House debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Matters of Public Importance

Local Government

3:59 pm

Photo of Cameron ThompsonCameron Thompson (Blair, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is a real privilege to come into this discussion on a matter of public importance and to defend the right of Queenslanders to determine what they want to do about local government amalgamations. At the moment, Queenslanders are having a good look at the worst Queensland government in their state’s history. They are having a good look at the arrogance of the local government minister and the arrogance of Peter Beattie. The Premier of Queensland is drunk on power and he has been telling Queenslanders about what he is going to do in that state and how, if he wants to, he can rule it for 100 years. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, this is sticking right in the guts of Queenslanders. They are being told by the Queensland government how they must live in a range of ways which only suit the Labor Party and do not reflect the aspirations and genuine concerns and fears of Queenslanders.

We see in this parliament the face of the Labor Party opposite, where every single member is a trade union member. We see opposite 70 per cent of them being former union bosses. Members of the Labor Party are defined by their union background. There is no group opposite, when you talk about Queensland, more fundamental to the motivation of power—that is, the distribution of union power in Australia. When you are talking in the Queensland context, you are talking about Bill Ludwig and the power he uses to influence this parliament and the Queensland parliament through ciphers like the member for Lilley and the member for Oxley and his deputies in this place.

So, when on the front page of the paper today I read that one of Labor’s most powerful factional bosses has rebuked party leader Kevin Rudd and ordered federal Labor candidates to back off in their confrontation with Queensland Premier Peter Beattie over council amalgamations in that state, I know what message is being given to the member for Lilley and the member for Oxley. We had a speech previously from the member for Lilley that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, but never once did he voice a strong commitment to support the electors of Queensland—to give the people of Queensland a vote on this question of local government amalgamation which they so desperately crave.

What really gets people in Queensland angry is that, at the time of the last state election, the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, went to the polls telling Queenslanders that their opportunity in relation to local government amalgamation was with the triple S process. It was a process where there would be no forced amalgamations and there would be a kind of a corporate love-in; there would be size, shape and sustainability. They were the three Ss: size, shape and sustainability. Councillors would talk together and come up with an outcome.

But what happened after the election—after Queenslanders unfortunately had placed their trust once too often in Premier Peter Beattie? The triple S was thrown out and in came the SS—the jackbooted stormtroopers. People like Local Government Association President Mr Bell had been told that there would be a corporate coming together of the councils. The Local Government Association supported that. They said: ‘We want to be able to set the pace. We want to be able to consult with our people and produce the outcome they want.’ In places like Gatton and Laidley, they were looking at outcomes where, for example, they might have two councils that would share all council resources. This was the kind of thing that was put on the table and then, in an untimely manner, all support for it was ripped away; it got ripped out. It was taken away and replaced by the stormtroopers.

I spoke before about the one figure who controls not only the AWU and, therefore, the ALP within Queensland but also his patsies here in the federal parliament. What has happened in this latest scenario? Bill Ludwig, the fat posterior of the Labor movement in Queensland, has finally stirred, and what has been produced? The member for Lilley and the member for Oxley, with the most inane and pathetic failed defence of their own electors.

We got nothing from these characters, apart from an effort—coordinated by Mr Bill Ludwig and the AWU—to lock in union power in Queensland. We have the worst state government in Queensland, controlled or puppeteered by Mr Ludwig. He has his puppets at the state level and at the federal level, but he is not satisfied. He wants them through every local council in Queensland. What does he get in return for that? We have already heard that there is a proposal to have all council employees in the state working for a state authority, a state department. Why is that? It is so that all those people will wind up being numbers for Bill Ludwig and the AWU when it comes to convention time for the ALP. They get to control the operation of the ALP. (Quorum formed)

I thank my colleagues for their support and I return to the subject of the AWU and its control in Queensland. The AWU sees this process as an opportunity to lock in Labor and union control of local councils. Across Queensland local authorities are seeing the potential they can get by increasing the flexibility of their workforce, and that does not appeal to Bill Ludwig. Opponents are coming out of the woodwork to talk about the arrogance of the Beattie government and the fact that it is the most hated government in Queensland’s history.

Mr Ludwig is telling his members of the right faction, such as the member for Oxley and his other patsy, the member for Lilley, to pull in their heads. They are being told not to confront the government over this issue and to allow Premier Peter Beattie to go ahead and smash these councils together in any old way that he wants, and those patsies opposite will follow along with it. Sure, we hear a lot of noise from the member for Lilley about other things. But what is his position on this? Where is his determined defence of local councils, which is something that his leader has said that he will follow through with? (Time expired)


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