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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 5988

Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (12:48): We note the lacklustre effort from the minister in this regard, particularly around the consultation, where the best he could offer was taking on notice whom they had consulted with. The reality is that those of us who have spent time in that area—and I have, as the duty Labor senator for that area—have done proper consultation with the community, unlike those opposite. The government made the decision: 'This is what we are going to do. We are going to come in and impose this from on high.' The local member, Keith Pitt, the member for Hinkler, has been completely part of this. Senator Lines made a good point in regard to the National Party's outrageous behaviour. The federal president of the National Party has been lobbying for this, and Keith Pitt, the National Party member for Hinkler, has been pushing this in the local community.

Unlike the government, the opposition has spent the time to consult properly with the community. That includes a town hall forum I held with the federal Labor leader, Bill Shorten, where there was strong community opposition to this draconian proposal from those opposite. I have also met with the local mayors: the mayor of Hervey Bay, who was only recently elected, and the mayor of Bundaberg, Jack Dempsey, who was a former LNP minister. The response we got from those mayors has been interesting. The mayor of Hervey Bay, on the Fraser Coast, who is relatively new, has been vehemently opposed to this. He faced a by-election, which he contested and won, based on his strong opposition to this. He received an overwhelming vote. The mayor of Bundaberg—as I said, a former LNP minister in the previous Queensland government—was originally in favour of this proposal, but, due to the strong community opposition in Bundaberg, he has now switched his position. So the mayors of the two biggest towns that make up Hinkler are strongly opposed to the plan by this government. When the government say they consulted, they'd already made their decision and now they are trying to force this on the community. They've got no interest in what the best outcome is for the people in Hinkler. All they want to do is continue their ideological obsession. They're not going to do anything to boost the services that need to follow such a decision that they're making in this regard.

I've recently accompanied the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, and the shadow finance minister, Jim Chalmers, through Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and the surrounding communities. Whilst federal Labor have spent this year in Hinkler listening to these communities, the government have done nothing of the sort. They've sent a few bureaucrats, but they've actually sent no-one on the ground who can make decisions, no-one who can listen to those people and make decisions accordingly.

What's become clear is that there is no support for this proposal in the community. The fact that the local LNP mayor, who was a minister in the Newman government, has now come out and opposed it shows you that the community has turned against this government and, in particular, this proposal. All the government will do through what they're pursuing—and it's disappointing that apparently some of the crossbenchers have decided to sign up to this—is divide the community. That is all they're going to do, and they're very good at it. They've divided Australians all over the country, and they're going to divide the community of Hinkler as well. And they're not going to ensure that there will be any benefit to the people who will be impacted by this. So this is a terrible decision by this government. It's one that Labor will continue to highlight, and Labor will continue to work closely with the impacted communities.

The new shadow minister, Linda Burney, has agreed to travel there to ensure that we continue to listen to those local communities and that they get the representation they need. It's clear that they're not going to get the representation they deserve from their local member, Keith Pitt, or this government, which is completely arrogant and completely out of touch. This is another lacklustre representative effort from the minister responsible here, Senator Fifield.