Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (16:33): I can’t say for certain whether or not it was unparliamentary. What I can say is that Senator Whish-Wilson’s speech was certainly confusing. It was hard to work out exactly what Senator Whish-Wilson was going on about.

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator DASTYARI: No, no, it was lovely. He talked a bit about Bob Brown; he talked a bit about himself; and he talked a bit about the Greens. He didn’t really talk about socialism as much as I think we all expected him to; but, then again, Senator Rhiannon wasn’t here, so I guess he didn’t need to impress her.

An honourable senator: She is watching.

Senator DASTYARI: Senator Rhiannon is always watching.

Senator Whish-Wilson: I thought you were her friends, Sam.

Senator DASTYARI: I am. It’s the Labor Party. We’re all friends. In our business, they’re referred to as ‘mates’.

We’re all a little bit frightened about the 1980s. I note that people here, certainly those on the other side, are quite scared by the 1980s. Let’s be clear: this government has a chant that fills the hallways—that is, ‘The reds are coming.’ One should be afraid because the reds are coming. Unlike a lot of other people, I have to be honest, I am actually a fan of the 1980s. I think a lot of Australians are. Who could forget the offerings of ABC afternoon TV with James Valentine? But the obsession of the Turnbull government with eastern Europe’s economic policies up to 1989 extends to so many policy areas. Start with energy.

The coalition government, with their love of MTV, Madonna and James Valentine on the ABC show, also love towering smokestacks and coal-fired power plants. This government is so obsessed with burning coal that, no matter how much we on this side extend the offer to compromise and shift policy, they will not be changed. This fascination with coal flies in the face of reports received from the Australian Energy Market Operator, AEMO, this week. These AEMO reports bear four years of utter failure on the part of Mr Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Turnbull on energy policy. Over the course of the last four years since the election of the Abbott government, wholesale power prices have doubled—doubled—leading to skyrocketing power prices for Australian households and for Australian business. The AEMO reports are one more rejection, hopefully the final rejection, of Prime Minister Turnbull’s fantasy that the solution to the country’s deep energy crisis is to build new coal-fired power stations, with a taxpayer subsidy if need be. We call on the government to get out of 1989, to get past the politics of energy policy—most of the politics, of course, being in the coalition party room itself. It’s time to start to implement the key recommendation of the Finkel report: a clean energy target.

When it comes to immigration, the irony here is that you have a government that keeps trying to call out those opposite to them, those in the Labor Party, on having pre-1980s socialist views, when the fascination of the Turnbull government is with the power of the secret police in eastern Europe in the 1980s—yes, I’m referring to the Stasi, who were beyond reproach and who operated without review. On today’s Notice Paperwas agovernment bill that would be better suited to the 1980s and the Stasi headquarters than to modern multicultural Australia. It purports to provide the minister for immigration with the ability to withdraw citizenship without a merits review. Avoiding a merits review on personal decisions made in ‘the public interest’ brings this government in line with the double-speak of the great democratic republics of eastern Europe in the 1980s. The bill would grant the minister the power to revoke citizenship without review, relying on the minister’s suspicion of belief to be sufficient. This is further power to a minister who, in a previous portfolio, as revealed in the past day, was voted the worst health minister ever. In its explanatory memorandum, the government has argued:

As an elected Member of Parliament, the Minister represents the Australian community and has a particular insight into Australian community standards and values and what is in Australia’s public interest.

In the enlightened times we live in, in 2017, we can surely all agree that discretionary powers which have a direct and immediate effect on personal rights and interests should, in principle, be subject to merits review—a decision made in the public interest which the minister alone decides is simply not good enough. A minister who would criticise lawyers representing asylum seekers and who at times holds in contempt the rule of law would be well suited to eastern Europe in 1989, not to Australia in 2017. The government attack the Labor Party, their political opponents, for the preconceived idea that Mr Bill Shorten is some kind of crazy socialist. Firstly, they need to decide which set of socialists they think we are. Are we the eastern European variety?

Are we the Latin American variety?

Senator McGrath: You’re all the same!

Senator DASTYARI: Well, it keeps changing! But what it represents is this: this is a desperate government. This is a government with nothing left. This is a government whose internal wranglings, fights and disputes have now so dominated their ability to make any kind of decision—any kind of decision—that all they have left is cheap stunts and attacks. This is a government whose strategy—look, you may as well lay it bare—is this: ‘We have to go and try and discredit our opponents as much as possible because our current policy agenda is no longer electable.’ And it becomes more and more desperate. It becomes more and more unhinged.

What you have is a government made up of two parties who are now just chasing the far right of Australian politics. What you have now is a National Party that is chasing One Nation. You know, Senator Hanson came into this chamber today and congratulated the National Party on following her policy lead. I’m not one who would normally agree with Senator Hanson in this chamber, but I think that, on that point, she is correct. The hypocrisy—that the same party, the National Party, that would come into this chamber and argue against same-sex marriage on the basis of its infringement on religious liberties would come and use their conference to argue for a banning of the burqa! The hypocrisy of that!

Let’s be clear: I’m not a fan of the burqa; that’s the type of Islam that I’ve always rejected; I’m not a fan of that. But I believe in religious liberty. I believe in freedom. And I believe that freedom sometimes means freedom for things that one doesn’t necessarily like. To argue against same-sex marriage on the basis of religious liberty and then, at the same time, turn around and argue against garments or dress that you don’t particularly like shows a level of hypocrisy that is preposterous. But I digress.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator Dastyari, I think that is correct; you have digressed!

Senator DASTYARI: And I acknowledge that and appreciate the indulgence of the chair. The idea that somehow there is some kind of socialist plot being led by the Labor Party—and political opponents—which we’ve heard Senator Cormann and others in this government try and express in the past couple of weeks, just shows how desperate, how unhinged and how lacking a basis in reality this government has become.

Frankly, what concerns me is this. As this government descends into the rabbit hole that is its own agenda, all we’re going to see is more and more of this. All we’re going to see is more desperate attacks and more desperate pleas. It wasn’t good enough that there was some kind of international conspiracy involving New Zealand and the Australian Labor Party; now it’s some kind of giant socialist plot that has been put together!

Look: there is a problem with inequality in this country. There is a problem that can be addressed, that should be addressed, that sensible policies can address, and the Labor Party will continue to put forward a series of sensible, reasonable policy proposals to the Australian public. Name-calling and making ridiculous kinds of claims is not doing anyone any benefit.

Chamber Senate on 6/09/2017 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Speaker: Dastyari, Sen Sam /Parliment Transcript used for Reporting Truth in News