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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 676

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (16:33): I too rise to speak on this matter of public importance. There are two main points that I would like to discuss today. The first is the nature of the arrangements in Western Australia, about which there has been a lot of misinformation today; the second is the gross disrespect shown by my colleagues in this chamber to our One Nation colleagues. I think it is quite appalling. I will come back to that but first of all I will speak about preference arrangements in Western Australia.

We do things differently in Western Australia on many issues, and our relationship with the National Party is one of those different arrangements. In Western Australia we do not have a coalition; we have an alliance arrangement. The Liberal Party and National Party are not in coalition with each other in Western Australia, and that is because the Western Australian Nationals have preferred that arrangement to preserve their independence. It is quite unlike the coalition arrangements that we have in other states. My own view is that a strong and united coalition like we have at federal level, with direct preference flows between our respective candidates, is always preferable, but I respect the right of the WA Nationals to make their own arrangements with the WA Liberal Party organisation. Again, this is a direct state party to state party arrangement and has absolutely nothing to do with the Prime Minister or the federal Liberal Party.

Upper house voting tickets are officially registered with the Electoral Commission, so it is a matter of public record that, in practice, Brendon Grylls and the WA Nationals have preferenced other parties, including One Nation, ahead of the WA Liberal Party since the 2008 election. Following the 2008 election, both the WA Nats and WA Liberals preferenced other parties—the Shooters and Fishers, the Australian Christians party and Family First—ahead of each other. Finally, and I think very importantly, contrary to some other inaccurate stories earlier today, of course the WA Liberal Party will provide the preferences of our own candidates to the National Party in all the seats the WA Nationals are contesting. My understanding is that our arrangement with our alliance partners in Western Australia, the National Party, are actually no different from those at the last election—our arrangements with the National Party are actually the same.

What I find particularly disturbing about the behaviour of those opposite on this topic is that they would use a state preference decision made by a state Liberal organisation to criticise the Prime Minister. Not only that but, as we heard in the chamber today at question time and just now from Senator Dastyari, they are using this opportunity to blatantly demonise three of their colleagues here in this place—three of their colleagues who were duly elected by nearly 600,000 Australian voters. Even if those opposite have no respect for their Senate colleagues, they should have respect for the 600,000 Australian voters who voted for them.

It is the right of every Australian to have their voice heard in Australian politics and to vote in accordance with their own choice and their own free will. No matter how uncomfortable it may be for some in this place to hear it, it is incumbent on us all to respect alternative points of view. Every one of us in this chamber should know that as parliamentarians it is not our duty to condescend to and dismiss Australian voters or to tell them how to think. Instead, it is our duty to listen to the people who voted for and represented them.

We have seen time and time again in this place, and in the other place, that Labor does not respect the will of the people. They continue to block and frustrate the mandate of this government. They carp, they whine, they block and they say no, but they fail to offer any other solutions. Again today we have heard the Leader of the Opposition claim that he is above the fray. Unfortunately, I do not think that message got delivered to this place and to the Labor senators here today.

Those opposite are continually so afraid of public opinion and so committed to scoring political points that they blocked the plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Had you not done that, had you actually had the will to listen to the voices of Australian people, by next month gay couples in this country would have been able to get married. But you were so afraid of the debate and of listening to what Australian people had to say, you closed it down. You were so afraid and so intolerant of those opposite, of listening to other points of view—remember that shameful episode when Senator Hanson was delivering her first speech. All of us in this place are duly elected by Australian people and have the right to be heard by all of us in this place. But when the Greens walked out en masse in an absolutely cheap stunt, I do not believe I heard anybody in the Labor Party criticise the Greens for it. Everybody else paid due respect to Labor senators and to Greens senators for their first speeches. We might not agree with what you have to say, but we respected your right to say it and we listened to it. Again, that shows how disgracefully intolerant those on the other side of the chamber actually are. You are so full of your own opinions and your own self-righteousness that you cannot tolerate any other points of view. In fact the Greens walked out. They have such sensitive ears that they could not even sit here and listen to Senator Hanson give her first speech. That is a disgraceful situation for this democracy.

Unlike those opposite, we actually do respect the mandate and the people who voted for One Nation. The other thing we respect is that One Nation's policies are resonating not only with coalition voters but with Labor voters. And I think it is incumbent on all of us to listen to what those ordinary Australians are saying. I might disagree with much of what they say, but that is actually irrelevant. We actually have the right to respect their party and respect the people who voted for them.

Labor's sanctimony on preferences is yet another manifestation of their hypocrisy. Labor rallied against the policies and values of former senator Steve Fielding, when he was in this place; some of you here will remember that. But it was Labor who ensured his election by directing votes to him in a preference deal. Who here remembers what the Greens did at the last election? They voted in Clive Palmer's party and gave him preferences, ensuring that Clive Palmer's party actually got elected and got seats in this chamber. That was on the back of—guess what?—Greens preferences.

So please do not come in here and almost drive one of your Senate colleagues to tears by basically saying that they have no right to be here and degrading the people who voted for them. If you had no pity for Senator Hanson after listening to her speak in response to your attack on her at question time, I do not know how you can possibly look at yourself in the mirror. You might not like what she has to say but she has the right to say it. Many Australians—even though I do not necessarily agree with a lot of what they say—we have the right to discuss it and to respect that.

If you are really true to what you are saying about One Nation, I would really like to see Labor come out and say that they are not going to do preference deals with the Greens anymore—not only because of the Greens' hypocritical deal with Clive Palmer ahead of the 2013 election—

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry, what was that interjection?

Senator Bilyk: I don't know who wrote your speech but it's pretty hopeless and sanctimonious.

Senator REYNOLDS: Sanctimonious? What else have we heard? Senator Dastyari was just up here attacking One Nation as if they do not have any right to be in this place—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sterle ): Senator Reynolds, resume your seat just for two seconds. I would urge you to just ignore the interjections and direct your comments through the chair.

Senator REYNOLDS: As I said, the WA Liberal agreement, as it has been reported, with One Nation is completely different from any other arrangement. It has nothing to do with the Prime Minister and it is absolutely nothing that the Liberal Party has not done before with the National Party in Western Australia. The fact that you are trying to drag up a situation with John Howard from over 20 years ago, I think, is really quite pathetic. With all of the other issues we have on our agenda here and the things in this place that we should be talking about—child care, national security, employment, education—you are sitting up and dragging three of your colleagues through the mud. You are condemning them for absolutely no reason. They were elected by over half a million people and they have a right to have their voices heard in this place. So, if you are going to be true to your word that we should not in Western Australia do a deal with the National Party or with One Nation or with the shooters and fishers or any other party, have a look at your own preference records; you are completely hypocritical on this, as are the Greens.

The Greens are the party that got Clive Palmer elected with their preference deals. So what are you going to do? Are you going to keep doing preference deals with the Greens? What is the difference? You are completely and utterly hypocritical. This sort of sanctimony and game playing is why the Turnbull government acted to put the powers of preferences federally firmly in the hands of voters with our Senate reforms last year. We believe that voters should choose where their preferences go.

Finally, what also disturbs me is that not only are you going back to 20 years ago, to a completely different political environment, but you clearly do not understand the difference between state and federal election arrangements, because this is a WA state party arrangement with a party that has every right to campaign, exist and seek government in Western Australia. Just because we respect the voters and what the voters are telling us does not mean we have to agree with their point of view.

I want to put on the record how disgraceful I thought Labor's performances were here today. It was wrong for them to attack three of their Senate colleagues on the basis that they have no right to go into negotiations or to deal with any other political parties, and it was wrong that Senator Hanson had to come here to justify her humanity and her existence. Instead of playing the person, instead of vilifying them, why don't you start playing the politics and start coming in here and debating the issues? Come in here and debate the issues they and we are raising, rather than just attacking individuals in the Senate. It is demeaning, and I think it is beneath us all. (Time expired)