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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8147


Senator LUNDY (7:31 AM) —I had hoped to have delivered this adjournment speech yesterday evening, but for some reason it did not happen. I found it interesting that Senator Boswell mentioned Senator Margaret Reid. My comments are in fact not about Senator Reid, and I hope I will get an opportunity to present an appropriate valedictory when Senator Reid chooses the time of her resignation from this place. I did want to spend a little bit of time reflecting on the fact that she seems to have been not only pushed out of the presidency but given a little shove out of her own party room.

The focus is now on the political shenanigans of local Liberal Party members as they clamber over each other for nomination as Senator Reid's replacement. The line-up of prospective candidates reads a bit like the current English cricket team: very little form—just a lot of bench warmers. There are eight candidates in all, including some you have never heard of and some you wish you had not. For the record, the line-up is: Martin Dunn, Belinda Barnier, Gerry Wheeler, David Kibbey, Kate Carnell, Bill Stefaniak, Steve Pratt and Gary Humphries. Like the struggling English cricket team, the local Libs are looking for a replacement player to help their sagging fortunes. But there is no Colin Cowdrey in the Liberal ranks, so they have wheeled out a disgraced former Chief Minister, Kate Carnell. Kate Carnell was once considered the next big thing in the Liberal's batting line-up. She was well and truly caught out when she came up against the twin attacks of accountability and probity. I guess it is a bit like facing Warne and McGrath. In the first innings she produced the Feel the Power of Canberra campaign, in which large amounts of taxpayers' money were expended on an old plane that was tarted up with the slogan painted on the side. This was the level of tackiness of the campaign to promote Canberra. I think the plane flew once or maybe twice. I believe Ms Carnell was well and truly run out during a drive home from a Canberra winery but the third umpire replays were inconclusive, and she was given a dubious `not out'.

In the next innings, Ms Carnell should have retired hurt over the debacle that was the Kinlyside development, where she had one set of rules for mates and another for the rest of the population. Realising she could not get a legitimate run on the board, Ms Carnell then decided to have a go at other sports. First up, Ms Carnell went for the futsal slab, an edifice that appeared virtually overnight with no community consultation, parliamentary scrutiny or assessment of return to the taxpayer. Next she tried motor racing. This time public money was poured into the V8 Supercar race without proper accounting and with massive overestimations of the return to the ACT taxpayers, problems which the Labor government has now had to fix. Back on the field, Ms Carnell was unable to cope on a turning electoral wicket and, facing accountability at one end and probity at the other, she decided to go for a big innings. Sadly, this ended in the tragic disaster of the Canberra Hospital implosion. Here, Ms Carnell, I believe, was exposed as being unfit to handle responsibility and show leadership.

I should mention the Fujitsu debacle when 900 promised jobs, in exchange for millions of dollars of ACT taxpayers' money, were subsidised. The 900 jobs were never produced; in fact, 100 jobs were produced.

And then it was Bruce Stadium, the fiasco that resulted in Ms Carnell being unceremoniously kicked out of the ACT team. The upgrade of Bruce Stadium was to have cost $12 million, yet the former Liberal Chief Minister expended almost $45 million, at least $24 million of which was unlawfully spent without the approval of the ACT assembly. The Auditor-General's report into Bruce Stadium revealed that investigations were severely hampered by an absence of documentation on most of the important decisions relating to the stadium upgrade. The Auditor-General stated, in effect, that a documentary and accountability trail was almost entirely absent; that is what the Auditor-General said. Ms Carnell's political career came to an end in October 2000 when her assembly peers and voters lost confidence. No-one in the ACT should forget that Ms Carnell did resign in disgrace with a litany of failures, bungles, fiascos and financially irresponsible deals trailing behind. Her preselection for the ACT Senate vacancy would be seen as rewarding failure, incompetence, maladministration, obfuscation and avoidance of public scrutiny. But she does have competition: ACT Liberal assembly member Bill Stefaniak also wants to be a senator. In fact, he said he wants to be Minister for Defence. It is like wanting to be made vice-captain on your first Test.

Next at the crease is Steve Pratt, another Liberal in the ACT assembly who does not want to serve out his full term. Pratt has also failed to inspire selectors. No doubt they will be telling him to go off to the nets to get some much-needed practice before he tries again. And perpetual candidates Belinda Barnier and Martin Dunn of lower house losing fame have also donned their whites but, like Pratt, they are seen as bench warmers to flesh out the late order—and David Kibbey has surprised selectors by actually showing up!

Another to put up his hand to open the batting is Gary Humphries. He used to be captain of the ACT Liberals but his form disappeared when playing for the Territory. His bid for the federal team had been met with a lot of eye rolling, given a very poor batting average for the season, and Humphries' resignation from the leadership of the ACT Liberal opposition can only be viewed as a rat deserting the sinking Liberal ship. Voter concern will grow as people recall his commitment at the last ACT election to remain in the ACT assembly even if the Liberals were defeated. This is another Liberal non-core promise and heralds the end of Mr Humphries' political career, so in the federal stakes we can put him down as being out for a duck.

Then there is the PM's man Gerald Wheeler. A John Howard staffer, Mr Wheeler likes a very dry pitch. The favourite son of the old drys ensconced on Capital Hill, Mr Wheeler is both a monarchist and a social conservative. With crikey.com airing all sorts of ultradry baggage, the most enlightening perhaps is his alleged opposition to economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa at the 1990 Hobart conference of Liberal students. So this Liberal preselection for ACT senator is a battle of the dry and driers. It is also a test of the Howard-Costello leadership battle. Will Costello get another vote in the party room via Ms Carnell or will Mr Howard boost his numbers by having any one of the others? Clearly, the PM does not want to take any chances, so his weight has been thrown behind one of his own staffers, Mr Wheeler.

The scene in the ACT Legislative Assembly is this: three of the six players in the ACT Liberals want out. They are all putting their hand up. They cannot handle the competition from the Stanhope Labor government and they do not like being beaten by an innings each time, so they are desperately clambering to take Senator Reid's spot. I have got some news for them: the Senate is no holiday. It is quite offensive that these people are treating this place as some sort of retirement village. I am sure the voters of the ACT will let MLAs Humphries, Pratt and Stefaniak know how they feel about their attitudes and actions at the next ACT assembly election. I know that voters will express their disgust at the way the Liberals have treated Margaret Reid. Notwithstanding the anger at her leaving before her term is completed, the Liberals seem to have dumped her from the presidency and, insultingly, have said their goodbyes very publicly before she has announced the date of her leaving. We will see what happens later this month—I think it is the 20th. I do not know if there is anyone out there big enough to fill Margaret Reid's shoes.

I look forward to the opportunity to say my appropriate valedictory remarks when the time comes. In the meantime, I would like to add my thanks to all of the people in this place—the attendants, the security guards, Hansard and everybody else—because it is a pretty tough job. I have just spent the last 10 minutes being yelled at across the chamber, and that is all part of it. But I have to say it is a pleasure working in Parliament House. The staff here are quite extraordinary. They do a marvellous job and I wish them a merry Christmas. (Time expired)