Coali­tion soothes fear of hold- up

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - TONY RAGGATT

THE Coali­tion has re­jected con­cern over de­lays to north­ern devel­op­ment as its Queens­land Senator and min­is­ter Matt Cana­van is likely to be on the side­lines for two months.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Barn­aby Joyce is ex­pected to be sworn in as Min­is­ter for Re­sources and North­ern Aus­tralia to­day af­ter Senator Cana­van sen­sa­tion­ally re­signed the port­fo­lios on Tues­day af­ter the lat­est cit­i­zen­ship scan­dal.

He is at least the third par­lia­men­tar­ian caught in cit­i­zen­ship dra­mas but has cho­sen to re­tain his Se­nate po­si­tion and seek the ap­proval of the High Court to con­tinue on the grounds that his mother regis­tered him as an Ital­ian ci­ti­zen in 2007 without his knowl­edge.

Mayor Jenny Hill told ABC ra­dio yes­ter­day she would have pre­ferred a north­ern MP take on the port­fo­lios, nam­ing Townsville- based Senator Ian Mac­don­ald or Cairns MP War­ren Entsch as suit­able.

“I’m con­cerned we could lose mo­men­tum in terms of hav­ing an ad­vo­cate for the North,” Cr Hill said.

But a spokesman for Mr Joyce said noth­ing would be on hold. “( Mr Joyce) gives North Queens­lan­ders a com­mit­ment that it’s full steam ahead and noth­ing will be held in abeyance,” he said.

Mr Entsch and Mackay LNP MP Ge­orge Chris­tensen said it was ei­ther pre­ma­ture or hy­po­thet­i­cal to be talk­ing about a north­ern re­place­ment but Senator Mac­don­ald said if a re­place­ment was needed that he agreed it should be some­one from the North.

“I’d al­ways be proud and honoured to serve if called upon ( but) those are mat­ters for the Prime Min­is­ter,” he said.

Mr Entsch, in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory for meet­ings as chair­man of the North­ern Devel­op­ment joint stand­ing com­mit­tee, said it was “busi­ness as usual”. “I think any sug­ges­tion of a re­place­ment at the moment is pre­ma­ture,” he said.

A de­ter­mi­na­tion on Senator Cana­van would be up to the High Court and he “would like to think” a rul­ing would be in the Senator’s favour, Mr Entsch said. He said that could take “a few months” and other MPs said the mat­ter would have to be re­ferred to the court by the Se­nate at August sit­tings.

Then, a rul­ing could be in one or two months.

The North­ern Devel­op­ment port­fo­lio has re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Gov­ern­ment’s $ 5 bil­lion North­ern Aus­tralian In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity which is yet to ap­prove a loan on some 60 projects across en­ergy, wa­ter, rail and port devel­op­ment.

Mean­while the Re­sources port­fo­lio is key to avert­ing gas short­falls and po­ten­tial black­outs next sum­mer.

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