05 March 2020


SUBJECTS: Michael McCormack blaming the states for the bushfire crisis; Gladys Berejiklian; Greg Hunt jerking around state health ministers; Scott Morrison’s failure to lead.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Well, I got up this morning and, as I always do, read a copy of The Australian. There on the front page – open warfare. Let's start with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Inexplicably, Michael McCormack is out blaming the states. That's right, when it comes to the bushfire crisis and the bushfire recovery, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is not standing up and leading, he is sitting down and shifting blame. He is blaming the states. Michael McCormack says in The Australian today, quote, he is quite annoyed that the states haven't stepped up and done more to help with the bushfire crisis and the recovery. He is annoyed that somehow, to quote Michael McCormack, this has all “fallen in the lap of the Federal Government"". Well, breaking news for you Michael McCormack – you're the Deputy Prime Minister, you are the Federal Government and in a time of crisis, the Australian people look for leadership. They don't look for blame shifting, they don't look for marketing spin, they don't look for Defence Force being used in a political advertisement from the Prime Minister trying to tell us what a great job he's doing, they look for action, they look for response, they look for help. And let's talk about the states. My home state of New South Wales (sic: and Australia) had 33 people die. My home state of New South Wales had significant loss when it comes to the death of citizens, the death of firefighters and, quite frankly, the loss of wildlife, the loss of homes, the devastation that was reaped upon New South Wales in this bushfire crisis was the worst in living memory for that state.
And where was the state Premier Glady Berejiklian? I'll tell you where she wasn't – she wasn't in Hawaii. She was out every day, talking with communities, working with the Rural Fire Service and our other emergency services. She was leading; she was leading a response. And, by the way, while Scott Morrison was in Hawaii, where was and who was the acting Prime Minister? It was Michael McCormack. Michael McCormack, while Scott Morrison was in Hawaii, you should have been out leading. You should have been out as the acting Prime Minister. It is extraordinary to open up the front page of our national broadsheet and see our National Deputy Prime Minister taking such a significant swipe at the states – some of them his own Liberal colleagues. It is shameful and, quite frankly, people are frustrated with this Government. They are frustrated and disappointed because Scott Morrison is not a leader, he's an ad man. He doesn't have a plan, he just has a marketing strategy and he's sending out his Deputy to go out there and blame shift to other levels of government. Well simply not good enough.
But you know the open warfare doesn't stop there. We've got on the bottom of the front page of The Australian – Greg Hunt. Greg Hunt, again, failing to step up and lead, failing to have a plan, no leadership when it comes to the coronavirus. What do we learn? We learn that the Liberal Health Minister in New South Wales Brad Hazzard asked Greg Hunt last week for assistance and direction and a plan if there was an outbreak of the coronavirus in aged care homes. Well what do we see? We see here today in New South Wales, tragically a death in an aged care facility, staff in an aged care facility who have, with concerns, not turned up for work and New South Wales asking for help from the Federal Government and the Federal Government saying, ""it's not our problem; we're not involved with this. This is your problem"". Again, we are confronted with an international global health emergency – the Australian Government's already declared it a pandemic – and where is the Health Minister Greg Hunt when his own Liberal colleagues at a state level come to him ahead of time asking for a plan? He has gone missing. Greg Hunt has been jerking the state health ministers around now for weeks. First, they've been trying to privatise their aged care services and then they backflip dramatically on Friday after the states arced up. Today we have news that the state health ministers, including the Liberal Minister in New South Wales, had been trying to get help out of Greg Hunt and the Commonwealth Government, the Morison Government, and they have been left with no help, they have been left to fend for themselves. Australia is now facing a significant crisis that the world is confronting when it comes to coronavirus. It will have impacts on our economy and on communities. We are also still in the beginning of a recovery phase with the bushfire crisis and we have a Government that is failing to step up on both fronts. What did we hear in Senate Estimates this week? That only a handful of businesses and farmers have been able to access loans. The Prime Minister announced a $2 billion loan facility, a fund, and what do we find that in Senate Estimates? Only $400,000 in total has been loaned out. The Prime Minister defended this saying it was a ""notional fund"". We know what the ""notional"" means? It means it's “something that doesn't exist in reality”. So once again, we've got a Prime Minister who's got a “notional” bushfire recovery fund that has paid out almost nothing. It doesn't really exist, his fund, it is a marketing scheme. It is not a plan. It is no wonder that Australians are disappointed and frustrated with Scott Morrison. He's not a leader. He's a marketing man.