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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 646

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3.46 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Senator Faulkner), to a question without notice asked by Senator Reynolds this day, relating to the proposed Kuranda Skyrail project.

During question time when Senator Reynolds rose to ask a question of the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, I felt sure that Senator Reynolds, coming from Townsville as I do, would ask Senator Faulkner why Senator Richardson's promise of money in the budget for the Townsville aquarium had not been met. I know Senator Richardson promised money for Aboriginal health, and that proved to be false, but I thought that perhaps his promise of funding for the Townsville aquarium would have been met because it was such a determined promise. Senator Reynolds and I who joined together on this particular issue were very gratified—

Senator Panizza —Did you?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes, we did, and in fact issued a joint press release, I have to confess, because it is a matter of vital importance to Townsville. Senator Richardson promised it—he said it was in the bag, as he did with Aboriginal health funding—and, of course, there is absolutely no mention of it in the budget. I felt certain that my good friend Senator Reynolds would have been here to attack Senator Faulkner for not complying with that given promise. But no, she wanted to talk about the skyrail.

  In relation to skyrail, Senator Faulkner is rapidly gaining a reputation as the minister for putting his foot in his mouth or the minister for dealing with bushfires that he creates. He has made quite a fool of himself in relation to this skyrail procedure, and I feel certain that he will do the same when he visits the aquarium. On Friday he will go to Townsville to talk to the aquarium people. I should warn Senator Faulkner, because I do not want any harm to befall him, that North Queensland people treat politicians who mislead them rather roughly. Everyone will remember how Senator Richardson was manhandled in Ravenshoe when he went there to destroy the jobs of so many people, and I can understand the anger of those people.

  I might also warn Senator Faulkner before he walks into Townsville and starts talking platitudes about the aquarium that the Prime Minister, Mr Keating, promised to go up to the Coral Sea celebrations two years ago. At the last minute he ignored the invitations and just did not front up, even though the plaque had been engraved. I can assure Senator Faulkner that the people of Townsville were absolutely irate at Paul Keating over that. So if Senator Faulkner comes to Townsville on Friday trying to sweet talk the people of Townsville, he should remember what happened to Senator Richardson and Mr Keating when they came up to North Queensland to deceive and snub the people of North Queensland.

  The skyrail project, as Senator Faulkner probably now well knows, although he obviously did not at the time, has been over by more groups, committees and environmental people than practically any project ever in relation to world heritage or environmental matters.

  Senator Faulkner hit the north, and I do not think he had seen or heard of the skyrail. But some of those on the green lunatic left fringe got on to Senator Faulkner—who is also from the lunatic left fringe, I suspect—and said, `You know, you can't let this go through.' That was notwithstanding that the Queensland Labor Government had been all through it, had approved it and thought it was not a bad proposal. Senator Faulkner blew into Mackay, was told he should say something about it, and said, `This is not going ahead until I am satisfied about it'. He made a big impact. He had quite a humorous interview with the press. He was asked about foxtail palms, a matter that the secretary to the Queensland premier is alleged to be trying to cover up. Senator Faulkner said, `Oh no, I can't answer that. My plane is waiting.' Of course, the plane that was waiting was the VIP plane, which would leave when he wanted it to. But that is another story.

  However, the information tabled by Senator Faulkner today clearly shows that all that information he was concerned about had been gone through by others. It is a very environmentally friendly project. I have explained this matter to the Senate previously, but unfortunately time does not allow me to do so again. Senator Faulkner has now caught up with the rest of the world. He has gone into damage control and says, `As everyone else has approved this months ago, I had better find some way of saying that I approve it.' Fortunately the project will go ahead. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.