Annastacia Palaszczuk and Fraser Anning

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stifles free speech

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has failed in her attempt to force state MPs to denounce a speech by one of their federal colleagues.

I don’t condone Senator Fraser Anning’s reference to “the final solution” in his maiden speech, but I also don’t support the Queensland Government withdrawing funds for the Katter’s Australia Party to employ state parliamentary staff.

Ms Palaszczuk said Senator Anning’s comments were abhorrent and counter to the most basic human rights, including equality and freedom from discrimination.

“To believe, as we do, in equality and basic human rights means we do not merely support their existence,” the Premier said in a statement.

“We stand up and call out those who would rip them away.

“No one uses the words ‘final solution’ except in sorrow, anger and shame.

“Yes, we have the right to free speech in our parliaments but that free speech is not free of consequence nor is it free of responsibility.

“So, because his party will not denounce him, I denounce his party and I withdraw the additional staff I granted to the Katter’s Australian Party.

“That party tolerates the intolerable and defends the indefensible and I will not be a part of it.”

For the record, here’s the relevant extract from Senator Anning’s speech:

In the days of Menzies, immigrants arriving here were not allowed to apply for welfare and that attracted exactly the right sort of hard-working people this country needed. We should go back to that and ban all immigrants receiving welfare for the first five years after they arrive. The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy, end Australian-job-stealing 457 visas and make student visas conditional on foreign students returning to the country they came from. What we do need a plebiscite for is to decide who comes here.

Was it a deliberate reference to Nazi Germany’s euphemism for mass murder? I doubt it, but don’t know. His party leader Bob Katter made a spirited defence:

The Premier demanded Senator Anning’s state colleagues denounce the speech, otherwise she would withdraw their staff entitlements.

Katter MP Shane Knuth told Parliament:

The attempt to twist Senator Anning’s words to link him to past atrocities is shameful. Nobody has said that they want to return to the White Australia policy. That is a ridiculous assumption borne from hysteria.

Seems like a denial of the Nazi reference to me.

It’s a shame this furore has overshadowed Senator Anning’s speech because he made some interesting comments that are worthy of public debate.

For example, he called for the establishment of rural development state banks, the reinstatement of statutory marketing for agricultural products and building the Bradfield Scheme.

In 1938 Bradfield proposed diverting water from the tropics to irrigate and drought-proof much of the western Queensland interior and large areas of South Australia. The idea had wide support at the time, but the Second World War intervened and critics canned it in subsequent years.

According to Senator Anning:

To imagine the befits of the Bradfield proposal, we only need to see what has been achieved in places like Israel and California, both places in which virtual deserts have been transformed into enormous food bowls which helps drive their respective economies.

He went on to talk about improving port infrastructure and affordable home ownership. Sounds like a manifesto the old Country Party would have been proud of.

Hardly the rantings of an extremist! Indeed, the cynic in me suspects the major parties are happy to collaborate in shutting him down because his views have populist appeal.

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison just a kid

It’s a sign of ageing, but Scott Morrison is the first Prime Minister of Australia to be younger than me.

I’ll be 52 in January. Morrison is 50, born in May 1968. If we’d gone to school together I probably wouldn’t have spoken to the kid in the playground, him being a grade below me. We might have played under 12 football together, but that’s about it.

This pointless trivia marks the passage of time. I remember when football players started being younger than me. Adam Gilchrist (born 1971) was the first Australian cricket captain to make me feel old. I’ve stopped observing how young the doctors and dentists are.

Morrison isn’t the youngest-ever Prime Minister. Wikipedia faithfully records the age of the 29 men and one woman who have held that office in 117 years.

The youngest was Chris Watson (37 years, 18 days) and the oldest John McEwen (67 years, 265 days). Curiously, the median age of a Prime Minister on the first day of their first term is 52 years and 353 days which falls between Joseph Cook and Billy Hughes.

Australia has had 46 Test cricket captains, 36 since Federation in 1901. Prime Ministers only last slightly longer in the job.

Insurgents should depart

Like most Australians, I was appalled by the week’s events; the “insurgency” as Malcolm Turnbull called it. Morrison wasn’t an active schemer until the second challenge was imminent, so I reserve judgement on him and hope he manages to rebuild the Government so it’s at least competitive at the next election.

The reactionary right of the Liberal Party is a disgrace. The sooner that people like Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz leave Parliament the better.

Commentators claim that Peter Dutton’s rise would have assisted the Coalition in Queensland. I doubt it. The LNP’s problems are of its own making. The Liberal and National parties should never have merged.

Until they realise that and demerge, they will continue to struggle, bleeding votes to One Nation in the bush and the Greens in Brisbane. I think Dutton will probably lose his seat.