MPI: Turnbull government

I rise to contribute to today's matter of public importance, namely the continuing chaos and dysfunction from the Turnbull government. I do not want this statement to be true. I want this government to run smoothly without chaos and dysfunction because that would mean there would be a greater chance of this parliament successfully delivering for the people of Tasmania. But, unfortunately, the chaos and dysfunction seen in the Abbott-Hockey government has infected the Turnbull-Morrison government. That is probably because the original cause of the dysfunction, Mr. Abbott, still remains in parliament and has taken his political inspiration from Liberal leader Bob Menzies instead of Harold Holt. Perhaps we have not seen the dysfunction to the level where the Liberal Party was forced to sack an elected Prime Minister and send the Treasurer to America on a plumb diplomatic job, but the dysfunction is there nonetheless.

One of the best examples of the political dysfunction of the present-day Liberal and National parties is the way this government has single-handedly killed off the backpacker seasonal workforce in the rural areas and the industries of Tasmania and the other states. The Liberal government has known about the backpacker tax crisis for 16 months—since May 2015. Already, under the new leadership of the Liberal and National parties, the backpacker tax crisis has caused tens, possibly hundreds, of millions of dollars of damage to Tasmania's farming and tourism industries because of political arrogance, stupidity, dysfunction, inaction and the lack of consultation—and do not even mention modelling, which went AWOL. The facts also show that Tasmanian Liberal senators have either, firstly, no influence in Canberra and are dangerously incompetent or, secondly, are part of a deliberate Liberal plan to destroy the tourism, berry, fruit and vegetable industries in Tasmania. They have sat back, made lame excuse after lame excuse and watched while Tasmanian farmers have been slowly strangled of seasonal workers and are forced to risk their families' life savings.

Tasmanian farmers and tourism operators now know that their best chance of survival is an independent fair-minded crossbench. All Tasmanians in the agriculture and tourism industries—especially those who recently visited Canberra—and all of the Tasmanian farmers and business leaders who have spoken out against the government's 19 percent tax, or the original 32.5 per cent tax, now know that if the government held a majority in the Senate there would be no hope in hell of scrapping this unfair, stupid and damaging backpacker tax.

I have to thank a number of fellow crossbench senators for indicating today that they will support my plan to lower the tax rate to zero percent rather than the government's proposed 19 percent. If the Labor Party chooses not to support the zero per cent, I will put forward another amendment to lower the government's rate from 19 per cent to 10.5 per cent. Every day the backpacker tax issue drags on, more international damage is caused to brand Tasmania.

While at the moment the Liberals' dysfunctional plans to change higher education have been temporarily shelved, I will not forget attempts by this Liberal Party to bribe or bully me into voting for their plan to impose $100,000 degrees on Tasmanian uni students. I was reminded of this Liberal political dysfunction when Prime Minister Turnbull was forced, after an election promise, to deliver an extra $150 million to the University of Tasmania. And we have managed to achieve this welcome boost to our higher education without students having to face the prospect of paying for $100,000 degrees.

My Australian jobs first stand was vindicated recently when the stevedore company DP World spectacularly backflipped. Initially, DP World indicated no Liberal maritime law changes and no Burnie port development. What a load of rubbish! In recent weeks the company has finally acknowledged that I and other crossbench senators were correct. DP World has recently admitted that they could establish an international port in Burnie without the parliament agreeing to the Liberals' changes to coastal shipping legislation which threatened the jobs of 400 seafarers. This is further proof of a dysfunctional Liberal-National policy which could come back while ever we have a dysfunctional Mr. Abbott and his supporters driving policy of the Turnbull government.

In closing, if there was no dysfunction, the Senate would not have agreed with me and established investigations into, firstly, the high rate of veteran suicides and the Department of Veterans' Affairs dangerous and dysfunctional management of veterans; secondly, the extraordinary crisis in the Australian dairy industry; and, thirdly, the unaccounted for hundreds of millions in Commonwealth funds that was set aside for but not delivered to approximately 26,000 Indigenous Tasmanians.