On Tuesday, Premier Campbell Newman used Queensland question time to make accusations of criminality at the independent MP for Nicklin, Peter Wellington. What started as a straightforward question on overseas visitors committing offences, turned into a furore as the firebrand politician reacted vehemently to Newman’s allegation of supporting criminal motorcycle gangs.
Wellington has long been an opponent and critic of the government’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013 (VLAD) which has been used to combat bikie gangs. Wellington raised the ire of the Newman Government when he spoke against the laws on the steps of the Maroochydore courthouse in relation to the so called ‘Yandina 5’. Five of his constituents were alleged to be bikies and were arrested after being recorded on security camera gathering at a Yandina pub for drinks, later placed in solitary confinement.
During question time, the Speaker repeatedly asked Newman to unconditionally withdraw his accusations against Wellington in question time. Amid a booming challenge from Wellington for a more public debate, Newman reluctantly stood and finally issued an unconditional withdrawal.
In July, 2014, fresh from defeat at the Stafford byelection, Newman apoligised to Queensland for upsetting people with decisions that had been made over the years. He pledged to be less combative and listen more.
Below is an extract from Hansard of the encounter. The full transcript of the day’s events can be found here.
Extract from Hansard, questions without notice, 14th October, 2014.
Overseas Visitors, Law and Order
Mr WELLINGTON: My question is to the Premier. When overseas visitors commit offences in Queensland what strategies does the government have in place to bring these people to justice before they leave our country?
Mr NEWMAN: I am quite happy to answer the honourable member’s question. We apply the law of course. I point out that early in our term there was an incident that was brought to my attention where an overseas national committed an offence here in Queensland, was apprehended and then was before the magistrate. A condition of their release on bail was that they surrendered their passport and, sadly, the individual then absconded. I simply say that since that time we have been working to try to bring that person back to justice. Even if something like that happens, we will still go after the individual concerned if it is believed to be in the public interest. I also say that, as I recall, we have since changed the law to ensure that if a magistrate gives such a direction to surrender a passport, the processes around the surrender of that passport are much, much tighter. If the honourable member has a specific question that he wants to put on the table, I would be happy to answer it.
Before I conclude, I should continue to urge the honourable member to stop showing such active support for members of criminal motorcycle gangs. I would say to the honourable member that it is time—
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. I find those comments offensive. They are untrue and I ask that they be withdrawn. There is no basis to them whatsoever.
Madam SPEAKER: Please take a seat. Premier, under the standing orders you have been asked to withdraw.
Mr NEWMAN: Madam Speaker, I withdraw, but I say it is time for the honourable member for Nicklin—
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. That was not an unconditional withdrawal. The Premier is provocative.
Madam SPEAKER: Please take your seat, member for Nicklin. Member for Nicklin, we will apply the standing orders, but I will hear the Premier.
Mr WELLINGTON: Madam Speaker, the Premier did not withdraw unconditionally. That was the point of order I raised.
Madam SPEAKER: Please take your seat. I will listen to the Premier’s reply. I did not hear him make a subsequent condition upon it. If he does, I will then apply the standing order. I call the Premier.
Mr NEWMAN: We all know that the member for Nicklin has clearly, by his words and deeds, indicated that he has supported members of criminal motorcycle gangs.
Mr WELLINGTON: Madam Speaker, I find those comments offensive. They are untrue and I ask that they be withdrawn.
Madam SPEAKER: Premier, under the standing orders I ask that you withdraw.
Mr NEWMAN: I certainly withdraw, but again I urge—
Madam SPEAKER: Premier, I just give you some guidance in this matter. I do not know if you are going to make a condition upon your withdrawal, but using the word ‘but’ sometimes could be seen to lead into a conditional withdrawal. I give the Premier the call.
Mr NEWMAN: I have said I withdraw, but I again say that—
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. Madam Speaker, with respect, the Premier is not listening.
Madam SPEAKER: My guidance, Premier, would be if you add the term ‘but’ it could be seen to be a conditional withdrawal. I give the Premier the call and ask him to pay attention to the standing orders.
Mr NEWMAN: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am simply saying today that all of us in this place have an obligation to work hard to protect our community. I would expect that the member for Nicklin will do that. I know that the candidate for the LNP, Mr Matt Trace, is out there every day of the week and people in the community say how bitterly disappointed they are that the member for Nicklin continues to not stand up for the community in that way. They see it time and time again by his utterances in the local media—
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. Madam Speaker, with respect, this has no relevance to the question whatsoever.
Madam SPEAKER: I do not hear you making a point of order under the standing orders. I give the Premier the call.
Mr NEWMAN: We have now moved into the realm of the honourable member not liking debate to occur in this place.
Mr Wellington interjected.
Madam SPEAKER: Just pause the clock.
Mr Wellington interjected.
Madam SPEAKER: Order!
Mr Wellington interjected.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Nicklin, I will warn you if you continue to make interjections outside of the standing orders. I have the call.
An honourable member interjected.
Madam SPEAKER: Order, members. I will have order before I give the call. Thank you.Premier, I would ask you to address the question.
Mr NEWMAN: I took the question to be a very vague question about law and order and the way we protect Queenslanders. I am answering the question. I am disappointed that the member for Nicklin does not want to engage in full and open debate in this place and seeks some sort of spurious protection under the standing orders. I have answered the question. If he has a specific I will answer it.
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. Madam Speaker, with respect, those comments are offensive. They are untrue and I ask them to be withdrawn. I would have expected better from the Premier of this state. If you want to have a debate in this chamber—
Madam SPEAKER: Order, member for Nicklin.
Mr WELLINGTON:—I will take you on any day. Any day—you name the date, the place and the time.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Nicklin, when you are shouting into the microphone I cannot even understand you.
Mr WELLINGTON: I rise to a point of order. I am saying that if the Premier wants a debate, I will take him on anywhere any place. You name the time and the place and I will be there.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Nicklin, you are outside of the standing orders and I would ask you to refrain from shouting into the microphone. It is difficult to understand you.
Mr PITT: I rise to a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please take his seat? Premier, you were asked earlier to withdraw. I would ask that under the standing orders you withdraw.
Mr NEWMAN: I withdraw.
Mr PITT: I rise to a point of order. Madam Speaker, I ask for your guidance insofar as the Premier’s comments relating to ‘spurious protection’ may indeed be a reflection on the chair.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for your concern, Leader of Opposition Business. I did not take it that way, but as I indicated some very loud comments were being made and I have found that sometimes it is better to just let the House settle. We have dealt with the matters that were being considered, so I now call the member for Logan.