Statements - Harper, Mr Robert Malcolm 'Bob', Queensland State Election


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:18): At the outset, I want to associate myself completely with the very moving tribute made by my colleague Senator O'Sullivan about Bob Harper, a very fine man who did so much so selflessly for the Liberal Party in Queensland and then the Liberal National Party for Brisbane and, indeed, for the state of Queensland. My condolences to Rhonda and his family. Unfortunately, Lesley and I were unable to make the funeral, but we were there in spirit with our many, many colleagues in the Liberal Party and Liberal National Party who did attend that celebration of Bob's life. Rest in peace, Bob Harper.

I did want to, in this opportunity today, say a few words about something I know Bob Harper would have been very interested in—that is, the recent Queensland election. The election is almost done and dusted. I understand, as I speak, the electoral officials are counting preferences in a number of very close seats. They are very close seats. It does seem that the Labor Party will be returned to government in Queensland for another three years, not four years, because the election was held before Christmas, despite promises made by the Premier that it wouldn't be. If it hadn't been held before Christmas, it would have been a four-year term for the next government. But, fortuitously, perhaps, it will only be three years that the state has to endure a continuation of the Labor Party government in Queensland.

I do congratulate all members who have been elected and I do also want to congratulate all people who offered themselves for election at the Queensland election. I particularly want to congratulate my local state member, Mr Dale Last, who, against overwhelming odds, was able to retain the seat of Burdekin, a redistributed seat now taking in the Bowen Basin coalfields, the mining towns of Moranbah and Middlemount—other Labor-voting areas. Dale was able to win in a very fine personal effort against the preferences, I have to say, of not only the Labor Party and the Greens but also the One Nation candidate, who was, I regret to say, formerly a member of the Liberal National Party in the state parliament for the electorate of Thuringowa. In spite of One Nation in that seat preferencing the Labor Party, Dale Last was able to achieve success in Burdekin. I congratulate him.

Similarly, I congratulate my friend Jason Costigan, who won the seat of Whitsunday, immediately adjacent to the south of the seat of Burdekin. Again, it was against overwhelming odds. It was a huge effort by the Labor Party, the unions and GetUp! and, regrettably, also by One Nation, who, again, preferenced against him. In the seat of Whitsunday, Jason Costigan had all the parties preferencing against him. Yet, because he is such a wonderful campaigner and such a wonderful representative of his people, and someone who knows everybody and can speak to everybody, he was able to overcome those odds and succeed.

Also, I want to specifically congratulate another friend of mine, David Crisafulli, who won a seat in the northern Gold Coast area. And he won it in great style, as I know David is capable of doing. He returns to the Queensland parliament now. I look forward to a successful future for him.

I have to say that I am so disappointed with the Katter political party and the One Nation party. For years, they had proclaimed their disdain for the Labor government and, yet, chose to give them preferences. In most of the seats in North Queensland, those preferences counted. Regrettably, although the counting is occurring as I speak, it seems unlikely that Andrew Cripps, the member for Hinchinbrook, will be able to retain his seat against a combined assault by Katter, One Nation, the Labor Party and Greens. Yet, it was Mr Cripps who, in the Newman government, led the charge to undo those land-clearing laws that were a disaster for rural holders in Queensland. I just cannot believe the number of farmers who voted for Katter and voted for One Nation, and preferenced the Labor Party against this man who did so much for them. He was the one who actually did something serious about water storage on the Flinders River, something Labor parties have talked about for ages but have never been game to do, because the Greens won't let them. Andrew Cripps actually put in place a scheme to harvest water from the Flinders River.

The election result isn't yet finalised, but over the last three or four years the main issues in the Townsville area have been lack of water, crime and lack of employment. I have to say, I think Tim Nicholls ran a wonderful and workman-like campaign with some excellent policies. He had solutions for all of those issues, yet it appears at this stage that the citizens of Townsville have chosen to return three Labor members, who have sat there for years doing absolutely nothing about water, about crime and about unemployment.

It's interesting that in Townsville, which so desperately needs Adani—and the public campaign for Adani has been so huge—the result in end is that the people of Townsville chose members from a party who, it seems, now oppose the Adani project. Again, it's the Labor Party dealing with big business and big unions, forgetting about small business and forgetting about people who have lost their jobs because of the mining downturn and who saw a lifeline with the Adani project. The people of Townsville have ignored that. I suspect that the state Labor government will now not support the Adani project. Nobody quite knows where they are on it, because they've had so many different positions. I point out that the Adani mine is in the electorate of Burdekin, which is my state electorate, and that electorate voted for a party that strongly supports the job creation prospects that Adani would bring.

The Liberal-National Party had a number of very good proposals for the north to address crime and to address water shortages. In fact, in many instances, they were following what the federal coalition has done in the Townsville region. We've provided money for feasibility studies for water projects. We can't actually do the water projects. As everyone knows, water, streams and rivers are the constitutional responsibility of state governments. The federal government has actively supported feasibility studies and encouraged the building of facilities like the Rookwood Weir, just to mention one. As well as that, we've promised money for the eastern rail corridor in Townsville and for the stadium. We've opened the CRC for northern Australia in Townsville. We've substantially contributed to Cowboys House, which is doing a wonderful job in Townsville. We've given a lot of money to Palm Island to help those people be able to help themselves. Above all, we've set up a $5 billion investment arm to encourage investment in northern Australia, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. I had hoped that our state governments might have been there to action and support the federal government's activities in the north. That doesn't appear, at this moment, to be the case. But the federal government will continue to support the north for the betterment of all northerners.

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