which kept food on the tables of ordinary and everyday Australians. Yet those on that side of the House, what are they worried about? Division and spending big money on Facebook likes.

There were some very exciting developments in this budget for the regions in particular. Two billion dollars for the national water infrastructure development to continue the great work of securing the national water supply in the national water grid, $2 billion on road safety. The one I really like—they were the first elements emerging in our revitalised decentralisation agenda. That's what we like: getting people out of the cities into the bush, building our regions, building capacity and resilience in country Australia. They're calling those folks 'VESPAs'—the Virus Escapees Seeking Provincial Australia. They don't call them tree changers anymore. We want the VESPAs. There was that poem on the Statue of Liberty: 'Give us your huddled masses yearning to be free'. We'll take them in regional Australia. We want the VESPAs, the sea changers and the tree changers. Ordinary Australians know this government has their backs.