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- Start of Business
- NATIONAL HEALTH AND HOSPITALS NETWORK BILL 2010
- AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
- NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (PHARMACEUTICAL BENEFITS SCHEME) BILL 2010
- TERRITORIES LAW REFORM BILL 2010
- DEFENCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SECURITY OF DEFENCE PREMISES) BILL 2010
- OZONE PROTECTION AND SYNTHETIC GREENHOUSE GAS MANAGEMENT AMENDMENT BILL 2010
- TRADEX SCHEME AMENDMENT BILL 2010
- HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (STUDENT SERVICES AND AMENITIES) BILL 2010
- OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AND GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS MEASURES) BILL 2010
- OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AND GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE (SAFETY LEVIES) AMENDMENT BILL 2010
- FAMILY ASSISTANCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CHILD CARE BUDGET MEASURES) BILL 2010
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2010
- INTERNATIONAL TAX AGREEMENTS AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 2) 2010
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (CONFIDENTIALITY OF TAXPAYER INFORMATION) BILL 2010
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2010 MEASURES NO. 4) BILL 2010
- FISHERIES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 2) 2010
- PRIMARY INDUSTRIES (EXCISE) LEVIES AMENDMENT BILL 2010
- CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (SONS OF GWALIA) BILL 2010
- CORPORATIONS AMENDMENT (NO. 1) BILL 2010
- CARER RECOGNITION BILL 2010
- STANDING ORDERS
- STANDING AND SESSIONAL ORDERS
- GOVERNMENT RESPONSES TO COMMITTEE REPORTS
- Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity Committee
- Australian Crime Commission Committee
- Corporations and Financial Services Committee
- Cyber Safety Committee
- Electoral Matters Committee
- Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
- Gambling Reform Committee
- Migration Committee
- National Capital and External Territories Committee
- Parliamentary Library Committee
- Treaties Committee
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Abbott, Tony, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Delhi Commonwealth Games
(Owens, Julie, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Emissions Trading Scheme
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Thomson, Craig, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Abbott, Tony, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Saffin, Janelle, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Entsch, Warren, MP)
(Zappia, Tony, MP, Combet, Greg, MP)
Local Hospital Networks
(Oakeshott, Rob, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
(Neumann, Shayne, MP, Smith, Stephen, MP)
(Haase, Barry, MP, Bowen, Chris, MP)
(Parke, Melissa, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Bishop, Julie, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Livermore, Kirsten, MP, Crean, Simon, MP)
(Ciobo, Steven, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Champion, Nick, MP, Macklin, Jenny, MP)
Building the Education Revolution Program
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Garrett, Peter, MP)
Australian Federal Police
(Hayes, Chris, MP, O’Connor, Brendan, MP)
Home Insulation Program
(Truss, Warren, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Ripoll, Bernie, MP, McClelland, Robert, MP)
- Climate Change
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- PRIME MINISTER
- AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Mr TRUSS (Leader of the Nationals) (6:21 PM) —The Governor-General’s speech demonstrates that the new Labor-Green-Independent alliance government will be no different from the old Labor government rejected by the people last month. It is clear that the new government will be characterised by the same all-talk no-action, all-stunts no-results, all-spin no-substance style of its predecessor. There will be more broken promises, more waste and more mismanagement.
In the Governor-General’s speech she talked about a public forum and a debate on tax reform even though the government ruled out new Henry taxes during the election campaign, and a multi-party climate change committee even though the Prime Minister said absolutely ‘There will be no carbon tax’ during the election campaign. The speech refers to more reviews, strategies, committees and policy development. There will be at least five new bureaucratic and regulatory agencies. This is the Labor we know. It is the Labor government that we saw in the last federal parliament and that we see in New South Wales, Queensland and other states.
The 2010 federal election was a rejection of the Rudd-Gillard government. The coalition received over 600,000 more primary votes than Labor. For the first time in 70 years there are more people sitting in the opposition party room than there are in the government room. Yet through an alliance with the Greens and the majority of the so-called Independents Labor remains in government. The prospect of a Greens-Labor rainbow coalition has certainly sent shudders through the people of regional Australia. The regions feel threatened by Greens policies, like an even bigger mining tax, a giant new emissions trading scheme also imposed on agriculture, bans on fishing in many marine areas, death duties, an open-door policy on boat arrivals and an end to coal extraction and other mining. There will be food and fibre shortages in Australia as the Greens pursue their policies to end intensive agriculture and stop irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin. Of course, that is not all.
Labor itself has been a very city-centric government. In the Rudd-Gillard government every cabinet minister lived in a capital city. The regions were simply out of sight and out of mind. Because of its lack of interest in regional Australia, Labor treated regional Australians with contempt. Labor closed most of the offices of the regional development department but set up a ‘better cities’ unit in Sydney. Labor axed area consultative committees, even though during the 2007 election it promised to keep them. I note that the new Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government said at the Press Club today that he actually wrote that promise which the government subsequently dishonoured. It has replaced the area consultative committees with empty RDA committees that have nothing to do.
The first budget of Labor slashed $1 billion from regional programs, and even more went in the second budget. Labor moved funding from regional roads to the cities. Eighty-two per cent of the money spent on their strategic roads program went to Labor electorates. Labor abolished the Sustainable Regions program and the Regional Partnerships program and have replaced them with a Better Regions program, but only projects nominated by Labor candidates could be funded under that scheme. Labor wound back the quarantine service and Customs, 312 staff were dumped from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the entire department was turned into just a part-time portfolio. They axed the television and mobile phone black spot programs. They stole the $2 billion from the perpetual Communications Fund, allegedly to prop up the NBN. But two million Australians, mostly in rural and regional areas, have been removed from the commitment to receive high-speed broadband through fibre optic cable. The Melbourne-Brisbane railway has been put on the never never. Labor neglected the regions. Is it any wonder therefore that in this last election the regions rejected Labor?
For the Nationals this was our best election result since World War II. All of our sitting members received substantial swings to them. Our marginal seats have become notionally safe—although we never regard any electorate as safe. I particularly congratulate the new members for Dawson, Flynn and Riverina, who will no doubt make their maiden speeches in this parliament very shortly. It is great to have those areas in the Nationals fold. Tony Crook was elected under the Nationals banner in O’Connor. I hope that someday soon he may see his way clear to join other Nats in our party room. I also acknowledge the election of Bridget McKenzie, who restores the Nationals position in the Victorian coalition Senate team. It was an excellent result for the Nationals. In particular, also, it was a rejection of Labor.
But the Governor-General in her speech said that the government will be different this time around—that there will be a new approach towards regional Australia coming from Labor and that we are going to have a new cabinet level minister for regional Australia. I thought Mr Albanese was a cabinet minister when he had responsibility for regional Australia. I know he did not do much for regional Australia but he was a cabinet level minister. What we still have from this government is a city-centric cabinet. Every minister in the cabinet still lives in a capital city, except one who recently moved to Newcastle. We no longer have a regional development minister in central Sydney; now the regional development minister comes from central Melbourne. The agriculture minister is no longer living in central Sydney; now he comes from central Brisbane. I do not think their focus will have changed. There is no difference in the sort of decision making and city-centric approach that Labor will take.
I have noticed some saying in recent times that there will be an unparalleled focus on regional Australia in the new parliament. As Leader of the Nationals I say that this is a very good thing. I welcome this new-found interest from the capital city media in regional Australia. I frankly resent suggestions from some city writers that extra assistance and support for the regions is somehow or other not warranted. I find it offensive when the city media are quite happy to accept expenditure of billions of dollars in cities on new stadiums and convention centres and firework displays and are quite happy to have endless subsidies for urban public transport but if somebody in a country area wants a bit of help to get a doctor to locate in their town or they want to rebuild their broken down local hall or get a decent road or an air service that is somehow or other characterised as pork-barrelling. Frankly, that is unacceptable.
For some, the attention on regions is a novelty. For us on this side of the House, and especially for the party that I lead, that has been our focus for more than 90 years. There is a very long list of policies and programs that the Country Party and the Nationals have championed and implemented that have made this nation a better place. For instance there were the Sustainable Regions Program; the National Water Initiative; the $1.1 billion Connect Australia package and the $2 billion perpetual Communications Fund for regional telecommunications; the support for the dairy industry and the sugar industry when they were going through difficult times; and the modern drought assistance program which has helped keep country Australia alive during the drought, which hopefully is now drawing towards an end. There were the AusLink program, the first national program for the construction of road and rail projects; country of origin labelling laws; we doubled the size of the quarantine service; the $500 million Agriculture Advancing Australia package; the Natural Heritage Trust; the rural transaction centres to help restore services to regional communities; the development of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme; the campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis; and the standard gauge railway line on the India-Pacific between Sydney and Perth. There were the Australian Industry Development Corporation; the expansion of the Australian Trade Commission Service; the abolition of Commonwealth estate and gift duties; the expansion of uranium mining and exports; the Primary Industry Bank of Australia; the ban on commercial whaling and on exploration for the drilling of oil on the Great Barrier Reef; and the declaration of the first stages of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There were the Burdekin River dam; the Australian Bicentennial Road Development program and, if you go back further, the beef roads program; the introduction of television in 1956; and of course the historic Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce, now more than 50 years of age, followed up by a whole range of free trade agreements.
For the Nationals, these have been our core objectives. These are things that have mattered to us and that we have been able to deliver in company with our coalition partners. We have always thought that the regions deserve a fair share of our nation’s wealth as they create the majority of our export dollars. When the regions prosper so does our nation.
When I went to school I was taught that wool made up over half of our nation’s total export earnings. Of course, other agricultural sectors made up a fair share of the balance. Now it is iron ore, coal, gold, gas, bauxite and a range of agricultural products that make up the majority of our exports. These exports all come from the regions.
In years gone by this contribution was perhaps better understood and noticed in Australia. But because we have become so urbanised the cities do not seem to care so much as they did in the past. They do not understand the nature of our economy and the way in which the regions contribute to its growth and development. There is a massive transfer of income from the regions to the cities.
We are all proud of having good cities and we want them to grow and be strong, but regional Australia does have a right to a fair share of our nation’s growth and prosperity. It is because Labor lost its focus and understanding of those issues that they also lost so many seats outside of the capital cities. It was because the Rudd and Gillard governments treated regional Australia with contempt that country people revolted. Voters looked at almost three years of Labor and three years of waste, mismanagement and neglect and said, ‘Enough is enough.’ Labor’s vote collapsed absolutely in the regions because the Labor Party had no core interest in those people who lived outside the capital cities and just saw the regions as a place where they could extract money and abolish programs and in the process, unfortunately, destroy the hope and optimism of people who live in country areas.
Let us also get the facts clear that the Greens’ vote only marginally improved in the regions. That fact remains far from Senator Bob Brown’s incredible claim that his party is the most popular party in the bush. The Greens won only one out of 150 seats that they contested and that was in the city. The Green vote was not strong in regional Australia and what vote they did receive was boosted by protest votes against the major parties.
Three regional Independents were elected, but they are the same three regional Independents that we had in the last parliament. Other country Independents did quite poorly during the election campaign. Very few, if any, cracked double figures. The concept that somehow or other the Independents have some special new function or new place in the parliament, particularly the rural and regional Independents, needs to be treated on the basis of the facts. It is for these reasons that I find it surprising that the majority of the Independents chose to back Labor to form a minority government. In their seats Labor polled eight per cent, 13 per cent and 20 per cent. The people of Lyne, New England and Kennedy did not want a Labor government. They voted decisively against Labor.
Worst of all this has been a lost opportunity for the regions. The Independents were not offered a better deal by the ALP for their electorates or for regional Australia. What the coalition put on the table during the election campaign was far superior and far more generous to the regions than what was offered by the ALP. For instance, during the election campaign the coalition committed to a new $1 billion regional education fund to seek to address the imbalance in educational outcomes in regional Australia and a new $300 million bridges renewal fund. Our affordable approach to broadband would have delivered similar or faster speeds to regional people in a quicker time than Labor’s wildly expensive and largely uncosted National Broadband Network.
Perhaps that is not widely understood. The broadband plan of the Liberal and National parties would have delivered to regional Australia speeds faster than Labor was proposing, at a fraction of the cost. There is now talk about building the NBN from the outside in. It was always our proposal to go to the areas that do not have broadband now and give them priority rather than, as Labor is proposing under the NBN, simply duplicating existing networks to provide more competition in the cities.
During the election campaign the coalition also promised local hospital boards and more scholarships for doctors, nurses and dentists for regional students. We promised more health professionals in regional areas, major road and rail upgrades and the restoration of our quarantine and Customs services to restore the security of our borders. We promised lower taxes for small businesses and we promised to reverse Labor’s draconian cuts to the independent youth allowance, which so disadvantaged regional Australia. There was a $1.5 billion mental health initiative, which would have opened up a large number of new Headspace services in regional areas, and there was much more.
I hope that one day we will have the chance to implement these visionary and comprehensive policies for the good of all regional people. The reality is that a coalition government has delivered enormously for regional Australia over the decades. Much more needs to be done. We had much more on the agenda as part of our commitments in the last election campaign, and of course when the coalition makes election commitments we actually expect to honour our promises. Labor simply walks away from them, as they did at the last election and as they are certain to do again.
Labor’s blankets and beads approach offers none of this comprehensive plan to help build better regions for Australia. The centrepiece of what Labor is offering is a regional development program that is dependent upon the introduction of a mining tax which will not collect any revenue until at least 2015, and that is two more elections away. That requires a lot of hope, faith and trust in a government that has never delivered for regional Australia. And of course the mining tax will rip billions of dollars out of investment and will cost thousands of jobs in regional Australia. To get back a few hundred million dollars from the billions the government actually expects to collect from this tax is hardly a decent or fair deal for the regions.
I remind people of the commitments that the federal Labor Party has made so far for the expenditure of the mining tax funds, which are supposed to go to the regions. The biggest single commitment is for roads around Perth Airport. Whilst those roads are necessary, no-one ever told me that Perth was regional Australia. So in fact Labor is not focusing on delivering to the regions; this is simply another tax for Labor to spend money and pork-barrel their programs.
The deal that was offered to the Independents did not sound like a good one to me when it was made and it does not sound like a good deal to me now. But of course that is a matter for judgment by the Australian people. I am just disappointed that the opportunity for a new start, a new deal, a grand new opportunity for regional Australia, has been lost. In all of the rhetoric and all of the talk about new paradigms and the rest, the reality is that regional Australia has lost the opportunity to have a better future than will now be available.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and her team on the unusual alliance that she has managed to pull together to deliver the magic 76 seats, and when she puts forward policies that support regional Australia she can count on our support. May I also congratulate those who have been elected and those who have already spoken. I am sure they will make a very substantial contribution to the parliament. I hope they will remember that our country is made up not just of cities but also of people who live and work in the regions.
What we need is a fair go for all Australians. If the Prime Minister does not deliver a fair deal for regional Australia, she can count on getting a very difficult time from us. This parliament is not a place for the fainthearted. It should be a place that is prepared to make the bold decisions needed to deliver fairness and a good outcome for all Australians, even those who live outside the capital cities.