Queensland election: Campbell Newman forced to endorse transparency principles

Although the premier was declared the winner of the people’s forum on Friday night, he was pressured into agreeing to sign up to the Fitzgerald principles

The Queensland premier has been forced to commit to principles of transparency and accountability, proposed by former corruption watchdog Tony Fitzgerald, which the Liberal National party had refused to sign.

Campbell Newman made the commitment during the Sky News/Courier Mail people’s forum on Friday night after questioned by one of the undecided voters on why he did not sign up to the proposed four principles.

Newman initially attempted to argue the LNP government was the most accountable Queensland government in decades but was repeatedly asked by moderator David Speers if he would commit to the principles.

“I want to talk about what we’ve done,” he initially responded and started speaking about LNP right to information laws and the publication of ministerial diaries.

Speers repeatedly asked why Newman had not committed to the principles. Newman asked the audience questioner to read out each of the principles which are:

1. Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the state.

2. Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations.

3. Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence.

4. Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.

Newman responded to each one that his government either abided it or agreed with it as Speers asked “so you commit to the principles?”.

“I’m happy to do that,” Newman responded.

The LNP had initially been the only party in Queensland not to sign up to the principles drafted by Fitzgerald, the man who headed Queensland’s landmark corruption inquiry in the late 1980s.

Newman then tried to talk about government transparency and accountability in terms of donations and suggested bikies were donating to the Labor party through the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

“I doubt that, that’s ridiculous,” Palaszczuk responded shaking her head.

The hour long people’s forum was dominated by talk of the economy and the government’s proposed privatisation of state electricity assets. The government plans to privatise electricity assets on 99-year leases to raise just under $40bn, with more than half of the proceeds used to pay down the state’s debt.

“Labor was borrowing money, not just for infrastructure, but they were borrowing money to run the government,” Newman said. “We have put our foot on the brake in terms of waste and inefficiency. Next financial year we will have the first budget surplus we have seen in a decade.”

During the forum both leaders fielded questions from the audience which was made up of 100 undecided voters chosen by the polling company Galaxy.

Healthcare, though not an issue which has dominated the campaign, was a key issue for the undecided voters with one voter asking how the parties planned to address under-resourced hospitals.

“There is a problem with nurse staffing ratios in this state. A Labor government will legislate ratios because it is about quality of care, I know our nurses are stretched to their limit, because they tell me,” Palaszczuk said.

“They are skipping their meal breaks, they are working back-to-back shifts. You cannot strip 1800 nurses and midwives out of the health system and not cause problems.”

Palaszczuk refused to say what the ratios would be.

Newman used the question to talk about how waiting lists for elective surgery in Queensland were the shortest in Australia but it quickly turned into a debate about the waiting list to get on the waiting list.

Newman guaranteed the list will be reduced within a year under an LNP government while Palaszczuk said she would make it a priority.

Palaszczuk also used the forum to declare  Labor government would reintroduce state sanctioned ceremonies for civil unions, which were scrapped by the LNP during its first year of government. She had previously said she would consider the policy change.

Newman used his closing remarks to position the election as a decision about which party voters trusted to steer Queensland’s economy.

“What we’ve learnt tonight and what we’ve been learning this election is that the Labor party do not have a plan for Queensland, they are very, very light on detail. We have a plan, it’s the plan that Queenslanders created, the Queensland plan,” he said.

“Particularly we will deliver jobs, because we know how to manage the economy, you can trust us to get on to deliver for this state.”

Palaszczuk emphasised Labor’s opposition to asset sales saying once they were gone they would be gone forever.

This is one of the most important elections in a generation … I want a Queensland that we can work together as one, that we can unite Queensland, not divide Queensland,” she said. “I want to make sure we have jobs, that we grow the economy. Labor will not sell your assets, the LNP will sell your assets.”

Newman was declared the winner unanimously by the Sky News panel made up of Speers, Courier Mail national affairs editor, Dennis Atkins, and Courier Mail state political editor, Steven Wardill.

Palaszczuk was visibly nervous during the forum and though Newman faltered when questioned about transparency he was able to speak in more detail about policy.


Bridie Jabour

The GuardianTramp

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