Welcome to the first week of parliament for 2022. The backdrop was a series of public questions about the integrity of the Palaszczuk Government raised by senior figures – both current and former – whose expertise is overseeing these very issues.
Can’t Inquire into the Vibe
All through January and February Labor figures were still using corona virus to justify daily media conferences.
Annoyingly, the journalists kept using these media conferences to raise issues of integrity. I won’t recount the whole sorry saga but for me the best quote goes to an exasperated Deputy Premier who told journalists, “We can’t have an Inquiry into the Vibe”…that would be the vibe of general nest-feathering by Labor for its elite mates and union officials.
Except When We Do
Steven Miles didn’t have to wait long for the Premier to disprove his words. She announced an inquiry into the public service vibe, to be headed by Peter Coaldrake – Labor Party donor, the man who “reformed” the Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges and the man who also “reformed” the public service back in the days of the Goss Government.
This reform involved sending experienced public servants to empty offices with no work, while moving everyone else to contracts. These contracts now see senior administrators paid more than the Premier. They may also explain a public service constrained in the way they do their jobs. That contract might not be renewed if you rock the boat.
Extremely Limited Scope
The Coaldrake Inquiry has already been criticised as not fit for purpose because it won’t talk to individual whistleblowers or look at specific incidents of poor governance or behaviour. Yep, Steven Miles, for want of a better description it will be an Inquiry into the Vibe.
A Thicket of Inquiries
Can you call a multiple of inquiries a “thicket”?
It would be an apt description of a Queensland Labor inquiry because they are mainly meant to bury issues not shine a light on them.
Here are some of the Inquiries Labor currently has on the go:
the Varghese Inquiry into the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, the Queensland Parliamentary Committee on State Development and Regional Industries Inquiry into the Office of the Independent Assessor,
The Fitzgerald Inquiry into the CCC,
an investigation by the Premier’s Director General into interference in reports by the State Archivist to Parliament,
an inquiry by the Economic and Governance Committee into the State Integrity Commission
and the above mentioned Coaldrake review of the public service.
Will They Make any Difference?
We can live in hope, but the record isn’t good. The results of a review into Queensland’s youth bail laws which started in February a year ago have still not been released publicly. Meanwhile youth crime continues to climb, especially in North Queensland.
Not Acted On
Meanwhile, the Auditor General has been calling for the recommendations from a 2017 review to be implemented. These recommendations would strengthen the independence of his very important oversight role.
It Really is a Vibe
When you have people such as the Auditor General, the Integrity Commissioner, the State Archivist and memorably, last year, the Clerk of the Parliament raising serious concerns about governance and transparency, there really is a vibe – and it is not a good one.
Lobbyists and Labor Mates
With most Queenslanders wanting desperately to get back to normal and not hear about COVID19 all the time, Deputy Premier Steven Miles has been defending the arrangements around the Wellcamp Quarantine facility.
It is hard to swallow the excuse of “commercial in confidence” when nothing was actually put out as a commercial tender. We still don’t know what it cost to build or continues to cost to operate.
This week in Parliament the LNP highlighted the links between the company awarded the contract for medical services at the camp and Labor-aligned lobbyists, Anacta.
Recycling Call In also linked to Anacta
The LNP also raised the matter of the “call in” by Deputy Premier Steven Miles of the Wanless Recycling Park landfill project which had been kyboshed by the Ipswich City Council. This project also has Anacta representation, headed by Evan Moorhead the former Labor state secretary who helped run Labor’s re-election campaign. At the time the Electoral Commission of Queensland expressed concerns about blurring the lines between campaigners and lobbyists.
While we are down in the thickets, I just wanted to highlight a couple of regional hearings taking place in the immediate future.
Office of the Independent Assessor
The committee Inquiry into the Office of the Independent Assessor will hold public hearings in Mount Isa on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 and Rockhampton on Monday, March 7, 2022. You can find out the details by clicking here.
Federal Health System
The Health and Environment Committee will hold public hearings into the provision of primary, allied and private health care, aged care and NDIS services and its impact on the Queensland public health system in Emerald on Thursday March 3 and Longreach on Friday March 4 2022. You can find the details here.
Topping Up the Budget
This week Parliament approved a funding top up for six government departments. This is despite the budget only having been handed down in November and the next budget being due in about four months.
Fairy Tales – and a Perfect Record of Over Spends
You may recall me telling you at the time that the Budget was a fairy tale whose happy ending depended on – among other things – Labor being able to restrain its spending. This week’s extra appropriations mean that Treasurer Dick has maintained Labor’s perfect record of never managing to do this, since it came to power in 2015.
Restarting Elective Surgeries
I was surprised that there were no extra appropriations for either Education or Health. Both of these departments had major COVID19 expenses. Having suspended elective surgeries due to COVID19 our Hospital and Health Services now face the challenge of restarting normal operations while still on COVID19 alert and still managing vaccination and fever clinics.
We Can’t Take this at A Stroll
“Elective” surgery is not optional surgery. It is just not emergency surgery such as a road accident or similar. These surgeries are serious and have a direct correlation to suffering and life expectancies. I have multiple constituents whose situations are becoming increasingly urgent. Some are not yet even on the waiting list for the waiting list.
We need to attack these waiting lists with the same single-mindedness we used against COVID19. I know from the public calls by doctors that more funding is needed but I suspect the silence will be deafening.
Mobile BreastScreen Service- Book in Now
Screenings are also important and I’m pleased to say the mobile BreastScreen service has started its 2022 schedule of visits in Gregory. It is currently in Emerald until March 19, but you can find out when other towns are scheduled by calling 13 20 50 or by clicking here.
The Show Must Go On
LNP members used Parliament to raise the issue of the continuing COVID19 restrictions on country shows. It is an odd situation for all concerned as showgrounds are home to many community groups, not just the show society.
Yet the shows seem to be singled out for special treatment. Now they are being told that in order to stage a show this year they will have to enforce no-entry for the unvaccinated. This will apply to volunteers and contractors as much as to members of the public wishing to attend their local show.
It will also tie up volunteers to man the gates and possibly involve those volunteers in confrontations if they have to refuse entry.
Yet footie clubs can hold matches at the showground without the same requirement. Community groups can stage fundraising events without having to have a “vaccination patrol”.
I am really hoping the Chief Health Officer will review this and advise the Health Minister that the shows can go on. They are a valuable part of life in rural and regional Queensland. They should be celebrated not restricted.
Our show committees have done it tough for two years, and it takes its toll when all the workers are volunteers and all the funding is locally donated.
Rental Reforms to Start October 1
Minister Enoch announced this week that the rental reforms to end “no grounds” evictions and to make it easier for tenants to have pets will commence from October 1, 2022.
Minimum housing standards for Queensland rental properties will start applying to new leases from September 1, 2023 and to all rental properties from September 1, 2024.
I was saddened to hear that we seem to be losing the battle against fire ants in Queensland. It is a timely reminder for landholders to check they are not bringing fire ants to the Highlands or the West when they bring in hay from outside the district. You can find maps of fire ant biosecurity zones as well as maps of where there have been recent finds of fire ants by clicking here.
Rockhampton Regional Council is also urging landholders to be vigilant about the spread of prickly acacia and parthenium. We have been battling prickly acacia for years in western Queensland. I would hate to see the battle spread east.
Early start for the Tourism Season
Although we are still in February, Central Highlanders are already seeing grey nomads travelling west. It looks like our tourism season is extending earlier and later every year.
This is great for our tourism businesses but, combined with workforce shortages, it means access for our young people to hospitality TAFE qualifications is vital. I have lodged a Question on Notice with Education Minister Grace Grace seeking to clarify the situation for Winton, Aramac, Barcaldine and Blackall state schools, given that the Big Red Truck is off the road for maintenance for most of the 2022 school year.
Thanks for Reading
Thanks for reading. If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me. The Longreach office phone number is (07) 4521 5700. The Emerald office phone number is (07) 4913 1000.
You can email me at my website www.lachlanmillarmp.com
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Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory