Coalition soothes fear of hold- up
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.