Diary Australia


28 October 2017

9:00 AM

28 October 2017

9:00 AM

I hope one of my children studies law so at least he or she can read about me in Constitutional Law 101. This week I get my day in court about whether I get to keep my job as a Queensland senator.

I fly down to Canberra with my solicitor who has not been to Canberra much before. With some spare time we head out to Canberra’s ‘Venice of the North’, Belconnen.Most Australians have a perverted view of Canberra. Canberra is certainly different, but not in the way that most Australians assume. Out in the suburbs, Canberra becomes average. There are no great disparities of wealth. Life is suburban bliss, made up of shopping, kids’ sport and school. The otherwise mundane time with one’s family is what I consider bliss, anyway.

The Bathurst 1000 is on but for my lawyers this is their greatest race of the year. I scan my barrister’s apartment. There is no big screen TV, and no chance of watching the race.

You don’t want to be the patient in an operation that the surgeons are all excited about. Far better for your surgery to be routine. Alas, my legal situation is far from routine.

My lead barrister, David Bennett, is a colourful man. A short, hirsute ball of wit and intellect, he jokes that he once represented a mafioso. The papers ran a picture of him and his client walking down the street and David’s swarthy features led people to assume that he was the Sicilian. I’m fine with that. If David can convince the bench that he is the Italian, not me, that will work!

It is a fascinating process as the legal minds bounce ideas off each other – more like a musos’ jam session. Sandy has dug up arcane 19th century international law. Gim has done the grunt, but I know he won’t get the glory. David suggests that qualification for the Australian parliament could end up resembling the inhumane racial classifications of an antebellum Mississippi country club. Andrew, a long time friend of David’s, plays devil’s advocate to veto that metaphor.

My solicitor James comes up with a better metaphor – ‘genealogical witch hunts’. That stays off the cutting room floor and later features in a Kudelka cartoon which proposes a Section 44 test involving a dunking stool representative of a 16th century witch trial – ‘as well as cutting down on the paperwork, it is terrific fun!’

It is not that much different to politics. The bouncing of ideas is how we prepare for major interviews like Q&A. Which brings me to my next day, when I am on Q&A. There are mixed views on whether or not to go on Q&A. Some think you’re on a hiding to nothing given the stacked nature of the panels and audiences. I think you have to enter the fray and fight the battle of ideas wherever you can. The audience in the studio is not what is important, it is the audience behind the glass in the lounge rooms that you should focus on. It is a lively panel and I spar with Richard Di Natale sporting a StopAdani shirt. Every time you see a greenie wearing such a shirt you should ask them why they don’t respect the wishes of Aboriginal Australians, who last year voted 293 to 1 in favour of the Adani mine. Marriage of course comes up and I do wonder how the ABC will fill an hour’s show if the gay marriage debate ever ends in this country.

Speaking of the marriage vote, the next day I am off to Sydney to check how the count is progressing. There is not much to report. Both sides have volunteers ‘observing’ the process. They are all committed people, supporting democracy and asking for nothing in return. The only snag is via a ‘lost in translation’ moment in an indigenous community. The locals thought the government was proposing to make homosexuality compulsory! In protest they had burnt their ballots. A hapless bureaucrat is dispatched to clarify the situation.

I catch up with Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Harinder Singh. Harinder is a sharp and savvy operator. We take up our common interest in how we get Australians to realise the opportunity that lies in the subcontinent. Every month one million Indians turn 18. It is the fastest growing major economy in the world, and we share so many instinctive cultural links to India, the so-called 3 C’s of commonwealth, cricket and curry. But those things are not enough. To build our relationship with India we need to add the fourth C of commerce, just as we did with Japan, Korea and China. I think our greatest prospect to launch that 4th C is through another C word, coal.

I head back home to Central Queensland, one of the great coal producing regions of Australia. I started this piece wishing for a future career in the law for my children, but in truth I would prefer them to do something that actually builds something.There is an anxiety in Central and North Queensland about what the future opportunities for our children will be. It has been a tough few years. That is why there is so much support for the Adani project. At least they are willing to have a crack.

Last week we had fireworks in Rockhampton to celebrate Adani choosing to base part of their fly-in, fly-out workforce there. I am in politics to make a better country for our children, and more jobs and wealth in coal mining will help do that. I hope I get to keep fighting for that opportunity.

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