Robert Schwarten has been the centre of political attention in Rockhampton for two decades. Potential candidates are already lining up to fill his shoes.
Labor MP for Rockhampton Rob Schwarten has continued his personal attack in Parliament against Queensland Rail staff.
Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten called Queensland Rail "a rort" in Parliament yesterday, while supporting the sale of the QR National freight business.
"The coal companies that use the rail services have been subsidised for decades," Schwarten told Parliament. "I'm not surprised to hear you defend the rort that is Queensland Rail, Mr Speaker – the reality is this – Mr Speaker can I continue? The Nicklin Government enticed the coal industry here with three public subsidies."
Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek demanded that Schwarten apologise to Queensland Rail workers across the State, but Bligh said he was just "using colourful language."
"He was making a valid argument about why the business should be privatised," Premier Bligh said. "He used the kind of colourful hyperbole you sometimes see on the floor of the parliamentary chamber. His central point though is right – this is an industry that has enjoyed subsidy from the taxpayer to some of the largest multinational mining companies in the world."
However the unions say that the State Government have neglected Rail infrastructure for years and now they have to spend. In Cairns, we had to sell our airport to get the hospital redeveloped.
Rob Schwarten, as Public Works Minister, has allowed a heap of infrastructure works go to electrical companies in our region that have gone bankrupt due to undercutting decent operators.
Three electrical companies have gone bust around Cairns in the last two years, all of them have won significant Government projects. The issue was raised with Schwarten's office but he did nothing. Another Townsville-based company that was working on the hospital upgrade, is also rumored to go under any day now.
Every time that happens, innocent people and families lose out. Rob Schwarten did nothing.
Contrary to Schwarten's comments, there is not one union member working for these companies. The reason they are not members, is that they get threatened with the sack if they join the ETU or any union. All of this is happening on Rob Schwarten's watch.
It's now abundantly clear that the privatisation issue has no support in the unions. Infrastructure needs to be built, it has been neglected for years but you don’t sell profitable assets to build it. It's such a short term view by a Government that has completely lost touch.
Government members interjected.
Mr SEENEY: Mr Speaker, for the benefit of the minister, I will start again.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Those on my right!
Mr SEENEY: I refer the Minister for Public Works to the article that he wrote for the Courier-Mail where he attacked loyal Labor Party member Peter Simpson—a member who has never once dined at the five-star Aria restaurant and is now facing expulsion for standing up for his working-class colleagues. I ask the minister: does the minister believe that it is part of his ministerial duties to pen vicious personal attacks against working-class people who stand up to the government’s privatisation agenda?
Mr SCHWARTEN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have been waiting for this one. Come in, mug.
Honourable members interjected.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Both sides of the House. I am desperately anxious to hear the reply from the minister.
Mr SCHWARTEN: And I am desperately anxious to give it. Of all the hypocrisy I have ever heard to come from that man! It is just unbelievable. Let me talk about this portfolio and what it does. It is building Queensland. It is building it using the hands and minds of workers who are members of the Electrical Trades Union, who are members of the CFMEU and who are members of the BLF. There are 106,000 of them out there. What I pointed out to Mr Simpson—and I am happy to point it out in here—is that he is doing nothing to help those members. He sold them out on the job in Queensland. At every single job that I have been on I have had ETU members, BLF members and CFMEU members there and I have repeated the message that we are borrowing money to keep them in jobs. There is no three-year guarantee for them like there is for railway workers. I am not surprised to hear the member defend the rort that is Queensland Rail. The reality is this—
Honourable members interjected.
Mr SCHWARTEN: Mr Speaker, can I continue?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr SCHWARTEN: The Nicklin government enticed the coal industry here with three public subsidies. First of all—the greatest of them all, the greatest rort and the greatest thing done to working people in this state—was to use public housing funds to subsidise houses for wealthy coalminers. That 010 3782 Questions Without Notice 26 Oct 2010 was the first one. I privatised that and I am delighted I did. I privatised every one of those houses in coal communities in Queensland, because it was not good enough—
Mr Horan interjected.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member for Toowoomba South.
Mr SCHWARTEN: I want to get this messages across. That is No. 1. That is what Joh did. He took money off the poor and put it into the coal companies by way of housing. The second point is the low royalties that everybody in the Labor Party complained about for years—everybody before Simpson was even born. Without their saying that the coal companies were rorting the royalties in this state—and that is what Nicklin did and that is what Bjelke-Petersen did; they continued to subsidise those companies by not giving Queenslanders their fair share—
Opposition members interjected.
Mr SPEAKER: There is too much interjection from those on my left. I could understand it if the minister was personally attacking you. At the moment he is giving an explanation in relation to the question that was asked. The minister has the call.
Mr SCHWARTEN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, he was taking from the poorest people in those circumstances by ensuring that we funded education last, that we funded disability services non-existently, by giving those cheap royalties to multinational companies. What was the third one? The third one was that he allowed the coal companies to do what no other government has done and that is borrow—
Hon. JC SPENCE (Sunnybank—ALP) (Leader of the House) (11.03 am): I move—
That the minister be granted an extension of time so he can be further heard.
Mr SCHWARTEN: Good.
Mr SPEAKER: Leader of the House, do you want to place a time on that?
Ms SPENCE: No.
Question put—That the motion be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Springborg: Give him another shovel. He’s worn out the other one.
Mr Seeney: Keep digging, Robbie.
Mr SCHWARTEN: I know they do not want to hear how for generations the people of Queensland have been robbed because of their government and its decisions to underfund the basic services in this state. It has taken us 20 years in government to try to turn that around, because they did everything they could to kowtow to multinational companies in this state at the expense of the poor in this state. All the teachers in Queensland, the lowest paid in Australia; police officers, the lowest paid in Australia; nurses, doctors, the public health system—run through the floor, all because they would rather subsidise the multinational coal companies in this state.
Let us have a look at the deal on the table at the moment. The prospectus of the QR float says
that there is a facility for $3 billion already there to borrow. That is $3 billion that is on the public account otherwise—
Ms Bligh: That is for the next two years.
Mr SCHWARTEN: In just two years, yet we see every single day people who sit opposite say that we should be borrowing more for infrastructure—roads, bridges and all the rest of it. I agree with all of that, but I do not agree with borrowing on the public account to—
Mr Horan: The poor old railways workshops. They’re all gone.
Mr SCHWARTEN: I have said this to them, too, and most of them get the message, I tell you.
Decent people in the Labor Party certainly do, because decent people in the Labor Party know you for the scum you are. They know you for the rorters that you are.
Mr Elmes interjected.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr SCHWARTEN: They are scum, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The language is unparliamentary. You will withdraw it and when you
withdraw it, I want—
Mr SCHWARTEN: I will withdraw it.
Mr SPEAKER: Member for Noosa, you are interjecting far too much. I warn you under standing order 253(1). 26 Oct 2010 Questions Without Notice 3783
Mr SCHWARTEN: The bottom line is this: we have decided as a government that we will invest in the future of education, because what is it that keeps this state going? It is people who get jobs. We privatised the forestry, which they opposed—$603 million that was returning three million bucks. What was the announcement in Rockhampton last week? It was that the new firm was investing in that business, planting thousands more trees. Guess what? They are going to build a new sawmill. Are they putting it on the public account? No, they are not. But there will be more workers there who will be working under award conditions as members of the Australian Workers Union who will have all of their conditions that you people want to take away. The final point—
Mr Springborg: What about Simmo?
Mr SCHWARTEN: Yes, I am happy to get to Mr Simpson, because people like Mr Simpson were not around during the SEQEB dispute, when 1,200 ETU workers and every member of our family put 10% of their pay—
Honourable members interjected.
Mr SCHWARTEN: Mr Speaker, I would like to make this point.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr SCHWARTEN: I was around—Simpson was not—in 1980—
Mr Robertson: 1985.
Mr SCHWARTEN: He was not around in 1980, either, in the street-marching stuff. In 1985 he was nowhere to be seen in the SEQEB dispute. I was down here in a number of these rallies and I saw what happened as the police were put on the backs of workers at the instruction of Bjelke-Petersen. I stood in this parliament and voted to restore the conditions of the employees who had been robbed by your side of parliament. In 1975 my father worked for the works department when overnight it was privatised. All of the new school buildings were privatised. They were given out to private enterprise. Guess what happened? He left that job with eight hours pay in his pocket—no relocation expenses, no superannuation. What have the railway workers got? A 14% wage increase that 92% of them supported. The people I know in the railways have got that in their pockets. They have a 14% wage increase, guaranteed superannuation, a guaranteed job and are going into an industry that pays well beyond what every other industry in Rockhampton pays. I go on to building sites and I talk to families. I see blokes who do not know where their next job is coming from. They are members of the ETU, and Peter Simpson has never been near them. You have never once heard him say anything about the plight of ETU workers who are struggling to know where their next job is going to come from. He is too busy worrying about 300 or so workers who are guaranteed a job in Queensland Rail. That is what I object to. That is why I wrote the letter to the editor, because there is nothing Labor whatsoever about sponging on the taxpayers’ account by multinationals. I do not support that. No decent person would. And if anybody on that side had any conscience whatsoever, they would reveal to Queenslanders what exactly they intend to do. Are they going to go down the path of what the other economies are doing and slash jobs? Are they going to do that? Are they going to cut the capital works, like the tories did in 1929? Is that what they are going to do, and have 23 and 24 per cent unemployment in this state?
Mr Dickson interjected.
Mr SCHWARTEN: You do not like to hear the story. You do not like to hear the truth, but that is the reality of it. You stand condemned—
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable the minister will direct his comments through the chair.
Mr SCHWARTEN: The honourable member stands condemned not only for his ignorance but for the fact that he is selling out the people on the Sunshine Coast who we are trying to borrow money for to build a hospital.
Mr SEENEY: I rise to a point of order. I call your attention to the comment that the minister made that QR was a rort. I move that the minister’s statement be incorporated in the prospectus for the QR float.
Mr SPEAKER: It is out of order to have a motion moved in the middle of question time that would interfere with the sessional orders. So there is no point of order.
Here's the transcript from State Parliament yesterday…
- Mr SEENEY: My question is to the Minister for Public Works. I refer the minister to the article he wrote for the Courier-Mail where he attacked loyal Labor Party member Peter Simpson.