Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:21): Dear, oh dear—how the Labor Party has fallen! No wonder their polls are at such a low level, and no wonder the union movement, which they represent in this parliament, has fallen to 11 per cent of workers in the private sector. When you hear the questions asked today, you understand why people have lost interest in the Labor Party.
Senator Conroy: Well we all heard your question.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Conroy, you did not hear my question because it was about Northern Australia, which none of you on that side are interested in. I can understand your sensitivity, since you have dumped the only northern senator you have had in this chamber for a long period and replaced her with a male from Brisbane. That means that you have absolutely no interest in Northern Australia, and I can well understand why you attempted to drown out my question on Northern Australia to such an extent that the President, for the first time that I can remember in my long term in the Senate, had to ask that the question be repeated three times because the Labor Party clearly did not want to hear what the coalition is doing about developing Northern Australia.
Not sufficiently satisfied with that, the Labor Party then make up a story: the coalition is going to increase the GST by 15 per cent. I have never heard any coalition senator or member or minister say that once. I have never seen it reported. But does that stop the Labor Party—and the ABC, I might say, and the Fairfax press—headlining that the Turnbull government is going to increase the GST by 15 per cent? It has never been raised in the party room. I am not in cabinet, but I suspect it has never been raised there either. Yet that does not stop the Labor Party making up a story and then running a campaign on the story they have made up. Senator Bullock, I can understand why you have left your faction in Western Australia; the way the Labor Party is going, I am surprised that you do not leave the Labor Party as well. I do not think anyone would blame you. I know you will not. But I cannot understand why you stay with such a mob of ignoramuses who cannot have a policy, and so they make up a policy that the coalition might have.
Similarly, there was a question from the Labor Party about penalty rates and, as the minister answering the question pointed out, the only one that has ever reduced penalty rates in Australia is none other than Mr Bill Shorten, the current leader of the Australian Labor Party in this parliament. Penalty rates are normally a matter for the Fair Work Commission. But in Mr Shorten's case, he did a deal with the bosses—you know, at the top end of town—to take away penalty rates. And we hear a bit of silence for the first time from the opposition when the truth comes out.
I do not know what is wrong with the comprehension of Labor Party senators. Senator Brandis was asked about the GST and he said that a 15 per cent increase in the GST is not a proposal of the Turnbull government. Is that what you said, Senator Brandis?
Senator Brandis: Correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is very, very clear. And yet the Labor senators come here and, in spite of that very clear and direct answer by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, they still try and pretend it is around there. Now, methinks that the Labor state premiers have got onto the Labor Party and said,' hey fellas, how about an increase in the GST?' It seems to me this might almost be a subterranean plot by Labor to get more money for their mates in the state governments. The Labor Party have—
Senator Conroy: You are becoming the Bill Heffernan of Queensland!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order!
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, I would be proud of that description; Senator Heffernan has done more for Australia, Senator Conroy, than you could ever contemplate doing. He is a fine man who has made a real contribution to parliamentary debate here. But contrast that with the Labor Party, who simply do not have any policy—so they make up policy for the coalition. They talk about penalty rates, where the only one that has reduced penalty rates is the current leader of the Labor Party. What a sad decline for a once great party. (Time expired)