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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 789

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (15:16): Well, there is five minutes of my life I will not get back.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Here's another five minutes.

Senator STERLE: I will talk as a Western Australian because, you see, we actually live and breathe WA politics in WA, unlike senators from Victoria. I am going to quote an article from today's West Australian. The light is not all that great, so forgive me, I just have to squint a little bit to have a read. It is by Mr Gary Adshead and Mr Dylan Caporn—all us West Aussies know who they are. The headline of The West Australian today says 'Deal puts Libs in bizarre position' and then there is a heading that says 'New face of One Nation.' I want to quote this, if I can, Madam Deputy President. Even One Nation need to listen to this:

One Nation has trumpeted its voter preference deal with the Liberal Party, saying it should guarantee the party the balance of power and the ability to block the part-sale of Western Power if Colin Barnett is re-elected next month.

I bet that was not part of their discussions behind closed doors when Senator Matthias Cormann and Senator Michaelia Cash were sharing a Chinese meal with Senator Hanson, or whatever they did. It goes on to say—have a listen to this:

In a bizarre consequence of the preference-swapping arrangement, the Liberals admit they have done a deal with Pauline Hanson that could result in their $11 billion plan to reduce debt and build new infrastructure being torpedoed in the Upper House of Parliament.

I bet they are not laughing down there now.

"I have to deal with the reality that there's a rejuvenated One Nation party out there," the Premier said yesterday when asked if he had been forced—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Sterle, please resume your seat.

Senator STERLE: I am reading.

Senator Ian Macdonald: There is a standing order against senators—

Senator STERLE: I am quoting an article. You know that—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Sterle, resume your seat.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Senator Sterle is a good guy, but there is a standing order against senators reading their speeches, and I wonder if the same standing order applies to senators who do nothing else in a five-minute speech but read someone else's speeches, albeit an article from a newspaper.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Sterle is quoting.

Senator STERLE: Thank you for that protection, Madam Deputy President, because it is important that I do quote these words. I will continue quoting this. This is the cracker. Are you ready for this, Senator Macdonald and Senator Hume?

In another twist late yesterday, One Nation's WA leader Colin Tincknell said his party would have put Liberals ahead of Labor, the Greens and Nationals whether or not a deal had been done.

I cannot believe my luck today. He also goes on to say:

"We were always going to preference the Liberals before Labor and the Greens and the Nationals anyway,"

Are you still there? I am just making sure. How is that for a good old-fashioned slap in the mouth?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Quoting is fine; I think holding the newspaper up so high is not.

Senator STERLE: I am trying to read. I will hold it that way; it is just that the light is not all that good.

Senator Back: They did write it slowly, mate, because they knew you couldn't read it!

Senator Hume: Put your glasses on.

Senator STERLE: I just cannot see. Can I try another angle? As I was clearly saying, there is open warfare in Western Australia between the coalition partners. Senator Hume from Victoria, do you know why we got the rabbit-proof fence in WA? It is to keep the Victorians out, I am told. I do not know if that is true, but let me help you out with what happens in Western Australia. They are best of buddies for most of the time, except the last few years really has tested the mettle of the relationship between the Liberals and the Nats. I have to tell you, this is no secret; it is a well-known fact. Senator Back, who is one of the most intelligent senators from Western Australia—I will give you that; he is top of the class—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Hear, hear.

Senator STERLE: will know that the Liberals have been seething about the behaviour of the Nationals over the years since 2008, when the leader of the Nationals dared to venture across to the other side of the chamber to see if he could form government with Labor at the time. Boy oh boy, didn't that stir up a possum's nest? Thank goodness for us, it did not happen. I am so glad it did not, because then came the Royalties for Regions program. A lot of people will say the regions need to get money that is earned in the mining areas and the agricultural areas. I have no argument with that at all. But I do not know how singing toilets in Bunbury fit in.

So what have we really found over there? I would go as far as saying—as a betting man, I would chuck a $5 bet on this one—that this is a little bit of payback coming from the Liberals to the Nats. They are actually peeved off. The most embarrassing point here is that Mr Tincknell, the leader of One Nation, owned up. They would have done the deal. Now the Liberals, when they get together and hold hands in the joint party room, have to look across and say, 'Gee whiz, you know, we really have done you over.' The preference whisperer, Glenn Druery, is quoted in an ABC article today, I think, saying that this deal between One Nation and the Liberals, which would have been done anyway without the Chinese meal or whatever, could cost six to nine seats.

Now, if I were Mr Barnett and his cracker team of strategists in the Liberal Party I would be finding every rock I could hide under, because this is not a deal that is going to cut. It is not a deal that is going to stick. And we know what is going to happen, because One Nation have proved that they will slap you in the chops over there on that side of the chamber as quick as they will slap us. What this is all about is that a vote for One Nation is a vote for Colin Barnett; a vote for One Nation is a vote for the Western Australian Liberals. You will not be able to split the pair of them. (Time expired)