Two more weeks of government chaos

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:07) We have reached the final sitting hours of an extraordinary two weeks in this place. The MPI before us goes to the heart of what the problem is with the way this parliament is operating. Members opposite say that they want to talk about the things that really matter in their electorates. Well so do we. Last week, we had to deal with the fact that we had a government which, in its throes of division, decided the answer to the problem of resolving marriage equality in Australia was to throw $122 million at a non-compulsory, non-binding postal survey, for which we can't even be sure that they have the process tied down in a correct way that will deliver a fair say to all people.

This week has just been extraordinary! We arrive on Monday to find out that the Deputy Prime Minister has to ask every member of this chamber to vote to refer him to the High Court to determine if he can even be a member of this place. I mean, that is an extraordinary outcome. And then they want to say, 'Now, just look away; just pretend that didn't happen; business as usual; let's keep going,' so the Deputy Prime Minister can continue as a member of the executive, answering questions on behalf of the government, making agreements on behalf of the government, holding an executive position, voting in this parliament, in a place where the government only has a majority of one, on laws that will determine the lives of our constituents. He can do all that and we don't even know if he's entitled to sit in this place. You cannot pretend that it's not something dramatically problematic that this parliament needs to deal with.

Why on earth did the Prime Minister not—to be honest, why on earth did the Deputy Prime Minister himself not recognise the fact that it is untenable for him to continue in the executive? What sort of leadership—no, what sort of commitment to your own team does that show when you don't have the capacity to understand that you are undermining your own team, your own government?

That's what he's done all week by continuing to operate as the Deputy Prime Minister and as a member of the executive. I am not surprised that there are reports that members of his own backbench are absolutely bemused as to why he has continued to hold that position. If nothing else, as a member of your own team, you would have to be able to see that you were undermining the credibility of your own government. I'm just bamboozled that they have tried to persevere all week and will no doubt try to do so for weeks to come with him in that position.

The reality is, as so many of our colleagues have pointed out, that we've had votes in this place where there has only been a one-vote majority, and those votes have profound impacts on people right across our electorates. Two clear examples are the vote to take action to protect the penalty rates of working people—over 10,000 in my electorate; every electorate is the same, with people being affected by that decision—and the vote to have a banking royal commission—thousands and thousands of people across this country have been directly affected—and the vast majority of Australians think we should be doing it. They are just two examples.

This government, at its heart, is exposing the problem that it has, and it's a simple one: they are so divided, there is so much division and dissension within their own ranks, that they can't provide leadership. That's what is going on here. When we had that ridiculous farce last week over marriage equality, at the heart of that was a government incapable of governing because of its own internal divisions. This week we have had a whole week in parliament with an extraordinary position, unprecedented in the parliament's history, of a Deputy Prime Minister continuing to operate while he is under consideration in the High Court. At the heart of that is the fact that the government are so divided that they couldn't do what they needed to do—and they know they needed to do it because they expected it of Senator Canavan. When it was him on the chopping block, they knew what needed to happen, but now they can't take the steps they need to take. Let's hope they get some sort of order in their house before we come back to this place, because this speaking list shows that we are willing to discuss the issues. Where are they? (Time expired)

Watch my speech here.