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Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Page: 750


Senator WATT (Queensland) (19:54): Well, here we go again. We're starting yet another parliamentary year under this government in exactly the same way we have started every other year in the seven years it has been in power: more division, more infighting, more conflict, more fighting over the spoils and more focusing on their personal interests, not the national interest. In particular, I want to focus on what the National Party have been up to ever since we got back to Canberra last week, because the Nationals are a party who have confused the Nationals' interest with the national interest, and they're at it again.

In just two weeks, since we've been back here, we've had another leadership spill within the National Party on the same day as a condolence motion to recognise victims of bushfires which had mostly occurred in National Party held seats. The way they decided to respect the bushfire victims in their own electorates was to have yet another leadership spill. Of course, that's been followed this week with a farcical election for the deputy speakership of the House of Representatives—more signs of the ongoing civil war that is tearing apart the National Party.

Just reflect on the fact that this government is into its seventh year, and over the course of that period of time we've had the Abbott-Truss government, the Turnbull-Truss government, the Turnbull-Joyce government and the Turnbull-McCormack government, and now we're up to the Morrison-McCormack government. In seven years, we've already had five different combinations of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister under this government. At a time when Australians are craving stability, what they get instead from this government is division, chaos and conflict.

Just look at what the Nationals are continuing to say about each other just this week. In just one of the articles that appeared in today's press, we had one National exposing travel rorts undertaken by a whole bunch of other Nationals, and we had one of the National Party members, Dr Gillespie, revealed as having accused the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McCormack, of being a liar in their own party room meeting. Then we had Ken O'Dowd, the member for Flynn, out on the radio yesterday, after the leadership spill, talking up an impending leadership spill. It seems that the Nationals can't get enough of these leadership spills.

This matters to people in regional Queensland, who the Nationals say they are the representatives of. Anyone I've spoken to in regional Queensland over the last couple of weeks is just shaking their head at what is going on down here in Canberra, particularly in the National party room. Do you think that anyone in regional Queensland cares about who gets to be the Leader of the National Party this week or next week? Do you think that anyone in regional Queensland even knows who Llew O'Brien, the member for Wide Bay, is, let alone caring about who gets to be the Deputy Speaker? But those seem to be the only things that the National Party actually care about here in Canberra.

I'll tell you what people in regional Queensland care about. What they care about more than anything is having their jobs kept secure. What they care about is the fact that unemployment rates across regional Queensland are far higher than the national average. In Townsville we have unemployment of eight per cent, in Wide Bay we have unemployment of eight per cent and in Central Queensland we have unemployment of seven per cent. It's even worse when you look at youth unemployment. In Wide Bay it's 19 per cent, in Central Queensland it's 17 per cent, in Townsville it's 16 per cent and in Mackay-Whitsundays it's 14 per cent. Wouldn't you think that National Party representatives from Queensland who come down here to Canberra might be a little bit focused on how they can reduce the rate of youth unemployment or general unemployment in their electorates? No, no, no. They don't care about other people's jobs. What they care about is their own jobs, who gets to drive in a fancy car, who gets a pay rise of $40,000 a year by being the Deputy Speaker and who gets to be the National Party leader this week before it gets rotated around the party room. No-one in regional Queensland cares about these things that preoccupy the National Party representatives in this parliament. That's before we get to issues like casualisation and labour hire, which remain rife in regional Queensland despite this government being in power for seven years.

These are the issues that regional Queenslanders care about: they care about having secure jobs, about how they're going to pay their bills, about how they're going to cope with soaring health costs under this government and about how they're going to keep their jobs from casualisation and get their wages to increase, when wages are growing at a low rate we have never seen in Australia before. These are the issues that people in regional Queensland care about. They don't care who gets to be the leader this week or next week. They don't care who gets to be the Deputy Speaker next week or the week after. They care about jobs and casualisation, and it's about time the National Party started thinking about people in regional Queensland rather than feathering their own nest.