Palmer United Party Motion

30 September 2014

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (20:08): I rise to talk about the outcome of a motion put before the Senate earlier today, a motion moved by the Palmer United Party. I have had to remain back to take this speaking opportunity tonight, because it was absolutely clear that the Palmer United Party, along with the Labor Party and the Australian Greens, were going to ensure for certain that this place never got the opportunity to debate the motion that was presented today not for the first time, but for the second time. There may not be any ongoing debate, but it will not deny me the opportunity to bring some matters to the attention of Palmer’s new parties—the Palmer Labor Party and the Palmer Green Party.

We particularly need to alert our friends in the Greens about some issues that have occurred between Palmer and the Queensland government. This is probably the most unusual alignment that I have seen in a long time. One of the country’s biggest miners in industries that disturb more of the environment than most now has a partnership—where I think Palmer is the senior partner—that relates to matters of the environment. Mr Palmer, in a private capacity through his companies, has been seeking to get approvals in my state of Queensland that will create wholesale disturbance of enormous tracts of land. These are the things that the Greens have rallied against for all of their time in this place, and yet today they surrendered to Palmer to join him in an action to advance their own cause, their common cause. That cause would be the hatred of our very, very popular and increasingly popular Premier of Queensland, Mr Campbell Newman—one of the best premiers we have had there, certainly in the last quarter of a century, Premier Borbidge aside.

Here are some interesting facts. I am going to speak slowly—pick your up pen and take some notes. Seriously: this is what you have signed up to. This document here is the terms that Palmer has presented in an attempt to settle failed litigation with the Queensland government. This is very, very important. The opening sentence should alert you all and strike fear into your hearts. One of the conditions is that the government, if they accept these terms, must use all of their endeavours to have Clive’s agreement ratified by the Queensland parliament. And listen to this one— this is an interesting one for our oldest political party in the country, which pretends to support law and order: they must not invoke or use any provision of the law brought into force by the Economic Development Act, build or act on Palmer’s investments. He is seeking—

Senator McLucas: Mr Palmer.

Senator O’SULLIVAN: Mr Palmer—call him however you will. He is seeking to take his companies outside of the reach of the law. He was unsuccessful with this up until this afternoon, and yourselves and the Australian Greens have now provided him with the opportunity to do that. Part of the agreement was that the state government would be denied the ability to alter, to Waratah’s detriment, the size of the project or the identity or number of its tenements. This is at a time when this company was under order from our state government relating to some issues relating to the tenements. Another term is to ensure that the current significant project status of the project is adopted by the department of Natural Resources. Not to ‘attempt to’, but to ensure that, in exchange for him withdrawing his litigation against the state government, his project is adopted by the department of natural resources. Another is to ‘grant to Waratah an exemption to the current proposed relinquishment of any of the tenements of the project.’ This document in and of itself is outrageous, and this will get a better and fair airing when this inquiry moves to Queensland, because I intend to sit on both sides of the table up there in terms of giving and receiving evidence. In respect of any future offences under the code, they are ‘not to commence any litigation, judicial or administrative applications to seek any orders’ in relation to the Palmer companies. They are ‘not to seek or forfeit or reduce any tenements held by Waratah in the Galilee Basin.’ This is the place that the Australian Greens have rallied against being developed almost every other day since I have been in this chamber. Today, I have to say, was a terribly sad day. From time to time debate in this chamber is robust and we have fierce exchanges, but I had believed from my short time here that the Australian Labor Party, in particular, had understood the basic tenets of the operation of the Senate. Today we have seen, on a second occasion, an attempt simply to turn this Senate’s power into a blunt instrument to advance the political fortunes and the personal fortunes of Mr Palmer. This is payback. The Senate is not the opposition’s play place. They do not get to turn it into a blunt instrument. We understand that you and the Australian Greens have very little in common with Mr Palmer, except that you all want to advance your political fortunes in the state of Queensland. I understand, by jiminy cricket, that you will grasp at anything. You were reduced almost to non-party status in that state.

I invite those opposite and any media listening to look at the terms of reference carefully. Whoever drafted them made a fundamental error. On the advice we have—very senior legal advice—only paragraph (1) of the motion is confined to the current state government of Queensland. The balance of the motion, all the good bits, will also relate to looking at the Labor government. It is not time barred. The opposition’s friends the Greens have done a deal with them to inquire into the overthrow of the approval of the coal-seam gas projects in Queensland—but they were all approved by the former Labor government. It is going to be an interesting time up there. Now that the inevitable has occurred, we are looking forward to it in Queensland. Plans are afoot, and if you are finding your time in the Senate boring I recommend you get onto a participating member in Queensland because when you go across the Tweed things change. We want you to come to Queensland. Plenty have come before you in the belief that they were going to do Queensland over, and they have all left with their tail between their legs —the few left with a tail at all. I urge you to give this some real consideration and allocate some time in your diary to come on up to Queensland and get a feel for it. The mangoes are in full blossom and we will be in full blossom too. Once those mango blossoms get you, you change dramatically. The mangoes will ripen around Christmas time, so come and join us in Queensland for a fun couple of months.