Outgoing resources minister Keith Pitt says his party has held up its end of the Coalition deal by retaining all its seats as he launches into his first term in opposition.
- Former Nationals Minister Keith Pitt has been re-elected in Queensland’s seat of Hinkler
- It is his fourth term in the seat, but his first as a member of the opposition
- He is confident the cashless debit card trial will continue
“My job will be there fighting for the things that matter, and it will be a very public fight,” he said.
He said the fundamentals would be the same.
“It’s about, for the people I represent, cost of living and what they can afford, having a roof over their heads, making sure your job is there next week,” he said.
Mr Pitt said the Nationals took no responsibility for the Coalition’s thumping election loss.
He said the campaign was unlike any other he had experienced.
Cashless card could remain
The future of the LNP’s Cashless Debit Card scheme is on shakier ground now that Labor is in government.
The trial, which includes Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, involves welfare recipients aged under 35 receiving 80 per cent of their welfare payment on a card that restricts spending on alcohol, gambling and cash withdrawals.
Labor claimed during the election campaign the LNP would extend the scheme to pensioners, which Mr Pitt strongly denied.
He said he believed the scheme would remain at least in the short-term.
“It has been really successful and it has very clearly been supported by the local community because it makes a difference.”
Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Holebrook said Mr Pitt needed to continue to address issues in the region such as high unemployment rates.
“I think he will take that message consistently into government and make as much noise and concerns about what is going on,” Ms Holebrook said.
“There are the challenges of obviously being in opposition there and having to navigate a lot of stonewalling of theories, and he’s going to have to find the allies and work the room.”
Nationals not taking the blame
The election brought a wave of wins for Greens and teal independents in a major shift away from the Coalition.
Mr Pitt said a push for climate change action was not reflected in regional Queensland.
“We will have an extra senator coming in from New South Wales, we have got a senator coming to the Northern Territory,” he said.
Local environmental advocates such as Hervey Bay mother Bianca Sands remained hopeful that climate action was still possible for the region.
“We did see there was a swing towards the independent candidate Jack Dempsey and the other parties who showed a willingness to advocate for stronger climate action,” she said.
What is next for LNP?
Mr Pitt expected Barnaby Joyce to remain the leader of his party.
“Given that he’s managed to hold every seat for our party and gain one in the Senate, I expect he’ll be supported,” he said.
“But it’s up to the room, that’s how democracy works.”
As for their Coalition partners, Mr Pitt said it was “entirely a decision for the Libs”.
“[Peter Dutton] is probably one of the most experienced politicians left in the Liberal Party, he has been in opposition and in government, and I think he would be a fantastic proposition, “he said.
“But it is up to the Liberal party who they will elect and of course we will support and continue to work with them.”
Vote counting confusion
Mr Pitt saved some of his criticism for the vote counting on election night, when the two-candidate preferred count pitted him against Independent Jack Dempsey.
As the night drew to a close, the count correctly reverted to Mr Pitt versus ALP contender Jason Scanes.
“All of our scrutineers say it was a ridiculous position to take – the Bundaberg mayor received about 13 per cent of the primary,” he said.
The Australian Electoral Commission said it undertook a two-candidate preferred count to give the earliest indication of voting results.
It selected who it predicted would be the two leading candidates based on factors like history and media coverage.
Mr Pitt said there was no such thing as a safe seat.
“But the people that I represent are just practical common sense [people] who want government out of their way, “he said.
“People who want government to do what is in their interests, who want opportunities for them and their kids.”
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