10 May 2017

I rise tonight to respond to a very clumsy, lacklustre and impotent attempt by a colleague in this place today to cast aspersions on the good work and character of another politician in this parliament.

The speech delivered can only be characterised as a clumsy and juvenile attempt—and will only be remembered as being delivered by a desperate individual, a failed politician himself—to damage the outstanding credentials of the federal member for Capricornia, the truly outstanding coalition warrior, Michelle Landry.

It is a matter of public record that Michelle Landry and her parliamentary colleague Luke Howarth, the member for Petrie, are credited with delivering the Turnbull coalition government to office. So that makes this attempt by a colleague in this chamber, Senator Watt, even grubbier, in my view.

Senator Watt claimed in his speech earlier today that Capricornia MP Michelle Landry is ‘arguably the biggest failure in the House of Representatives.’ Before we get on to Michelle Landry’s performance as the member for Capricornia, let’s just take a couple of minutes to compare the records of these two politicians.

In the case of Senator Watts, except for a short period of time, he has been nestled in the breast of the public purse for his entire adult life. His first failure came when he took on the job as the chief of staff to Premier Bligh—and we all know what happened there. It resulted in the most catastrophic Labor loss in the history of this nation—losing 40 seats in my home state of Queensland. What contribution did Senator Watts make to that? Well, he actually had to lift heavier than any of his colleagues in his attempt to enter the parliament.

He was successful in the seat of Everton, but he took a 9.2 per cent hit to the holding of that seat—the biggest in that election. Then, of course, not satisfied with his failure there, he went on to lose the seat for the first time in 40 years. The seat was held for 40 years by Labor, and he took another hit of 14.5 per cent. He took it from being one of Labor’s safest seats in the state of Queensland and handed it over to us. It is now one of the safest seats we hold.

This is the legacy of Watts. What did he do then? He had to find a way to make his way into this place. This is a man who in this place often champions the support of Labor in the regions. He even said so to the Daily Mercury:

I think it’s important Labor geographically spreads, that’s why I’m setting up my office on the Gold Coast.

You can get a light rail ride for $6.70 to the Gold Coast. It is hardly regarded as the regions and certainly not a region like that represented by the great Michelle Landry. What did he do? How did he make his way back? Labor had, accidentally, only one senator in the state of Queensland in the regions, and that was Jan McLucas in the seat of Cairns. You have heard me say in this place that poor Jan threw her legs over the side of the bed one day and sat up and looked down and her head was still on the pillow, because Labor took it off and replaced her with Senator Watts. Dear, oh, dear! I do not know even where to start. Before you lose the recent memory of Senator Watts’s performance as a failed politician, let’s have a look at Michelle Landry. What did she do?

She wrested the seat of Capricornia out of the grasp of Labor. It is one of the crown seats of the Labor movement. Do you know how Labor is? It is Labor that left a convicted paedophile as the member for the state seat embedded in Capricornia. He got elected. And then they went on to make him the opposition leader. This is how Labor in this area is.

She took it off them not once but twice. For the first rime in 50 years, this woman held that seat and returned it into our government twice. They were still riding horses around the main street of Rockhampton when that was last done.

In case I run out of time—because this is going to take me a couple of hours to get through, but I am sure there will be further opportunities for me to finish—let’s have a look: this woman has delivered into the region of Central Queensland in the seat of Capricornia $550 million worth of funding. It is on the public record and in the budget papers. What has Senator Watt put into the place? That would be zero. She got $166 million to fix the Eton range, $38 million to replace five country bridges near Mackay and Isaac, $1.1 million for Mackay Regional Council in funding to fix the intersection of Horse and Jockey Road and $8.5 million to engineer two overtaking lanes.

Let me take a breath. She got $7.9 million for the new north- and south-bound overtaking lanes on the Bruce Highway, $190 million for future defence infrastructure for Capricornia, $10 million for the Yeppoon beachfront, $7 million for Rockhampton riverbank precinct and $2.3 million for the Capricorn rescue chopper. How many things has Senator Watt delivered for the seat of Capricornia? That would be none. And, just as we are attempting—and Michelle Landry is leading the charge—to put the Adani mine into Central Queensland, he voted in this place, along with his Queensland Senate colleagues, to knock it on the head. He voted to close coalmining in Queensland.

He was not satisfied that, when he worked for Bligh as her chief of staff, they eroded 14,000 jobs from this part of the world that Michelle Landry is reinstating with this phenomenal effort that she has done to bring funding into the area.

There is $2.3 million for the Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service. That’ll be there for Senator Watt when he needs to be rescued at the next election! There is $136 million to floodproof Bruce Highway in Rockhampton. There is $300,000 to Meals on Wheels when he is next unemployed, because it will only be a matter of time. There is $3 million for 16 Green Army projects and $2.7 million for Beef Australia. Given the time, I have no capacity to get through the pages and pages articulating this $550 million.

This is a bloke who should have given this some thought. He did not even need to go around and get the library to do some of this; he can Google most of this. He should have given this some thought before he made this attack on this woman. I promise him this: he can come in here as frequently as he likes to attack my colleague and the colleague of the Nationals and the coalition.

He can come in here every day. For every five minutes he does, I will do 10, and I have not even started on him. This was a grubby speech. It needs to be stopped. If he wants to take it, he can take it outside. If he wants to fight us, I will go with him up into Central Queensland. I made the offer to Labor today. I will take him into the public bar of the Black Nugget Hotel, and he can tell them what he has done and what he is doing for their jobs in Central Queensland.

I tell you what: Michelle Landry is in and out of there all the time. She is much respected and much respected to win a Labor seat and then hold it for the first time in 50 years. For her to be maligned by a man who has failed at every political effort he has made since he came onto the public teat some 15 years ago is, I think, a grubby attempt. He should be ashamed of himself. It was a clumsy effort. It was a juvenile effort. He needs to be encouraged not to do it again.