Senator DAVID SMITH (Australian Capital Territory) (15:43): I too rise to take note of the minister
representing the Prime Minister's answers this afternoon to questions relating to the ongoing chaos of this
government. When this government was elected in 2013, the member for Sturt stated that the adults were now in charge. Well, look at how far and how fast they have fallen! What a do-nothing farce they have become!
Three prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers and three treasurers in just over five years. Former prime ministers are commenting publicly on the decisions of their successors—nay, haunting them; members from the moderate wing are now sitting on the crossbenches; and members from the conservative wing are threatening to do the same. Others are talking openly about being courted by minor parties. Backbenchers are fighting to save their preselections and seeking to have results overturned when things don't go their way. And, of course, we have a sitting calendar that would see this chamber sit for just five days before May. These are all signs that this government has descended into chaos. They have ceased even pretending to govern in the interests of the Australian people. Every day there are new revelations about the infighting, the chaos and the dysfunction of those opposite. The news is coming so fast that it's hard for observers to keep up.
Today The Australian reported that former Prime Minister and former member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull
was urging colleagues to deny the current Prime Minister, the member for Cook, his plan to save the preselection of the member for Hughes by having the New South Wales state executive automatically declare all incumbents preselected, and, at the same time, reported that the former member for Wentworth revealed that he and the member for Cook had agreed to go to an election on 2 March to try and save the New South Wales government, which has enough problems of its own, from becoming embroiled in the federal coalition's nightmare. It's no surprise, though, that this government wants to hide from both preselectors and electors. That news followed reports in the Fairfax papers over the weekend that a deal had already been done behind closed doors to stitch up the remaining preselections, including the preselection of the member for Hughes, and that now seems to have occurred. This followed reports about the state of civil war in relation to the New South Wales Senate ticket, and, of course, the decision of the member for Chisholm to defect from the Liberal Party last week and sit on the crossbench, with her speech timed to the minute to coincide with the member for Cook's announcement about the date of next year's budget.
In the words of the member for Chisholm, referring to the leadership coup:
Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves—for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition …
This followed the Wentworth by-election, when voters in their thousands abandoned the Liberal Party after the removal of Mr Turnbull. It also followed the Victorian election last weekend, when voters did the same, the
aftermath of which has led to the resignation of the state president and further infighting about the direction of the party. And, of course, it followed the Liberal Party leadership coup itself, when senators opposite were so divided between the former member for Wentworth and the member for Dickson that the current Prime Minister was able to slide through the middle and take power for himself. I note that the Prime Minister, the member for Cook, has still not been able to explain why he's now the Prime Minister.
Websites such as The Betoota Advocate and The Shovel are often regarded as satirical. I suspect their writers
must be getting increasingly concerned that it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between their
material and reality. Or is it actually a deeper tragic comedy that we're seeing at the moment? Is it Shakespearean or a tale from Dickens; Twelfth Night or maybe A Christmas Carol? While the chaos and division of those opposite is good fodder for the satirists, every day that this government spends focused on itself is a day it is not focused on the interests of the community—on education, on health, on fair workplaces, on properly addressing climate change. It is surely now well past time to put an end to this chaotic and divided government. To take a quote from Twelfth Night, as we approach the twelfth night, 'the whirligig of time brings in his revenges' and it's coming for those opposite.