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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 9003

Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:08): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia (Senator Canavan) to a question without notice asked by Senator Watt today relating to the Queensland state election.

Haven't the last couple of days in Canberra been interesting? All of a sudden, we have seen a flurry of activity from each and every one of the Queensland National Party representatives who pretend to be part of a united party back in Queensland, the LNP. After years of silence and acquiescence as regional Australians and regional Queenslanders have been ignored or hurt by cuts made by the Abbott and Turnbull governments, all of a sudden those in this band of weak, lazy, ineffective representatives, particularly from Queensland, have almost—not quite, but almost—discovered their spines. We've seen this flurry of apparent independence and flurry of concern for the welfare of people in regional Queensland after years of silence and going along with what the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, and his predecessor, Mr Abbott, have done to regional Queensland.

You might ask why, after years of silence and doing nothing, we have all of a sudden seen this burst of independence and activity from the Queensland National Party representatives who come down here to Canberra. The answer is obvious: it is all about what happened on Saturday, 25 November, back in Queensland at the state election, where right around the state, but in particular in regional Queensland, the LNP vote absolutely collapsed. Clearly, if you look at the results, you can see that there was a slip in the Labor vote in some parts of Queensland—and we have work to do as well. But there has been a mass defection of LNP supporters to One Nation and to other parties right across Queensland but in particular in regional Queensland, to the point where right across Central Queensland—in the federal electorate of Capricornia where I'm the Labor duty senator—in every state seat in Capricornia the LNP didn't run first, didn't run second, at best ran third and, in some cases, came fourth. Perhaps that might be why, all of a sudden, the National Party representatives here in Canberra have almost, but not quite, discovered their spine.

So what have they done over the last couple of days? We've seen Senator Canavan out there saying that they've got their separate party room and they're going to run a separate campaign to the Liberal Party in Queensland. Today's front page of The Courier Mail talked about how all the Queensland Nationals were going to run under a separate banner—that they were going to run as Nationals and not LNP; that they were going to paint their election signs green, not blue; that they were going to drop the word 'Liberal' and drop Malcolm Turnbull's face off their posters; and that they were going to do all sorts of spin, advertising and rebranding to do everything they could to put distance between themselves and this failed Turnbull government. The problem for them is that the people of regional Queensland are not as stupid as the LNP think. They can see right through what the LNP are doing here. This is all about one thing, and that is about the LNP representatives from Queensland desperately trying to hang onto their own jobs. There's not an ounce of concern for the jobs of people in regional Queensland; it's all about them trying to preserve their own jobs.

Poor old Senator O'Sullivan, for weeks now, has been talking about maybe moving a motion about setting up an inquiry into the banks. This week he charged down to Canberra, beating his chest—he was full of blood and guts—and he was going to take it up to the Prime Minister and get that inquiry going. But we read today that, on the verge of getting it through, he's backed off—he's withdrawn his bill. That's how gutsy, that's how tough, that's how brave our Queensland National Party senators are. Just when they're on the verge of having a victory, they back off and roll over yet again to the Prime Minister and to the Liberal Party.

Whatever spin and whatever rebranding we might see from the LNP down here in Canberra and back home in Queensland, regional Queenslanders are going to see right through it. Whatever rebranding and whatever spin we see from Queensland Nationals, it is not going to make up for the years of selling out regional Queenslanders and letting them down. With every single thing that the Prime Minister and Mr Abbott before him have done that has hurt regional Queenslanders, the National Party have been right beside them, sending their votes and helping them get it through—and it doesn’t matter what it is. When Mr Turnbull cut Medicare, the Nationals voted for it. When they cut penalty rates, the Nationals voted for it. When they stopped the banking royal commission, the Nationals voted for it. When they gave millionaires a tax cut and gave nothing to middle-income earners, the Nationals vote for it. They are sell-outs and they are gone. (Time expired)