Jenny Leong MP on the secret deal between the Liberals and Nationals

Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong MP has called on the Premier to reveal the details of the agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals that has allowed them to form a coalition government.



Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (17:03:32): I move:

That this House calls on the New South Wales Government to make public the secret Liberal-Nationals Coalition deal that determines who governs this State.

Koalas have come to the top of the political agenda in New South Wales in the past few weeks because of the threat to the Government from The Nationals. We know that without decisive government action koalas will be threatened with extinction in the wild, and we know it is crucial that we act to protect this species. We also know that this is just one of the many issues where the secret power-sharing deal of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition is dictating how decisions in this State are being made. The Greens are calling for transparency when it comes to our democracy, and that is absolutely in the public interest. When I asked the Premier during question time to disclose the nature of the agreement, she referred me to public comments made on the record and referred me to the joint statement by the Deputy Premier and herself last Friday. It is only three lines long, so I can quote it in its entirety. It reads:

Following a meeting this morning between the Premier and Deputy Premier, the NSW Liberal & Nationals Coalition remains in place. This includes a commitment to supporting Cabinet conventions and processes. The matter will be dealt with at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.

To be clear, the question that I asked today, and the motion before us now, is not referring to the antics of just the last week. It is not supposed to be referring to the supposed resolution between the Liberal-Nationals Coalition after the recent stoush. The Greens are calling for an end to the secrecy that surrounds the deal since the formation of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition. The constant threats from the Deputy Premier have made this backroom deal—this not-so-gentlemanly arrangement that dictates who governs the State—and the secrecy around it now completely untenable. The complete lack of transparency around this power-sharing arrangement is a risk to our democracy. It is not good enough. The only reason The Nationals have Ministers in this place, and the only reason the leader of The Nationals is the Deputy Premier of this State, is because of the secret Coalition deal between The Nationals and the Liberals. The people of New South Wales deserve to see the deal.

Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with different parties coming together to govern in the interests of the community. It will happen more and more as old parties see their votes plummet and new parties and independents see their votes increase. What is problematic is the absence of transparency around the arrangements and agreements. If The Greens were to enter into such an arrangement we would make it public, as we did with the Gillard Government in Federal Parliament and as we did with the Ardern Government in New Zealand. Different parties coming together and reaching an agreement to serve and collectively govern in the interests of the people of New South Wales has the potential to improve our democratic systems, the levels of debate and the quality of policy outcomes for the State. What we have here is the Liberals and The Nationals entering into a secret deal. If it is not secret, I challenge any Government member in this place—or indeed any other member—to put the details on the public record.

I wonder if members in both the Liberal Party and The Nationals are aware of the specifics of the deal. Have they all seen it? I wonder if some of the journalists in the press gallery are aware of the specifics of the deal. Have they seen it? What about the New South Wales Governor? Does the New South Wales Governor see the deal before conducting the swearing in ceremony of the Cabinet? Imagine if the Queen's representative in this State is privy to the details of this deal but the people of New South Wales and this legislature are not. The Executive being held accountable by the legislature is an important principle at the heart of our democracy, but under the secret arrangement the Executive is bound by an agreement that we cannot see.

We know from recent reports that there is clearly some sort of formula in the deal that determines the number of Ministers that The Nationals get. Recent reports have suggested that if three Nationals move to the crossbench, that would result in the loss of a Minister under this agreement. Clearly, some have access to this agreement and yet it is not public information. It is crucial that any power-sharing arrangement is shared as public information and tabled in this place. Why is this so important? Why is it in the public interest? Under this secret deal, The Nationals are handed the role of Deputy Premier and are given a number of ministerial and parliamentary positions. This comes with real power, as well as a significant pay increase and generous parliamentary resources. It also sets out the way that the Government operates, but none of us are privy to those rules.

Given the stoush over the past week, I wonder if there is anything in this secret agreement that actually delivers for country New South Wales. I wonder when The Nationals negotiate this agreement with the Liberals for this power sharing arrangement whether the interests of country New South Wales are put on the agenda. I wonder whether the deal only secures them a certain number of ministerial positions, a certain number of increases to their pay packets or a certain number of parliamentary resource increases. I suspect it is the latter because sadly for the people of regional New South Wales—as we saw when my colleague the member for Ballina so articulately spoke during debate on the no-confidence motion against the Deputy Premier—it is clear that when it comes to the interests of the community there is more infighting and intersections keeping this deal together, or breaking it apart, than there is a focus on what the community needs.

We know that many people will say that this is a long-held thing and we do not have to question it. For many years in this place, I have not questioned it. Like so many, I just accept that we are talking about a Liberal‑Nationals Coalition. We just accept it as a coalition. Now is the time for us to say that we are not going to accept it anymore. The threats have been too much. We want to see the deal and, in the interests of the accountability of the Executive to this place, we have a right to see the deal. We should demand that the deal is tabled and the information is made public. The benefits, parliamentary resources and extra positions of power that are handed over to The Nationals under this power-sharing arrangement should be shared, just as any other arrangement now or in the future between any governing parties should be tabled in the Parliament. In the interests of transparency, any deals that are done on the side to work out who governs this State in this place should be shared.

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