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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 311


Mr O'CONNOR (12.54 p.m.) —As a member with a strong personal and professional interest in rural and regional affairs, I noted with more than a passing interest the questions directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development (Senator Cook) in the other place last Tuesday. Those questions were directed to the minister by the pretender to the Liberal leadership throne, Senator Bishop, and by Senator Tambling. They related to the $1.2 million study by the McKinsey company into impediments to business investment in regional areas, which was commissioned by the former industry minister Mr Griffiths.

  I noted with some concern the inference in Senator Bishop's question to the minister, which is recorded on page 20 of that Hansard, that the study might be used to pork-barrel in ALP marginal seats. One does not have to have half a brain to realise that, if 14 regions from around Australia are selected, some of those regions are going to be in ALP marginal seats and some of those regions are going to cover Liberal Party and National Party held marginal seats.

  In that question several members and former members were named by Senator Bishop, in particular my good friend and colleague the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham). The honourable member for McMillan can certainly take care of himself in this place, but it is worth putting on the public record the absolutely dreadful political sin he has committed on this occasion, according to Senator Bishop. He has committed the cardinal political sin of lobbying hard for the La Trobe Valley to be included in the study and, what is worse, he was successful. That is his cardinal sin, lobbying hard for the Latrobe Valley to be included in that particular study.

  Of the 14 regions identified for intensive study, I am pleased to say that the Geelong region has been selected for examination by the McKinsey company. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am here today to confess my sins to the Bishop, because I also lobbied hard for Geelong to be included in that study and I was successful. But I was not the only member in the Geelong region who apparently lobbied for that region to be included in that McKinsey study. I would like to quote from the Geelong Advertiser of Monday, 24 January 1994. In the business part of the paper, in an article entitled `Geelong Focus of Million Dollar Study', it said:

Geelong was overlooked when plans for the study were first announced last year but lobbying by Corangamite MHR Mr Stewart McArthur—

Liberal—

helped secure the region's place on a list of 10 areas now under scrutiny.

I do not know whether his lobbying consisted of writing a letter to the editor of the Geelong Addy or whether he spoke to the minister personally, but the simple fact is that the honourable member for Corangamite has apparently committed the same sin as the honourable member for McMillan and I as the member for Corio.

  I suggest to the honourable member for Corangamite that he ought to take himself over to the other place and have his confession heard by the Bishop, because he too is guilty of the cardinal political sin of lobbying for his region. It is going to be an interesting confession and it is one that I would not mind being around to hear, because in the Geelong Advertiser on Thursday, 27 January 1994, the honourable member for Corangamite had plenty to say about Senator Bishop:

Mr McArthur questioned the leadership qualities of the recently appointed urban and regional strategy spokeswoman, Senator Bishop. `She has not given any indication that she would make a good leader. She has received a lot of publicity but she has displayed no real leadership capacity in the Senate'.

He said it was notable that the parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Taxation Office, during which Senator Bishop grabbed the attention of the nation, had failed to accept her accusations against the office in its official report. `I let the facts speak for themselves' he said. `She has yet to prove herself in the House of Representatives'.

Of course, she is not here and she cannot prove herself until she gets here. What I am suggesting is that it is going to be some confession when the honourable member for Corangamite confesses the cardinal sin that he too lobbied for the Geelong region to be included in the McKinsey study.

  I did a little bit of basic mathematics. I am not a mathematician of note but, when one divides the $1.2 million that is to be expended on the study by the 14 regions that have been identified, one comes up with a rough figure of around $90,000. That coincidentally happens to be about the amount of money that Senator Bishop spent in the last financial year traversing the length and breadth of Australia in pursuit of her leadership ambitions in the Liberal Party. I was interested in the reasons that were advanced by Senator Bishop for this extraordinary expenditure in getting to know the people of Australia and especially the people of regional Australia. She said that it was to be more accessible to the people of Australia and indeed more accountable.

  I know there are a few of my good compatriots in this House on the National Party benches that are absolutely seething that the opposition leader has appointed Senator Bishop to be the spokesperson on affairs relating to rural and regional matters, or is it urban and regional matters? They really do have their noses out of joint in that regard and I have some sympathy for them. The honourable member for Hinkler (Mr Neville) is a good bloke and he has got plenty of ability but he has been overlooked in this mass exodus from the backbench to the opposition shadow frontbench.

  I am sure that those National Party members, like me, who come from a rural background—I am the son of a dairy farmer; I have farmed the land myself—probably do not know as much about the city as I should. I think I should make myself more accessible and more accountable to city people. I am thinking of inviting some of my National Party colleagues in the House to come on a tour of the capital cities with me so that we can get to know the city folk. We could, perhaps, stay in the Hyatt in Sydney and the Hyatt in Adelaide and perhaps the Hyatt in Brisbane. We could rake up a bit of an airfares bill and put a bit of a tab on Comcar all in the process of getting to know the people of Australia and getting to know our constituents.

  Let me say this: if the opposition spokesperson on urban and regional affairs is really fair dinkum about getting to know the people of rural and regional Australia, and if she is really fair dinkum about allowing some processes to take place that will assist these regions in coming to terms with the enormous structural economic changes that have taken place in those areas, then she would back off this rather spurious criticism and petty questioning that has taken place on the McKinsey report in the other place.

  The area that I come from, the Geelong region, has undergone some significant economic pressures over the last decade. We have borne the brunt of industry restructuring in car production and component production and also in the TCF industries as well. We have suffered the general effects of the recession, the Pyramid collapse, and depressed local demand because of high unemployment. Despite this, this resilient community has come up trumps in the Kelty task force report which highlighted many exciting opportunities for the region to develop and expand its economic base over time.

  We have identified in Geelong the opportunities for the expansion of Aerospace and general aviation facilities at Avalon. There are exciting prospects in value adding to wool products, tourism, food processing and the commercialisation of new innovative technologies developed in the Geelong region. The expansion of the education industry and the expansion of the motor vehicle component and accessory production industry in this city all point to a rather good economic future for the Geelong region. I hope that those outside the region will no longer look on Geelong and its surrounding area as a cot case or as part of the industrial rust belt of the south east because it is a dynamic economy, one which is poised to take advantage of the recovery as it proceeds. (Time expired)