The Nationals Election Candidates
Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) [4.27 p.m.]: I move:
That this House supports the right of the New South Wales Nationals to run a candidate in every seat for the upcoming State election.
I am thrilled that today, for the first time since I arrived in this place, The Nationals have voted to debate an urgency motion I have moved. It is a great note on which to conclude the session. Over the past four years The Nationals have opposed the many urgency motions I have moved about the drought, the Telstra sale and a range of other important issues for country New South Wales that needed to be debated. They voted against debating those motions because they always bow to their city-based Liberal Party masters and do what they tell them to do.
The Nationals now have a terrific opportunity to confirm to the people of New South Wales not only that they want the right to stand candidates in every seat but also that they will stand candidates in all those seats in country New South Wales instead of doing what they have done in Goulburn so far_that is, roll over and allow the Liberals to take over the electorate. The seat of Goulburn has been held by a Nationals representative, the honourable member for Burrinjuck. If The Nationals genuinely want to represent country New South Wales they should be giving the people of Goulburn that option.
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson: Point of order: The honourable member for Monaro takes great interest in areas outside his electorate, but he would do much better to focus on issues of health in his electorate.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Burrinjuck will resume her seat. The honourable member for Monaro has the call.
Mr STEVE WHAN: The honourable member for Burrinjuck made a speech earlier and congratulated the principal of a school who left two years ago.
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson: He did a very good job too.
Mr STEVE WHAN: And he is doing a very good job at Queanbeyan South, which is where he has been for the past two years. This motion is important and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about The Nationals declining presence all around rural New South Wales. Monaro is a prime example. The Nationals could not find a candidate who lived in Monaro. They had to find one from Burrinjuck. The Opposition has three candidates who live in Burrinjuck running in this election.
Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: I would like it noted in Hansard that this is a valedictory speech.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Monaro has the call.
Mr STEVE WHAN: That is up to the standard of the honourable member for Bega—pretty pathetic. The people in the south-east have noted his elevation to the Opposition front bench, as a sop to the moderates in the party, who will be gone when the Right have the numbers after the next election. The honourable member could be the shortest-lived frontbencher. He will have sat on the front bench for three days, and that will be about it I would say.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance.
Mr STEVE WHAN: The leader of the moderates.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Don't use unparliamentary language about me. My point of order relates to relevance. I find a bit rich what is coming from the member who was replaced by the honourable member for Wollongong as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He could not remain chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, despite his qualifications, and he was replaced by the honourable member for Wollongong.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Monaro may continue.
Mr STEVE WHAN: I appreciate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's confidence and consistency in putting forward my qualifications. The point is that The Nationals have a history of not standing up for country New South Wales. We have seen their numbers in this place decline from 20 to 12. After the next election we expect to see the number of The Nationals fall below party status. They did not stand up to Canberra on deregulation of the dairy industry. They did not stand up against rice deregulation, or for exceptional circumstances drought support. They have not lobbied actively against potential moves that undermine Australia's quarantine system.
The Nationals have not spoken out against interest rates. They have not spoken out on petrol pricing and fuel subsidies, or on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiries into petrol gouging. They have not spoken up about the GST and demanded our $3 billion back. They have not spoken up on groundwater or stood up against the plans to sack hundreds and hundreds of workers in Queanbeyan, Cooma and other rural centres that will be hurt by the Opposition's plan to sack 29,000 public servants. All we have seen from The Nationals over the past four years is a lack of policy, a lack of vision and an absolute obedience to their Liberal city masters.
We know the Leader of the Opposition cannot run the Liberal Party, but there is one group he can count on to always do what he says, and that is the New South Wales Nationals. They will always do what he says because all they are now is a branch office of the Liberal Party. We need to look at the things they should have been putting forward and at their failures in policy. We have given them opportunity after opportunity in this place to put forward concrete policies for the next election, but they have failed. We have pointed out before that on drought The Nationals put out a one-page press release. They said they had a drought plan, but it did not exist.
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson: Point of order: www.nationals.org.au will be able to provide a very valuable link for the honourable member for Monaro, who clearly does not appear to be technologically competent.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Monaro has the call.
Mr STEVE WHAN: I have searched the new web site of The Nationals. I am glad they have the new web site working because on the old one The Nationals leader looked like the Joker. At least they have a slightly better photo now. The one thing that is not on that web site is a drought policy. There is no drought policy on The Nationals web site. There is no broad policy for this State. We have raised this point over and over in this place, but they have no measures, no specific costings and no action plan. It is not there; I checked the web site.
Ms Katrina Hodgkinson: Point of order: The honourable member for Monaro is seriously misleading this House.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Burrinjuck has been in this House long enough to know the standing orders. The honourable member for Monaro may continue.
Mr STEVE WHAN: We can see the weakness of the Opposition front bench and the reason it is hard for anyone to put their faith in the Opposition when we hear such a weak attempt at a point of order. The Opposition thinks we should spend half a billion dollars on the Cross City Tunnel debacle, money that could be going to country roads. The Government builds toll roads in Sydney so we can spend 63 per cent of the funds on country roads, and that is where the money should be going. The Leader of the Opposition said today that we should declare a state of emergency over water. Is the Opposition going to roll out the troops to do a rain dance, close off the towns or send the people away? That is what a state of emergency is about: locking down towns, rather than solving water problems. Perhaps the Opposition is going to get the soldiers to do a water dance. That would be as solid as its other policies.
We all remember the land-clearing debacle, when the Opposition leader went off with the Wilderness Society to look at land clearing but did not tell The Nationals. Most importantly, as I have said, these Nationals so-called candidates will not admit to being Nationals candidates. The candidate who lives in Burrinjuck and who is running for Monaro is proudly proclaimed on his web site as a Coalition candidate.
Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: I do not think it is appropriate for the honourable member for Monaro to attack people who cannot defend themselves.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Bega should learn the standing orders. The honourable member for Monaro may continue. The honourable member for Bega will resume his seat.
Mr STEVE WHAN: The honourable member for Bega, the floated-in candidate from Sydney who is representing Bega, is totally irrelevant. Once again The Nationals have displayed their lack of policy. In the 15 years they represented Monaro they delivered nothing. In four years I have delivered, with this Government, 170 separate achievements. The new Queanbeyan hospital is under way, Bombala hospital is under way, there are two new schools and there are road improvements—170 separate achievements. All we hear from The Nationals in this place is a list of failures. I am pleased that The Nationals will support the motion, but they should put their money where their mouth is. They should stand their candidates. They should stand up for country New South Wales, because so far they have not displayed the guts.
Mr DONALD PAGE (Ballina—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [4.37 p.m.]: First I note that the valedictory speech given by the honourable member for Monaro was largely a speech in support of The Nationals. His motion suggests that we are so strong and so capable and the people have so much confidence in us that we should run a candidate in every seat. His supporting The Nationals' right to run in every seat clearly indicates that he has confidence in The Nationals' ability to represent country areas. I thank him for that concession, and I thank him for choosing his valedictory speech to make that significant point. Having said that, however, this motion is symptomatic of a government in paralysis, a government in denial, a government that does not want to deal with the real issues. To be dealing with this issue today, the last sitting day prior the next State election, says a lot about the Government's lack of capacity to address the real issues. Government members simply try to play politics and score cheap political points. I move:
That the motion be amended by the addition of the following words, "and to have a Coalition Government to address the failings of this tired Labor Government."
The motion as amended would read:
That this House supports the right of the New South Wales National Party to run a candidate in every seat for the upcoming State election and to have a Coalition Government to address the failings of this tired Labor Government.
The motion raises a substantive issue_that is, the right of a political party to stand in any seat. If the Independents vote against the motion, they will vote against democracy. They will vote against the right of The Nationals to stand in every seat in New South Wales. We support the principle that our party should be able to stand in every seat. Indeed, anyone can stand in any seat. That is a democratic right that should be upheld. However, in New South Wales The Nationals are in coalition with the Liberal Party. We are determined to get rid of the Labor Government, and our best chance to get rid of this tired Labor Government is through our coalition arrangement. The Nationals represent and promote the interests of country areas. We are not interested in running in metropolitan seats; that is the job of our Coalition colleagues, the Liberal Party. It is their job to run in city seats; it is our job to run in and win country seats. Through our coalition agreement we have the best chance of making a change in government, which the people of New South Wales sorely want.
The issue is that we have the right to stand but we choose to be in coalition with the Liberal Party. Liberal Party candidates essentially run in the city seats and we essentially run in the country seats. That is our best chance of winning government. The hypocrisy of Country Labor knows no bounds. The honourable member for Murray-Darling, who is present in the Chamber, said in the House on another occasion that Labor had done a deal with the Independents so the Independents can be promoted in seats that Labor cannot win. He let the cat out of the bag when he referred to the Dubbo election that was held a couple of years ago. He said:
Who had the best tactics? Labor did not stand a candidate because it knew it could not win the seat …
We chose not to stand a candidate in Dubbo, and the tactic worked.
That statement shows that the Labor Party has done a deal with the Independents that if they run they run dead or they do not run at all. The consequence is that Country Labor has forsaken country people. I will detail how it has forsaken country people. In the seat of Northern Tablelands the Labor vote in 1999 was 9.17 per cent and in 2003 it dropped to 4.74 per cent. In Port Macquarie the Labor vote in 1999 was 26.9 per cent and in 2003 it dropped to 8.4 per cent.
Mr Neville Newell: What was The Nationals vote?
Mr DONALD PAGE: A lot higher than that. In Tamworth the Labor vote in 1999 was 12 per cent and in 2003 it dropped to 11 per cent. In Dubbo the Labor vote in 1999 was 20 per cent and in 2003 it dropped 15 per cent. The average drop for all those seats was from 17 per cent down to 7.2 per cent.
Mr Steve Whan: Point of order: In keeping with the standard of points of order taken by the Opposition, I am pleased that the honourable member for Ballina has just outlined four formerly National party seats which are now held by the Independents, because of their fading irrelevance as a party.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! That is clearly not a point of order. The honourable member for Ballina has the call.
Mr DONALD PAGE: Labor has forsaken country residents. It has done a deal with the Independents. It is either funding them or they are running dead. They put up a candidate and then support the Independents. The honourable member for Murray-Darling claimed credit in this House for having helped the outcome of the Dubbo election. The Labor members do not brag in the House about what they are doing for country residents. Their support in country areas is in decline, as I have just outlined, and their branch network recognises that fact. They are going backwards in country areas. Country Labor should not show hypocrisy about who stands up for country people. The Nationals stand up for country people, as we always have, going back to the 1920s. We have not always been in coalition with the Liberals. We have done deals with other parties as well because we are a strong, independent party, and we always will be. Let us not hear any more of this nonsense about The Nationals not being an independent party. We are an independent party; we always have been and we will continue to be.
The Nationals will run in all the seats in country areas that we need to win government. In the Tweed our candidate is Jeff Provest, and he is supported by the Liberals. He is campaigning very strongly and will be the next member for Tweed. If the honourable member for Tweed participates in this debate, it will be his valedictory speech. In Dubbo, Councillor Greg Matthews is a very strong candidate for The Nationals and is campaigning well in that electorate. In the Murray-Darling our candidate is John Williams. The honourable member for Murray-Darling must be scared because John Williams is a very popular person, not only in Broken Hill but all along the Murray Valley. He has the honourable member for Murray-Darling worried.
David Madew, our candidate in Monaro, is doing fantastic work. The honourable member for Monaro is worried. That is why he has moved this stupid motion. He is in panic mode. David Madew has been living in the electorate three times longer than the honourable member for Monaro has. He is better known and his family is well known, yet the honourable member for Monaro tries to paint him as an outsider. David Madew is a man of the people and he will be part of the next Coalition government. As the honourable member for Monaro knows, the seat of Monaro has always gone with the government. Bye bye, Mr Whan, you will be out of here!
It is interesting that the honourable member for Monaro has chosen as the topic of his valedictory speech The Nationals right to stand in seats across the country. He knows we are a very strong party. In Port Macquarie our candidate is Leslie Williams and in Tamworth our candidate is Kevin Anderson. Kevin Anderson is a strong candidate who will win the seat of Tamworth. Again The Nationals are standing up for regional areas. In the Northern Tablelands we have Phillip Kelly. He has a big task ahead of him, but he is determined and is making the voice of The Nationals heard. That is significant. Although it is a big ask, he is out there campaigning hard and he is fair dinkum. He should be given credit for his efforts, as should all our candidates.
This petty, stupid motion is a waste of time. It is designed to obtain some political advantage. In fact, the Government has not got any advantage out of it at all. My amendment makes it plain that this State is in need of a change of government. Our health system is in crisis and our infrastructure is in decline. There has been a lack of investment in infrastructure over 12 years. Our economy is bumping along the bottom of all State economies in Australia. We should be the powerhouse of the country, but we are one of the worst-performing States. We have very low growth, and with two negative growth periods we are technically in recession. The State has serious problems with country town water and sewerage. The Government closed down the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line and four branch lines in country areas. The Pacific Highway project of a dual carriageway from Hexham to the Queensland border is not progressing fast enough. Blackouts will occur this summer. A blackout occurred in Parliament House yesterday afternoon, and it is symptomatic of what is to come. There is a backlog in education and a water crisis—and they move a stupid motion.
Mr PETER BLACK (Murray-Darling) [4.48 p.m.]: I suggest that the only blackout we had here yesterday was the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Ballina has inspired me in my contribution to this debate. He is inspirational because he has solved one issue for me. I go back to 2002 when The Nationals held a State conference at Broken Hill and the infamous letter, authored by Andrew Fraser, was delivered under my door. The argument was that The Nationals should not be in coalition in Opposition. That was the point that was made. We have debated that document. Andrew Fraser said The Nationals should not be in coalition in Opposition.
The New South Wales Nationals made a fundamental mistake because they have been caught with the blackout that the honourable member for Ballina referred to: the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is a walking corpse, and The Nationals know it. Half the people in New South Wales know it. The others do not know it because the news has not filtered out to the west yet. That is because we do not get the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph. However, the news will get out that The Nationals are in league with a walking corpse, and that is a major problem for them. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour said it all. I had an inkling—and he agreed with me at one stage—that it may well have been Andrew Stoner who put that document under my door because he was not the Leader of the Nationals at that time. George Souris was the Leader of The Nationals.
Mr Donald Page: That is speculation.
Mr PETER BLACK: Yes, it is only speculation, but I now know which way the honourable member for Ballina voted. He voted against the honourable member for Coffs Harbour; he has just said as much. That document was supposed to have been distributed only to elected members of The Nationals, but that has also been a matter of doubt. In fact, Walt Secord did not believe that it was fair dinkum.
Don't talk about Andrew Tink! He is a great fellow. I mean, he said, "Don't change the Leader of the Opposition until after 24 March."
Mr Steve Whan: We agree.
Mr PETER BLACK: Of course we agree, but the honourable member for Ballina has to agree too, because he made the tactical mistake of being in coalition in Opposition. But then you have to look at the reasons against that. The honourable member for Ballina talked about votes. When Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland he had an average of 36 per cent of the vote. At the last Queensland election it was 17 per cent. What about Victoria? What the Liberals have done in Victoria is marvellous. It has given its preferences to Labor instead of the Greens in four seats. The Liberals are out to annihilate The Nationals in Victoria. One has to ask why. Are The Nationals so embarrassing to the Liberals in Victoria? What is happening in Victoria? What is happening in seats such as Mildura, where I will be on Saturday? The answer is that the Liberal Party has deemed The Nationals to be redundant.
I return to the proposition put forward by the honourable member for Ballina: If The Nationals were not in coalition they could be standing candidates in Sydney seats. Just think about it. Out west we have all those travelling stock routes and public watering places. The honourable member could be standing for a seat that encompasses Oxford Street and he could have a stationary stock route—if, of course, he got to be the local member. There is no reason why he could not if The Nationals could contest every seat. But the honourable member is saying The Nationals cannot stand a candidate in every seat. Look at the percentages: 29 country seats—a mutually agreed figure between us all—of which The Nationals hold only 12, the Liberals hold five, the Independents hold four and we hold eight.
The Nationals hold 12 seats out of 29. I had hoped that if the debate was to go ahead we could have heard from Ian Armstrong, because his views are very different to those of the modern Nationals. He has a very different set of views indeed. He is not about turning The Nationals into a notional party and then into a North Coast party. But that is where The Nationals are going. I believe The Nationals have a good chance of losing three country seats, and I will name them: Barwon to an Independent, who happens to be the mayor; Orange to an Independent, who happens to be the mayor; and Goulburn to an Independent, who happens to be the mayor. They are three seats that I believe The Nationals could lose.
The honourable member for Murrumbidgee interjected to say, "Don't forget about Newcastle." The point is that he has forgotten about Newcastle. He could stand in Newcastle if he wanted to. [Time expired.]
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI (Murrumbidgee) [4.53 p.m.]: The debate about the seats in which political parties choose to stand is interesting. Today we heard the Labor Party criticise The Nationals because they do not stand a candidate in every one of the 93 electorates. Neither does Labor. I did not see the name of a Labor candidate on the ticket for the Dubbo by-election a couple of years ago. What about that? What about the Dubbo a couple of years ago? I think Labor may once have held the seat of Dubbo, but the Labor vote in the last by-election in Dubbo was zero. In the by-election for Pittwater there was no Labor candidate and once again the Labor vote was zero. The Labor Party chooses not to stand a candidate in every electorate. Good on it! The true strength of democracy is that people have a right to choose who will be their elected representatives and political parties have a right to choose the electorates in which they will stand a candidate.
I say "Good luck" to The Nationals if they choose not to stand a candidate in every seat. We have absolutely one objective on 24 March next year: to get rid of this rotten, stinking Labor Government. Labor has had 12 years—most people would say 12 very long years—to get things right in New South Wales. Suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, the Government announced its master plan. After 12 years Labor has decided to tell us what it will do in the next 10 years. What happened in the 12 years that we have had to live through? There is complete lack of confidence in our health system, and the rail transport system in Sydney has been a complete disaster. The only thing that has improved the statistics is the fact that the Government halved the number of services and declared that a train is not late unless it is running more than five minutes late. It redefined "late".
The Government solved the problem by changing the way statistics are gathered. Now we see thousands of people waiting on train platforms right across the Sydney rail network. Throughout rural and regional New South Wales the Pacific Highway is still a death trap. I cannot remember the exact figure after 12 years of Labor, but there is approximately $1.2 billion of Commonwealth money on the table to fix various parts of the Pacific Highway. The Commonwealth is waiting for the New South Wales Government to pick it up. In some instances the Commonwealth has been waiting four or five years, and it is still waiting after 12 years. The Government says, "Trust us because we have a plan for 10 years." I say to the people of New South Wales—and I will be saying it in my electorate in the lead-up to the election on 24 March—"Judge these people on their record: their record on the Pacific Highway, their management of the State's health system, and their record of a $140 million backlog in school maintenance."
Why, in 2006, do we have to send children to high schools with substandard facilities? Half of the dormitories at Yanco Agricultural College, in my electorate of Murrumbidgee, are not airconditioned. For the benefit of those in the public gallery, Yanco Agricultural College has a piggery that is airconditioned while half of the dormitories at that college are not airconditioned. Yesterday or the day before the temperature reached 42 degrees at Yanco. The pigs were all right because they had airconditioning, but the students in the dormitories did not. Why, in 2006, do students have to put up with that? That is the record of the Labor Government. It will try to tell the electorate that it has a plan, but I say, "Look at Labor's record and at the dissatisfaction in the community after 12 years of Labor."
Talking about things relevant to my own electorate other than Yanco Agricultural College—and I look forward to a change of plan with respect to airconditioning those dormitories—water is a problem. There has been no planning in respect of water and no additions to any of the water storages throughout western New South Wales, not to mention the lack of planning here in Sydney and on the Central Coast. We are facing an absolute crisis, and that is because we have had 12 years of Labor. The priority of The Nationals and the Liberal Party will be to get rid of them on 24 March, and I very much look forward to it. [Time expired.]
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.58 p.m.]: I join with my colleagues on this side of the House in assuring The Nationals that they have the right to stand a candidate in every seat in New South Wales. They were once a great party, but they are on the wane at the moment; some would say it is on a steep, slippery slope. Today we have heard countless examples of the way The Nationals are failing to stand up to Canberra on crucial issues. The honourable member for Monaro mentioned some of those crucial issues. They include national competition policy, dairy deregulation, rice marketing, and so on. I would also throw in another issue about which they are also failing to stand up to Canberra: the likely implosion of the Australian Wheat Board and single-desk policy. That is crucial to wheat farmers in New South Wales, and yet The Nationals are letting the Liberals, particularly those in Western Australia, run as strongly as ever on it.
Another issue on which The Nationals are not prepared to stand up to Canberra is national parks. On the North Coast national parks provide a lot of money to our local area, directly and indirectly, through jobs. There will be job cuts if there is ever a change of government. The only policy the Opposition has for national parks at the moment is to allow horse riding there. The Opposition has got to do a little bit better than that. The Nationals have just bowed down to what the Liberal Party has said in relation to a crucial issue in my electorate. I am referring to the Liberals' opposition to the Moreton Bay project at Chinderah, a private enterprise project that will deliver 200 jobs to my electorate when it is up and running. The Nationals have walked away and let the Liberals do all the running on that issue; they have opposed it every step of the way. At every dot of the "i" and cross of the "t" the Nats have been doing the bidding of the Liberals in opposing the project. It is a disgrace.
Is it any wonder that the candidates in both Monaro and the Tweed have been distancing themselves from The Nationals? They have been referring to themselves as Coalition candidates rather than Nationals candidates. I can add another reason why they are doing that: it was a National Party-dominated council in the Tweed that had to be sacked because of its conduct. If I were a National Party candidate in the Tweed I would be doing exactly the same thing. I would be distancing myself from the stench The Nationals left behind. The candidate has had to put up with the legacy of former mayor Polglase and what he did in relation to pushing along inappropriate developments. The same occurred with former councillors Murray, Lyn Beck and Gavin Lawrie. I will not say anything about the late Bernie Bell.
At one stage good old Gavin, a supporter of the National Party-dominated council, had the temerity to vote against a high-rise on the Tweed coast. But they got to him. They put in a rescission motion, took him aside, had a few strong words to him, and the next week they had the numbers. Gavin went for the high-rise on the coast; he went for the extra storey on that particular development. It did not take much to turn him around. I mention also former councillor Bob Brimsmead. I do not have to say too much about poor old Bob. He says enough about himself—more than I can say, and more than I would want to say.
There is plenty of evidence as to why The Nationals candidate in the Tweed does not want to identify himself with the Coalition. Nevertheless, he is a National Party candidate and that is something he is going to have to live with. I mentioned the Australian Wheat Board and how it is likely to implode, and the single-desk policy under John Howard's guidance. The Liberal Party determined to run to private enterprise, not realising that sometimes there has to be government intervention and regulation to make sure that our farmers get a fair return. The Nationals have gone to water and let the Liberals take over water policy. It has been handed to a guy who is probably one of the richest men in Australia and comes from the richest electorate in Sydney—and Australia. What is he doing? He is not giving any credence to what The Nationals might say about water policy. He wants to take water out of my electorate and the electorates of Ballina, Clarence and Lismore, and pump it into Queensland. That is ridiculous. We are not prepared to countenance that, but he has flagged that and he has run with it.
Mr Donald Page: Point of order: That is absolutely not true.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: He is quoted in the paper as saying that. Read today's paper! Let me finish by saying I would congratulate The Nationals if they were prepared to stand up and put candidates into all seats, but obviously they are not prepared to do that.
Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) [5.03 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have participated in this debate. Obviously the Government will oppose the amendment. I will come to the reasons why in a moment. I will address some of the issues that have been raised in this debate. The Deputy Leader of The Nationals said it is The Nationals' job to run in country seats. That is the whole point of this argument. We believe that if The Nationals were genuine representatives of rural New South Wales they would be running in all seats. They would not have given up Goulburn, Wagga Wagga, and all those other seats that have Liberal members. Albury, Bega and South Coast are all areas where the Liberals have taken over. At a Federal level the same thing is happening, but I do not have enough time to go into that. Today we heard a number of arguments from The Nationals but they did not take the opportunity to put forward a credible program for country New South Wales. [Quorum formed.]
The amendment moved by the Opposition, which suggests that this House should, for some bizarre reason, vote to have the Opposition form government in New South Wales, is obviously totally inappropriate. Why would anyone in New South Wales want to elect a Coalition whose policy is to charge everybody $1,200 a year more to make up for the black hole in its policy costings? An economically irresponsible $25 billion worth of promises have been made and there is black hole of approximately $15 billion. I saw an example of the economic illiteracy of the Opposition in Monaro last week when The Nationals put out a press release which attempted to flail the Government for allowing Federal money to be involved in the construction of schools in the Monaro electorate. The Nationals said it was appalling that we got that Federal money.
Anybody with even a vague notion of the Commonwealth-State financial relations would know that the Commonwealth has 80 per cent of the taxing power and that money has to be transferred to overcome vertical fiscal imbalances. It goes to show how little The Nationals know about running the economy. We in Monaro are criticised by The Nationals for "throwing money at the electorate". Recently there was an announcement in the Monaro electorate of an extension to the Cooma gaol, but The Nationals opposed it. They put out a press release saying we should not throw money at Cooma gaol. The Nationals and the Liberals show a lack of interest in rural electorates.
The honourable member for South Coast has not even been in here today. The South Coast is another electorate where The Nationals are not running a candidate. The honourable member for Heffron is so worried about that situation that she asked the honourable member for Lachlan to be a candidate for that electorate. That demonstrates my point. The honourable member for Lachlan is one of The Nationals' strongest members, yet they asked for his electorate to be abolished. It is little wonder that The Nationals are disappearing into irrelevance. After 15 years in government the Coalition delivered nothing for the people of Monaro. In the past four years the Labor Party has delivered. Indeed, Country Labor is delivering for all electorates, which is what the people of New South Wales want. [Time expired.]
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion agreed to.