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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5416

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3:37 PM) —I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to Senator Arbib’s answer to a question during question time.

Leave granted.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I do not claim that I have been misrepresented, because in Senator Arbib’s excitement in delivering his response I did not quite hear what he was saying. He mentioned something about a letter from me and I think he said it was in support of the government’s policy on the stimulus package. I am not exactly certain, but that was the point he was trying to make by waving around the letter. First of all, I am making this point because, if Senator Arbib wants to carry on in that childish way, that is up to him, but he should table the letter he is referring to. I think the letter he was referring to is a letter from me to the Deputy Prime Minister supporting an application by the Carpentaria Shire Council, up in the Gulf Country, for funding through the federal government’s Jobs Fund. I am not supporting the Jobs Fund; I am supporting the Carpentaria Shire Council’s application for funding. It relates to four programs in the Gulf Country of Queensland: the Karumba sewerage project, the upgrade of the Normanton Rodeo Grounds, the Normanton bike path and the restoration of the Burns Philp building in Normanton. I have indicated that that very remote part of Australia could always do with support for employment, particularly Indigenous employment.

I just to say to Senator Arbib: if he is going to do this again and give away any sense of being able to correspond with a minister—the Deputy Prime Minister, in my case, but he ended up with it—then he needs to carefully think about that. And, if he is going to mention it—and there is nothing in this letter that I have any embarrassment about—he should table the letter and be clear about what he is actually referring to in the letter. As I said, I am very proud to be able to support the Carpentaria Shire Council. These are very good projects. I make it clear to everyone who comes to me that we certainly oppose the stimulus funding money, but, as the government have succeeded in having it there and they are splashing money around everywhere, why shouldn’t the small, remote communities of north-west Queensland get part of the action rather than it being simply allocated to marginal Labor seats in the south of the country? I just want to put that on the record. While I am on my feet, I urge the government to assist those remote country towns in any way that they can while they have money available for use in Australia.