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Malcolm Turnbull's year of failing badly

By Lisa Singh - posted Tuesday, 19 December 2017


The scenes in parliament last week will go down in history.

Joining the rest of the modern world, at long last, LGBTIQ Australians will be equal under the law.

Parliamentarians showed that when we want to, we have the capacity to put aside normal party politics for real reform. Together we listened to the Australian people and legislated for marriage equality. It was gratifying to see that my colleagues in the Senate and later the House of Representatives understood Liberal Senator Dean Smith's message that this was about removing discrimination against LGBTIQ people, not finding insidious new ways to legislate for discrimination.

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For so many this feeling of jubilation was well-deserved. It was a great moment for those who worked tirelessly to bring about this change, not just during the postal survey, but for decades.

But, for Malcolm Turnbull …instead of accomplishment he must have felt relief and embarrassment. While passing marriage equality was an achievement for parliament, it wasn't an achievement for the Turnbull government. It delayed and obfuscated the whole process. Marriage equality became a reality despite the Turnbull government, not because of it.

And this underwhelming realisation caps off a year of failed, bad ideas for Malcolm Turnbull. And that's indeed worth a reflection.

His government started 2017 with the catastrophic Centrelink Robodebt debacle – relentless and often mistaken harrying of struggling Australians on social security.

Then Turnbull followed through with his plan to drug test welfare recipients before they could receive their welfare payments.

Yet the government admitted it had no evidence at all to support how the drug testing policy would work, nor did it reveal the cost of it.

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All the experts – doctors, health professionals, addiction medicine specialists, community organisations and a former Australian Federal Police Commissioner – said it wouldn't work. A Senate Inquiry earlier this year heard overwhelming evidence from specialists and community organisations against the proposed plan.

In fact they felt so strongly about how wrong this policy was for those with drug addiction that they wrote a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to drop it.

Still the government pressed on, brimful with distrust and disdain for those battling to get their lives back together, ignoring examples from other countries where drug testing of income support recipients had been tried but found ineffective.

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About the Author

Senator Lisa Singh is Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Water and prior to this was Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General. She was also a Minister in the Tasmanian Labor Government.

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