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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18663


Mr ZAHRA (12:34 PM) —I know that you, as a country member of parliament, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, would be very aware of the importance of strong leadership in country districts.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—I remind the member for McMillan the chair does not hold a seat.


Mr ZAHRA —It really is the difference between whether or not regional areas go ahead or stagnate. That is why it is important that in regional Australia, in country districts, we have strong leadership. I have to acknowledge, in making my contribution today, that in the past the National Party—and before the National Party, the Country Party—provided strong leadership in country Australia. They were tough old fellas, those people in the National Party in the old days—people like Peter Nixon and Black Jack McEwen; they were formidable opponents. When I speak to the old Labor fellas from around my district, they talk about those fellas as worthy opponents—but not the current crop of National Party leaders.

We have some very good National Party members of parliament in this place, but we have not got strong National Party leadership, and that is the problem. What does it say about a political party when its leader does not know whether he is coming or going, whether he is staying or leaving? Whenever John Anderson gets up to answer a question, many of us on our side of politics—and probably you, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, and other people as well—think of the words to that old Clash song. They come into my head, and he is probably thinking them too: `Should I stay or should I go? If I stay there will be trouble.' This is what he is thinking. Every day of the week he is confronted with this question, `Should I stay or should I go?'

I have been thinking, `What can I do to help John Anderson? What can I do to try to make this decision a little bit easier for him?' So I got on the Internet and looked up `stay or go'. It turns out that there is a web site called stayorgo.com. I suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister gets onto this web site, has a bit of a look at it and works out whether or not he can get some help from this site about whether he should stay or whether he should go. It says here, `A simple, step-by-step guide to help you make the best decision possible about whether to stay in or leave your current relationship.' It sounds like this is the circumstance that confronts the Deputy Prime Minister right now. It comes very highly recommended. I will read one of the recommendations that this web site is spruiking. Suzy says:

I am so happy I purchased your book. I can not tell you how much I have learned from this. Not only about my relationship but my life. It has been a real gem to have this.

Discovering the truth about what I am really feeling inside about this relationship has been so exciting! No more denying, keeping it inside, nor feeling guilty about what I feel.

This (book) has helped me in so many ways I can not explain it all. I really thank you. To share your wisdom and insight in such a way is truly a gift. Thank you again,

I can imagine that after the Deputy Prime Minister has read this book and the web site—maybe it will help him make a decision—maybe he would give some type of endorsement of the book and web site as well. This is an important decision for him to make. What I am saying is that we want him to make it. It is in the interests of the country that he make it. What does it say about his contempt for the National Party—a party that has given him so much, that has given him every opportunity in his life—that he is prepared to treat his National Party colleagues in the caucus with this sort of contempt? Let me say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, that it will not be okay. The National Party will pay a dear price indeed if it thinks that it can go to the election with uncertain leadership or if it thinks it can put the auctioneer in six weeks before an election and somehow everyone will think that the deputy leader has just stepped up and that is all okay. It will not be okay.

Country people want strong leadership. They do not want this sort of flip-flop, the sort of people who cannot make a decision, do not know whether they are coming or going, do not know whether they are Arthur or Martha, do not know whether or not they are going to be in it for the long haul or whether they are going to bail out. It seems to me that the Leader of the National Party is not fair dinkum about staying on. If he is not fair dinkum about staying on, I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that he owes it to you, he owes it to Paul, he owes it to all of the National Party members of parliament to come clean and be honest. If he does not want the job, he should get out of the way and let someone who wants to have a real go at it get on with the job and represent country people. (Time expired)