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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 270

Mr BEDDALL(11.11) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to take part in my first grievance debate since being elected to Parliament. In this grievance debate I want to draw to the attention of this Parliament the demise of parliamentary democracy in Queensland. Since the events of 4 August and the sacking of the Liberal Party Minister Terry White just some 21 days ago, the Queensland Premier has taken the Queensland Government along the road of minority rule. He now governs with a National Party Cabinet and with only 28 per cent of the vote. This is an issue I feel all parliamentarians from all parliaments in Australia should greatly fear because it represents a principle that this country does not appreciate and does not support. Queensland now has an unstable Government led by an unstable Premier-a Premier who is afraid to face the Parliament in Queensland. That is a disgrace and I am sure all members of this Parliament would condemn the actions of the Queensland Government. I am sure that they will make sure that all the people who possibly can will work to overthrow that Government at the coming elections.

Circumstances in Quensland are quite extraordinary in that Queenslanders will not have the opportunity to vote in an election until 22 October. That is a disgrace to any form of government. Even when Queenslanders cast their vote there is no guarantee that the Queensland Premier will accept the verdict of that vote. The Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, is on record as saying: ' It is not votes that count, but seats'. With the gerrymander in Queensland the wishes of the voters are often dismissed. I will return later to discuss how that gerrymander operates. The Liberal Party in Queensland is a sham. It does not even believe that it can become the majority party. It will not contest enough seats in the Queensland election to rule in its own right and, therefore, after the next State election, we may be faced with with a coalition government. I put forward the argument that an election will occur again within a few months when Bjelke-Petersen rejects the Liberal leader, as he already has. This is an issue that goes deep to the fundamentals of democracy. We have great traditions in Australia and Queensland is the one State that has never honoured those traditions.

Mr Simmons —The National Party members here are all embarrassed.

Mr BEDDALL —That is very true indeed. The National Party has been very power hungry over recent years and on many occasions has tried to obtain government in its own right. The people of Queensland have always rejected that, and I am sure that they will do so at the next election. But we must look back in history to see the reasons why the Queensland Government is now in this turmoil. The Queensland Government does not reflect the views of the majority of Queenslanders. Queensland is divided into four electoral zones-the south-east zone, the provincial city zone, the western and far northern zone and the country zone. It is not a surprise to many people in this House that the south- east zone, where the majority of population lives, also has the largest enrolments in the electoral divisions.

Mr Wells —And no Cabinet Ministers either.

Mr BEDDALL —And certainly no Cabinet Ministers.

Mr McVeigh —You have one from Queensland in the Federal Parliament who is always overseas; so I would not talk too much about that.

Mr BEDDALL —That is a fine point. The member for Oxley is an excellent Minister and does a better job than all the previous Liberal Party Ministers who used to serve in this House combined. When we consider the zonal system in Queensland, we find a strange situation in which adjoining electorates have a disparity of voters. The seat of Gregory, held by the National Party, has 8,254 voters, while the adjoining seat of Mount Isa, which will be won by the Labor Party at this election, has 14,875 voters. Within my Federal division, we have a State seat that is now approaching 30,000 voters-some four times the size of country seats. This situation entrenches an undemocratic government. The only way for that to be overcome is for all Queenslanders to reject the proposition of minority rule by a totalitarian Premier.

Keith Wright, the new Labor Party leader in Queensland, offers Queensland a clear choice of stable government versus coalition disharmony. When he puts forward his policies in the coming weeks, I am sure that the people of Queensland will, as a whole, endorse those policies and endorse the return to stable government in Queensland. I am sure that they will recognise that in the short time that the present Government has been in power in Canberra, it has set an example for all Australian governments in providing government that is accountable to the people and responsive to the wishes of the people.

While the Queensland parliamentary system is not directly influenced by this Federal Parliament, in line with recent decisions of the High Court, perhaps the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) could investigate the possibilities of the Federal Government looking into any international convention that may demand parliamentary democracy, equal votes and equal representation. But I feel that that will probably not be necessary because in Queensland, for the first time in 27 years, cracks have appeared within the coalition. They are not cracks now; they are rifts. We have a senior Queensland Minister such as Russ Hinze saying that he will not serve in any government made up of certain Liberal members. We shall see this continuing over the next few weeks as the coalition cracks continue, and the Government will fall at the polls.

If that does not happen, the Queensland people will have a further period of unstable government, because what will happen, as I have said, is that the Queensland Premier will not accept the Liberal leader, and if the Liberal Party has any spirit at all, it will not enter into coalition. In the past, the record of the Liberal Party in Queensland has not been one of strength. Each time there has been an election, the Liberal Party has made protestations that it will demand extra from the coalition, and each time after an election it has caved in under the jackboot of Bjelke-Petersen. This again will be the case, and I feel that many Queenslanders will not accept a coalition government that is made up of a strong National Party and an incredibly weak Liberal Party, a Liberal Party which has no spirit, which has no integrity, and which is destined for destruction.

Over the period of the last few elections, the demise of the Liberal Party, both State and Federal, has been quite extraordinary. The continued efforts of the National Party in Queensland have also been very encouraging for the National Party members. In this Federal House, of the nine coalition members represented here, only three are members of the Queensland Liberal Party.

Mr Goodluck —Tasmania is still here.

Mr BEDDALL —Unfortunately, the Tasmanian representation is not that good, either .

Mr Groom —It is outstanding.

Mr BEDDALL —Only in the opinion of the Tasmanians. I am sure that after the next Federal election there will be no Tasmanian Liberals in this place. This is an important issue, and I think that all Australians should be concerned about the way in which Queensland politics have gone over the past weeks. No Australian who believes in parliamentary democracy can support a Premier who does not command a majority of support in the State House. We have as a Premier a man who is not even game to face the Parliament of his State. That happened in recent weeks. The Leader of the Opposition petitioned the Governor to recall Parliament , but on the advice of Bjelke-Petersen the Governor refused that request. It is a situation that I think cannot be tolerated. I am sure that on 22 October there will be a change of government in Queensland and there will be no more coalition -controlled States on the mainland of Australia.