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Monday, 25 February 2013
Page: 665

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (11:48): I would like to start by welcoming back Senator Xenophon. When I heard he had been detained in Malaysia I went on an immediate hunger strike and I was not going to eat again until they released him. As you can see, I have wasted away to a shadow, because 17 hours later they kicked him out. I was there with you in spirit. I think it will go down as one of the biggest political fights of modern time.

On a more serious note, I do concur with the message of Senator Xenophon in wanting transparency. There is always the battle that exists between, to be honest, the party structure—which likes to have the party's name as premier and the individual's name as secondary—and the reality of politics which is ultimately driven by the desires of an individual even within the party. There must be the understanding that you are voting for an individual. It has always been a concern of mine that here in the Senate we are the states house, but the discussion is always around party blocs and not around the states, which you would think it should be. When people talk about the discourse that happens in this chamber, and sometimes it is not professional, I always believe a great way to fix that would be to have people sit in state blocs rather than party blocs. It is very hard to yell at somebody who is sitting beside you. I know that idea is never going to go anywhere, but it does go to show that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has an immense responsibility. That is, they have to put aside their party beliefs and focus on what is in the interests of the Australian people—in delivering back to them the proper representation of their intentions without presuming that their intentions are our intentions, because our intentions are about the survival of our parties and the Independents. What we have to focus on is: is this individual getting an authentic representation of their desires in the way they vote?

You see another classic example when people vote above the line for the Senate. No-one actually knows where their preferences go. Their preferences are allocated, but no-one knows where they go. I think many people do not even understand that there is an allocation of preferences if you vote above the line. I cannot help myself. I always vote below the line in the Senate—and they say that is a great recipe for an invalid vote—because I like to allocate my own preferences for who should be last and who should be first—which is generally me.

Senator Xenophon: Do you get satisfaction as to who you put last?

Senator JOYCE: I get great satisfaction. I actually work out the numbers, Senator Xenophon. I work out who should go last. Nigel Freemarijuana was up there for a long while, because I could not quite work out what he was up to. It is all about transparency and it is about being authentic to the Australian people, because this is their greatest right. In this reflection we have to understand the nefarious imbroglio that sometimes follows at the back of elections.

I do not know whether anybody at the time of the last election believed that Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor were going to support the Labor government. If they had known that, they may not have voted for them. I have some understanding of the seat of New England, seeing that I grew up there. I have a pretty good understanding of the seat of Lyne because it was next door to me. I think people were pretty frustrated and surprised; a vital decision, a vital form of transparency, should have been delivered back to them. These members should have given a warrant saying, 'If there is a balance of power situation, we intend to cast our vote with the Labor Party.' If they had said so, then they would have been totally entitled to do that. But I strongly believe that there was a belief in the community that they were going to go with the conservative side of politics. There was a period of deliberation, after which they went with the left-hand side of politics—the socialist side of politics, the Labor side of politics—and people felt that they had been exploited. There was no transparency in that. They kept on saying it was their own personal decision, like they had some sort of personal fiefdom and they could therefore play havoc with people’s lives by letting people in New England and Lyne find out they were responsible for the delivery of a Greens-Labor Party-Independent government—the GLI club. I do not think that was fair.

Transparency is so important. After the election we had the signing of the register—that is the only thing you could call it. There was Prime Minister Gillard and Bob Brown, who had a piece of wattle in his lapel, and the guests—the bridal party—behind them. They all stood in front of that book and signed it and said that this was going to be an agreement, that this was how the country was going to be run. There were happy shots taken and off they went.

In the last week we have heard that the marriage is over—it is all finished. If it were transparent, you would say, 'That will mean there is now a dissolution of that partnership and the effect of that will be a dissolution of this parliament.' That would be the natural inclination. However, that is not the case. The Greens are still going to give them supply and there will be no votes of no confidence. So what does this mean? Both of them are revelling in this new independence, but they are living in the same house. They are both out on the town, but they are cohabitating. It makes no sense, unless you are trying to be a little bit sneaky and thinking, 'Oh well, if we both present in a form that says we are independent of one another, we will both be able to collect a larger vote.' But this is not being transparent. This is not a proper reflection back to the voters of the realities of the situation and therefore it is deceiving them, and that just mounts the frustration.

Mr Swan talks about transparency in his role as Treasurer. He says, 'We have to be transparent in our figures.' This is the person who has never been transparent in his figures. Not one figure that the Treasurer has given us has ever been right—not even close, not within a bull's roar. And we have got the deficit coming. We all know that surpluses do not pay back debts and that deficits just add to debts. We have got this massive debt and now we are going to get another massive deficit. If they were transparent—and they know the figures—they would come out and tell us. They would be factual; they would be honest. They would tell us the truth and say, 'This is the reality,' because they have known the reality for quite some time. But they have been cunning, shrewd and manipulative. With the guile of a snake they have managed to obscure from the Australian people the proper and transparent portrayal of our nation’s financial position. This is not good. This is not what a transparent government is supposed to be doing.

Then there was the other orchestrated scheme within the Labor Party. A couple of years ago the Australian people believed that the Prime Minister who was holding the reins, Mr Kevin Rudd from Nambour, from the seat of Griffith, would remain as Prime Minister. They had a reason to believe that. Of course, that was taken away from them. The voter never got the right to make that decision. It was taken away by a person who is not even in this parliament—Mr Paul Howes, amongst others. Where did he come from? Where did he pop up from? I would like to say he is obscure, but fortunately enough Paul Howes has written lots of books—about Paul Howes. He writes about one a week about himself. Mr Paul Howes, in his deliberations, decided for the Australian people that he would be part and parcel of changing the Prime Minister of this nation.

My advice to Mr Paul Howes is: if you want to be involved with politics, sign up. Come on in. Otherwise, it looks like there is some sort of nefarious proposition that people in the background, who were never, ever voted for by the Australian people, have an immense say in the direction of our nation; that someone who has never darkened the doors of this place as an elected member of parliament or as a senator has determined who our Prime Minister is going to be. And he revelled in it. He bravely wrote a book about the life of the faceless man. I wish it were the case. He has a big face. You see it all the time; he cannot get it off television. This is very peculiar.

We heard Senator Xenophon talking about alliances, allegiances and things you do not know about that happen behind scenes, about who is mates with who, who is going to dinner with who and who is going to certain parties in certain towns with certain people who are very powerful. What does this relationship mean? The trouble with Mr Howes is that we do not get disclosure on that. He does not have to fill out a senators' or members' interests statement.

So we do not quite know what is going on there, yet he has the capacity to affect the direction of this nation. That is something that truly concerns me, because that is not democracy. We are the ones who stand at the table with our hands on the Bible or the Constitution and swear an oath of office. The idea that people outside this place could have an effect on the direction of this nation is not humorous; it is totally and utterly wrong. It is contemptible. Then they openly state it. There is something that is just not right there.

So what is the point? We have the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to try and get proper representation for the Australian people: 'When you elect this person, these are the people who will hold the reins of government. This is where the influences will come from. This is the opposition. This is the treasury bench. These are the powers they have.' If that is the case then surely the greatest corruption of that is somebody who is not even on the ballot paper having power in the direction of our nation, and it is there for all to see in Mr Paul Howes. What a disgrace that is. Why are the Labor Party proud of it? How could you possibly be proud of someone corrupting the whole electoral process? There is something decidedly wrong about it.

The reason it is topical is that it is all on again. We see Mr Kevin Rudd, the member for Griffith. He pops up everywhere. Every time the Prime Minister is out at an event, up comes Mr Rudd. He says he is just getting around; he is just having a yarn to people. He is a friendly type of guy. He likes to help out. He is from Queensland, apparently. He seems to be helping out rather a lot. Some would think that possibly he is making a move to reclaim his old job. So, as is right, the fourth estate ask Mr Rudd, 'Are you intending to have a tilt at the leadership?' 'No.' He says something about cryogenic freezing—the next lot of cryogenic freezing since Walt Disney. What is this all about? He apparently says something about cryogenic freezing, and we are led to believe him. It has to be believable. 'Of course not.' Of course Kevin—the member for Griffith—is just a friendly guy helping out. Could it possibly be that he is not telling the truth? Could that possibly be the case? Could it possibly be that people are actually stacking up the numbers? Could it possibly be that we are going to see another change in government? To be honest, I would prefer that, because that would say that at least the view of the Australian people is somehow authenticated by his actions. But if it is not then we have this absolutely self-indulgent act of a sulky person running around the place throwing mud on everybody.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): Order! Senator Joyce, I just remind you about standing order 193, about imputation of improper motives or personal reflections on members of either chamber.

Senator JOYCE: Certainly. I accept your admonishment. I hope it is not a sulky person throwing mud. I hope that, if a person is for real, they would stand up and say, 'I'm for real; I'm going to have a go here.' If they are not then for goodness sake get out of the way so someone else can. That is the only thing: get out of the way. Go away. Go hide under a rock somewhere and let somebody else do it, because this nation used to be on autopilot but there is no autopilot anymore. The last thing we saw was two parachutes leaving, and that was Julia Gillard and that person who is impersonating the Treasurer, called Wayne Swan.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Joyce, I remind you again of the requirement to address members by their correct title, and I also draw your attention to relevance to the bill in question.

Senator JOYCE: Certainly. The Treasurer, Mr Swan, who represents a seat in Queensland—

Senator Feeney: Called Lilley.

Senator JOYCE: Lilley. Well, what can one say about that, except—dear me—when the time comes to change the sheets in the Labor Party, do not forget to change both of them? Please do not leave us with the bottom sheet. If you are going to take the top one—the Prime Minister—please take the bottom one with you as well. Let us have new linen and all sleep in a nice, crisp bed, because we cannot go on like this. This is absolute insanity.

So we need proper transparency, and I commend the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for trying to move towards it. I have concerns about messing around too much with postal votes, because out in remote areas it is extremely important for us. As we have compulsory voting, we have to be deliberate in trying to make sure that everybody gets at least their chance to vote. I have concerns that in this nation we still do not get the proper transparency. As Senator Xenophon was talking about, who is pulling the strings with whom? We do not understand. If Mr Paul Howes is a major political player then how do we bring him into these discussions? He should swear an oath with us. If he is the one that can change a Prime Minister then what is the point of this place? If it is all happening outside, why do we need this? I have to say that Senator Feeney and Senator Farrell are also numbers people but at least they are actually in the Senate, and that is fair enough.

Senator Feeney: I'll take that as an endorsement.

Senator JOYCE: We can hold you to account. You can actually be called to account and we can ask you questions. You are answerable to the Australian people. But I am very dubious about this idea that people outside, external to the political process, can have influence. When people vote for the Australian Labor Party on a ticket, there should be a little disclaimer down the bottom which says, 'By the way, a person called Paul Howes who is not elected to the parliament, likes to write lots of books about himself and runs with the fox and hunts with the hounds, to say it politely, may at a point in time decide to change the Prime Minister, and everything you voted for will be meaningless.' That little disclaimer should be put in there. Maybe that is something for the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to look at next time: those who have undue influence and were never actually elected members of parliament.

The most precious thing the Australian people have is their right to go into that little white box and decide how our nation is going to run. It is the only time when they are really the boss and run the show. So we have to make absolutely certain that that right is sacrosanct and cannot be corrupted or manipulated by people outside.

We must absolutely make sure that that right is reflected by the people for whom the Australian people vote, in a myriad of ways, in the other place and here in the Senate. People ultimately vote for an individual who is a member of the party. They never vote for parties; they vote for individuals who are members of parties and they vote for senators who are supposed to represent states.

If people vote for someone who allocates their preferences, they should know how those preferences are allocated. In the legislation, it says that, if you do not get four per cent of the vote, you do not get your refund. I can assure you that there are members of the Senate who get in here with less than four per cent of the vote. I have no problems with that, because, with the allocation of preferences, that is how the game works. What I do have a problem with is when we do not know where the preferences go. Any person who votes above the line in the Senate does not know where the preferences go. I suppose you can look it up, but it is not evident. This is where games can really be played by parties, when people might think they know where the preferences go but it is not actually where the preferences go.

I commend this bill. Thank you very much for your attention.