ALP Take Far North
Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. – John F. Kennedy
In the 2017 State election the people of Far North Queensland voted ALP and rejected the LNP Newman Government and their campaign for privatisation and austerity, electing ALP members in Mulgrave, Baron River and Cook and myself as the ALP Member for Cairns.
The win was overwhelming! I was confident I would win Cairns and was well and truly prepared to be an ALP member in opposition. However, not in my wildest dreams did I believe the ALP would win government. The question was could I defend the ALP in Government? I would give it a go.
“Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.”
― DaShanne Stokes
Sometimes truth hits you in the face with one great almighty slap. During one sitting of the Queensland Parliament in 2015 an ALP Member was speaking about all that was bad in Queensland and admonishing the former LNP government over asset sales, neglect of public housing and the disadvantage of indigenous Queenslanders. I could not have agreed more with every word he said. However, in reply an LNP member responded by pointing out that the ALP was far more responsible for the state of affairs than the LNP, after all the Queensland ALP had been in power for 26 of the last 30 years! It hit me like a slap in the face. He was right. There was no better example than asset sales. Former ALP Governments had sold so many assets, everything from the State Government Insurance Office (SGIO), a string of ports (including the Cairns International Airport), QR Freight Assets to Forest Plantations. The ALP had already implemented many policies they criticised the LNP for advocating at the election.
Clearly the major parties were just as bad as each other, not just in terms of policy but in terms of behaviour. I heard LNP representatives criticise female ALP members over their attire, ALP members also described LNP representatives in the most childish and insulting ways and a Premier in Palaszczuk who would deny even members of her own team when they needed support, from Billy Gordon through to her own Police Minister Joann Miller, who was forced to resign after she fell out with Paul Pisasale and certain elements in the Queensland Police Union. She should have been backed, not sacked! Miller never received so much as a ‘how are you call’ from one of her Cabinet Colleagues. These people had no decency.
Around this time Cairns based Senator Jan McLucas was knifed by many of my colleagues (after decades of loyal service) and the only reason I was given was that more people lived on the Sunshine Coast, where her replacement would be based. How about that for a slap in the face for the Far North? Was the enough to cause me to resign from the ALP? No, but it was a start.
Free Ride as a Party MP
“We owe our loyalty to each other and to our children’s children, not to party politics.”
― DaShanne Stokes
Essentially the day-to-day work of a party MP is a con on the community. This is the case because the only thing a member of Parliament has control over is their vote. However, once they join a political party they don’t even have that! They have sacrificed their vote to the party organisation. They can’t exercise it and you can’t even ask questions in the parliament. Questions are prepared, written down and put in front of them as if they were five years old. It is hard to see how politicians can justify would be getting paid when they are doing something that could adequately that be done by five-year-old. To compensate MPs for their useless existence, Ministers in the Cabinet will contact local MPs when a departmental project is ready to be announced and pretend the MP had a role in it. If an MP is well behaved, they may even get their name on a plaque.
The Sugar Bill and Puppet Politics
Late in 2015 legislation came to Parliament concerning regulation in the sugar industry. At issue was who was to have the greater say in the marketing of sugar, the big sugar milling companies or canegrowers themselves. On the side of cane growers was the Katter’s Australia Party (KAP) and the Liberal National Party (LNP) which at that point was led by an ex-National Lawrence Springboard (as opposed to an inner city liberal).
I voted with the ALP and in doing so supported the big Sugar milling companies over my own constituents. I felt sick in the guts about it and in the gallery were sugar cane farmers from Far North Queensland. Having grown up and gone to school with children from cane farms I really felt I had done the wrong thing, what’s more I knew if I didn’t leave the Labor Party I would get used to doing the wrong thing over and over again. I had seen people who had become part of the party and done the wrong thing for years. I didn’t want to be like the machine and I wanted to do what was right!