01 October 2021

I move: That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience (Senator McKenzie) and the Minister for Families and Social Services (Senator Ruston) to questions without notice asked by Senators Keneally and Gallagher and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) today relating to targets for carbon emissions and to Cabinet solidarity.

It's clear from the answers to questions from Senator McKenzie today and, indeed, throughout this week that at the heart of this faux negotiation between the Nationals and the Liberals—the will they or won't they—is the very existence of the National Party. There are only two reasons that the National Party actually exist these days. One is for pork-barrelling; the other is for culture wars. Senator McKenzie has brazenly confirmed with her answers in question time today and this week. They're stringing things along in an attempt to extort as much pork as they can out of the Liberal Party. They've even appointed a four-person committee to actually look at how much pork they can get and what they can do with it. That is what the National Party are up to this week. That is why they are stringing things along in this faux negotiation. Exhibit A in this is actually Senator McKenzie herself, the person who lost her job over pork-barrelling and has now been brought back into the ministry. It's only the Nationals that could be capable of doing something. They don't punish someone who's been engaged in pork-barrelling; they actually reward them and get them back in cabinet, and then put them at the heart of what they are up to this week. That says all about the National Party that that is what they are trying to do this week. They're trying to extort as much as they can out of the Libs and then go about pork-barrelling in the lead-up to an election.

The second reason why the Nationals exist these days is the culture wars. That's all they've got to offer the people of regional Australia—not a vision for the future, not setting out something they want to achieve. All they want to do is engage in the culture war. They never attempt to have a positive vision for regional Australia; it's all about the scare campaign. We can see elements of that. We can see the way that Senator Canavan's behaving. They want to ensure that they've still got that ability. Again, Senator McKenzie let the cat out of the bag. In her answer to a question yesterday, she said, 'The only reason they exist is to try and stop Labor from being in government.' There's no actual positive vision; there's no actual reason for being in government. The only reason they exist is that they want to try to stop Labor from being in government. That is how sad the National Party have become in this place. I spend a lot of time in regional Queensland. I've got a second office in Gladstone. I spend a lot of time in Gladstone, in the seat of Flynn. I do a lot of travel through Central Queensland. And what is so frustrating, why we are so frustrated by this motivation of the National Party, is that there are so many opportunities that are out there in regional Queensland—be it jobs, be it the future—and there are businesses that are actually going about taking those opportunities, but with no help from the federal government. Businesses are actually spending their own money because they see opportunities and they want to do the right thing by the planet in the long term, so they're actually investing their own money in these opportunities.

I was in Emerald a couple of months ago with the shadow Treasurer. We visited an Emerald bus company that does a lot of charter work. It does significant amounts of work for the mining industry—taking in workers, taking out workers and doing it safely so that the workers aren't driving tired after a shift. It's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars converting its bus fleet to hydrogen with no help from the government whatsoever. This is a bus company, a business group, that wants to do the right thing by the country. It sees opportunity, it's prepared to spend its hard-earned money transitioning its fleet because it's the right thing to do in Emerald, in the seat of Flynn.

We saw what the state government did with Fortescue Future Industries just a couple of Sundays ago. It was a really exciting announcement in Gladstone about hydrogen. Hundreds of jobs are at stake there. I was in Gladstone a few days after that announcement and I actually got the sense that the people of Gladstone saw this as a real initiative. They know this is going to deliver jobs. They know it's going to have a beneficial impact for their local community. This is what the future looks like—but, again, without any help from the federal government. The state government has had to go it alone.

The week before that in Gladstone, we saw the joint announcement made by Rio Tinto and the state government, once again, about the future of their refineries in Gladstone. They're looking at clean energy that is actually going to power those refineries into the future. Those refineries use about 20 per cent of Queensland's electricity. They're significant energy users, but it shows you, again, that they're looking at what the future looks like for them and they understand the role that clean energy will play.

It is so frustrating that the Nationals are having this faux war while regional Queensland and other parts of the country are getting on with the job of transitioning the country. If only we had a federal government that was actually prepared to work with them! How much more could we achieve then?