Keeping Qld safe from terrorists, Russians, Ebola and Crocodiles
In the wake of the attack on the Canadian Parliament, Speaker of the Queensland House Fiona Simpson opened this week’s parliament by expressing appreciation for the state’s Sergeant-at-Arms and the Queensland Police.
“On behalf of our Parliament, I have conveyed out condolences directly to the Speaker of the National Parliament of Canada and assured them that they remain in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.
“We continue to take advice from security experts and monitor our own security settings so that we can do all that is possible to ensure that the safety of the precinct for those who work and visit here – members, their families, staff and the parliamentary media gallery.”
Premier Campbell Newman continued the theme to reassure the House that Queensland was being protected from the Russians (who, together with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, he blames for the downing of MH17 in Ukraine) and Ebola.
“We’ve seen significant conflict overseas, the ongoing scourge of terrorism, Australians losing their lives in tragedies like the Ukraine plane disaster, and we’re now seeing the global threat of a deadly virus – Ebola – killing thousands of people in West Africa. This government is intent on making Queensland a safer, more secure place for families to live,” he said.
Minster for the Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell rose to update the House on keeping Queenslanders safe from crocodiles and blamed Labor for inaction.
“This morning I rise to speak on how the Newman government is protecting North Queensland communities from the threat of crocodiles. We have listened and responded to the communities and to staunch local members like the member for Barron River, Michael Trout, and the member for Hinchinbrook and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps,” he began.
“Communities and members have long complained about Labor’s sit and wait approach to crocodile management. We have introduced a proactive removal program that balances community safety with conservation. We have boosted our front-line ranger services to deliver a better outcome for residents of North Queensland.”
As if on queue, two crocodiles were later reported at two beaches at Port Douglas in the state’s north.
Roy Morgan Poll – It’s Labor 50.5pc TPP
Probably not quite enough to win an election if it were held now but Labor has its nose in front with a 0.5 percent result in the latest Roy Morgan poll. Labor leads 50.5 percent on a two-party preferred basis. In an extraordinary comeback for Labor, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk leads Premier Campbell Newman as better Premier on a two-candidate preferred basis of 52.5pc, up 2.5pc on last poll.
Gary Morgan wrote that the outcome of an election based on these results would be too close to call.
“Meanwhile in Queensland, Opposition Leader Anastacia Palaszczuk (52.5pc) is for the first time preferred to Premier Campbell Newman (47.5pc) as ‘Better Premier’. Ms. Palaszczuk is seeking to become the first woman in Australian history to lead a party from Opposition to a victory at a State Election.”
“All previous female State Premiers (all ALP) have inherited the job while in Government (Carmen Lawrence (WA-1990); Joan Kirner (Victoria – 1990); Anna Bligh (Queensland – 2007); Kristina Keneally (NSW – 2009); Lara Giddings (Tasmania – 2011)).”
Even though Labor’s primary vote rose 2.5pc to 38pc, it is still below the magic 40pc the party would prefer to be able to secure victory. In August, Labor State President Dick Williams said an election win in 2015 would be ‘unbelievable’ but cautioned that a return to power was likely to be a two-step process unless the primary polling vote rose to 40pc.
A developer in the House, ‘Mermaid’ Ray Stevens
When Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk diverted from her “Crime and Corruption Commission” speech in parliament on Thursday to ask a rhetorical question, she didn’t expect the answer to come so brazenly.
“Whilst I am talking about transparency and accountability in government, does the member for Mermaid Beach want to be a businessman or does he want to be a member of parliament?” she asked.
“I’m both,” came the interjection from Mermaid Beach MP Ray Stevens, commonly known as ‘Mermaid’ Ray.
“He should release the Integrity Commissioner’s advice,” continued Palaszczuk, and then her eyebrows rose as the admission sunk in.
“He wants to be both. We know that he registered Ruray on 19 September and that he registered Gold Coast Skyride Pty Ltd in August. What does the member for Mermaid Beach know and why is he pushing forward a process that his own government will make a decision on? That is not transparent and it is not accountable. He must release the Integrity Commissioner’s advice today. Today is a dark day for the anticorruption watchdog in this state.”
Stevens had detailed to the House how he’d cleared with the Integrity Commissioner his investor interests in a new $100 million cable car development venture for the Gold Coast called, ‘Skyride’. However, he refused to table the documented advice to the House. Sixteen years ago, he first proposed the idea for the cable car project in the Gold Coast hinterland national park, then called ‘Naturelink’. However, it was rejected on environmental grounds and the former Beattie Queensland Government later banned all development in the state’s national parks. A 2013 change to the Nature Conservation Act by the Newman Government paved the way for a new development under the banner of ‘eco-tourism’.
Stevens currently earns $287,035 for his roles as Assistant Minister to the Premier on e-government and Leader of Government Business, and recently received the biggest pay rise of any MP with a 39pc top up. In August he used his personal company, Ruray, owned by himself and his wife, to register the trading name “Gold Coast Skyride Pty Ltd” under the company name Neranwood Views Pty Ltd. All the class A shares for are owned by Ruray, with ten ordinary shares owned by Yong Gee of Yong Gee and Associates.
‘Mermaid’ Ray declared that he would not be taking any direct involvement in the project.
“I have advised the Integrity Commissioner of my proposed involvement in this project well and truly ahead of my acceptance of any role in the project and he has cleared my involvement and capacity to be involved whilst being a member of parliament and an assistant minister in the Newman LNP government,” he said.
“He has advised, of course, that I should have no part in the application or the decision making process and I shall adhere to that requirement in absolute totality. He did advise that I make the premier aware of involvement in the project and I have complied with that direction.”
During the July Stafford by-election, and despite his own MP Dr Bruce Flegg doing the very same, Premier Campbell Newman had made a huge fuss over Labor candidate Dr Anthony Lynham’s intention to operate as both a doctor and a MP. However, the Premier found no problem with being a LNP MP and entrepreneur.
“He’s got nothing to do and will have nothing to do in any way shape or form with interactions with this government in terms of the project. He’s like, you know, he’s been totally open ladies and gentlemen, totally transparent,” he told the media.
“I can assure Queenslanders that I have sighted the advice, he has been cleared and obviously I understand what the Integrity Commissioner has taken into consideration making that call.”
During the tenure of the Newman, much has been compared with the the “Joh era”, shady deals done which ultimately led to the Fitzgerald Inquiry. This time round, the deals are all legal, shamelessly admitted in to the House, setting a precedent for the rise of the “entrepreneurial MP”. What opportunities will be opened up for LNP MPs post 2015 election, particularly in the enterprises of asset sales and asset leases? It’s an important question for Queensland to keep in mind at the ballot box.
As The Courier Mail’s Steven Wardill pointed out, who do you speak to if you have concern with a project?
If you’re a resident of Mermaid with concerns about Skyrail, who do you talk to? The local LNP MP Mermaid Ray? Maybe not…
— Steven Wardill (@stevenwardill) October 31, 2014
Dr Ken Levy returned as CCC boss
The Newman Government resolved to return Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC, formerly CMC) boss Dr Ken Levy to his position after a chaotic selection process to replace him with Paul Favell failed. The oversight committee, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee comprised of four government members, two Labor and one independent MP voted to reject the candidate. Both sides of politics hurled blame across the chamber and through the media when the candidate was rejected.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie cited public confidence for returning Levy to the chair.
“There is no surer way of damaging public confidence in the CCC than to leave it leaderless,” he said.
“Stability is vital and, following the traumas of the then CMC’s own making last year, one measure of stability is the presence of a leadership team able to take the organisation forward.”
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk was scathing, accusing the government of a conspiracy to retain Levy.
“This is what they always wanted. They wanted their own man in the job. They want their own man to stay in the job, Madam Deputy Speaker and that’s exactly what they’ve got,” she told the House.
However, Palaszczuk would not elaborate further for the media outside the chamber on the motive behind this.
As former PCCC chair and current independent MP for Gladstone Liz Cunningham explained to viewers on @730Qld, the selection process for a new CCC boss should be completely confidential so as not to cause professional damage to any candidates. No candidate should be named publicly before the committee decides. Rather the government should put forward a list of candidates and the successful person announced in a bipartisan way.
Last year, Cunningham had been sacked in her role as PCCC chair after revelations that Levy had mislead the committee on an article he’d written for The Courier-Mail in support of the Newman Government’s anti-association laws, the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) Bill 2013. Not only was the piece partisan but Levy had told the chamber that he had not received any advice or assistance in its composition from any government members. However, a later interview before the committee with Newman Government media advisor Lee Anderson, revealed that Anderson and Levy had met to discuss the article ahead of publishing. Levy later returned to the PCCC committee and confessed to the meeting.
Unexpectedly for the government, Cunningham sought to bring official scrutiny to the matter by referring it to the Parliamentary Ethics Committee but was blocked by the Newman Government. By Friday, 22 November 2013, Cunningham had sacked and the entire PCCC dismissed by Campbell Newman who accused it of ‘bias’.
Adding further friction to the parliament, the investigation into Dr Ken Levy was handed to the police whilst he continued in his role as CCC boss. As Cunningham also explained to viewers on @730Qld, the investigation should have been completed six to nine months ago as all of the Hansard transcripts were readily available.
“I’m dumbfounded that it’s taking this long. All the information is there. There’s transcripts, it’s quite clear it’s not ‘he said she said’ it’s on the record. It’s very clear in black and white for a decision to be made,” she said.
“Do you think there’s going to be a result of that investigation before the election which is due in March?” asked host Matt Wordsworth.
“Oh look given the politicisation of this whole process I’d be surprised if it was. It should have been done 9 months ago or 6 months ago. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t see the light of day before the election and again the community of Queensland deserves better than that.”
BAU for the Blame Labor Party
If you’re familiar with #qldpol, you’ll be aware of the political trend under the LNP of blaming the Labor party for a negative result and ignoring them for a positive one, (e.g. opening of the Gold Coast light rail system).
As Queensland passed the 950th day of the Newman administration, the blame stakes remained high. Both Newman and Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg took turns in blaming the previous Bligh Government for the selection of software used to administer medication doses. A recent fault in the system required patching. As anyone that has worked in and around information technology knows, faults in software are common and often require upgrades or bug fixes.
A recently released report into the Metavision Intensive Care program revealed that these faults could lead to a preventable loss of life and “is assessed as likely and expected to occur within the next month”. Intensive Care Units at the Princess Alexandra, Royal Children’s and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital had all identified the problems and were awaiting implementation of the software patch.
In a classic case of Newman overreach, the Premier declared the find was bad as the implementation of the failed Queensland health payroll system.
“So the planning for the introduction of this particular system, the MetaVision system, commenced for six major Queensland hospitals in 2007. The Prince Charles Hospital followed in December 2011,” he said.
“Who implemented this system? The Australian Labor Party health administration. That is who did it. We are dealing with this. It is not clear whether there are such significant problems, but we will get to the bottom of it and we will make sure that Queensland is the safest place for patients in the health system along with the general community. But we know once again that this is a another system – another Labor decision – that we are now sorting out.”
Springborg followed up with more accusations.
“How does that contrast with the Labor Party?” he began in the House.
“When the payroll system in Queensland was going kaput, those opposite were absolutely nowhere to be seen. In this Labor Party document here we also note that one of the great indicators in their manifesto is that they want to reinstate central coordination. We know what happened with central coordination! Central coordination caused the payroll system to go kaput. Central coordination in Queensland caused our hospital performance data and statistics to go backwards. Central coordination saw the honourable member for Bundamba inviting a fake Tahitian prince to come and do with Queensland Health as he chose to do with Queensland Health, and we know what the circumstances are with regard to that.”
Despite Springborg’s claims of transparency in his administration, the revelation had only come to light of day through information that had been leaked to Fairfax’s @BrisbaneTimes. It appeared the software bugs were identified as far back as May 2013 and had been left outstanding for seventeen months.
“However, it was not until further “outstanding risks” were identified on October 23, 2014, that they were leaked to Fairfax Media on October 24,” wrote journalist Tony Moore.
Asked later at a presser by Amy Remeikis if he would stop blaming Labor, Springborg declared it was his intention to continue the blame game whilst ever the LNP kept “digging up doozies of their incompetent administration”.
“We are now up to $4 billion in maladministration, in payroll – $1.253 billion; the private practice arrangements with regards to senior medical officers – $800 million; $2.2 billion with regards to improper costing and planning around three major hospitals, that is $4 billion. We could clear every single hospital waiting list, including outpatient waiting lists, for this state four times over and more for that,” he claimed.
In 2012, Newman had declared that after two years in government, it would be time to end the Labor blame game.
“If they [government ministers] don’t sort out problems within two years, at that stage it’s not the Labor party’s fault. It’s their fault,” he declared.
“They will be held to account for their deficiencies or their failures to sort out the mess.”
After 950 days, it’s BAU for the BLP.
Asset leasing, it’s like Hong Kong
Premier Campbell Newman attempted to allay fears over leasing state assets to private companies for up to 99 years by likening the plan to the return of Hong Kong to China in 2007.
“When you sell something, it is gone,” he said.
“It is gone, someone else owns it. They have it forever. It isn’t yours anymore. When you lease something, it comes back. And there are many examples. I’ll give you an example. Hong Kong. Have they [Labor] heard of Hong Kong? The Chinese government over 100 years ago leased Hong Kong to the British and what happened after 99 years? It came back. Hong Kong is back in the hands of the Chinese government today. So there is a difference [between leases and sales] and they [the Opposition] know there is a difference and they know that when they are out there in the electorate.”
It was, given recent events in Hong Kong during the ‘umbrella revolution’, a terrible example.
— Sarah Clarke (@sarahclarkeabc) October 28, 2014
— Sarah Clarke (@sarahclarkeabc) October 28, 2014
— Carmen Ng 吳嘉文 (@Carmen_NgKaMan) September 28, 2014
Tweet of the week 1 – That’ll stop the terrorists
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) October 26, 2014
Tweet of the week 2 – Question on a beer coaster
During Queensland question time, Katter’s Australia Party state leader, Ray Hopper read his question from a beer coaster.
— Steven Wardill (@stevenwardill) October 29, 2014