Cunningham lobbies asset sales
MEMBER for Gladstone Liz Cunningham has called on the Prime Minister and Opposition to intervene in Queensland's asset sale plans.
Read the full Hansard transcript below:
Sale of Public Assets
Mrs CUNNINGHAM (Gladstone—Ind) (5.33 pm): I move—
That this House calls on the Prime Minister and the leader of the federal opposition to represent the 85 per cent of Queenslanders
opposed to the sale of Queensland state assets and intervene to prevent the proposed sale.
At the outset I have been challenged about the 85 per cent cited in my motion and the origins of
that figure. I have no wish to mislead this House: 85 per cent of Queenslanders opposed to the sale was
a figure used at a number of public rallies in my electorate and elsewhere by union representatives and
others in the media which I believe is accurate. Indeed, if I were to use figures from my own electorate
based on feedback to my office, the media and me, the figure would be closer to 95 per cent to 98 per
cent. I take no joy in moving a motion directly inviting the federal jurisdiction to become involved—to
interfere, if you like—in this state’s initiatives. However, this state government refuses to listen to the
wishes of the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders.
Initially the defence of the sale was the critical financial position the state faced as a result of not
only the global financial crisis but also the decisions made in Queensland prior to that time. Since then a
more positive financial situation is reflected and many in the community question the fundamental need
to dispose of the assets, and the more so given their opposition to the sale of these public assets built
and invested in over many decades by current residents and by their forebears. On 28 July 2010 in the
Australian Sean Parnell wrote—
The model being used by the Bligh government to sell off its coal rail business is anti-competitive.
It disadvantages mining companies and is likely to slash the state’s long-term royalty take, according to a Commonwealth
appraisal of the plan.
Mr Albanese’s briefing notes warn that the vertically integrated model would:
• Introduce a private sector monopoly and remove competition for above-rail services;
• Allow cost-shifting between rail operations, and internal competition for investment that could cause distortions;
• Result in higher costs for the resources sector and less revenue for government.
‘While the basis for the sale of an integrated entity would potentially provide the highest upfront payment for a seller and facilitate
a quick sale, it would be at the expense of a sound public policy outcome for competition and efficiency of the coal network in
Queensland and is likely to reduce Queensland government income from the resources sector over time ...
Further, on 23 March 2010 in the Courier-Mail an article states—
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan may be forced to resolve competition issues surrounding the Bligh Government’s planned
$7 billion sell-off of Queensland Rail.
He waded into the debate yesterday as Nick Greiner, the unofficial head of the powerful Queensland coal companies, along with
the company chiefs met Premier Anna Bligh at the Executive Building in Brisbane last night.
Mr Swan said the planned sell-off could raise competition issues he might have to resolve.
‘Well, there are issues here of competition policy and access regimes,’ he said in Canberra.
‘Depending on what occurs in Queensland, it may well be that I will become the final arbiter of the competition arrangements put
Mr Swan is the third senior minister to raise issues over the QR sell-off, in a sign the Rudd Government—
it was at the time—
might be trying to distance itself from the unpopular assets sales.
Residents in my electorate are vehemently opposed to the proposed sale. People in the state are
overwhelmingly opposed to privatisation of state assets. While federal intervention is not ideal, this
motion is driven by the fact that the Premier and Treasurer will not acknowledge, nor act on, the
community of Queensland’s clear message, whereas there is at least a hope that the Prime Minister and
federal opposition leader during the election period will understand and take heed of the messages from
residents in Queensland throughout the state on both sides of politics who are saying, ‘Don’t sell our
Queensland assets.’ They have been built up over a long period of time by the hard work and the
foresight of many in our community, and the disposal of those assets at this time is not in the long-term
interests of the state or of future generations. We call for federal intervention only because our requests
to the state decision makers have fallen on deaf ears, and we hope that the Prime Minister and federal
opposition leader at this time will listen and act to get the best result for the people of Queensland.
Mr MESSENGER (Burnett—Ind) (5.37 pm): What a magnificent motion that we have before the
House tonight. It is my absolute pleasure to second it. I congratulate my fellow Independent members of
parliament, especially the member for Gladstone, for putting this motion before the people’s house. The
Independent members of this place have listened to their constituents and put forward a timely,
important and relevant motion, unlike the 80 per cent of drivel which comes out of the mouths of the
mess which is supposed to be the LNP official opposition.
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It is a very proud moment to stand in this place to speak to an issue which 85 per cent of
Queenslanders, at least, feel passionate about. It is a very proud moment to stand before this
parliament and talk to an issue which helped me become an Independent. I am not going to sit back and
watch my state destroyed on the one hand by entrenched waste and corruption and on the other hand
by complacency, incompetence and lack of courage. If it were left up to the official opposition, if it were
left up to this government, this issue—this sensible solution to a huge problem before our state right
now—would not be before this place.
It is only the Independents of this place who have the guts to do the job we were elected to do and
initiate this debate. Both major political parties have failed the people of Queensland and there is no
hope of stopping the much hated and despised asset sales. There will be hope if the majority of
members of this House vote to support this motion because it will mean that we are fair dinkum about
finding a political and financial solution to the mess that we are in. If the federal government can
cooperate with this state government to build a more than billion dollar railway in Brisbane’s north, if the
federal government can pluck $700 million-plus out of the state’s coffers and if the state can line up and
pluck another $300 million-plus, then both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott can surely spend some time to
sit down with Anna Bligh and work out a plan to stop the sale of our state’s assets—which will see a net
gain of, at best, a couple of billion dollars.
Labor has lost control of our public finances, run the state into record debt, spent more than we
have earnt, misled the people of Queensland before the last state election and been forced to sell off our
state’s assets out of sheer incompetence. The LNP has comprehensively failed to hold Labor to account
and has failed to offer viable alternative solutions to proceeding with the sale of our state’s assets. That
is ultimately because the LNP is controlled by big business. The grassroots supporters have no say.
They have to resort to ringing my office and the member for Beaudesert’s office and the member for
Nicklin’s office and the member for Nanango’s office and the member for Maryborough’s office and the
member for Gladstone’s office and asking for us to offer some real opposition.
Big business buddies of the LNP are rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of getting a slice
of the bargains in the fire sale of our state assets. LNP members are making all the right noises about
stopping the sale of assets and they are taking out ads, but do you know what? In their heart, it is just
rhetoric. They would sell the assets just as quickly as Labor would.
The federal election is a great opportunity for Queenslanders to force both sides of federal politics
to come up with policies to stop the sale of state assets. Julia Gillard can prove that, unlike state Labor,
her federal brand of Labor can be trusted. Tony Abbott can prove that, unlike his state colleagues, he is
fair dinkum when it comes to keeping profitable assets in the hands of the people—the people who
bought the assets, the people who paid for the assets. Both Abbott and Gillard will have the power to
undo the damage that this government has caused and will cause. Whichever federal party comes up
with a solution to stop the Queensland sale of state assets will win the hearts, minds and votes of
In closing, I make this point: if LNP members vote with the Independents on this motion, then the
Leader of the Opposition must write to Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard asking them to intervene and help
stop the sale of state assets. If he does not, then it is proof that LNP members are not fair dinkum and
they may as well vote against this motion with Labor.
Hon. AM BLIGH (South Brisbane—ALP) (Premier and Minister for the Arts) (5.43 pm): The
government will not be supporting this motion. It reeks of hypocrisy, and I will go to that question a little
later in my contribution. In September 2008, the global economy went into free fall. Over the following
year, Queensland like jurisdictions and countries all around the world experienced the toughest
economic conditions in 75 years, and we were not alone. In the lead-up to the March election, what did
we do? We threw open the budget books for all to see. No other state in Australia did that. We released
an economic and fiscal update in February which showed the full effects of the global financial crisis on
our economy and on our budget. No other state did that.
What that update made abundantly clear, openly and transparently, was that we had to make
some very difficult choices. In fact, it was the reason I went to the election because it was clear that
whoever was going to govern Queensland in the wake of the global financial crisis would have tough
fiscal choices to make. I went to the election telling people that we would have to make some tough
decisions and they would not be easy. Every time I was asked what some of those choices might be, I
honestly answered that everything was on the table and I could not rule anything in or out.
We did have options. We could have cut jobs, we could have cut services and we could have
raised taxes. We did not. We promised to put jobs first above all else, and that is what we have delivered
and jobs are growing as a result. We promised to keep our building program, and we have done just
that. We promised to deliver skilling programs, and we have done just that. We promised to maintain
services, and we have done just that. We put the interests of Queenslanders and their jobs as our No. 1
What is clear is that our strategy is working. Because we took the tough decision that allowed us
the financial ability to keep our building program going, we are now starting to see the benefits and the
2442 Motion 04 Aug 2010
beginnings of an economic recovery—a budget this year that delivers higher growth, lower deficits,
lower debt and more jobs sooner. Our economic strategy is the most fundamental restructure of
Queensland’s fiscal position in decades. It will put Queensland on a more equal footing with other
states—states whose budgets are not constrained by the need to invest in commercial activities at the
expense of the social responsibilities of government.
What we have before us tonight is a motion moved by the member for Gladstone seeking to
appeal to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott on the issue that is before the House. What is the member for
Gladstone’s record on this issue? There might be people in this House who have forgotten but I have
not. Suncorp Metway was sold by the Borbidge government. How did that happen? Because the
member for Gladstone gave them her vote. It was the vote of the member for Gladstone that sold
Suncorp Metway. Without it, it could not have happened. It was the vote of the member for Gladstone.
Why? Because it was a Liberal National Party doing it.
When Labor under Peter Beattie came to the question of the TAB, was that supported by the
member for Gladstone? No. When Tony Abbott decided to sell the Australian National Rail, where was
the member for Gladstone? Silent. When Tony Abbott decided to sell Broadcast Australia, where was
the member for Gladstone? Silent. When he sold the National Rail Corporation and FreightCorp, where
was the member for Gladstone? Silent. So when the Liberal Party or National Party make these
decisions, whose backing do they have? The member for Gladstone. But when Labor has to face some
tough economic decisions, it becomes, ‘Oh, it’s terrible.’ She could never support it; she does not know
how it could have come to this. I have heard the member for Gladstone talk pompously about
dishonesty in the last state election. There was a dishonesty perpetrated. It was the inclusion of the
word ‘Independent’ on her how-to-vote card.
Hon. RE SCHWARTEN (Rockhampton—ALP) (Minister for Public Works and Information and
Communication Technology) (5.47 pm): I rise to take a similar line to the honourable the Premier, but I
would just point out to any of those thinking of supporting this motion that they could add on the bottom
of it, ‘If the feds give us $9 billion to run our health system in Queensland, then we’ll allow the coal
companies to put their borrowings on our debt,’ because that is effectively what they are asking us to do.
It is great to be an Independent because they have all care and no responsibility—in some cases,
no care either. The reality is that we have to make some tough decisions and we have said that all
along. Does the honourable member want us to put up fees and charges? No. Does the honourable
member want us to introduce new taxes? No. Do we want to increase the GST in this country?
Mrs Cunningham: No.
Mr SCHWARTEN: The honourable member says no. The list goes on. What if we were to sack
some public servants, like those opposite said they would do. Would the honourable member support
that? No, of course she would not. Would she want to give them a wage cut? Would she want to give the
police a wage cut? No, of course she would not. If the honourable member for Gladstone ran her
household like this and she ran into tough times, what would she do? I know what she would do. If she
had an asset put away for a rainy day, she would sell it. That is what she would do, like any responsible
person would do.
Let us talk about this asset that we are proposing to privatise. It is QR coal. What is the service
that it provides to the people of Queensland? Nothing—nothing whatsoever. When is the last time that
anybody in this room got on a coal truck and used it for a service? Never, ever.
Mr Messenger interjected.
Mr SCHWARTEN: It does not do that at all, you lunatic.
Mr SPEAKER: You will have to withdraw that.
Mr SCHWARTEN: I will withdraw it. Mr Speaker, he would drive you to despair with his madcap
chattering up there and his irrelevance. The reality is that the honourable member is supporting the
subsidisation by Queensland taxpayers of the coal industry of Queensland. But at what expense? At the
expense of building workers! He should go on to any of the building sites in Queensland, as I have
done, and say that we should not be borrowing money. The member for Gladstone can do the same
thing. They can go and look those blokes in the eye and say, ‘We’re going to stop the Capital Works
Program and put you out of a job.’ What do we say to the coal workers? ‘We will give you job security
that those in the building industry do not have.’ The last time I looked, the coal industry in Queensland
had a very bright future in terms of employing people. In the building industry there are 700 blokes down
on the Gold Coast queuing up with their hammer and nail bag looking for a job because they do not
have any work. What does the member want us to do? He wants us to keep on subsidising multinational
coal companies so that we do not build hospitals for sick people who cannot afford to pay their way out
of the pot.
That is what the member for Burnett stands for; that is what the member for Gladstone stands
for—not to borrow money, not to build infrastructure, but to keep structures that were set up in the 1960s
to subsidise the coal industry to come to Queensland. We do not need to subsidise the coal industry in
04 Aug 2010 Motion 2443
Queensland anymore. It can stand on its own two feet. The multinational companies that are making a
fortune out of it should be standing on their own two feet. They can afford to employ people and give
them secure jobs. Yes, they are my constituents. Those people would be amongst the best paid of my
constituents ever. However, I have to look after all sections of my community. The people in the building
industry are very dear to my heart. They are the people who are looking down the barrel of
unemployment. If it were not for this government taking the tough decision to borrow, to go into deficit, to
keep the building industry going, a lot of those people, including the constituents of the member for
Gladstone, would be unemployed and out on the dole queue.
Mr Messenger: Not even willing to talk to Julia.
Mr SCHWARTEN: I know you do not care about people who are unemployed but you should be
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The minister should direct his comments through the chair.
Mr SCHWARTEN: The member continues to shout inanities at me from the back, squawking his
irrelevance. He should be outside the parliament and in a place that is run by the Minister for Health.
The bottom line is that this is specious nonsense that we are hearing tonight from these people. They
want their cake and to eat it, too. They are irresponsible.
Mr Messenger: What about the union members put up on the outskirts of Rockhampton?
Mr SCHWARTEN: The member got chucked out of the National Party for his antics. He will get
chucked out of parliament at the next election—he should be. He stood as a fraud at the last election,
standing under the banner of the National Party and then he ran and hid up the back after he scabbed
on them. So he should not talk to me about workers. The fact is that we are not in the business of
subsidising multinational companies the way—
Mr Messenger interjected.
Mr SCHWARTEN: That gentleman up there needs some assistance. We are in the business of
Mr WELLINGTON (Nicklin—Ind) (5.52 pm): I rise to bring the debate back to the motion before
the House. I repeat for the benefit of members and Queenslanders who may be listening that the motion
That this House calls on the Prime Minister and the leader of the federal opposition to represent the 85 per cent of Queenslanders
opposed to the sale of Queensland’s state assets and intervene to prevent the proposed sale wherever possible.
Whether we like it or not, in my view, Queenslanders overwhelmingly do not believe that the
election held last year was an election on asset sales. I do not believe—and I maintain this
passionately—that the majority of Queenslanders went to the last election thinking they were voting on
the issue of asset sales in Queensland. The government may think it has a mandate but I do not believe
that Queenslanders overwhelmingly voted for this government on that basis. I say here quite clearly
tonight that I echo the mood of the motion and the sentiments of the member for Gladstone that
overwhelmingly the majority of people in our respective electorates around Queensland do not support
the proposed asset sales.
My electorate has many people from many backgrounds and they are very adamant that they do
not support the asset sales. Today at midday I attended a rally in front of Parliament House. People from
Queensland came here sharing their concerns with the government—their concerns about proposed
coal seam gas mining in Queensland. They were calling for a moratorium. During those discussions I
spoke with many parents and we spoke about other issues such as the asset sales. They said to me,
‘Peter, we only ever sell our cattle when our backs are to the wall or the bank is saying, “Sell something
or we will sell you up.”’ We have never heard the Treasurer or this government say that that was the
state of the finances in Queensland, where the banks are saying, ‘If you don’t sell, we will sell you up
and we will take that action.’
Our farmers and other Queenslanders have to manage their finances. We are calling on our
federal Prime Minister and the alternative Prime Minister of Australia to use whatever influence they
have to try to get this government to reconsider the decision. It is not too late for the Premier to
reconsider her continued strategy for the asset sale. We have time on our side. The former Premier,
Peter Beattie, was prepared to say, ‘Let’s have another look at a range of issues.’ He made a range of
decisions on which he changed his mind and the government’s mind. He was not criticised; he was not
crucified. Queenslanders rallied to him and said, ‘Yes, at least the Premier had a chance to reconsider
So I use this opportunity to call on this government to please reconsider its decision to proceed
with this asset sale. I use the opportunity to ask members of the Liberal National Party to use whatever
influence they have with their federal leader of the Liberal National Party—and they are in Queensland
today. The Prime Minister and the leader of the federal Liberal National Party are in Queensland today
2444 Motion 04 Aug 2010
trying to engage with Queenslanders. We have no better issue than what we are talking about now: the
issue of asset sales in Queensland.
As the member for Gladstone indicated, a number of ministers of the federal parliament have
spoken about this very issue of asset sales. We have had the federal Treasurer, Mr Wayne Swan; the
federal finance minister, Mr Lindsay Tanner; the federal minister for infrastructure, Mr Anthony
Albanese; and we have also had the federal minister for resources, Martin Ferguson—all having
something a say about this very important issue to all Queenslanders. So we use this opportunity as
Independents, who are not bound by any vested interest, who do not have silent people funding our
campaigns. We have no other interest than to protect and do the best we can for Queenslanders, no
matter where they live in Queensland. We are saying: will the Prime Minister and the leader of the
federal Liberal National Party continue to pursue this issue, as we have asked them to do? We ask the
Liberal Nationals in Queensland in our state parliament to also follow our lead and to take the matter up
with their respective party.
The state government will listen to the federal government. Look at what the federal minister for
the environment did. He stopped the Traveston Dam. The state government listened. Look at the leader
of the Greens, Bob Brown. He is out there in Queensland. The state government is listening. We also
have the federal minister for the environment calling in and asking for more information about the
proposed coal seam gas mines. On that issue, I table a letter that was tabled at this rally this morning for
all members of parliament. It is an open letter to our political leaders. I table that for the benefit of all
members to consider—other issues that Queenslanders are passionately concerned about.
I simply say to the government: all is not lost. You have time to reconsider. Please reconsider this
issue and hopefully the Liberal National Party in state parliament will support us on this issue.
Tabled paper: Copy of an open letter, dated 5 August 2010, to the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition titled ‘Our Land, Our
Water and Our Future are Under Threat’.
Mr FOLEY (Maryborough—Ind) (5.57 pm): What a PR nightmare the government is faced with at
the moment when 85 per cent of the kids on the block want to play rugby league, 14 per cent want to
play AFL and one per cent want to play ice hockey, except that global warming has melted the ice. You
know that you have a PR nightmare on your hands when you have a conga line in your office of
unionists, LNP voters and everybody else except the brown dog. In all the years I have been in this
parliament, I have never seen any issue that has so incensed the people of Queensland. It is right
across the board; it does not matter their political persuasion. Many times unionists have stopped me in
the street and said, ‘What the hell is this government doing selling off the family farm? We are so
passionately against it, yet we are just not being listened to.’
When this House ignores the wishes of the people, it brings democracy into a somewhat parlous
state. Politically, I believe that it does so at its own peril. Selling off publicly owned assets is Liberal Party
policy, not Labor Party. Let me say it again: selling off publicly owned assets against the wishes of
85 per cent of Queenslanders is Liberal Party policy, not Labor Party policy. Frankly, I am very surprised
and disappointed that this is a move that the Labor Party has taken, much to the chagrin of its rank-andfile
The key to this is that selling off publicly owned assets—assets that are owned by the people of
Queensland for the people of Queensland, assets that generate income and will generate income for a
long time to come—is a very short-term decision. If we sell off the very thing we have that will generate
income, then we will not be able to earn income from those publicly owned assets in an ongoing sense.
The last thing in the world farmers want to do is sell off a tractor, machinery or anything else because
they know that they need them to actually generate income. If we have a state that becomes utterly
privatised—and I say again that it is Liberal Party policy, not Labor Party policy—then we will end up
owning nothing and renting everything and we will have very unhappy campers. We need to stop the
waste rather than going out and selling off assets.
I have a story from a principal from one of the very small schools in my electorate, and I will not
mention the name of the school. I went out there to hand out some leadership badges. I had a fantastic
time at the school. As I was leaving I said to the principal, ‘As the principal of a small country school,
what is your greatest challenge?’ He looked at me and said, ‘How to spend about $900,000—nearly
a million dollars. We have to spend it on assets that you can hang a plaque on when what we really
need is teachers.’ He basically said straight out that they do not need the money but obviously they are
going to take it. I do not blame schools at all for doing that. I have been to a number of schools in my
electorate. I went out to the school at Howard with Senator John Hogg. I am there with the schools. I am
very happy that they have those good facilities. But when they have facilities that are being delivered at
ridiculous prices, then that is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
On TV today we find that specialists are threatening to walk out of Queensland Health facilities
over not being paid. What we have is nurses, doctors and allied health staff not being paid properly by
Queensland Health. We have had money wasted on the insulation debacle and a number of other
initiatives of the federal government.
04 Aug 2010 Motion 2445
An honourable member interjected.
Mr FOLEY: Absolutely, but it is the same taxpayer dollars whether we are talking about federal or
state initiatives. I do not think we can sit back and say, ‘That is federal so it does not count.’ In summary,
this is a profoundly unpopular move which is not supported by the electorate that, at the end of the day,
owns the assets of Queensland.
Hon. CR DICK (Greenslopes—ALP) (Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations)
(6.02 pm): I oppose the motion before the House. By calling on the members of the Commonwealth
parliament to intervene in the sovereign affairs of Queensland, this motion, if passed, would necessarily
diminish all of us and the Queenslanders who put us here in the first place. It draws the necessary
inference that those proposing this motion have no faith in this parliament and no relevance in its
It is for Queenslanders to make decisions about Queensland. If members of this place genuinely
believe in a federation and the authority and integrity of this state parliament then this is the democratic
chamber, this is the democratic body that we should all respect as having the power to make democratic
decisions for Queenslanders—whether as individual members of parliament we ultimately agree with
those collective decisions or not. It was a decision of this parliament by passing authorising legislation
that authorised the government’s actions.
The framers of our Constitution, including very distinguished Queenslanders, settled upon a
federal model of governance for our nation for very good and sound reasons—as sound and as valid
today as they were more than a century ago when our federal Constitution was given life by our nation,
including Queenslanders. We would do a great disservice to ourselves and irrevocably diminish
ourselves as MPs, our state’s democratic institutions and our state as a whole—as well as those
Queenslanders who believe in a federal system of government—if we were to support this motion.
Others who have spoken in this debate tonight have spoken in detail about the tough decisions
made by the Bligh government to renew Queensland—decisions the government needed to take in the
best interests of all Queenslanders, decisions which were made in this chamber by Queenslanders for
Queenslanders. Labor believes in the dignity of work, and laws made in this place continue to support
our working Queenslanders and working families across the state.
The way Labor governments have delivered dignity at work is through fair workplace laws and
arrangements. That is why we will provide award based workers employed with Forestry Plantations
Queensland with three years of employment security as part of the conditions of sale. We are also
negotiating similar protections for employees in the Port of Queensland, Queensland Motorways Ltd
and QR National. These are protections made by and for Queenslanders. But, above all, it is through
fair and just workplace laws that Queenslanders—Australians—are provided with fairness and dignity at
If motions like this are moved in this place then members like the member for Gladstone and
those who might support her should be calling on this parliament to stop the return of Work Choices,
because it will be workers in places like Gladstone and other places throughout Queensland who will be
forever harmed and damaged by Work Choices.
Let us look at what Tony Abbott—the person called on to do something and intervene in
Queensland affairs—said about Work Choices. On 19 March 2008 he stated—
The Howard Government’s industrial legislation, it was good for wages, it was good for jobs, and it was good for workers. And let’s
never forget that.
In the House of Representatives on 13 August 2009 he stated—
Let me begin my contribution to this debate by reminding members that workplace reform was one of the greatest achievements
of the Howard government.
On 12 February 2010 in a speech to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry—just this
year; just a few months ago—he stated—
You know, at four elections running we had a mandate to take the unfair dismissal monkey off the back of small business and we
will once more seek that mandate ... At four elections running we had a mandate to introduce strategy non-union contracts and we
will seek to renew that mandate.
That is what he said a few months ago—we will seek to renew that mandate. The grand-daddy of them
all is what he wrote in Battlelines. On page 87 he stated—
WorkChoices was a political mistake, but it may not have been an economic one.
We know it is true. We know it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the gospel truth
according to Tony Abbott because he wrote it down. He said publicly, ‘You can’t believe what I say but if
I read something out it is true.’ He wrote that a year ago. He wrote it when he never thought he would be
the leader of the federal Liberal Party, when he never thought he would be the alternative Prime
Minister. He wrote it down so we know it is true.
In conclusion, if members of this House call on Tony Abbott to intervene on this issue, they had
better be ready for him to intervene on all sorts of matters affecting our state, including workplace laws,
2446 Motion 04 Aug 2010
in future, that will damage and harm Queensland families. If members of this Queensland parliament
support motions like this they will forever condemn themselves to impotence and irrelevance as
members of the state legislature.
Labor opposes Work Choices. We always have. We always will. We do not have to put a threeyear
time limit on it. Three, 13, 33 years—we will always oppose Work Choices. We stand for dignity at
work because dignity at work means dignity in life. Dignity at work is the bedrock of happy families and
productive communities. Dignity at work is what Labor has always stood for and what we will always
stand for in the future. This motion is wrong, it is wrongheaded and it must be opposed.
Mr McLINDON (Beaudesert—Ind) (6.07 pm): I will return to the motion. My grandfather Bernard
spent 21 years in railway construction in Newport, Victoria. I proudly marched on Labour Day in his
great honour and for the work he had done to help every single one of us in this chamber. For 150 years
Queensland has survived and built this infrastructure. What has this government done? It has blatantly
turned a blind eye to the wishes of the majority of Queenslanders. It has taken less than 18 months for
this Premier to put at risk 150 years of blood, sweat and toil to get this great state on track.
What did we hear from the member for Rockhampton? He had the absolute audacity to attack the
Independents who have the guts to come in here and step away from the wolves and have the
backbone to stand up for that 85 per cent of Queenslanders. No major party in this great state is willing
to make the tough decisions. When it comes to health matters the government picks up the phone and
calls Kev and says, ‘Oh, Kev, we need the money.’ When it comes to other state issues where it suits the
government, it picks up the phone. It is rejecting a very simple motion. If those 85 per cent of
Queenslanders were watching this right now, they would see the absolute insanity of this government.
I look forward, when a division is called on this motion, to seeing every single member of the LNP
sitting proudly in their seats and sending a letter to Tony Abbott tomorrow, because in 17 days
Queenslanders will have a choice. We all know that Queensland is the battlefield when it comes to the
federal election. I understand that this motion is going to hurt both sides of the parliament. This is exactly
why a new party is needed in Queensland. The Queensland Party will lobby the federal government to
have it enshrined in legislation, because the cost of living will continue to go up.
I challenge the member for Rockhampton to have a debate with me in Rockhampton city and then
see what his community thinks. I challenge any member on any side to debate this motion in their
communities in public. They know that they will not be able to defend it. We know where the LNP stands
on it and we know where the ALP stands on it. There are 30 federal seats in Queensland and 16 of them
are held below a margin of five per cent. Either Gillard or Abbott have a clear-cut decision to make.
What services are they going to cut for the $300 million that the Premier plucked out of her hat a
couple of days ago? The members opposite know that, with every single asset that is sold one by one,
the cost of living goes up. That is the blind reality. The other reality is that it is going to set a very
dangerous precedent in this state. The other $260 billion worth of Queensland’s assets are vulnerable.
As they are sold one by one, not only is Queensland getting privatised but also this very chamber is
getting privatised by big business on both the ALP side and the LNP side. Not only do they have hidden
agendas but also they weave their own web. They can no longer speak up for Queenslanders.
This is why we need an upper house. This is why we need a third major party. The members who
proudly sit on the left and the right of me now are the only ones who have the guts in this chamber to,
without fear or favour, represent each and every single Queenslander in this great state. We have buried
ourselves in debt. We are making short-sighted decisions.
Only a few weeks ago in answer to a question without notice the Premier said that of course
Queensland Rail revenue will go up, because we are getting a 60 per cent return for a 40 per cent
expenditure. We need to look at the books and stop making short-sighted decisions. Why would you pay
off the credit cards to sell the house? What is the problem with this government? What is the problem
with the LNP? We have complacency on one side and we have incompetence on the other.
In 17 days Queenslanders will have a choice and, for whoever moves first out of Abbott and
Gillard, the race is on for those vulnerable seats that are held under a margin of five per cent. Who is
going to stick up for the 85 per cent of Queenslanders? I look forward to a letter being sent from the LNP
tomorrow to Tony Abbott saying, ‘Yes, these asset sales need federal intervention, like every other state
issue.’ Pick and choose. This is the most important issue facing Queenslanders. The cost of living is
going up. It is hurting Queensland. This is what will justify an upper house. It would never have got in
I believe now that we have a very clear choice when it comes to the division tonight. I will be
telling every single Queenslander between now and the state election exactly how every member voted.
Hon. RG NOLAN (Ipswich—ALP) (Minister for Transport) (6.12 pm): I oppose the motion moved
by the member for Gladstone—a member who can come in here and tell us all that she is diligently
representing the voice of her constituents but a member who, by very definition as an Independent, is all
care and no responsibility in this place. I am the member for Ipswich, the birthplace of Queensland Rail.
Whether we accept the 85 per cent result in a union funded poll or not, I know that these asset sales, for
04 Aug 2010 Motion 2447
which I carry a high degree of ministerial responsibility, are not that popular. I also know that they are
100 per cent right.
In the main game of politics, where we either shoulder the responsibility of government or we
seek to, we have some serious obligations to the people of Queensland. In the main game, we have an
obligation to meet the challenge of sustainability, we have an obligation to provide social services, we
have an obligation to provide the infrastructure that makes our regional economies viable and the
infrastructure that makes our cities liveable and we have an obligation on behalf of the people to
manage the state’s finances well. They are the obligations that this program of asset sales meets. With
this asset sales program, we are selling commercial enterprises—100 per cent profit-making
businesses that in any mature economy throughout the world would be run by the private sector—and
the funds are going into infrastructure to support the state’s future: into schools, into hospitals and into
I do not support the member for Gladstone’s motion, but I have no problem at all with her seeking
to make some of these things national issues. Why is it that this state has to have this debate?
Queensland is Australia’s growth state and, largely through natural population growth—through people
having babies—and through interstate migration there are more people living here each year. As is very
well known, the state government has a massive infrastructure program to support that growth. In 12
years in power the former Liberal government did nothing to assist us to build that infrastructure to meet
that growth. In 12 years, while the former Liberal government collected $16 billion a year in fuel excise,
that federal Liberal government put nothing into public transport at all.
In 2½ years federal Labor has funded the Gold Coast Rapid Transit, it is the major funder of the
Cross-River Rail study and now it has committed $700 million to Redcliffe rail. But where do the federal
Liberals stand on those matters of critical public transport infrastructure that this state needs? As we
well know, Tony Abbott says in writing—so it must be the gospel truth and we should believe him—that
transport is a state responsibility and the federal government should no more have to fund it than the
states should have to buy tanks for the Army. So we know that the federal Liberal Party does not believe
that it should fund the public transport infrastructure that we need. This government is doing it and it will
be doing it in part with the proceeds of these sales.
I well understand that there is concern around asset sales, but I also understand that they are
necessary to fund infrastructure for sustainable growth—for the state’s future, for schools, for hospitals,
for public transport. If the member for Gladstone wants to make a useful contribution for the people of
Queensland in this federal campaign, she would be well served to ask the federal LNP why it is that it
continues to believe that it should collect $16 billion a year in fuel excise at a federal level and give
nothing to the states for public transport.
Mrs PRATT (Nanango—Ind) (6.17 pm): At the outset, I have to say that I agree with the Attorney-
General on one point that he made in his speech. He said that this is about Queenslanders making a
decision for Queensland. The fact is that their decision has been made. Eighty-five per cent of
Queenslanders do not want the asset sales to proceed. I have seen quite a disgraceful attack on
individuals in this chamber tonight. I was always taught that when people resort to personal attacks, it
shows that they have no real argument to put forward. That has been shown pretty well here today. The
government knows that there is an issue out there. People are very upset about the asset sales.
I can also agree with the Premier when she said that the financial position in 2008 was indeed a
fairly dire one. But we have economists and many others who are well aware of the financial position of
Queensland who have stated quite openly that the need for the sale of assets is no longer there. The
situation that existed in 2008 has changed and the need to sell the assets in 2010 no longer exists.
One only has to look at the people who are opposed to the asset sales. It is not just people from
country electorates, it is not just people who support independents; it is people who support the LNP
and Labor. At the recent 2010 Labour Day March there were unionists who showed quite strongly their
opposition to asset sales. In an article in response to the comment ‘if you don’t support the sale then
don’t support Labor’, the Queensland Council of Unions Assistant Secretary Amanda Richards said that
unions would always support the ALP despite the dispute. However, the unions directly affected by the
asset sales have suspended their donations to the ALP until after the next election. They are doing it
with their dollars. They are very unhappy about it. They state in the article—
We have made no donations to the ALP since the asset sell off was announced. We will not support ALP members at the next
election who support the asset sales.
We will see what happens in the future. I expect that many Labor members are quite concerned.
Do not think that it is not a real situation. It is very, very real. The union members chanted in the Labour
Day March, ‘Queensland’s not for sale! Queensland’s not for sale!’ One can go to any website and look
at the comments following any article in any media—and there are hundreds and hundreds of them; I
have a lot here if anyone wants them—and not find a positive one amongst them. It was reported on 7
July 2010 in the Courier-Mail—
A Galaxy Poll conducted exclusively for the Courier-Mail has revealed Queenslanders are seething about the Premier’s
performance and overwhelmingly opposed to the asset sales.
2448 Motion 04 Aug 2010
It goes on to say—
But Premier Bligh shrugged off the poll results this morning.
That shows how little she cares for what the people of Queensland think. At least Beattie had the
intestinal fortitude to recognise when the government had made an error of judgement and the intestinal
fortitude to take an alternative position. I never thought that I would say that I missed him but I do.
The LNP has to state here and now where it stands on this issue. Recent legislation was put
forward in this House to facilitate the sale of assets, to divide those parts off that were to be sold. Almost
all LNP members stated openly in this chamber that they were supportive of the bill. Some even said
they commended the bill to the House. But when the Independents called a division they back-pedalled
and voted with the Independents. Tonight they have to decide where they want to stand. Will they say to
Queenslanders that they support the government in this particular sale? Will they stand up for
Queenslanders who believe that you do not sell the cow, you sell the milk? I find it absolutely
astonishing that people sit on the fence. Tonight is not the time. Take your sides, boys, because the
election is coming.
Hon. AP FRASER (Mount Coot-tha—ALP) (Treasurer and Minister for Employment and
Economic Development) (6.22 pm): I rise to oppose the motion put forward by the member for
Gladstone in this House tonight. How typically benign of the Independents in this place; that those who
have put themselves forward as defenders of democracy, as crusaders for the community, should come
in here on a Wednesday with the opportunity they have to prosecute an argument and seek to subjugate
this parliament and this state for a brief moment of media play. The defenders of democracy and
crusaders of the community should stand up for the rights of Queenslanders and the right to selfdetermination,
not seek for political purposes to subjugate this parliament to the federal parliament
because of their own particular whims.
The reality, of course, as the Premier so deliberately noted, is that this parliament has a motion
before it being promoted in one of the more stunning acts of hypocrisy that this parliament has ever
seen. The promoter of this motion is the only Independent in this parliament who on one occasion had
the vote that could have made the difference between an asset being sold or not. On that occasion,
when the 45th vote was required, where was the 45th vote coming from? It was from the author of this
motion here tonight. What did the member for Gladstone do then? And what did she say tonight? The
track record is clear.
The member for Gladstone quoted extensively from a briefing note from a federal bureaucrat.
Just because it is written in a federal briefing note by a bureaucrat does not make it right. When they
wrote all those briefing notes in support of WorkChoices and attacking working class people, that did not
make it right. The member for Gladstone might not agree with that because when it was the Liberal and
National Party attacking workers’ rights in this parliament of course the 45th vote was required and
where did it come from? From exactly the same chair in this parliament. Look not only at what the
person says but the way in which they vote. She voted against the rights of working people. She has a
Mr Messenger interjected.
Mr FRASER: The last person who can talk about electoral mandates is the person sitting up the
back interjecting at the moment. He should actually hold his tongue until the next election. The reality is
that what we have here is a play for an intervention by Tony Abbott. Is Tony Abbott—putative prime
minister Tony Abbott—about to ride into town? No, he is not. Why? Because we already know where he
stands. Last month on ABC Radio he was asked by the compere—
The big issue here in Queensland on a state level is the privatisation of state assets—do you support that?
Answer by T Abbott on 8 July—it is written down here so it has probably got a fair chance of being
In principle, yes.
If members ever had a doubt about him believing this, wind back a couple of years because he is
quoted on 3 April 2006 talking about Medibank Private, which he now proposes to sell. Look at not what
he has done but at what he proposes to do should he be Prime Minister, and that is to continue the
privatisation program. Why do we know that he is going to privatise Medibank Private? Not because he
said that he would this time but way back in 2006 he said—
The government, obviously, is instinctively in favour of privatisation.
We think that in the end, it’s competition which creates better services, not government ownership.
So at the passing of this motion, on the Independent’s whim they will send a letter off to Tony
Abbott but do not waste your time because you know where he stands. He stands four square corners in
favour of privatisation because he instinctively believes in it. He was at the cabinet table when he voted
for the sell of rail assets and when he voted for the sale of airports. He is taking a privatisation agenda to
the federal election in looking to sell Medibank Private. We know that the Liberal National Party
instinctively believes in privatisation because it always has. Tony Abbott describes himself as a John
04 Aug 2010 Criminal Code (Serious Assaults on Police & Part. Or Persons) A’ment Bill 2449
Howard acolyte. We know that John Howard turned up here and told them all to stand up for the
privatisation that they truly believe in. We know that Mal Brough has said that they truly believe in
privatisation. We know that they are on the record supporting privatisation in this parliament. We know
that they are just pretending not to have a privatisation agenda. We know that Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott
and all the Liberal National Party members support privatisation.
The Independents only ever have all care and no responsibility. Those of us who have to do the
right thing and make the decisions know that we are doing the right thing in the long-term interests of
Queensland. I oppose the motion.
Division: Question put—That the motion be agreed to.
AYES, 35—Bates, Bleijie, Crandon, Cripps, Cunningham, Davis, Dempsey, Douglas, Dowling, Elmes, Emerson, Flegg, Foley,
Gibson, Hobbs, Hopper, Horan, Johnson, Knuth, Langbroek, McArdle, Malone, Messenger, Nicholls, Powell, Rickuss, Robinson,
Seeney, Sorensen, Springborg, Stevens, Stuckey, Wellington. Tellers: McLindon, Pratt
NOES, 50—Attwood, Bligh, Boyle, Choi, Croft, Darling, Dick, Farmer, Finn, Fraser, Grace, Hinchliffe, Hoolihan, Jarratt, Johnstone,
Jones, Kiernan, Kilburn, Lawlor, Lucas, Male, Miller, Moorhead, Mulherin, Nelson-Carr, Nolan, O’Brien, O’Neill, Palaszczuk,
Reeves, Roberts, Robertson, Ryan, Schwarten, Scott, Shine, Smith, Spence, Stone, Struthers, Sullivan, van Litsenburg, Wallace,
Watt, Wells, Wendt, Wettenhall, Wilson. Tellers: Keech, Pitt
Resolved in the negative.