Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Queensland Government

7:55 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

While it might seem a long time ago that we had the Queensland election—it was more than 2½ months ago—today we finally saw the first day of sittings of the newly elected Queensland parliament. I congratulate the Labor government on being re-elected. I particularly congratulate and celebrate the first elected Greens MP in the Queensland parliament, Michael Berkman, who is also the first member for the newly created electorate of Maiwar. I would say it's a particularly good thing to have a Greens MP in there, because there will be a very strong need to put progressive pressure on the Labor government on a whole range of issues, including their performance on the Queensland economy and their impact on the Queensland environment.

Certainly there are still ongoing concerns. I note that Senator Watt—a fellow Queensland senator—has just expressed his concerns about the problems and inadequacies of the proposed Adani Carmichael coalmine. It is very concerning that the Queensland government are still clearly very, very focused on expanding coal in Queensland. Regardless of when it is that the Adani Carmichael mine finally falls over, as it inevitably will, there is clearly still a very strong commitment from the Queensland Labor government to try to open up new coalmines elsewhere in Queensland—particularly the unopened Galilee Basin. We've still got people like Gina Rinehart, like Clive Palmer, and plenty of others waiting in the wings, looking for their chance to open up a new coalmine.

I'm also concerned that it seems that, apart from this fixation on coal, there is also a continuing push for casinos. This dual cargo cult mentality of a coal-casino-driven economy is one that the Greens are very concerned about. I'd like to mention evidence given to a Senate Economics References Committee inquiry that I was at in Cairns just a couple weeks ago. The evidence was given by the CEO of the NAIF—the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility—Ms Laurie Walker. A lot of the focus with regard to the NAIF is on whether they will or won't—or were going to or not—potentially help fund and loan money to Adani, or to some other company, for a rail line to open up the Galilee Basin. I'm going to put coal to one side for a minute, because I was particularly concerned by another piece of evidence given by the CEO of the NAIF to the Senate committee inquiry—indeed, in response to a question by Senator Watt. This was with regard to the so-called tourism hub in Cairns—the Global Tourism Hub, excuse me—which is basically just a front for another new casino. The head of the NAIF gave explicit evidence to the Senate committee inquiry, saying that the NAIF is collaborating with the Queensland government on that project. She said:

We think that's an incredibly exciting project.

It seems like the NAIF is already totally on board with this project. Indeed, the head of the NAIF then explicitly linked it, as does the Queensland government's own propaganda, with the Queen's Wharf casino development in Brisbane. The head of the NAIF, Ms Laurie Walker, said the casino proposal in the so-called tourism hub in Cairns is:

… a very innovative structure. It's mimicking what the Queensland government have done in Queen's Wharf in Brisbane, and there were some fantastic outcomes for the government in that.

I'm not sure what the 'fantastic outcomes' for the Queensland government were, but they certainly weren't fantastic outcomes for the people of Brisbane.

The outcome was 13 hectares of public land given over to private developers, including a very rare piece of open green space in Queens Park in the CBD that is now going to have a mall access way right through the middle of it. This is a park that, apart from being open space, has also been used for numerous political rallies and protests, including most notably some very large rallies with regard to marriage equality and climate change over the years. So we're seeing this alienation of public space, and we're seeing public land being given over to private developers. That is the common thread for what the state government is trying to do in Cairns, where we have 4.4 hectares of state-owned waterfront land in Cairns, in the Cityport precinct, potentially to be given over to and controlled by private developers who will put a casino at its heart.

Again, like Brisbane, we're having totally inadequate consultations. The only choice was between one casino proponent or another, with a four-week opportunity for minimal public input that was ignored anyway. We've had the same thing: a little pop-up consultation place in the shopping centre in Cairns over the Christmas period. This is a project that the NAIF should stay well away from, just as they should stay away from destructive coal projects.