Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia


The West Australian

2 April 2024

In January on these pages, I wrote that the one word that best described the Albanese Labor Government was chaos.

Well, that is no longer the case. Things have got worse and moved beyond chaos.

To the detriment of our nation, the Albanese Labor Government has become chronically incompetent and dysfunctional. They are a rabble.

In the past two sitting weeks of the Parliament, Labor tried to rush through far reaching immigration laws with virtually no scrutiny, engaged in secret and opaque consultation processes on religious discrimination laws and tried to paper over its disastrous family car tax on the country’s top selling vehicles.

And while all that was going on Labor’s disastrous handling of the economy continues, with the cost-of-living crisis showing no signs of abating.

Latest inflation data is a reminder of the extraordinary financial pain that hardworking Australian families are experiencing because of the Albanese Labor Government’s bad policies.

Core inflation, the Reserve Bank’s preferred measure, rose to 3.9 per cent, which is still well above their target band.

Since Labor came to power the price of everyday essentials for Australian families have all gone up. Bread by 16.4 per cent; milk by 17.6 per cent; rent by 12.1 per cent; electricity by 16.5 per cent; gas by 26.4 per cent; education by 10.9 per cent and insurance and financial services by 14.1 per cent.

These numbers are stark, but they won’t come as a surprise to hardworking Australians who are at the coalface of Labor’s cost-of-living crisis.

But it is the Albanese Government’s failure on immigration detention issues that really highlight their incompetence. It is also of grave concern to all Australians who just want to be kept safe in their own country.

The Government’s urgent migration legislation introduced without notice last Tuesday shows the complete and utter mess Labor has created in the immigration portfolio.

The Coalition voted for the rushed and unexamined legislation to be sent to a Senate committee inquiry so the Parliament can be sure what exactly this Bill will achieve.

The rushed and botched way this Government is going about doing its job in immigration risks unintended consequences.

The greatest fear is that everything Labor is doing risks the unintended consequence of putting people back on boats. That is the last thing any Australian should want to see.

Remarkably, Labor has not learnt from its past mistakes on border protection and immigration detention and continues to deliver chaos.

The Coalition wants to do everything we can to support this Labor Government to do the job that it is failing to do in keeping Australians safe.

Both the Department of Home Affairs and subsequently the hapless Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil were not able to explain why this legislation needed to be rushed through the Parliament. The total lack of transparency was breath taking.

This Labor Government just can’t get anything right when it comes to immigration detention.

Some extremely alarming evidence was subsequently given to the special Senate inquiry late last week. The Department of Home Affairs admitted that 73 of the 152 people the Albanese Government released from immigration detention are not wearing ankle bracelets.

This cohort includes rapists, murderers, and serious violent offenders, but the Government previously refused to say how many of these high-risk offenders were free in the community without electronic monitoring.

Shockingly, the Australian Border Force Commissioner admitted they do not keep track of how many offenders have been charged by State and Territory police, and whether or not the individuals charged are being electronically monitored.

The Albanese Government admitted that it still has not made a single application to lock up any of these hardcore criminals released onto the streets despite rushing through the legislation ahead of Christmas giving them the powers to do so.

This is yet another shocking failure on community safety and national security from Labor.

The Albanese Government’s management of their religious discrimination legislation reached a farcical level, with stakeholders and journalists asking the Opposition for briefings about the Government’s legislation.

Many religious groups remain in the dark about the legislation or alternatively have been gagged by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus from talking about it. Why won’t the Government just release the legislation for all to see?

We had the extraordinary situation last week where faith leaders across the country called on Mr Albanese not to betray their trust on issues of religious discrimination.

One week after telling his Labor caucus he would not move on religious discrimination legislation without bipartisan support from the Coalition, he then told his caucus the next week that he would do a deal with the Australian Greens if he needed to.

This is despite the Greens’ long running hostility to religious bodies, especially schools. Many Australians of faith are rightly concerned with Mr Albanese’s inconsistency.

The Coalition’s guiding principle is that any religious discrimination legislation should take faith leaders forward, and not backwards.

Having seen the proposal, the Government has put forward, it is clear there is a long way to go. We will work with the Government in good faith on this issue, but Mr Albanese should address faith leaders’ concerns as a matter of urgency.

Labor’s attempts last week to put its vehicle efficiency policy into reverse does nothing to stop price rises for Australia’s most popular vehicles because of its tax on existing models.

Minor changes announced by ministers Chris Bowen and Catherine King will provide no relief from Labor’s family car tax that is still aimed squarely at the country’s top selling vehicles.

The Coalition instead stands firmly with families, farmers, tradies, and small business owners who will be forced to pay more for new cars after the next election.

Australians deserve a Government that competently goes about governing the nation. Mr Albanese has been fond of saying his Government is “operating as a mature, orderly government”.

The evidence says otherwise.