Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


Queensland: Senators

7:21 pm

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It has been nearly 2½ years since I joined this chamber, and what an incredible privilege it is to be a representative for my state: the great state of Queensland. But, as that time has gone on, we have seen some extraordinary periods. We have seen a pandemic like nothing seen before in this world. We have seen extraordinary changes to technology and opportunities for this nation, and we have also seen a debate around net zero emissions—something that we've had a great deal of conversation about previously.

But, as I've been here, the debate has become increasingly dysfunctional. I find it very distressing that I listen to senators talking about issues that are in no way related to the reality of the world that I live in in regional Australia. We have just had a response on the northern Australia agenda from the shadow northern Australia minister about the need for more jobs. I often hear Labor members and senators talking about wages going backwards, about how we don't need immigration and that immigrants are taking Australian jobs. Yet I wonder on what planet they've been living, because for the last 18 months we have seen roughly 300,000 people leave Australia as seasonal workers, students and other workforce. But regional Australia is desperate and the need is dire; business owners weep to me about the number of hours they're working to keep their business' doors open long enough to be able to pay the basic bills of insurance, rent and overheads. Yet we will still have Labor talking about creating Public Service jobs in northern Australia, as if that is some sort of solution.

I spoke again to a business owner tonight who will not be able to keep his business doors open more than four days a week because he doesn't have the staff to do that. So I'm reflecting tonight on my Senate colleagues who are up for re-election. The three of them—Senator James McGrath, Senator Matt Canavan and Senator Amanda Stoker—are going to form part of the future of this country. I've never felt more the urgency of having people in this place to support the delivery of the government's agenda. I've never felt more strongly the urgency to fill this chamber with a review of legislation that goes ahead but that, at the same time, allows Australians to believe that they can have a government that delivers on the practicality and the real issues that are facing them, that allows the government to implement its agenda as voted for by the people of Australia. We have enjoyed great success having six government senators from Queensland in this chamber, and the country is better for it. We have had a terrific economy, excellent trade deals and low unemployment, and it is only because of strong coalition support in the Senate that the country is in such good shape.

Inquiries are an important part of the function of government, and it helps make the lawmaking process fit for purpose. Importantly, inquiries also give a voice to marginalised groups who need their issues officially investigated. I reflect on the work that we have done in a number of inquiries in the Senate, and I'm very proud of the light that we've been able to shine on specific things like the Great Barrier Reef science, the dairy industry and Inland Rail, to mention just a few under the Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport.

I will be doing my utmost to ensure we return our three senators who are up for election. They have the runs on the board. They have helped steer Australia through a tumultuous time. They have ensured miners, farmers and working families in Queensland benefited from their representation. We need this experience back for the good work this government can continue.