LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has labelled MP Bob Katter “a disgrace” after he failed to support a sea walls motion in parliament this week, despite Mr Katter knowing full well that the government had blatantly back-tracked on its earlier funding commitment.
“Katter puts his hand on his heart and says he supports Indigenous issues but, in his actions yesterday, he has failed the people of the Torres Strait,” Mr Entsch said.
“Katter was fully aware that the government had committed to funding in full the sea walls after my first Private Member’s Motion in August last year.
“He has seen the letter where Simon Crean then turned around and said, ‘Sorry, it’s a State Government issue’. I even gave him a copy of the email I received from one of Crean’s senior staffers apologising for his boss’ about-face.
“Yet in this Katter has shown his true colours he clearly hasn’t got the political courage to vote when it really matters. Look at what happened with the no-confidence motion in the Speaker, Peter Slipper he couldn’t even be bothered leaving his office, and it’s by no means the first time.
“The public should see Bob Katter for what he really is so that next election, they can vote for a candidate who will properly represent them.”
As background, during the 2010 election campaign the Coalition committed the full $22 million to fix the sea walls. After Labor got into power, Mr Entsch continued his efforts and put up his first Private Member’s Motion to lock in the funding. This was delayed from March to August at the request of Mr Crean, who “wanted to find which pot of money it should come from”.
The motion was then passed with bipartisan support in August and Mr Entsch wrote to Mr Crean soon after to thank him, and enquire when the works might begin. But, when Mr Crean finally responded three months later, he had reneged on the commitment by saying it was a State Government responsibility.
Mr Entsch said the $5 million allocated through the RADF fund was “totally inappropriate” in that it failed to meet clear criteria, such as generating further private investment off public money.
Mr Entsch then put up his second Private Member’s Motion, which condemned the Minister for his back-track and called on the government to investigate remedial works and more importantly – they how could be funded.
The motion has been ready to be voted on for several months yet the Government kept delaying it until it could do a deal with the independents for their support.
“The amendments absolve the Federal Government of taking any real action, and put the onus back on the State Government,” Mr Entsch said. “This is not a State Government issue.
“I’ve put a huge amount of work into this over the last two years and had them well and truly hooked, now that’s been squandered. Crean has done a deal with the local leaders that will fix the walls on Saibai and Boigu but has left the four inner islands out in the cold. The other leaders of the Torres Strait Islands should be furious, as am I.
“It is exactly the same situation as with the TB health crisis up there the Federal Government continues to pass the buck onto the State Government for something that is not their responsibility.
“Take the fact that the State Government has provided $32 million worth of TB treatment to PNG nationals yet the Federal Government has only reimbursed them for $8 million of that. Perhaps if they were to pay their $24 million debt, the Newman government might have some funds to do something.
“I am absolutely disgusted with the deception, dishonesty and loss of commitment in this whole process – it’s clear that Katter and Crean are the ones playing politics.”