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Tuesday, 19 August 2003
Page: 18831

Mr NEVILLE (3:17 PM) —My question is addressed to the acting Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Would the minister advise the House what the government is doing to support the growth of the mining sector in central Queensland, the production of which is exported through the port of Gladstone in my electorate of Hinkler? Is the minister aware of any threats to this sector? What impacts would these threats have upon the communities of this region and, indeed, upon the community of Gladstone?

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. An identical question—asking about threats to the mining industry—was asked last week. I rather suspect that the minister is going to give exactly the same answer, wasting the time of the House. I raise the point of order, under the standing orders, that a question that has already been answered cannot be revived.

The SPEAKER —There are a number of occasions on which questions that are similar—

The SPEAKER —Does the member for Batman actually think he has a role to interrupt the Speaker when I am trying to deal with the member for Werriwa's point of order? I point out to the member for Werriwa that there are lots of occasions on which the occupier of the chair would dearly love to rule questions out of order on the grounds that they were similar to questions asked earlier. I think the entire House would be facilitated if the standing order remained as it is. I allowed the question to stand and called the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, representing the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. I will look to the Hansard to see if the question is identical; but, unless it is identical, I do not believe the member for Werriwa would want me to rule it out.

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and thank you to the member for Hinkler for asking me a question about his electorate, and about mining in his electorate, of which the member for Hinkler, along with many people on this side of the House, is a great defender. In the central region of Queensland, which covers Gladstone, Rockhampton and Mackay, in the member for Dawson's electorate, there are more than 25,000 Australians employed in the mining industry. That represents over 22 per cent of all jobs in the region. In that region of central Queensland alone, mining represents over $7,000 million in income per annum—so it is a huge industry.

Comalco are, as I understand it, now building a $1.3 billion refinery near Gladstone in the member for Hinkler's electorate, and that refinery represents 250 jobs and contributes to employment in 350 businesses. They have already spent $300 million there. Overall, one in four jobs in central Queensland relies on the mining sector, and that is why the member for Hinkler asked me, `What are the threats to the mining industry?' There is no greater threat to the mining industry in central Queensland than the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party has decided to impose on the Australian mining industry a half a billion dollar tax slug to pay for its university policy. That is a new tax slug on mine workers—

Mr Snowdon —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was going to draw your attention to standing order 58 and the activities of the minister who was standing in the hallways.

The SPEAKER —The Minister for Small Business and Tourism has the call.

Mr HOCKEY —The Australian Labor Party want to impose on the Australian mining industry a half a billion dollar tax slug to pay for their university policy. I want to know what the member for Capricornia is going to say to the people in her electorate, to the businesses at Moranbah, Dysart and Collinsville, when they have to pay the workers over there—the honest workers, the coal workers and miners—who are going to have to pay for the university fees of people studying law and medicine. What is she going to say to the workers in her electorate who will have to pay for some landmark university courses such as golf course management, surfboard riding, aromatherapy—

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question clearly did not ask the minister to give any assessment of what another member—in this case the member for Capricornia—may or may not say on any particular issue. The question asked the minister to talk about this industry and threats, not to talk about, or to speculate on, what another member of parliament may or may not say to their constituency.

The SPEAKER —The minister was asked a question about the mining industry in Central Queensland, about threats to the industry and about impacts on the industry. The minister is in order, but I will follow closely his answer.

Mr HOCKEY —I want to know what members of the Labor Party and the people who are right behind the university policy of the Labor Party, such as the member for Capricornia, are going to say to the miners who now have to pay an extra half a billion dollars for the Labor Party's universities policy. Who is defending the workers in the mines such as Peak Downs mine, Norwich Park mine, German Creek mine or South Walker Creek mine? We know it is not the shadow minister for resources because the member for Hunter is not even defending the miners in the Hunter, let alone defending the miners anywhere else in Australia. The Labor Party are the biggest threat to the workers in mines right around Australia. With a half a billion dollar tax slug, they ought to start apologising before the next election.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Sturt!