The Arrrs have it – Arts Minister updates the House on Captain Jack Sparrow
Queensland Arts Minister Ian Walker updated the House this week on the imminent arrival of Captain Jack Sparrow for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie to be hosted in the state. Read more at our @NoFibs report, “The Arrrs have it – Arts Minister updates the House on Captain Jack Sparrow”.
A tap on the shoulder
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls was likened to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in regard to being the ‘whiteant eater’ of the Liberal National Party (LNP). Queensland Police Union boss, Ian Leavers made the extraordinary accusation and revealed six current LNP MPs had approached the union in order to gain support should they quit the party and run as independents at next year’s election.
“These MPs believe that Tim Nicholls is undermining Campbell Newman’s leadership but they are too scared to speak up,” he told the media.
What was really ticking Leavers off this week was the shortfall in funding he alleged for increased police numbers for the government’s recently introduced “Safe Night Out”, program designed to curb alcohol-fueled violence across the state.
“Because of the leave embargo at the moment because of G20, there are plenty of police in the Brisbane CBD and the Valley to look after drunks, but come December 1 there will be barely any to ensure a safe night out. We have heard Tim Nicholls talk about $44 million going towards the Safe Night Out Strategy, yet he doesn’t talk about the proposals for funding that the government asked the police to put forward, that the Premier and the Police Minister supported at the Cabinet Budget Review Committee and that Tim Nicholls knocked back.”
Unsurprisingly, Premier Campbell Newman dismissed the claims as “a bit of mischief” by the police union. He went further in Queensland question time to assure the House Nicholls was his friend, as he reached out to pat him on the shoulder.
“The bottom line is this treasurer, this Cabinet, this government have backed the Queensland Police Service in an unprecedented way,” Mr Newman said. “The person who is right behind them 100 per cent is my friend the Treasurer of Queensland.”
The following day, BrisbaneTimes state political reporter, Amy Remekis uncovered some of the rumblings from Newman’s backbench. In her piece, “Cracks show as LNP MPs ‘stop drinking the Kool-Aid'” unnamed LNP MPs told of how $80m in funding was being allocated to Newman’s seat of Ashgrove ahead of the election but not to expect the same to be done for them. After two and a half years, the party room had “stopped drinking the Kool-Aid”, an expression that refers to a group having an unquestioned belief in the hierarchy.
“We’ve been told that cost of living is the most important factor ahead of the election and that we won’t be pork barrelling individual projects, that instead it’s measures the whole state will benefit from,” one said.
“That’s fine, but we also know Ashgrove is immune. And a lot of back benchers are pissed off when they see how much has been done in Ashgrove – they knew it was a lot, but now that there is that $80 million figure on it and the Premier is happy to talk about it, well, people are not drinking the Kool-Aid any more.”
Here’s laughing at you – Pensioners unconvinced of lower power bills
Speaking of not drinking Kool-Aid, Queensland pensioners interviewed by Shane Doherty for @9NewsBrisbane remained unconvinced by the Newman Government’s 49 year leasing plan with a 50 year option to extend to lower power bills. Proceeds from the leases will go toward paying for the solar rebate scheme introduced by the previous Bligh Government.
In a classic case of over reach, Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls described the scheme as, “possibly worse than the Health bungle”, (a failure of the previous government which saw thousands of health workers not paid, over paid or underpaid when a new payroll system went into place).
“None of us are going to be here in 99 years time,” said one lady on camera.
“So has it sold you?” asked Doherty.
“Not really, no,” she replied.
“My bill is quite big,” another explained. “Over $400 and we’re pensioners.”
“So does it swing your vote?” Doherty asked.
“The power bills will probably shoot up when they rent the things out,” commented a man.
“Will $25 bucks a quarter mean anything to you?” Doherty asked another lady.
“(Laughing) Not really….,” she chuckled.
The Newman Government has long blamed the solar rebate scheme for driving up prices. John Grimes from the Australian Solar Council told Doherty that the industry feels like a scapegoat.
“Everybody knows when utilities are privatised, complexity goes up, costs go up and service goes down,” he said.
In conjunction with the Abbott Government, the state government has been doing good job of slowly killing solar energy in Queensland. Commercial solar installer, Solari Energy told of how it has more than $100 million worth of projects on hold due to uncertainty over both government’s policies.
“I suspect we will lose the bulk of these projects completely over a period,” CEO Doug Fletcher told listeners on @612Brisbane radio.
“The projects range from commercial businesses to solar park projects, as well as some with 20-30 megawatts and in some cases larger. All these things take time to build so, from a business point of view, to find the possibilities and opportunities, we pay many people and then you do the work to see what is done. Amongst all of this is the rent reviews which came back up, and there was a lot of talk from the federal government about making life in solar difficult; therefore, investors get nervous and people who buy power get nervous.”
The Newman Government has recently stated that long term leases are not the same as asset sales. However, as reported by Fairfax’s Mark Ludlow this week, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) disputes this.
When asked the difference between a long-term lease and an asset sale/privatisation, ACCC boss says they are one and the same. #qldpol
— Mark Ludlow (@M_Ludlow) October 12, 2014
On the back of the Newman Government’s asset leasing announcement, the crossbench MPs, three Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) and four independents signed an accord to block asset sales or leases should they hold the balance of power in the next parliament. The “coalition of the unwilling” met in the under-used Premiers’ Hall to sign the deal for the media.
Both major parties would need to secure the magic forty six seats at the next election to form a government. However, a coalition of the unwilling could tip the balance in favour of an opposition if the government did not have an overwhelming voting majority for bills it wished to pass.
“The majority of Queenslanders don’t want asset sales and the Liberals have guaranteed us that they are going to sell assets so what the hell do we do?” he said.
“There’s seven crossbenchers at the moment and there’s every chance there could be more. We’re all rock solid on this issue, the crossbenchers. Let’s sign an accord and tell the Queensland people there is hope out there. There is a way to guarantee that asset sales will be stopped. Vote for independents or the KAP.”
The current makeup of the Queensland parliament is 73 LNP, 9 Labor, 4 independents and 3 KAP.
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) October 16, 2014
Queensland town of Moranbah declining with falling coal prices
When Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived in Central Queensland this week to open a new coal mine for BHP Billiton’s BMA site at Caval Ridge, he triumphantly declared that, “Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future here in Australia and right around the world.”
He boasted about the 500 new jobs the mine would create. However, he neglected to mention two important facts on that front. All the workers will be Fly In/Fly Out (FIFIO), with none going to the local town of Moranbah. Secondly, last month BMA announced it would be cutting 700 jobs across six Queensland mines due to falling coal prices. In real terms, the Prime Minister announced a net loss of 200 jobs across BMA.
Moranbah workers are currently contemplating voluntary redundancies as the town’s housing market collapses. Rent on houses has fallen in some instances from $2,000 a week to $300 a week.
FIFO workers traditionally don’t spend money in the town, and at some mines food is also flown in. Baker Steve Hanvey noted the fall in the number of workers and customers at nearby Dyno Nobel Camp.
“I believe there’s 400 people at the moment. They’ve been as high as 900. But with the downturn of everything, they’ve come right down,” he said.
Both mining industry advocates and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman have been quick to dismiss the fall in demand for coal because it is used in steel manufacturing. Michael Roche from the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) also places faith in developing Indian markets.
“It’s not that demand is falling, demand is growing for coal, both thermal coal and metallurgical coal. India’s going to treble its imports of coal and Australia’s going to be a big source of that coal and no-one has actually found a way of making steel without coking coal and we’re the world’s biggest exporter of coking coal,” he said.
QRC headquarters in Brisbane is a long way from Moranbah and Roche is a long way from the coal fields. September unemployment figures for Queensland revealed 4,600 full time jobs were lost for the month, the biggest single loss since the Newman Government came to power in 2012.
Volatile Queensland question time – Premier defies Madam Speaker
This week Queensland Premier Campbell Newman defied the Queensland Speaker of the House Fiona Simpson by refusing on multiple occasions to unconditionally withdraw accusations of criminality against Independent MP for Nicklin, Peter Wellington. Read more at our @NoFibs special report, “Volatile Queensland question time – Newman defies Madam Speaker”.
Revelations of an outgoing Queensland Integrity Commissioner.
Queensland’s interim Integrity Commissioner, Dr David Solomon outlined his frustration with the Newman Government over the past two and a half years in a piece penned online entitled, “Ministerial access and the public trust”. The administration has ignored repeated warnings from him against new rules to allow donors to remain anonymous and the raising of the reportable threshold from $1000 to $12,400. He stresses that this “confirmed in the public mind the low regard they have for politicians”.
The IC maintains the list of registered lobbyists in Queensland who seek to do business with the government and is provided by non-government entities. The onus was once on MPs to update the IC but the Newman Government changed the responsibility to the lobbyists after a series of “accounting errors” involving former LNP ministers, Dr Bruce Flegg and Ros Bates.
Solomon has retired from public life but has stayed on as interim commissioner until a replacement is appointed. Like his predecessor, Gary Crooke, who was also counsel assisting at the Fitzgerald Inquiry into the former Bjelke-Petersen Government, he condemned the situation which had now worsened with changes made by the Newman Government. Describing ministers as ‘prostituting’ themselves, employees of corporations are exempt from recording their interactions with government ministers.
“It does not cover directors, managers, or employees of corporations, lobbying on behalf of their own firms and it does not cover representative bodies such as the Property Council or the Queensland Resources Council that are extremely influential as lobbyists,” he wrote.
“The Government has refused to extend lobbying rules to cover this kind of lobbying, rejecting a number of submissions by me, and a unanimous recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee. So the situation is worse than that which concerned Mr Crooke in 2009 – the ‘subscriptions’ of people buying access to Ministers are no longer reportable.”
“The public is deliberately kept in the dark by the organisers of these fundraisers and by the Ministers concerned about who are paying quite significant sums of money to gain access to Ministers, presumably, in many cases, in an effort to influence them, though no doubt some may find this simply a convenient and convivial way to make a donation.”
Solomon also exposed Newman’s chief of staff, Ben Myers as having abused him in a phone conversation for a previous criticism of the Newman regime over integrity.
[Myers] “attack[ed] me for having criticised the government and saying “we” could no longer have faith in my integrity,” Solomon wrote.
A spokesman for Myers told the media he “disputes Dr Solomon’s description of the conversation”.
Dr Solomon wrote a letter of complaint to Newman but is yet to receive a response.
“I received no reply, and no apology from Mr Myers for his ill-informed, abusive rant against me.”