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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 9008

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (15:29): It is a great delight to follow Senator Macdonald in this debate. Senator Macdonald is certainly one who speaks his mind. Earlier today, Senator Macdonald did that when he said on Sky News that following the Queensland election there's a lot of work to be done to convince voters that Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister, understands regional Australia. He went on to talk about the fact that Labor's win has many coalition members reflecting on the implications for the Turnbull government. It must be an extremely sobering result for the LNP, and the repercussions are ongoing. We saw Mr Christensen's tweet. We've seen Senator Macdonald's reflections. We've seen Senator O'Sullivan looking at issues. We've seen Senator Brandis himself reflecting on whether or not, down the track, there should be a division between the National Party and the Liberal Party in Queensland. There are huge ramifications flowing from the state election when, really, what happened was we had a state Labor government adopting a principled position on the issue of One Nation—putting One Nation last—and now we're seeing the result. The people of Queensland warmed to that position. It's my fervent hope that Annastacia Palaszczuk will be returned as Premier of Queensland.

It's quite clear that Senator Macdonald is correct: the people of northern Australia do not understand what the Prime Minister stands for. I don't think the Prime Minister understands what he stands for either. Senator Macdonald would be aware that one of the issues in Northern Queensland is the NAIF facility and whether any jobs flow out of that for Queensland. None have flowed, despite the fact that this was announced some years ago. We're still in the pipeline. Nothing has come out of the NAIF.

Northern Australians—and North Queenslanders in particular—have some of the highest insurance premiums because of their exposure to natural events. We saw the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce hand down a recommendation, but we are yet to see this government come up with a response. We'll be waiting years for a response to that important issue for northern Australians. On disaster relief, we see the Turnbull government's woeful track record on NDRRA funding and their disregard for the people of Central Queensland and North Queensland at their greatest time of need.

It's quite clear why the people of northern Australia don't understand where the Prime Minister is coming from, because he has forgotten Northern Queensland and he has forgotten northern Australia. He doesn't focus on those types of issues; he's focused on other issues. This is another of Senator Macdonald's observations. He says, 'For traditional people, the issues we seem to be supporting are not the issues that they want.' I take my hat off to Senator Macdonald. He is quite correct on that.

But we're continuing to see a series of thought bubbles come from the Prime Minister. He is wishy-washy. He 'wibble-wobbles' on a range of issues. We've seen things such as states having the power to levy income tax and, flowing from that, states funding state schools and the Commonwealth funding private and Catholic schools. He floated the idea of increasing the GST and backed away from all these things. He talked about reining in negative gearing excesses. Nothing came out of that. He talked about tax cuts for millionaires, foreign companies and the banks—they, of course, need tax relief! At the same time, he talked about tax increases for ordinary Australians. But when under pressure, in relation to the scrapping of sittings this week for the lower house, he came up with another thought bubble: let's talk about income tax cuts down the track.

This is a Prime Minister—and a government—who is desperate to portray to the people of Australia that he knows what he's doing. He does not know what he's doing. The National Party have woken up to him. They understand that, in order for them to survive the oncoming electoral oblivion at the next federal election, they need to differentiate themselves. It is too little too late. The lapdogs have made their run too late.

Question agreed to.