Federal MP Clive Palmer has turned the tables on the Abbott government and his old nemesis, Queensland premier Campbell Newman, winning Senate support for an unprecedented federal inquiry into the state’s government, thanks to backing from Labor and the Greens.
The Queensland mining magnate, formerly a major supporter of Queensland’s LNP, has been involved in a savage war of words with Newman since a falling out nearly two years over a mine in the Galilee Basin.
The inquiry’s timing seems designed to cause maximum embarrassment to the first-term government in the lead up to next year’s state election.
The Palmer United Party’s second attempt to establish an inquiry was successful thanks to Labor’s support after the opposition struck a deal that the previous ALP government of Anna Bligh would not be part of the investigation.
The Greens joined in after Palmer United agreed to amend the motion to include whether environmental approvals should be a federal or state responsibility.
The Government seemed to be caught by surprise by the alliance, with the Coalition’s Senate leader Eric Abetz describing it as a personal vendetta by Palmer and abuse of Senate process.
“Basically it’s a bitch session about Queensland,” he said.
The five-member Senate committee will spend six months looking at how the Newman government spent Commonwealth funds, the judicial system, and the development and environmental approvals process, and only have one Liberal member.
Attorney-general and Queensland senator George Brandis said PUP senator and fellow Queenslander Glenn Lazarus had been “sold a pup”.
Brandis declared the proposal unlawful and “a disgrace”.
Labor senator Stephen Conroy hit back at the Coalition calling it hypocritical for calling “royal commissions to pursue its own nasty political vendettas”. He used Parliamentary privilege to accuse the Queensland government of being corrupt.
The Premier is currently on holidays but issued a statement dismissing the inquiry as a stunt.
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