Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Questions without Notice
Deputy Leader of the Nationals
My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Has the minister had any discussions with the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister about a arrangements for her replacement should the High Court find she was ineligible for election to the Senate?
No. And isn't it interesting that we have an opportunity to talk about the things that are important to the people of Australia but, again, we see those opposite choose not to. Those on the other side want to talk about citizenship. On this side, we want to talk about the future of regional Australia, about making sure that our children and our grandchildren want to go back to regional communities that are thriving and growing into the future. That's the thing that matters to the people I talk to out in the regions: making sure we have strong regional economies so that we can have the backbone driving this nation. Those on the other side want to talk about citizenship. Do you know what that does? It just throws up the fact that the Labor Party has absolutely no plan for regional Australia—absolutely nothing. On this side we're going to keep delivering. We're going to make sure that we do ensure the future of regional Australia. It is a very sad indictment on the Labor Party that question after question is about citizenship and not about the priorities for the Australian people.
The next coalition candidate on the New South Wales Senate ticket, Liberal Holly Hughes, will take the 12th New South Wales Senate spot. Has the minister discussed with the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister the prospect of Holly Hughes standing aside should the minister be found to be ineligible for election to the Senate?
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
Senator Macdonald, I can deal with this, I think. Senator O'Neill, I think that question really goes beyond the portfolio duties and the public statements in relation to Senator Nash. You are now talking about electoral matters, and that question would be best directed to the minister responsible for electoral matters. Senator Wong, a point of order?
Mr President, you may not have heard the actual question before you made that ruling, which was: has the minister discussed with the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister the prospect of Ms Holly Hughes standing aside should the minister be found to be ineligible? So the question actually goes to—
Senator Bernardi interjecting—
Senator Bernardi is making a different point. But, Mr President, the question goes to conversations with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr President, my point of order, both on this and on the previous question, relates to hypothetical matters. Standing order 73 clearly says that questions shall not contain hypothetical matters. The senator is presuming that she knows what the High Court might or might not do—clearly hypothetical. Both the previous question and this one should be ruled out of order.
Thank you, Mr President. The answer is no. And I again take the opportunity to point out that those opposite simply have nothing for regional Australia. They have had two days to come in here and ask me any number of questions about my portfolio areas. They could have asked me about mobile phone blackspot delivery. They could have asked me about the NBN. They could have asked me about the Building Better Regions Fund. They could have asked me about the new community investment stream that is going to be delivering brilliantly for communities out across the regions. They could have asked me about the $500 million the coalition is going to deliver for regional projects. They could have asked me about the effects test. They could have asked me about strengthening competition laws. They could have asked me about country-of-origin labelling. But they asked me about none of those things, because they have no plan for regional Australia and nothing to offer regional people.
A senior New South Wales Liberal source has declared that Holly Hughes will not be standing aside, saying, 'We are not responsible for their administrative error; it's not our problem.' Does the minister agree with a New South Wales Nationals source who says, 'It will be civil war if they don't'?