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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 11736

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaSecond Deputy Speaker) (16:11): I rise this afternoon to make a contribution following the statement to the House on the tax forum conducted here in Parliament House last week. I am very disappointed in that tax forum. I come from one of the rural areas in Australia that are mining, agricultural and resource rich and that also provide much of the wealth for this nation, yet we see so little of that in terms of taxation revenue returning to these regions. What was missing in the debate last week was any serious discussion on the impact of the current taxation system—whether it is Commonwealth, state or local government for that matter—on businesses and communities in rural and remote parts of Australia.

At the time of Federation, when all the states came together to form the Commonwealth of Australia, almost 70 per cent of the population lived in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia and the rest lived in our capital cities. Today that number has reversed. Unless we get serious about decentralising our economy, those numbers will continue to grow. Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, I am sure you and others who live in capital cities are also concerned about the growth of cities and the challenges faced by state governments and local authorities in dealing with the impact of congestion because of the continuing population drift to the capital cities. We have to ask ourselves: why is that? Is it because of the job opportunities, the services provided and the health opportunities in the cities?

Today in rural and regional Australia, as this mining resource 'boom'—I do not like using that word—continues, it is quite extraordinary what is happening in electorates like my electorate of Maranoa and my home town of Roma. The Surat Basin, the Cooper Basin, the Galilee Basin and the Eromanga Basin are resource rich areas that are seeing unprecedented growth in my electorate. We are seeing fly-in fly-out workers who do two weeks on and then two weeks off. We are also seeing very little of the wealth created in the region enabling the local businesses in those communities to grow. That is where I would like to see a focus. I know that the states get the large bulk of the royalties that come from the resources under the ground, whether it is the mineral wealth or whether it is the oil or gas wealth, but we are seeing that wealth, the royalties, largely being spent in our capital cities. So there is a transfer of the wealth generated in rural and regional areas to our capital cities through the royalties. What I would like to see—and this is our party's policy—is 25 per cent of the royalties going back into the regions where the wealth is created, so we can start to grow the economies of those rural, regional and remote parts of Australia. If we can do that it will be a step forward, but how that money is spent will be only one aspect of it. The other side of that coin is: how do we encourage businesses to locate in those regions, create jobs, grow an economy and, at the same time, use the royalty money to build education, health and other services that will be required?

I was thinking the other day that if the resources of Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill and Mount Isa were discovered today, those communities would be built on a fly in, fly out model. They would not be the significant communities that they are today. The workers went there, the mines were built there and they grew those economies. It is the fly-in fly-out operations that are hampering one aspect of growth in these resource rich areas. I was looking at Nebraska, in the United States of America, where they have enterprise zones. Through the state of Nebraska, special tax credits are given to qualifying businesses that increase employment and make investments in the area. Nebraska is a very interesting study, because the state has approximately 1.8 million people and, in 2010, 755,000 of those people lived in the rural areas. Something like 80 per cent lived in towns of 3,000 or less, and the balance lived in the capital cities of Nebraska.

We must have a serious debate about the principle of an enterprise zone. I am serious about it, and I think that if we are ever to decentralise this great nation of ours we must start now. (Time expired)