Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Statements by Senators
Queensland State Election
Senator Watt, hubris is a dangerous thing. I want to further my earlier remarks: at the outset, I note that the member for Bundaberg, Mr David Batt, did lose his seat and was unsuccessful in his effort for re-election, and I also note that Mr Marty Hunt was unsuccessful in his efforts to seek re-election to the seat of Nicklin. I want to say to both of those gentlemen that my thoughts are with them. I thought they were both outstanding local members. I spent some time with David in Bundaberg earlier this year and saw firsthand the concern that he had for his community in relation to issues such as the Paradise Dam. I also attended a function with David where he hosted local school captains at an annual function he convened, and, again, it was an absolute delight to watch that engagement between David and those school students. My heartfelt best wishes go to you, David, and also to Marty Hunt. I think it's a measure of Marty as a person that no-one could have been more gracious in terms of how he handled the situation after he lost his seat. Politics can be an extremely cruel game. I think both David and Marty represent the best of community-minded people seeking to represent their electorates to the best of their efforts, and I pay tribute to them both.
Secondly, I'd like to offer my congratulations to Mr David Crisafulli, a very good friend of mine, who has become the state Leader of the Opposition. David is the son of canefarmers. I've met David's parents and they're extremely decent people, and, in David's case, the apple has not fallen far from the tree. I think he might have been the youngest councillor on the Townsville City Council, and he progressed to become Deputy Mayor of Townsville, before being elected to the state seat of Mundingburra in Townsville. I first really came across David one night when I was listening to the radio while driving home, and I heard him give maybe his first interview as local government minister. I was immediately impressed by how thoughtful and considered he was in the course of that interview. From that moment on, in my own mind, I tagged him as someone who I thought would go on to even greater things. And such is the case, as he has now been elevated to the position of state opposition leader. I was fortunate enough to attend one of his first events as state opposition leader, a Diwali festival celebration at Brisbane City Hall. The Australian Indian community was highly impressed by the contribution that he made that evening. I think David will do a fantastic job in leading the LNP to the 2024 state election.
Our state deputy opposition leader is another David, Mr David Janetzki. David grew up in a small town called Acland as the son of dairy farmers, and his first job was milking cows. He rose from those beginnings to be General Counsel of what was then the Heritage Building Society, based in Toowoomba, which is the context in which I first came across him, when I was a company secretary and general counsel in a former life. He immediately struck me, in that capacity, as being someone who was considered, reasoned and deliberate, and someone you should take very, very seriously. One of the standout features of David is the way in which he's brought together his community in Toowoomba South. It's become quite a multicultural community. Many people have come to Toowoomba. Some of them have refugee backgrounds. David has done an absolutely sterling job of knitting his community together in terms of promoting social inclusion and making sure that everyone feels part of his community. So I think he will make an outstanding deputy state opposition leader.
I also congratulate all those members who've become part of the shadow opposition team. I'm really pleased that Deb Frecklington—who, of course, was the opposition leader at the time of the last state election—has been appointed opposition spokesperson with respect to water, dams and regional development. One of the great visionary concepts to emerge from the last state election was Deb's vision in relation to the New Bradfield Scheme. That was inspired by two great Queensland public servants of Queensland's past: Sir Leo Hielscher and Sir Frank Moore. I'm really pleased that Deb has the opportunity to continue working on that vision.
Lastly, Tim Mander—the deputy state opposition leader going into the last state election and, famously, a former referee of great renown—has been given the portfolio in opposition of housing and public works. Tim did an absolutely fantastic job in that portfolio as a minister in Campbell Newman's government. I say to all of the members of the opposition team: you have my support, you have my friendship and I look forward to working with each and every one of you over the next four years.
The gravity of the task ahead of them in the next four years was underlined by the Queensland state budget which was announced yesterday. Queensland was the last state in the country to release a budget in 2020. Of course, we Queenslanders were concerned about that, because we thought, 'Gee, there's got to be a reason why they're not prepared to release a budget before the state election.' It wasn't going to be good. It couldn't be a good reason. And, sure enough, the proof is in the pudding. Whilst during the election campaign the Labor Party continually told Queenslanders that they would borrow $4 billion to pay for their election commitments, we now see, revealed on Tuesday, that the Queensland government borrowings will be seven times that amount. Not $4 billion, not $8 billion, not $12 billion—but $28 billion across the next four years.
Operating deficits over the next four years will only equate to $16.8 billion, and yet Labor will rack up an additional $28 billion in state borrowings. Before the election, Labor told Queenslanders that debt would go to $106 billion. And then, just four weeks after the election, the Queensland government announced debt would go up to $130 billion. That's an extra $24 billion in just four weeks after the state election. It's $6 billion a week extra. Before the election, Labor told Queenslanders that they were borrowing to protect jobs. And yet, despite racking up the biggest debt in state history, unemployment is forecast to still be the worst in the nation in four years time.
We know that Labor and the Treasurer, the Hon. Cameron Dick, compared Queensland's debt with New South Wales and Victoria. It's not as bad; it's not as bad as New South Wales and Victoria. But, of course, what he forgets to mention, or deliberately does not mention, is the fact that Queensland only has, say, two-thirds or three-quarters of the economy of New South Wales and Victoria. On a per capita basis, the Queensland government debt is extraordinarily bad.
To get out of this situation, what Queensland needs is economic growth, private sector development, jobs and activity. We need to grow our way out of this debt situation. What Queensland needs is a slowing of the rate of increase in the bureaucracy—the number of public servants. What Queensland needs is a vision to provide every single Queenslander, wherever they live—whether they live in Brisbane or in the great northern part of our state or in Western Queensland—have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.