Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020


COVID-19: Victoria

5:30 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I was growing up at Bli Bli, in Queensland, I remember the numberplates—we were 'Queensland: Sunshine State'. The Victorian numberplate, I think, was 'Victoria - Garden State'. I think now it is 'Victoria - The Education State'. But looking at recent events you'd think that Victoria probably needs to change their numberplates to 'Victoria - Where Freedom Goes to Die', or, 'Victoria - The Police State', or, 'Victoria: All Praise Chairman Dan'.

I'm a big supporter of the police in Queensland. I'm a big supporter of what our police officers and their families do to protect us. But you sort of have to ask yourself: what is going on in Victoria when a pregnant mother—someone who is pregnant!—is handcuffed by the police, not because she has committed a crime—she wasn't a bank robber or a hooligan—but because she did a Facebook post? This is the Australia we live in, where there are Labor premiers. In Victoria, this person—and I don't know this lady from Eve—can be arrested in her own home and put in handcuffs, for a Facebook post. Seriously? Is this what society is coming to—where the police are barging into people's homes and enforcing a code and then arresting people?

This is Victoria where, mere weeks ago, tens of thousands of people protested in the streets for Black Lives Matter. Now I'm someone who fundamentally and strongly believes in the power and the right and the might of freedom of speech, but I do know that through this current crisis we've had to give up some of our freedoms. But what seems to have happened in Victoria is that there are certain types of 'approved' freedoms. Yes, you're allowed to go and protest for Black Lives Matter, but if you want to have a different protest—for something the police and the Labor government don't approve of—well: 'No, no, no. Madam, come over here, please. We'll pop the handcuffs on you and throw you in the paddy wagon and pop you off to jail.' What is society coming to when that is what the police are doing in Victoria? Are we serious about this?

And then we go to Queensland, my home state, where the Labor government is using coronavirus as an alibi to cover up their poor economic record. Senator Murray Watt is very proud of the economic record in Queensland. He said, 'The proof is in the pudding'. Well, it's a pretty rotten pudding when you look at Queensland's economic record. We have the highest bankruptcies in Australia, the highest unemployment in Australia and the lowest level of business confidence. I would invite those Labor senators to go around regional Queensland and see the impacts of what Labor has been doing to the financial and economic system in Queensland. And shame on the Labor Party for that, because they're using coronavirus to cover up their dodgy financial and economic malpractice. But, even more shamefully, they're using border wars as a political issue. And people justify it. They say: 'Oh, it's very popular.' Well, just because something is popular doesn't mean it is right or good for you. It's like double-deep-fried chips with extra salt—you know, I love them. They're very popular, but not necessarily good for me. We need to make sure that, when it comes to these border wars, there is compassion and common sense.

I encourage people to watch the mayor of Moree in her interview on Sunrise this morning, where she took the lash to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk about the politics of the border wars. We need to make sure we stand up for all Australians and those who need help. Hospitals are for Australians; they're not for someone because they live on one side of the border and not the other. How dare we tell a pregnant mother, 'You cannot come to a Queensland hospital'! How dare we tell that mother, 'You have to wait for 16 hours and then you can go to Sydney and you will lose your child'! How dare we! Is that what our society has come to, that we use party politics and we lose lives over it? How dare you, Premier! Shame on you!