Confidence Motion Speech
Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (1.26 am): As everyone else has—although I do so as the representative of a neighbouring electorate to yours—Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your elevation to the very high post of Speaker of the parliament. I also congratulate the Premier and her ministers on their elevation.
Of course, I wish to speak against the motion that is before the House tonight, because it implies that the election that was held on 31 January was normal in the sense that the electors of Queensland have embraced a new government with a suite of policy ideas to drive the state into the future. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This government really is a policy-free zone. This government has snuck into power. It said nothing. It never put its head above the parapet to make sure that it was engaging with the community. As a result, it was able to sneak into power. I do wish it well, because over the next three years this parliament will be on a knife edge. We all have to strap ourselves in for what is going to be a pretty exciting ride, assuming, of course, that the current arrangements last three years or something even close to that.
As the opposition leader has already mentioned in relation to this minority Labor government, this parliament is only a heartbeat away from a by-election and a possible change of government.I acknowledge the two members of the Katter’s Australian Party. I wish them the best in the pivotal role that they will play in the life of the 55th Parliament.
Confidence means that a person has a belief that another individual or group is up to a certain task; that they have the necessary ability, capacity, integrity and determination to do what is required of them competently. The dictionary defines confidence as ‘full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing’. My opinion of the Palaszczuk Labor government certainly does not fit that definition nor does it enjoy my confidence.
Labor was not even in power for about two minutes before it broke its first promise. During the campaign the Premier promised many times that she would not enter into an agreement with minor parties or Independents to form government. We can see how long that lasted. When the now Premier made that promise she probably thought it was a pretty safe bet that she would never really have to make that decision. When it came down to a choice between power and principle she went for power.
I do not believe that this Premier and her government have what is needed to address the challenges and to capitalise on the opportunities that face Queensland in the 21st century. During the election campaign Labor said as little as possible, it made itself a small target and it sought power without policies.
Confidence is something that you earn. The Palaszczuk administration did not do or say anything for three years in opposition or during the election campaign to earn anyone's confidence. This was reflected in the voting results where the LNP secured the greatest number of primary votes in 51 of the 89 electorates. Across the state only one in three people cast a primary vote for Labor, meaning two-thirds of people voted for someone other than Labor as their preferred government. In my own seat of Noosa, for a second time Labor ran a distant third behind the dysfunctional Greens party.
That is not a mandate. The Premier knows she sits in that seat today only by a stroke a good fortune and with the support of member for Nicklin. There is no reason why anyone should have confidence in this accidental Labor administration. It is a mixture of inexperience and recycled ministers from the Bligh and Beattie government which built up a debt approaching $80 billion and cost this state its AAA credit rating. That is not a record to be proud of nor one which should instil confidence in anyone about the capacity of this administration to give the state the direction and leadership it needs and deserves.
It was an LNP government that ended the slide into debt. We are now faced with a government that has no policy and, more importantly, has no will to tackle the debt crisis that will leave Queensland increasingly exposed in comparison to other states in the Commonwealth.
It was not only the economy that Labor could not be trusted with. In fact, their record showed they could not be trusted with anything much at all. They made a fuss about asset sales and leases during the election campaign, but in Queensland it was the Bligh government that was the trailblazer as far as asset sales are concerned.
Across the chamber we have a bevy of ministers from that government who were party to the deception and sat around the cabinet table and every time asset sales came up they said, `Not a problem; we will sell that.' They are still here. Now we have a minority government which claims to be against asset sales. But I wonder for how long.
The similarity between this administration and the Bligh asset sellers is too close for anyone to feel confident that the Labor election pledge opposing asset sales will stand the test of time. Already the Deputy Premier has tried to muddy the waters by claiming that there was some fine print attached to the categorical statement that a Labor government will not sell state assets.
Members may remember seeing the Premier on television night after night after night—see the way my hands are working—saying, `I will not sell your assets.' Now we are talking about doing exactly that. Even during the New South Wales election campaign we have seen past and current federal Labor leaders come out in recent weeks in support of asset sales, yet the Queensland version of Labor opposes it—apparently. That is why they found it politically expedient during the election campaign. It was not a well-considered, thought through strategy, just base political opportunism to win votes and curry favour with their Labor master.
Labor's whole election campaign was built around saying as little as possible hoping voters would feel sorry for them and hand them back a few seats. No-one, least of all the now Premier and her senior team, expected Labor to engender sufficient sympathy to actually win government. They are where they are now thanks to a sympathy or protest vote not because of any strategic or policy work that they did. They are the great political overachievers.
The focus of Labor's campaign was to increase their numbers sufficiently to mount a campaign for the next election. Their eyes were firmly on 2018 as their chance to return to power. They were as shocked as anyone when just sufficient Queenslanders voted for Labor and their bedmates, the Greens, to be able to form a minority government.
Once the shock settled and the union leaders had stopped rubbing their hands together with glee, with the increased political power they now have, the newly elected Premier had to begin retrofitting a transition to government strategy that did not exist. They had trouble convincing themselves that they were ready to govern let alone the people of Queensland. Already there is fear that a confused and incapable government will spread dysfunction and cripple the economy.
During the election campaign their aim was to make themselves the smallest possible target and hope no-one noticed. One significant policy they did announce—no asset sales—did not even last to the first sitting of this new parliament. The Deputy Premier was hardly in her office when she announced that no asset sales did not really mean no asset sales. It is a bit like core and non-core promises.
Another of the very few commitments Labor, under pressure from the unions, made was that it would establish a special fund to address the apparent longstanding historical issue of the need for compensation for wages stolen by Indigenous Queenslanders. Whereas opposing asset leasing was political opportunism, we heard tonight the Treasurer, whom I have a great deal of respect for, get up and espouse this policy which had been around for about 12 months. One of the unions was out there pushing this along and bang, presto, it is now policy.
It was the previous Labor government which the member for Inala was a part of which ended the stolen wages process. If Labor now believes that there are outstanding claims for stolen wages what an admission of its own failure to address the issue when in government. The now Treasurer was the minister in the previous Labor government before they shut down the process.
I say that in my three years as minister I found no evidence of it at all. It is just another example of Labor going back to the past because they have no plan for the future. Where will Labor get the promised $21 million to establish this vague new fund? Will they take it from the perpetual trust which was established from the excess funds allocated to the stolen wages process which is now used to provide scholarships for Indigenous students from remote Queensland communities to complete years 11 and 12 at high school? This year more than 1,200 young Indigenous people are at school, getting a good education because of that process.
I note that they have also started to undo many of the improvements made by the Newman government to the way cultural diversity is supported and promoted in Queensland. A media release last week announced that the annual cultural diversity awards have been pared back, which does not bode well for the other initiatives introduced during the past three years for people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
It was strategic when I looked at the new award categories. The first categories that went were awards and categories that belonged to people in regional Queensland. That was the first lot that went. The wording of the awards presented to the new minister was almost exactly the same as what was put in front of me before the election and I told the department to go back and try again. I am here to tell the minister that they are having her on.
A media release last week announced that annual cultural diversity awards had been pared back. Now that the former Labor minister for this area is now the Premier, the member for Inala might just be able to get enough support for the multicultural recognition bill that the minister mentioned in her speech before. It is interesting to have a look at that.
If we go back prior to 2012 we know that the Labor government was around for something like 14 years. For 14 years they had an opportunity to introduce such a bill. They did that. They did that towards the end of that term. They were so excited about doing something about it. It took them 14 years. But guess what? The election is called and the bill falls off the shelf. What happened in the last parliament? In the last parliament it resurrected itself as a private member’s bill. By the time—
Ms Fentiman interjected.
Mr ELMES: Well, guess what? We had already done anything worthwhile to do with that particular bill. We dealt with that in the appropriate way. Then when I was looking for just some skerrick of policy during the election campaign, guess what? There it is—it has popped up again. So that bill has come and gone over three parliaments and now we will have to deal with it in this particular one.
Ms Fentiman: I look forward to the debate.
Mr ELMES: I look forward to the debate too—I really, really do. It is also telling that one of their first official actions was to announce that the Labour Day public holiday would be moved back from October to early May. I was counting the days and there was not much announced. But they got to 45 days. The first big announcement was made after 45 days of being in government: 'We are going to move the holiday back to May.' That was government on the run. There was nothing about debt or education or health but the delivery of a core promise which shows just how in step they are with the union movement and how out of step they are with the rest of the Queensland community. That is what their union masters wanted and that is what they got.
While cabinet was considering the marginal issue of public holiday dates, it was ignoring the bigger issues of how to balance the budget when its thinking is constrained by 20th century economics. The people and businesses of Queensland deserve better than what they are getting from this state government. When the member for Inala gains the title of ‘former Premier Palaszczuk’, to be replaced by her ambitious deputy, the people and businesses of Queensland will be worse off. What the people of Queensland should be most worried about is not the absence of policies from this new government but the fact that its ministers are puppets whose strings are being pulled by union thugs and spivs from across the river.
Mr Speaker, I understand that you have indicated your support of confidence in the Palaszczuk government. That is your decision. For Queensland’s sake, I hope that your trust is well placed. It will be the people of Queensland and the good governance of our great state which will suffer if it is not. I oppose the motion.