ABC Capricornia Breakfast

November 03, 2020



SUBJECTS: Queensland election; One Nation collapse; LNP preferences elect a Greens MP; Former LNP Premier “ashamed” of preference decision; lessons for Federal Labor; No Actual Infrastructure Fund. 

PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: Murray Watt is the ALP Queensland Senator. Well, one of them. Good morning to you.
CULLIVER: I'm very well, what did you make of Saturday's result?
WATT: Well, obviously, it was a very strong result for Annastacia Palaszczuk and her entire Queensland Labor team, including in Central Queensland. Some fantastic results there to people like Brittany Lauga, Barry O'Rourke, Glenn Butcher in Gladstone. Some really strong swings towards them, which is recognition of the hard work that they've been putting in over the last three years.

CULLIVER: I did note, I was very loyal watching the ABC coverage the entire night, but it ended slightly earlier than Sky News coverage, at which point I did jump over and discovered that that's where you were. What was it like for you to be part of that coverage and to see it unfold and be seated next to Alan Jones?
WATT: Well, you know, sitting one metre from Alan Jones on an election broadcast is probably something I didn't really expect to happen in my life. But life throws up some funny changes. Yeah, obviously, we began the night quite nervous about what was going to happen. We thought Labor was at quite a risk of losing a number of seats, particularly in North Queensland. But in fact, our margins have grown there. And clearly, one of the major things that went on over the weekend was the One Nation vote just collapsing. And pleasingly, a lot of that vote has actually gone back to Labor. Obviously, at the last federal election, particularly in seats like Capricornia, one of the most damaging things for Labor was the growth of the One Nation vote. If you have a look at the federal election results last year, the LNP primary vote didn't actually increase too much. But a lot of the Labor vote went to One Nation and then went on to the LNP via preferences. So that certainly gives us some hope approaching the next federal election that people have seen through One Nation. I think that she, Pauline Hanson, has really paid the price for betraying her voters. She was campaigning openly, over and over again, to open Queensland borders. She did a famous Sky News interview where she said that older people and sick people should just lock themselves away so the rest of us can get on with our lives. And it comes on top of her betraying working people over and over again when she goes to Canberra and votes with the LNP. So I think a lot of traditional Labor voters, who have been voting for One Nation, I think are starting to see through Pauline Hanson and can see that she doesn't have their interests at heart and have given Labor a vote of confidence. And it's our challenge now to hang onto that. 
CULLIVER: So, yeah, if that translates federally, that's one way of increasing your vote count and your first preference federally, if indeed One Nation votes also collapse federally. But I'm curious about what lessons you've learnt. I mean, given the focus on Queensland's role in the way the federal election went last year. A lot of talk about just how pro-resources the ALP painted themselves. Obviously, we had the Adani convoy and talk about the impact there. What are the lessons, do you think, for the ALP as opposed to whatever might be going on with the One Nation vote?
WATT: I think the key lesson for Labor is that when we have jobs and health at the centre of our agenda, we win in Queensland. By the end of this term of government, Labor will have held state government in Queensland for 30 of 35 years. That's a pretty incredible record. And one of the key reasons we've done that is that jobs, jobs, jobs has always been the message from Queensland Labor. Unfortunately, at the last federal election, we were positioned as being against jobs or not sufficiently supportive of jobs in Central Queensland, and we paid the price for that. I think that it's a really key message we've taken on board. I think Anthony Albanese, as our leader, has tried to shift Labor's focus to being more pro-jobs and talking about the opportunities in our traditional industries, but also in some of the newer industries, which can provide lots of jobs in places like Central Queensland in the future. I think the other really important thing on that point, though, as well,  is that the LNP's constant claims that Labor is in an alliance with the Greens and is a threat to Central Queensland have been blown apart by the LNP's preference decisions in South Brisbane, which has actually delivered another Greens MP to the Queensland Parliament. So Matt Canavan, Michelle Landry, George Christensen, they like to go around bashing up Labor about the Greens. The preference deal the LNP did with the Greens has actually delivered another Greens MP to the Queensland Parliament. So I think it's gonna be pretty hard for them to say that they don't like the Greens when they're actually responsible for increasing the number of Greens in the Queensland Parliament at this state election.
CULLIVER: Yeah, there was a lot of conjecture about that on election night and a lot of back and forth between Steven Miles and, I think, Senator Stoker, about this. What's the problem here? I mean, I understand that the LNP and ALP would prefer to get themselves elected. But when it comes to the Greens being voted in, isn't that just voter preference?
WATT: Well, I think people are obviously entitled to vote for who they want to, but this is the very first election where the LNP decided to preference the Greens over Labor in every single state seat in Queensland. Now, the LNP like to masquerade around Central Queensland as if they hate the Greens and don't stand for anything they want. I remember Matt Canavan's billboards in the campaign which were saying 'put Labor last', but they've got to take responsibility for their decision. I noticed today former National Party Premier of Queensland Rob Borbidge, an elder statesman of the LNP, has come out and said that he was ashamed of the decision of the LNP to preference the Greens. If the LNP had not preferenced the Greens in South Brisbane, the Greens would not have won that seat. And so the LNP are going to have to take responsibility for all the mad things that the Greens do in this parliament over the next four years.
CULLIVER: All right. Well, that's assuming that the Greens do, as you say, mad things. I mean, isn't it possible that you've got quite a legitimate member of parliament that could make a constructive contribution there?
WATT: Well, I'm really just quoting what the LNP always say. The LNP are always out there saying that the Greens destroy jobs, they're going to close down the coal industry, they're going to threaten farmers. And now they've actually done a preference deal which has actually elected another Green. So it's really on the LNP's head, and I think people like Matt Canavan really owe Central Queenslanders an explanation about why he supported a preference deal with the Greens, which has delivered another Greens MP to the Queensland Parliament.

CULLIVER: Well, I suppose time will tell what Amy McMahon does in in this parliament picking up that South Brisbane seat. Look, I did just want to mention that we are speaking to Queensland Senator with the ALP, Murray Watt. We are running out of time, but I do want to touch on the Senate Estimates happening at the moment. And you've been interrogating particularly the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility or the fund. What is this here?
WATT: Yeah, so the NAIF is a five billion dollar fund that was announced by this government and created five years ago. It was given five billion dollars to invest in projects in Northern Australia, which includes Central Queensland. And it was supposed to be about creating jobs, building projects, and here we are, five years after that fund was announced, where only about five per cent of the fund has actually been spent. So about five cents in every dollar that's been invested in that fund has actually been used and rolled out the door to help create jobs across Northern Australia. It's even worse in Queensland. In Queensland, there has only been ten million dollars spent from this five billion dollar fund over five years. Now, the NAIF has actually racked up three times that amount in admin costs. So they've spent three times as much on running their own organisation as they actually have on projects in Queensland. So I think this is another classic example of Scott Morrison only caring about making announcements, only caring about getting photo ops, because there's never any follow up. And unquestionably, Central Queensland is suffering from that.

CULLIVER: Is this the kind of fund where we you put a pot of money there, it matures, you can pay out of those dividends and therefore it keeps giving to Northern Australia?
WATT: No, the intention when this fund was established was that it would spend all of its five billion dollars over five years. We've now come to the end of that five years. And because it's been such a failure, the government has said we'll give it another five years to spend the same amount of money. I mean, we've worked out that at the current rate of spending, the NAIF will take 116 years to spend it's five billion dollar investment. That's just ridiculous. The NAIF CEO told Senate Estimates that the NAIF was "a patient lender". Sorry, but Central Queenslanders aren't patient enough to wait for 116 years to start seeing some of the benefit of this fund.
CULLIVER: All right, Senator, thanks for your time. And I do understand you're coming to Rocky later today.
WATT: Yep, heading up there today. Looking forward to being back up there.