Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


New England By-Election, Bennelong By-Election

7:20 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Last Saturday, the people of New England returned Barnaby Joyce to his rightful place as for member of New England. It was a huge victory and all the Labor lies about selling off Medicare and cuts to school funding did not help Labor one bit—an 11 per cent primary vote. The voters saw through the mistruths, which brings me to Saturday, 16 December, when John Alexander, who showed plenty of integrity by standing down over his citizenship, seeks to retain his seat against a Labor candidate who reigned over the darkest times in New South Wales politics.

It is well-documented that Kristina Keneally led a Labor government that suffered a 17 per cent swing across the state, and Ms Keneally had a swing against her of 16.6 per cent in her own seat of Heffron. What did she leave us? She left a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country and lowest economic growth. Of course, Ms Keneally will forever be known as the Premier who reappointed Ian Macdonald to the ministry. Let's remember, Ian Macdonald's place in history.

In 2008, Doyles Creek Mining was awarded an exploration licence by the then Minister for Mineral Resources in New South Wales, Ian Macdonald. The licence was awarded to former CFMEU National President John Maitland, who is now serving six years in prison. Ian Macdonald had granted the coal exploration licence without opening it to competitive tender. On 15 November 2009, the then Premier, Nathan Rees, sacked Ian Macdonald from cabinet. Nathan Rees had signed his own death warrant, and on 3 December 2009 a spill was called for the Labor leadership. That morning Nathan Rees said:

Should I not be Premier by the end of this day, let there be no doubt in the community's mind, no doubt, that any challenger will be a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi.

That puppet turned out to be Kristina Keneally, and it wasn't long before Ian Macdonald was back in cabinet—how strange!

It is history that in 2013 ICAC found that Mr Ian Macdonald, Mr Eddie Obeid, Mr Joe Tripodi and Mr Tony Kelly had engaged in corrupt conduct. Both Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald were sentenced to jail. There are questions Ms Keneally still has to answer. What knowledge did Ms Keneally have about the approval of the Doyles Creek Mining lease before reappointing Mr Macdonald to cabinet? What steps did Ms Keneally take to investigate this matter before she appointed Mr Macdonald to her cabinet? Who did Ms Keneally speak with about the appointment of Mr Macdonald to cabinet? Did Ms Keneally make any inquiries with the relevant New South Wales department about the procedures that had been followed in awarding the Doyles Creek Mining licence?

The by-election in Bennelong comes down to integrity: the integrity of John Alexander, a former tennis champion who has worked hard for Bennelong but took the honourable step of standing down, or the integrity of a former Labor Premier with dubious links. Ms Keneally didn't have the great start to her campaign—criticising her own party's policy. She claimed that in 2015 the Liberals shut down the Eastwood office of Medicare. Imagine her embarrassment when someone whispered to her that it was actually Labor policy that shut the office.

We saw in New England last Saturday that voters want the truth. They want their political representatives to be fair dinkum with them, and they don't want to be promised something that can't be delivered. They can see through those who aren't genuine. I'll be in Bennelong on Saturday, 16 December, to support John Alexander. He was a champion on the court, and he's a champion for his people. He needs to be returned to his rightful place as the member for Bennelong, as part of a strong Turnbull-Joyce government.


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