Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator McKenzie. The Leader of the Nationals, Mr McCormack, has refused to commit the Nationals to putting One Nation last, stating a decision would be made 'closer to election day, when all the candidates are known'. In response to the most extremist positions articulated by One Nation, former Nationals leader Tim Fischer has called for One Nation to pay a price, declaring, 'I'd put them last.' Why is Mr McCormack refusing to demonstrate leadership by committing to put One Nation and extremist parties last?
Thank you for the question. For your information, Senator Chisholm, the National Party is a federated party. We've been saying this continually. We are a federated party, and that is matter for our state divisions.
Opposition senators interjecting—
State divisions will be making decisions on preferences once all candidates are known in seats, and that is entirely appropriate and is what we do each and every time. But I tell you what: we do make our preference decisions based on what is best for regional Australia. The Deputy Prime Minister has been clearly outlining the threat to the two industries that underpin our local economies in regional industry—that actually underpin our national economy—with 70 per cent of our exports: agriculture and mining. I can tell you that those industries, which employ millions of Australians, most of them out in regional Australia, are under threat from the Labor Party and their coalition partner, the Greens. So I would be saying to Bill Shorten: 'If you really back the coalminers of Rockhampton, of Dawson, of Flynn—if you really do—let them know where you stand on preferencing the party that wants them all to lose their jobs.' You just heard the Leader of the Greens stand up in this place and argue for the end of the coal industry, of the mining industry. If I were in the CFMEU, I'd be calling Bill Shorten today. I'd be standing up and saying: 'Do you know what? My members deserve to have prosperous, sustainable jobs in the regions as part of a strong, well-regulated mining sector, which has built this economy and built our regional communities.'
In an opinion piece published this morning, former Nationals senator Ron Boswell continued to argue for the Nationals to put One Nation at the bottom of their ticket, warning that failing to do so would be 'strengthening its position and weakening ours'. Is former Senator Boswell wrong?
I merely outlined the process our party undertakes to decide preferences. We do it year in, year out, election in, election out, and I'm confident that, with respect to your previous question, Tim Fischer will put One Nation last. I'm confident that a whole lot of regional Australians will make their own preferencing decisions, but they will take their own values, their own aspirations and their own views of what our parliament should look like when they're making the decisions about what is best for them, their communities and our local industries. And Ron Boswell: very rarely wrong.
Former Senator Boswell called on the Nationals:
Don't give it an inch. Give no quarter, win the ground and hold your nerve.
When will Mr McCormack finally show the strength of leadership respected and long-serving Nationals like Ron Boswell and Tim Fischer have demonstrated? Why won't Mr McCormack hold his nerve? Why is he so weak?
Again, we have the process. I've laid it out. You're trying to somehow conflate a preference deal with people in the National Party condoning racism, a behaviour we find reprehensible. MP and senator after MP and senator from the National Party have stood up against racism, and have stood up against intolerant, extremist behaviour and comments. But to actually then conflate that with preference decisions that are 'ho-hum, oh-so-boring, what we do every election'—we're not changing our process internally just because you can't actually come clean with who's on the bottom of your preference deals.
Senator O'Neill interjecting—
After what the Labor Party did and said in the New South Wales state election, it is reprehensible that your leader was filmed saying what they said and did a deal with the shooters— (Time expired)