REGIONAL INVESTMENT CORPORATION BILL

I'm very pleased to be speaking on the Regional Investment Corporation Bill 2017 and speaking in favour of the member for Hunter's excellent amendment to it, which should be passed by all members of this House. It should enjoy their support.

I'll be voting against this bill, and I will be voting against this bill for three reasons. The first is the irregular fashion in which it comes to the parliament, and I want to have a bit to say about that.

The second reason that I want to put to the parliament is some of the deep concerns that have been raised by stakeholders and experts about the structure of the bill, the lack of a cost-benefit analysis, and the fact that the structure being established by the bill could be deeply flawed from the get-go. The third reason I want to bring to the fore in this debate is that any bill that has 'development of regional Australia' as its title and objective needs to have at its core the objective of dealing with the growing inequality between Australians who live in some of the richest suburbs of our capital cities and those who come from regional areas such as those that you and I represent, Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan. I want to address that issue.


My first objection is the irregular fashion in which the bill comes before the House. The bill was introduced into the House by a minister who, by his own admission, is not eligible to be elected as a member of this House. We know, through the minister's own admission, when he stood up in question time yesterday, without urging or provocation, that each and every time he put his hand up to be elected to the other place or this place, he was a citizen of a foreign power: he was a citizen of the wonderful country of New Zealand. I have nothing against the great country of New Zealand, unlike some of the members opposite who have made utterances. I have to say, I envy their rugby playing abilities; I'd like to win a Bledisloe Cup sometime this century. But being a citizen of a foreign power renders you ineligible to be a member of this place or the other place.


There are many who argue that we should give the member for New England, the Deputy Prime Minister, the benefit of the doubt. That's not the standard the government set for the unfortunate senators who have been caught by section 44 of the Constitution. To his credit, the senator for Queensland, Matt Canavan, has done the right thing. We can only imagine the conversations that went on behind closed doors, in the Prime Minister's office, between the Prime Minister and the senator for Queensland. We can only imagine that he was leant upon: 'We do not need a scandal over this; we're calling upon you to no longer exercise a vote in the Senate and step down from your role as a cabinet minister.' That was the standard the government set for their own senator. Why is it different for the Deputy Prime Minister?


If you don't judge the member for New England by the standard the government set for the senator for Queensland, you should at least judge the member for New England by the standard he set for himself. When the unfortunate Greens senators from Western Australia and Queensland were caught by the provisions of section 44(i) of the Constitution, it was none other than the member for New England who said: 'So sad, too bad; these people have to go. It's not an academic requirement; it's an actual requirement.' He said, effectively, 'They should've done their homework; they are ineligible to stand, because of their own sloppiness and carelessness.'


This is no ancillary issue. If this legislation is to be voted on by this House, we need to be assured, as members of parliament, that it has been brought to this parliament in the proper way. If it's found, as in all likelihood it could be, that the member for New England is ineligible to be a member, let alone a minister or a Deputy Prime Minister, it is not proper that members of this House are asked to vote on this bill this evening or tomorrow. It is not proper that we're allowed to do that. The government should either get another qualified minister to come before us today and move this bill, or they should let it stand on the Notice Paper until they're able to clear up the situation of the member for New England.

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