No, this is not just another pollie’s whinge. This is the duress alarm going off after an assault in Queensland Parliament on June 18. The victim was all of us who love a fair go and think the great game of democracy should be played by the rules. As Paul Murray said that day, “This is red hot. It’s offensive. It’s a rort”. As my colleague here in Toowoomba, shadow attorney general David Janetzki, told parliament, “the Palaszczuk Labor government have now launched a full-frontal assault on the democratic process in Queensland.”
What would you think of a law that gives one side in the democratic contest a twelve-times advantage over their opponent? That is what Queensland Labor did on June 18, with their cynically named Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2019. Cynical, because it has all the accountability and integrity of an Antifa mob torching and trashing the place. Let’s call Labor the Antifair mob, because its new law torches and trashes the fair go in Queensland.
Facts. At the upcoming state election campaign in October, the Labor party and its twenty affiliated unions will be allowed to spend over $1.8 million in my electorate of Toowoomba North. I am allowed to raise just $58,000 while my party, the LNP, is allowed to tip in a maximum of $92k, making a total of $150,000; a twelfth of the Labor-unions budget.
That is not a contest. Money, in an election campaign, means communication with the electorate through mail-outs, media advertising and signage. Limit the money and you limit the communication of ideas from one side of the democratic contest. That is why the cynicism was so shameful from Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath on June 18 when she said of the new law, ‘My hope is that it will lead to politics being a battle of ideas, rather than a battle of bank balances’. What she really meant is, ‘My hope is that this gross rorting of bank balances in favour of Labor will stop any ideas from the other side getting a fair hearing’.
D’Ath, like all Labor MPs, depends on union funding and manpower for her election campaigns. She benefited massively from union money in her by-election win in 2014. The unions control the Labor party with fifty per cent of delegates to the Labor convention; historically, the Labor party is merely the political arm of the Labor movement. So D’Ath, like all Labor MPs, owes the unions her political soul. As the other, more famous Darth once said, “You don’t know the power of the dark side! I must obey my master.”
So Labor passes a law to let its union master overwhelm the LNP’s campaign spend, and also to overwhelm its presence on election day itself. On October 31, Labor and its twenty affiliated unions will be allowed to flood every voting booth in my electorate with eighty-six signs, while I am limited to just six. We know that many voters do not make up their mind until they arrive at the polling booth, and that signage and messaging at the booth is an important part of the campaign. Under Labor’s new statute, the conservative side of politics will be overrun by the Antifair mob, and there will be no contest.
And as I told the House on June 18:
This bill should be about making sure the people have confidence in the institution that is the parliament of Queensland. It should be about what the long title says—accountability and integrity—but it is not. It is a cover-up to defend the elite so that they can abuse their power and they can reward their union masters. That is what this bill is about.
There is a fake pretence of fairness in Labor’s law, because it does allow other community groups to become third-party campaign organisations like the unions, which would allow these groups to donate the same money and wave the same number of signs as a union. But Labor knows their political opponents have nothing to match the union movement.
Business groups are not affiliated to any particular party; they just lobby for good outcomes for their members regardless of who is in government. Values-based lobby groups are strictly non-partisan so that they can appeal to both sides of politics. The LNP has no affiliated groups in the way Labor has its unions.
But “affiliation” is too weak a word for the intimate cohabitation of Labor and its unions. The political and industrial arms of Labor are part of the same body. Labor’s left hand always knows what its right hand is doing. It is a rort to pretend that the unions are independent of Labor in the way a business council or conservative lobby group is independent of the LNP. But that is the pretence, the con, underlying Labor’s new law.
And as a final defacing of democratic process, Labor’s Bill about “accountability” dodged any public accountability by tabling a massive 229 amendments at the 11th hour. No public consultation. No time for proper parliamentary consideration. D’Ath the great evader avoided any meaningful scrutiny of her Bill – any integrity, we could say, of the democratic process – by dumping 100 pages of detailed amendments on us the night before the Bill was to be debated and then guillotining debate after just a few hours.
David Janetzki responded for the LNP, saying ‘What we saw last night with the 229 amendments over 100 pages is just the final nail in the coffin of this government’s disdain for the democratic process in Queensland.’
Paul Murray was right: “This stuff is wrong”. But it is now law in Queensland, and the great game of democracy has been corrupted by rules that make the LNP team run on bootless and gagged. The Queensland election, under Labor, will be a one-sided battle of bank balances, with ideas struggling to be heard.
Trevor Watts is the LNP Member for Toowoomba North.
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