Wednesday, 10 May 2006
Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005
I have strong feelings about the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005. The last campaign that I fought my way through was easily the most bitter and ugly campaign in which I had ever been involved, for or against The Nationals. The Nationals dragged my own family into the fray, which is something that I had never seen done before. Maybe it had occurred somewhere before in Queensland, but in 32 years of being a member of parliament I most certainly had not seen it occur, nor during my father’s involvement before that. As for the gentleman who was running against me for The Nationals, I had never seen him at a National Party meeting in my entire life. He obviously had no interest in the party or its beliefs whatsoever but when the opportunity to become a member of parliament arose he suddenly became very interested in politics. One would have to ask whether or not a person who has never shown any interest whatsoever in a political party for his entire life—and he was well on in years; he was not a spring chicken—and then suddenly becomes interested has a belief system that is backing his commitment.
We counted the road signs on the highway between Cairns and Townsville—we were doing the whole run—and there were 15 corflute signs of theirs for every one that we had. We spent $6,500 on the corflutes, so presumably they had spent 15 times more than we had. On the basis of what was spent on television, around $350,000 would have been spent on the campaign to unseat me in that electorate. If you looked at the figures, you would know that, however bad I may have been and however clever their candidate may have been, it was a fairly ambitious sort of task to pull a swing of 20 or 25 per cent or whatever it was. I think that money yields benefits. If you have got the money to put a person into the field for a good year in which he does nothing else, that in itself is probably $100,000: he has got a car, he has got fuel and he has got overnight accommodation. This person seemed to be in the field doing nothing else for a full year, presumably, and the party picked up nine, 10 or 15 per cent—I do not know what it was. They did pull up a good vote, but it did not particularly worry me, because I think our vote went up half a percentage point or something of that nature. It was almost identical to what it was at the election before last, so it did not make any impression upon us.
But for those people in the party who asked whether it was money well spent when Larry Anthony, a very fine former member of this House and a very decent person in every single respect, lost his seat and had very little money to spend on his campaign, one wonders whether the money was well spent or whether it was just a venting of people’s hatred and viciousness. I would say that the latter is probably the only interpretation you could put upon the behaviour of the people involved.
As far as being able to buy votes, I remember when we had to give a little boat to a little Aboriginal community. It was getting close to federal election time, and I was a state minister at the time. Without thinking I asked our candidate to come up when I was handing over the boat, and I remember my reaction afterwards was that I felt really cheap and I knew that my actions had been enormously inappropriate. And that was just having the candidate there when I made a handover of a small boat. It would not have been any more than a few thousand dollars for the boat, and it was something that had to be done. The point I am trying to make is that I felt like taking a shower afterwards.
But, during this campaign, day after day and week after week we picked up the paper and read about the Regional Partnerships program, and there was someone or other from the National Party up there, handing out a cheque for this, that or the other thing. Last week I was approached by people who said—and I have no hesitation in saying this because I think it is a true thing to say—‘How would we get money from that fund?’ I said, ‘If you contact the local National Party and offer to hand out how-to-vote cards for them at the next election, I think you’ll get the money.’ And they all burst out laughing. I said: ‘The great tragedy is that I’m not laughing at all. I’m being quite serious. If you want to get that money, then you have to indicate that you are a supporter of this party. That’s the way that it operates.’ Now, if that is—