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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 973

Western Australian State Election

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator Canavan. Does the minister agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, who, when asked about the Western Australian preference war—these are his words, not mine—said this:

This is what happens when you start picking on your business partner or your girlfriend—one person scratches and the other person scratches back.

Did he really say that? Was the Western Australian National Party's decision to preference the Greens over the Liberal Party the Nationals 'scratching back'?

The PRESIDENT: Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan, Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister, you can take that question in whichever way you would like. It does not directly relate to your portfolio, but it does relate to statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister, so I will allow you to answer the question how you would like to.

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:01): Thank you very much, Mr President. I cannot confirm or deny for you, Senator Sterle, that Mr Barnaby Joyce has made comments like that. It certainly sounds like comments he would make, from good knowledge that I have, Senator Sterle, so I will take it on face value that those were comments he made. But, of course, I am not going to comment on the preference arrangements that the Western Australian Nationals enter into. They are an independent and affiliated body of the federal National Party, but they do make their own decisions on matters that are in their interests. I will let them explain those interests to the Western Australian parliament and the Western Australian voters. However, what I am sure, Senator Sterle, they will be explaining to those Western Australian voters is that the best form of government for the Western Australian people will be a Liberal-National government after the election.

We know from records that the best form of government is a Liberal-National government for our country. Whether it is in Western Australia or over here on the eastern seaboard, the relationship we have between our two parties is a strong one and has delivered strong results for our nation. That is what I will be focused on over the next month, reminding the people of Australia that if they want to continue to have a strong economy in the west, if they want to continue to benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested in the regions through the Royalties for Regions program in Western Australia, they will need a Liberal-National government to do that.

We know if they do not have that, if they have a Labor government, there will be a Labor government pushing for renewable energy targets that are unachievable. They will be shutting down coal mining in places like Collie. They will be taking away the industrial advantage that Western Australia has, the future promise of developing Western Australian resources like their gas resources and like northern Australia. The Labor Party will ignore those, come back to that small part of Western Australia down in Perth and not develop those resources. Let's hope that a Liberal-National government in Western Australia is elected and I wish them all the best in that election.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left and my right. Senator Sterle, do you have a supplementary question?

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:03): I do, thank you, Mr President. I refer to reports that the Deputy Prime Minister on Monday described the Greens as 'the most dangerous party in politics'. Does the minister agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, or does he support the Western Australian National Party's decision to preference the Greens above the Liberal Party?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:04): I completely agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the Greens are the most dangerous political party in this place. I am sure they revel in that description, but they are dangerous to this country because they are allowed to be dangerous, because you guys partner up with them. That is why they are dangerous. There is only a small number of them here, Senator Sterle, in case you have not noticed, but it is only because you enable and give them power that they have that label of being dangerous. That is why they are dangerous, Senator Sterle, because when you guys get over on this side, suddenly you start doing deals with them and you start implementing silly ideas like a carbon tax that you do not even take to the Australian people, but you implement them because you need to have their support. That is why they are dangerous. They are not dangerous because the Western Australian Nationals have preferenced them. That is not why they are dangerous; they are dangerous because you put them into government when you were last over here on this side of the place. We will not be letting that happen in the west, we will not be letting that happen here; the only way that will happen back here in Canberra or Perth is if Labor is elected again.

Senator Wong: You're in bed with the racists and the bigots. Do you feel good about that?

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right. On my left. Senator Sterle, a final supplementary question?

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:05): Thank you very much, Mr President.

Senator Cameron: The Nationals have been jilted.

Senator STERLE: Shush, I am trying to talk. I should get the first question every time. This place has not been this happy for years.

The PRESIDENT: Your question?

Senator STERLE: Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree with Senator Cormann's statement that the Western Australian Liberal Party's decision to preference One Nation above the National Party is 'sensible and pragmatic'?

The PRESIDENT: I gather you have finished your question, Senator Sterle.

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:05): I am not exactly familiar or sure what Barnaby Joyce thinks about every comment that my good colleague and friend Senator Cormann might make, but, Senator Sterle, I am sure there are other avenues you can try to get Barnaby's opinion on that.

Senator Wong: You represent him, actually. I thought he ran you, or is it the other way round?

Senator CANAVAN: What I would say is that the Liberal and National Parties have a strong relationship. I know in the context of this discussion there have been descriptions of some parties being sophisticated or what have you. May I say over here, Senator Sterle, we are a proud and independent party in the National Party.

Senator Kim Carr: You've been treated like doormats—sophisticated doormats.

Senator CANAVAN: We make our own arrangements. While I do not particularly care if we are considered sophisticated or not, we are actually happy to be unsophisticated over here. When I look around at my colleagues, some of them—I hope they do not take it the wrong way—are particularly unsophisticated. If these latte-sippers over here on my right want to be sophisticated, they can go right ahead. We will be unsophisticated right here.