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- Start of Business
- MEMBERS SWORN
- ELECTION PETITION
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Dr HEWSON, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr NEWELL, Mrs KELLY)
(Dr HEWSON, Mr KEATING)
(Mr SAWFORD, Mr BEAZLEY)
(Mr DOWNER, Mr WILLIS)
Pensioners: Fringe Benefits
(Mr HARRY WOODS, Mr BALDWIN)
(Mr REID, Mr BEDDALL)
Australians with Disabilities
(Ms HENZELL, Mr HOWE)
(Mrs SULLIVAN, Mr KEATING)
Southern Bluefin Tuna
(Mr SNOW, Mr LEE)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
Legal Aid: Victoria
(Ms DEAHM, Mr KERR)
HMAS Voyager: Compensation Claims
(Mr TAYLOR, Mr LAVARCH)
(Mr GRACE, Mr KEATING)
(Mr TIM FISCHER, Mr BILNEY)
(Mr CAMPBELL, Mr LAVARCH)
- Pay Television
- DEPUTY CHAIRMEN OF COMMITTEES
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- PAPERS: PRESENTATION
- COMMONWEALTH GRANTS COMMISSION
- FEDERAL POLICE DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL
- COMPANIES AND SECURITIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- URGENT LEGISLATION
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 5) 1992-93
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 6) 1992-93
- APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (No. 2) 1992-93
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1993-94
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 2) 1993-94
- SUPPLY (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL 1993-94
Monday, 10 May 1993
Mr VAILE (10.01 p.m.) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. To represent the seat of Lyne in the Commonwealth Parliament is an honour and a privilege and I am delighted to be here in this House. Like every other member, I owe my presence here to a great many people. Firstly, may I acknowledge the fantastic support of my wife, Wendy, and my three daughters, Terri, Prue and Sarah, as well as both our parents.
I must thank the electors of Lyne who have chosen me to represent them and their interests in this place. I am their servant and the servant of the electorate. I also thank my National Party of Australia supporters both within the electorate and elsewhere, including my federal leader, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer), and my deputy leader, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Anderson). I would also like to thank my Federal and State parliamentary colleagues who assisted me with what was an exciting and a very tough campaign. The one person whom I must acknowledge and for whom I put my sincere appreciation on record is Mr Bruce Cowan, the former member for Lyne, who not only did a magnificent job as my campaign director, but also during his 13 years as the member for Lyne represented all his constituents in an exemplary manner.
Mr Deputy Speaker, it has become very evident to me that Bruce Cowan was held in high regard within the Parliament by all honourable members on both sides of this House as well as the staff of the Parliament. I know all honourable members as well as the constituents of Lyne would join with me in congratulating Bruce for his distinguished career in both the New South Wales State House and in this, the Commonwealth Parliament.
I am a member of the National Party of Australia, as have been the three previous members who have represented the seat of Lyne with distinction. Mr Jim Eggins of the former Australian Country Party was the first member to represent Lyne from 1949 until his untimely death in 1952. Following this, in 1952 Mr Phillip E. Lucock of the National Country Party won the by-election and held the seat until his retirement in 1980, during which time he represented the Parliament at the United Nations and elsewhere, as well as serving in the high office of Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives for over 12 years. Bruce Cowan then held the seat from 1980 until he retired on 13 March this year. Following these three great Australians, it was with a great deal of pride that on 4 May 1993 I was sworn in as the fourth member to represent the seat of Lyne.
The electorate of Lyne is named after Sir William Lyne, a former premier of New South Wales and a founding member of this Parliament, who held the seat of Hume at its inception in 1901. In current debate on republicanism, I get a sense that history does repeat itself when it is discovered that Sir William Lyne played a central role in the debate leading up to Federation in 1901. In fact, I identify closely with the man when I see him described as:
. . . a home-loving man, he liked the races, and he was fond of a first class concert. He occasionally went to the theatre and when he read anything it was usually a magazine!
My electorate of Lyne is bounded by the electorates of Cowper and New England in the north, and Paterson in the west and south. Geographically the electorate of Lyne covers an area of 5,200 square kilometres from the Hastings River in the north to the twin towns of Forster-Tuncurry in the south, and inland to the western boundary of the Greater Taree City Council area, and includes the major centres of Port Macquarie, Taree, Forster-Tuncurry, Wingham, Wauchope, Laurieton, North Haven, Bonny Hills, Lake Cathie, Old Bar, Comboyne, Harrington, and Kendall. There are three major centres of population, and along with an impressive growth rate, Port Macquarie, Taree, and Forster-Tuncurry are burdened with higher than the national average rates of unemployment and, in particular, youth unemployment.
Mr Deputy Speaker, during the recent campaign in the lead-up to the federal election in March we flagged at every opportunity the devastating impact that unemployment was having on our society and, in particular, the electorate of Lyne. I noted with interest the absence of any positive proposals in the Governor-General's address to tackle our chronic, long-term unemployment problem which the Minister for Employment, Education and Training (Mr Beazley) has stated will rise to well over 400,000 in the next year. Nor was there any action plan to reduce our exploding foreign debt.The republican debate is not going to generate any jobs for my unemployed constituents. They are more interested in getting meaningful, long-term employment than in whether we have a governor-general or a president.
Historically, the regional economy in Lyne has been centred around primary industries such as dairying, beef, fishing and oyster farming, as well as the harvesting of natural resources such as timber. Although these industries are still important to the regional economy, the development of the tourism industry and the dramatic increase in the retired population, as well as widespread rationalisation of these rural industries, has seen a shift in the economic base of the region. An interesting example of that rationalisation and its effect on local employment is in the dairying industry. In the last 10 years in New South Wales the dairy industry has seen the number of dairy farmers fall by 40 per cent with the number of producing cows falling by 15 per cent, yet the amount of milk produced increasing by approximately 40 per cent.
It is important to note here that my electorate of Lyne is changing dramatically. It was once considered a solely rural region, and although it still has a sound rural base it is now diversifying into a region with a strong industry and business component. My ambition for the electorate of Lyne is to see it become a strategic location for regional development. We already have a large cross-section of manufacturing industries of world standard which are earning export dollars for Australia within our region. They have recognised the potential of our stable labour market, the availability of ever improving infrastructure and our strategic location between the major cities of Sydney and Brisbane.
It was with a great deal of interest that I learnt of the regional development strategy developed by the Country Mayors Association of New South Wales which is being launched in Sydney on 21 May this year. Also of interest was the funding of that scheme which was partly funded by the Department of Employment, Education and Training under the OLMA program. Giving credit where credit is due, the Government should be commended for the introduction of the OLMA program. There is not only that program which the Country Mayors Association has put together, but in my electorate of Lyne another very successful enterprise has been developed through this program which is a cooperative of herb and flower growers who are developing an export market for fresh flowers and orchids in the USA. These are the niche markets we must encourage our people to explore and get into.
I also commend the Government for creating the portfolio of regional development in the current Keating Ministry and I ask the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development (Mr Griffiths) when formulating strategies to consider not just the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales but also to give consideration to the Manning and Hastings valleys on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
A large number of our existing industries could employ more and would export more if a little understanding and consideration were shown by government. If we can spend millions of taxpayers' dollars on waterfront redundancies, why can we not give more consideration to government support for research and development programs, low interest start-up loans and short-term loans for expansion programs? We have a flourishing vineyard and winery at Port Macquarie leading the way with new technology, exporting 30 per cent of its production. Yet the famous Cassegrain family vineyards are pedalling their own canoe as far as research and development is concerned. Why should government not support export industries which are creating employment as they grow and develop larger niche markets.
At this stage I should like to mention a number of companies which have undertaken quality assurance programs in an attempt to improve the efficiency of their businesses and move towards world standard practices. Anvic Meat Exports Pty Ltd of Wingham, which exports the majority of its throughput to Japan, America and Korea, and Port Macquarie Slipways Pty Ltd, which is a major supplier to the Department of Defence, have expended thousands of dollars on these quality assurance programs but are yet to see the real benefits from these improvements. The question must be asked: when will the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Mr Crean) undertake a complete review of AQIS and rationalise the meat inspection service in Australia? So far as Port Macquarie Slipways is concerned, why is quality assurance accreditation a pre-tender requirement for the Navy, yet the Australian Army will not recognise this accreditation? Surely the Government should be leading the way in this regard.
The town of Taree has special prominence in the Lyne electorate as a major manufacturing centre, with a variety of firms having decentralised to the area over the past 20 years. Whilst many companies such as Jockey Australia, Stebercraft, Britax Brylite and Lansdowne Engineering have successfully decentralised to my electorate, an active federal government program to encourage further regional development is needed.
The arguments for regional development and associated settlement expansion within my own electorate are compelling. Unemployment figures in my electorate are, on average, five per cent higher than the national average, signifying a very stable labour force. As well, transport and communications infrastructures are so advanced today that contact with all major centres can be maintained easily.
There are many ways to begin to address the imbalance and distortion in population and investment and to increase economic and employment opportunities throughout regional Australia. It needs to be recognised that the tasks need to be spread over the three tiers of government and through the private sector.
A plan for settlement and infrastructure needs to be developed. This plan needs to identify, prioritise and coordinate strategic State and Commonwealth infrastructure, particularly road, rail, air and education. The plan also needs to develop an achievable goal for decentralisation. For example, a starting point should be to try to achieve the diversion away from metropolitan centres of up to one million people over the next 25 years.
The establishment of a regional industries incentive fund needs to take place. Such a fund could build up to $200 million per annum from Commonwealth, State and local government sources. These funds could be used to encourage relocation, expansion or start-ups of country industry with export potential or import substitution, particularly in areas of competitive advantage, for example, food, fibre and minerals processing. Previous mechanisms, such as payroll tax rebates and loan guarantees with sunset clauses and delivery through existing funds management network could also be used. Industry incentives in the country should partly replace housing subsidies in the city.
The promotion of metropolitan industry that can benefit from a country location needs to take place. This would help to achieve grouping of industry in regional centres so that by encouraging one industry to decentralise a whole range of secondary industries will also decentralise. Within New South Wales, the New South Wales Department of Agriculture and the Police Academy have decentralised and are two examples of successful relocation.
Regional expansion of education facilities must be encouraged. University expansion should be encouraged through expanded funding and the creation of extra places. The wider use of telecommunications products should be promoted as well as the active involvement of local communities.
Further federal funding for decentralisation assistance needs to occur. The Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales noted in a recent study on industry relocation that the distinct lack of interest shown by manufacturers in moving to non-metropolitan New South Wales is of significant concern to State and Commonwealth regional development objectives. Indeed, statistics show that only 1.3 per cent of firms were even considering moving to a non-metropolitan location in New South Wales under current economic policies. With government incentives regional development will benefit not only the industries concerned but also the regional economy and indeed the national economy.
I mention regional development today in my maiden speech as I feel it is an untapped resource within our great nation's economic regrowth. My electorate has unrestricted potential for growth and development. Yet incentives need to be provided to break the ice and kill the perception that regional means isolated.
One industry that has thrived within my electorate without much government support is the tourism industry. It contributes in excess of $350 million to the region's economy and in particular the economy of Port Macquarie and Forster-Tuncurry. We must continue to focus on this important industry and provide the necessary reforms for it to continue growing and competing. It was pleasing to hear of the positive move on penalty rates in the tourism industry. These changes will allow more flexibility for employers and employees.
The electorate of Lyne has an abundance of tourist attractions including many famous beaches, seaside ports and historical and natural attractions. I am sure that most honourable members here this evening would have at some stage in their lives enjoyed holidays in the area that boasts Australia's best climate. If any honourable member has not experienced this region, well, I can certainly help arrange a lovely mid-north coast holiday for him or her!
After emphasising the importance of tourism to the region, I turn to the issue of roads, and in particular to the serious concern within my electorate over the state of the Pacific Highway. Our tourism industry is one which relies almost entirely on road transport into and out of the area. Likewise, our regional development program relies enormously on having an efficient and safe transport infrastructure based around road transport. Yet it concerns me greatly that I now have to follow the trend set by all previous members for Lyne when making their maiden speeches in this House by having to put on record my concerns about the poor quality of this major highway which is carrying an increasing volume of traffic all the time.
In February this year the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority released a report on the north coast road structure which found that nearly 40 per cent of the north coast road network is in only a fair to poor condition; that is, 40 per cent of the region's roads are in an unsuitable condition for modern transport needs. The lives of ordinary Australians are being placed in jeopardy due to the lack of concern about the Pacific Highway.
Although the New England Highway has been designated as the national route between Sydney and Brisbane, the population expansion along the mid-north coast and the industrial decentralisation to this area is demanding that the coastal route along the Pacific Highway receive far more federal consideration.
It should be noted that the current round of federal funding allocated to the Pacific Highway ceases during 1993. I should like to urge the Minister for Transport and Communications (Senator Collins) to consider seriously the Pacific Highway for further Commonwealth funding beyond 1993. This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency and is one which I will continue to pursue until it is satisfactorily resolved.
I have had the honour of serving my local community as a member of the Greater Taree City Council for the past eight years, three of which I served as deputy mayor. During this period I became acutely aware of the desperate situation of our arterial roads and in particular the Pacific Highway. I have therefore developed a strong affinity with local government, and I believe it has a definite and important role to play in the structure of Australian politics. I believe that local government should be given constitutional recognition.
Because of my membership of local government at the time the recent Federal election was called, I was put in a position of having to resign that position because of an ambiguity under section 44 of the Constitution; that is, the lack of a clear description as to who holds an office of profit under the Crown. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that being an alderman in local government would be better described as being an office of loss under the Crown, not one of profit.
As a result of this ambiguity, and so as not to jeopardise my candidature for the Federal election, I and seven other members of local government in New South Wales resigned our positions causing expensive by-elections which ratepayers everywhere cannot afford. I note that five of us have attained seats in this House. I know my fellow members share my concerns on this issue and I urge the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch) to clarify the ambiguous nature of section 44 of the Constitution, as I believe its current interpretation to be quite discriminatory.
The ambiguous nature of section 44 was emphasised last week with the Australian Electoral Commission now being challenged on a series of grounds relating to section 44. One of these included a possible breach of that section by a paid councillor of the city of Coburg which the petitioner claims to be an office of profit under the Crown. This area of the Constitution urgently needs to be clarified.
My own council by-election was held last Saturday at great cost to ratepayers who should not have had to bear this unnecessary expense when the situation should have been clarified by the Attorney-General immediately following the High Court decision on 25 November 1992. I therefore call on the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Community Services (Mr Howe) to consider reimbursement to all local councils which have had the costly burden of this ambiguity.
Australia today is a nation at the crossroads. As we move toward the year 2000, we have the potential to become one of the leading economies in the world—we have all the requirements to do so; we have a highly productive agricultural base with a capacity not only to feed itself, but also to export for economic gain and humanitarian purposes; we have an abundant base of energy-generating raw materials; we have other non-energy raw materials; we have advanced automated highly developed technology; and, finally, we have the most important of all: an educated, motivated and skilled work force.
It is time we recognised what a wealthy country we have. It is time we recognised the fact that we need to make structural changes to our economy so that we can capitalise on our abundant resources instead of squandering them. We need to repair our structural problems, not service them. The challenge is now before the Government and it is up to the Government to take the bit between its teeth and tackle these challenges head-on.
In closing, I would like to congratulate the Speaker and his deputies on their election. I know that they will allow full and fair debate from both sides of this chamber. I also thank the House for the courtesy of hearing me in silence. I look forward to the challenge of representing the electors of Lyne and to contributing to the continued development of our great nation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Fitzgibbon)—Before I call the honourable member for Franklin, I inform the House that this is the honourable member's first speech. I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.