Senate debates

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:13 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to discuss the real problems that regional Australia is suffering as a result of the paralysed government that we are seeing here, led by Malcolm Turnbull and distracted ministers, whose job it is to be sponsoring projects and economic activity in regional Queensland and across regional Australia but who are far too distracted by their own problems to do so. We know very well that Senator Nash, as the minister for regional Australia, is responsible, more than anyone in this entire parliament, for ensuring that projects are happening in regional Australia and that services are being delivered. But we know, unfortunately, that Senator Nash is so distracted by her own citizenship problems that she is incapable of turning attention to the real needs of regional Australia that are out there right now. Senator Nash, of course, is a member of a famous new party in Australian politics: the 'Dual Nationals'!

You look at them every single day over there, and they're disappearing one by one. We've had Senator Canavan actually do the right thing and stand down from his role as minister, but neither Senator Nash nor her leader, Mr Joyce, have the decency to stand down from cabinet to allow the business of government to go on without this permanent cloud that remains over their heads while their citizenship is in doubt.

This is more than just a political bunfight. The problem with Senator Nash and Mr Joyce not standing down from their ministries is that they are so distracted by their own personal citizenship queries that they can't get on with the business of their portfolios and deliver the services, infrastructure and jobs that regional Queensland and regional Australia so desperately need. We saw yet another embarrassing performance from Senator Nash here in question time today, where not only was she incapable of answering any question that was asked of her related to her portfolio but she was even incapable of answering questions that yesterday she wanted to be asked. Yesterday she came in here, attacked us for asking questions about her citizenship and listed a series of topics that we, in her view, should be asking her about. We did the right thing today. We turned up ready to ask those questions, and we asked those questions of her, but when we did so, she was completely unable to answer and said that she'd have to get back to us.

Every single day we listen to this government moan about energy prices, and they are a real issue in much of Australia. The government ignores the fact that wholesale electricity prices have doubled under their watch over the last few years. Senator Nash is not even aware of this basic fact, but she's happy to stand up every day and criticise the Labor Party about energy prices. For every single region of Australia that we asked about today—whether it be the Bowen Basin, Far North Queensland, particularly around Cairns, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales—we were asking, 'What is the government doing to get projects and services happening in those parts of Australia?' and, remarkably, Senator Nash was incapable of answering, didn't know the answers, doesn't know what's going on in her portfolio and clearly doesn't know what's going on in regional Australia. That's not to mention the woeful answers that she was giving in relation to the concerns about Senator O'Sullivan's mixing of his business and his official duties.

There is a reason that Senator Nash is incapable of answering these questions. She, like so many of her ministerial colleagues, is so distracted by the citizenship fiasco in which we're seeing this government engulfed that they are paralysed by inaction, when regional Australia has never needed a government more active in getting projects, services and infrastructure happening so that we get jobs moving again in regional Australia, which is the absolute top priority for so much of our country. As I get around regional Queensland, as I very often do, the things that people are constantly telling me they want this government focused on are getting jobs, particularly for young people, and getting new projects up and running. But no ideas are coming forward from this government, no money is being spent out of its programs, and the minister doesn't have the capacity to make decisions to get the projects and spending happening.

People in regional Queensland want better health care, particularly mental health care. I was in Rockhampton only last week, talking to young people about their need for better mental health care. It's not happening under this government. They're not getting training and apprenticeship opportunities. These are the things that regional Australia wants; these are the things which Labor is coming forward on a regular basis with policies for. We need a minister who is not distracted. She should step down and let someone take on the job.


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