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Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Page: 540


Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (19:28): I congratulate Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team on the outstanding outcome for them in the recent Queensland state election. I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the Queensland election experience. The voters of Queensland spoke, and what they had to say applied not only to those representatives in George Street, Brisbane, but also to those sent to govern here.

The last Queensland election saw the Labor Party reduced to just seven seats in a house of 89, a loss that led some commentators to claim that the party would be out of government for over a decade—and I may have thought that too. The then incoming Newman government claimed a mandate for a budget of cruel cuts, much like we have seen from those opposite under Prime Minister Abbott. No-one was spared. We saw cuts to nurses and hospitals. The Public Service was gutted, schools, pensioners, the unemployed—all of the usual targets we see when the LNP in Queensland say, 'It's time to tighten our belts.'

The following three years saw two by-elections in the seats of Redcliffe and Stafford. Labor, under Annastacia, won both of these seats with what could only be described as massive swings. At the time, the excuses from their opponents came hard and fast. The public were assured that they were both isolated results without broader implications for the state and that they would hear the message and get on with government. The voters subsequently disagreed with that view.

On Saturday, 31 January, they sent the Liberal government of Queensland a clear message: Queenslanders were tired of cuts and tired of broken promises. It is a message that Prime Minister Abbott and his colleagues, I think, have heard but perhaps they have not heard loud enough.

Mr Newman had a plan to sell $37 billion worth of assets, owned by Queensland taxpayers—assets that provided revenue to the state government, jobs for Queenslanders and affordable access to essential services. Labor had a better plan to fix the budget without compromising these assets. The plan included: streamlining the five state-owned companies into two, which would reduce overheads and would use these savings to pay down debt; and establishing a debt reduction trust that would see some revenue generated by assets quarantined in a special trust to pay down debt.

Labor fought for jobs in Queensland. When Campbell Newman took office, he inherited an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent. On leaving government, unemployment had reached 6.9 per cent. That equated to an additional 37,000 Queenslanders who were left unemployed. Many, of course, as we now know infamously, he sacked. Labor had a plan for Queenslanders looking for work. The Working Queensland plan included: $240 million over four years to support up to 32,000 Queenslanders get back into work through local grant programs; $50 million over three years to reinvigorate science and innovation jobs; $34 million over three years invested in TAFE Queensland to restore its status as Queensland's premier provider of vocational education and training; and a 125 per cent payroll tax rebate for employers of apprentices and trainees, through a $45 million allocation over three years.

Not to stop there, Labor had a plan for rural Queensland. The LNP in Queensland had failed to move with the times with agriculture. They failed to realise that it is an industry that is more than just crops and livestock. They ignored the importance of the supply chain, innovation and enabling farmers to get the best possible price for their produce.

Labor had a plan and continues to recognise these challenges and will move to strengthen Queensland's rural communities. That plan includes: moving to establish a Rural Job Agency pilot program, which will help those in rural communities who are struggling to find different ways to upskill; undertaking a major review of the state's agriculture research and development to ensure that the best science is applied; strengthening trade missions, bringing overseas markets closer to Queensland produce through those linkages; and also, importantly, review Queensland's biosecurity capability to ensure the long-term viability of Queensland's high-quality agricultural produce.

Labor fought for hospitals, doctors and nurses. The LNP in Queensland, on the other hand, were so focused on meeting funding targets and ticking boxes that they lost sight of the much bigger picture. A healthy economy requires a healthy workforce. But the penny pinching saw nurses sacked in record numbers and health services across the board slashed.

Labor had a plan to restore Queensland's health system. That plan included: providing a nursing guarantee which, to start with, would see 400 new nursing positions; re-establishing the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Service and, importantly, improving advocacy services for patients and family members to be able to review medical treatment plans.

Annastacia and her team are a prime example to all elected representatives of the importance of having a positive plan for governing. Queenslanders expect political parties to govern for everyone, not just their friends and donors or, in some instances, as Campbell Newman would say, 'I'll only help those who re-elect an LNP member in their electorate.'

Campbell Newman's hallmark was unfair budgets and it is infecting this joint as well. Unfair budgets that target the poor more than the wealthy are a shame. Queenslanders will not buy into the argument that you can reduce unemployment by laying off thousands of public servants who provide invaluable services across the board.

Queenslanders respect the need for law and order. However, we will not buy into cheap, shoddy tricks designed to distract us from the real issues. A proper law and order debate should always be had, but it should not be disguised. Queenslanders will not accept the false economic arguments that we can secure our long-term financial security by selling off our profitable state-owned assets. I think the electors of Queensland have made that fundamentally clear.

Have the government in Canberra learnt from what has happened in Queensland? If you look at the last couple of days, you would think they had learnt not very much at all. In fact, when you look at what has happened in the last couple of days you would see that they took the decision on Monday to start good government from that point. It is very surprising. The only conclusion you can come to is that they have been a bad government until then. It is not going to work. They will continue to be a bad government until such lessons that Queensland have experienced are learnt here. Once again, I want to take the time to congratulate Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland Labor on responding to the needs of Queensland. I thank the Senate.