New Qld Speaker Peter Wellington open to voting with LNP
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (right) and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad (left) with Speaker Peter Wellington Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (right) and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad (left) with Speaker Peter Wellington. Dan Peled
by Mark Ludlow
Queensland’s new Speaker, Peter Wellington, has said he will have to be convinced by the Palaszczuk government to support each new law rather than just be a rubber stamp for the minority Labor government.
Mr Wellington, the long-serving independent MP for Nicklin, is Queensland’s first Speaker from outside a major political party in more than a century. His support for Labor allowed Annastacia Palaszczuk to form a minority government after the January poll.
With state Parliament resuming on Tuesday for the first time since Labor’s surprise election victory, Mr Wellington said he could support laws proposed by the Liberal National Party or the Katter’s Australian Party, despite providing the political lifeline to Labor to form government.
"With the numbers being so tight, whether it’s the government, the independents or the Katter’s party, those proposals have the potential to be the new laws in Queensland," Mr Wellington told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
"We want the best proposals forward, not just those at the whim of the government."
He said the precarious nature of state Parliament would ensure no "extreme" laws were pushed through, such as the former Newman government’s anti-biker gang laws or changes to the corruption watchdog, the Crime and Corruption Commission.
"I think you will see very moderate and middle-of-the-road policies introduced that will be fair and reasonable," he said.
Mr Wellington – who was formally voted in as the new Speaker on Tuesday morning – said he had agreed to support the government in confidence motions but would have to be won over on the merits of particular parliamentary bills.
"Recent governments have had such massive control of Parliament with their numbers that they were able to steamroll whatever they wanted to do without really having regard to the opposition or crossbenches," he said.
Majority must be convinced
"The situation in the 55th Parliament in Queensland is I will support the Premier, so she can govern Queensland so that the wheels of government can continue and the public servants can get paid. But when it comes to the proposed legislative agenda, the laws they want to introduce or change in Queensland, they have to be able to convince the majority of the members of Parliament that they are good laws."
Labor holds 44 seats in the 89 seat parliament, compared with the Liberal National Party on 42 seats, and needs the backing of Mr Wellington to gain the 45-seat majority. Mr Wellington helped Labor leader Peter Beattie form minority government in 1998.
Mr Wellington was no fan of the former Newman government, repeatedly clashing with then premier Campbell Newman in Parliament over tough anti-bikie laws. It was no surprise he backed Labor to form minority government, despite last-minute lobbying by the new LNP leader Lawrence Springborg.
Mr Wellington has proposed a more civil Parliament saying he would attempt to hold ministers to account during question time and stop the waffling answers from "Dorothy-Dixer" questions.
All 89 members of state Parliament were sworn in on Tuesday morning. Mr Wellington will visit governor Paul de Jersey on Tuesday afternoon to confirm his appointment.
Ms Palaszczuk said Mr Wellington, who was elected to state Parliament in 1998, was known as a "TRUE independent" and was the best candidate for Speaker.
"He has remained true to this description," she told state Parliament. "The member for Nicklin has a well-earned reputation for integrity. He believes in openness and accountability.
"The Parliament has not seen an independent Speaker for 100 years. Today we can make history and elect a true independent. He can raise the reputation of Parliament in the eyes of Queenslanders."
The LNP supported Mr Wellington’s appointment.
The first question time is not expected until Friday with the formalities of the new Parliament to be completed on Wednesday. The first confidence motion in the new government is expected to be debated on Thursday.