Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Statements by Senators
Watt, Senator Murray
A contribution made in this place earlier today by Senator Watt, the Labor senator for Queensland, in, again, an almost grubby personal attack by the senator on another member of the parliament, a senator in this place, is starting to show a trend. I have not seen that before in this Senate in my three-plus years. I urge everybody to keep a focus on Senator Watt's contribution of playing the person and not the issue—not challenging policy but playing the individuals. It is a very disturbing trend appearing in his behaviour in this place. This is a big boys and girls' sandpit and we are all used to the strong rough-and-tumble of politics in this place, but Senator Watt's colleagues need to have a yarn to him to explain to him that personal politics has no place in this chamber. This is the second attack that he has made in the last two sitting weeks of this parliament, and it is a very unsavoury practice and one that he should reflect upon. Perhaps it is clear that his skill base does not allow him to make the argument on facts and on policy issues, and perhaps some of his colleagues could provide him with some support and education so that he can lift the standard of his contributions in this place.
Let us make no mistake about the fundamental objective of Senator Watt and the Labor Party and, indeed, a new coalition between the Labor opposition and the Greens on the crossbench. This has one single objective in life, and that is to ensure that there is no further development of the coal industry in my home state of Queensland. I urge all Queenslanders to look very thoroughly at the motives behind Senator Watt and his colleagues in the Greens and what they are doing. Every single aspect is directed at inhibiting the growth of the Galilee Basin, the growth that will come with NAIF—the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility—the development of the rail line and all of the massive benefits that will flow to my constituency in Queensland.
When will the opposition in this place, including the Greens and the Labor Party, join with the government in a bipartisan approach to develop the economy of my home state and all the benefits that that will bring to the nation? The attack today, for example, in relation to NAIF and the appointment of directors to NAIF—
Let's just bring some things to the attention of the chamber some things which were delivered by a Labor government either when Senator Watt was the chief of staff to the failed Labor Premier, or indeed when he was a part of the failed Labor government—the one that was punted. He was able to lose one of Labor's finest seats that had been held by a Labor member for 40 years without a break. Let's look at some of the appointments in Queensland—and this is directly relevant to Senator Watt and his colleagues. They appointed the former Labor ministers, Mike Reynolds and Paul Lucas to the boards of the Port of Townsville and Powerlink.
As I often say in this place: you know when you are on the money with the volume and frequency of attempts to try and impede your presentation. Senator Watt and his colleagues—in one of the two capacities that I mentioned—appointed former ALP president and union boss Dick Williams as Chairman of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. Tell me if that is not a conflict; tell me if that is not a massive conflict. They appointed Labor mayor, Jim Soorley, as Chairman of CS Energy. I don't know what Jim thinks about—
Senator Watt, that is not a point of order. You know it is not a point of order; it is a debating point. Again, I remind you that you were heard in silence, so please give that same degree of respect to Senator O'Sullivan. You can take the discussion out of this chamber at another time.
That seemed to be a little bit thin-skinned about the exposure of some of these well-known facts. They appointed Labor Premier Peter Beattie to head the Commonwealth Games Corporation. What a conflict. They appointed former Labor Treasurer Terry Mackenroth to the board of QSuper. This just goes on and on. I do not have time, because I do not intend to devote the substantive bulk of this speech to these exposures. They appointed former Labor minister Steve Bredhauer to the board of Trade and Investment Queensland. These are appointments that clearly would be in conflict with all the best practices in the appointment of people to these very important positions.
The message that needs to come from here is that this is about a Labor senator who has obviously been selected amongst the ranks of Labor and the Greens to try and lead the charge, and I think that will prove to be a disastrous decision in the fullness of time. There are many of his colleagues who are much better qualified and competent to do this. This is about stopping 44,000 direct jobs that are at the virtual cusp of being shovel-ready in our central Queensland—his central Queensland and my central Queensland. Of course, the report showed that there are some 150,000 jobs related to this. This is in an area that is suffering employment depression. It is being attacked by the Labor Party, who parade themselves as being those who have the interests of working men and women. During the parliament that Senator Watt was a part of and in his previous life as a staffer to a failed Premier, there were 14,000 jobs routed out of this area in my home state of Queensland. There are thousands of empty houses in Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Gracemere and Emerald—places I am certain Senator Watt would not recognise, notwithstanding that I have offered to take him on a tour of these places, where we will have some public forums.
Our second largest export industry, with 90 per cent of its production exported, is under direct and unprecedented attack by the federal Labor Party and the federal Greens—again, a very tight coalition, like we saw in their previous term of government. We all know how that turned out for the economy of the nation. His own state Labor colleagues this week reported a surplus of some $2.3 billion I think. Where did that come from? That came from the $3.4 billion of royalties generated by the coal industry. This is like chewing your arm off at the wrist. They are resisting the generational opportunity to regenerate Central Queensland. Townsville has nine per cent unemployment in certain age categories. These people would be well placed to take possession of some of these jobs.
There is not a business in Queensland, particularly between Townsville and Gladstone and certainly north of the Tropic of Capricorn to Mackay, that does not rely significantly on this industry. The development of the Galilee Basin is going to give them a brand-new opportunity in life to enhance not only the economy of that region and the economy of the state—administered currently by a Labor government, who are in absolute conflict with this push—but also the national economy.
This is about stopping the coal industry. This is about discarding thousands of existing jobs. This is about preventing the development of thousands more jobs, not just with the development of the Galilee Basin but with all of the things that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund is going to bring online over the next decade. It has been doing some fantastic work. It is on the cusp of delivering decisions that will support northern Australia. It defies logic that any Queensland senator would resist these things, would attack these things and would diminish the potential of these things. I just hope that every person over the age of 18 in my home state is watching and listening carefully. I will, to the best of my ability, point them in the right direction.