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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6678

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (10:46): I second the amendment. There is no nepotism involved, but I think the finest statement I have ever heard on privatisation came from the state member for Mount Isa, in my electorate—a person called Robbie Katter. He said that when you corporatise or privatise an essential service, you provide to that corporation the right to tax you at whatever level it feels like for forever. Enron: The smartest guys in the room should be compulsory reading in this place. There are four books on Enron, and I have read them all. The head of Enron told the President of the United States and the Governor of California that corporatisation would be wonderful for them—this is what he said—because they would get more schools, more police and more of every government service if they sold California's electricity industry. We now know what the outcome was. The congressional inquiry informed the people of America that Californian electricity consumers had been skinned of $74,000 million in the space of four years. Of course the president and CFO of Enron both went to jail—perhaps not because they had broken the law; probably just because of the people's rage about the lies that had been told.

Exactly the same story is occurring now. I read in a North Queensland paper where one of the politicians up there said that they needed a new football stadium. I think we have a magnificent stadium now, at the Cowboys, but they need a new one up there, and they want a roof on it, and we will have to sell the port and the railways. There is a very famous book called The Bible, and there is a story in there about a bloke who sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge because he happened to be a bit hungry that morning. It was not a real good deal. Those who come from Melbourne will be well aware that 200 years ago the people of Melbourne were offered some blankets and some baubles, and they gave the greater Melbourne area to some blokes who had come in from overseas. There is obviously precedent for what is going on now—blokes from overseas have come to us and said, 'Just give us all these essential services and it'll be really good for you.' I think my blackfella brothers and cousins down there in Melbourne would say, 'We got conned.'

Let us go to reality land. In the year before corporatisation, which is privatisation by another name, the cost of electricity in Queensland—and all the states are the same—was $859 a year. That is what the consumer paid in 2005. By 2013, that had risen to $2,100, and by June 2014 it had gone up to $2,395. That is 400 per cent higher than before corporatisation. Yet, the government is advocating that this is the pathway we go down. I can say with great conviction that the economy of this country has been carried by the coal industry. At stages it has comprised nearly 30 per cent of the entire income for this country. Do not let the ALP come along with their hypocrisy here—they have sold more of the assets than the LNP. Qantas is gone; the Commonwealth Bank has gone. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories! Your life depends upon the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories; now it is a money-making machine for some foreign corporation. It even extends to the very production of money. They are talking about selling the Mint, which puts a whole new meaning on the phrase 'licence to print money'. When I was young they used to say, 'He is the sort of bloke who would sell you the Sydney Harbour Bridge.' The only joke now is that it has not been sold. But don't hold your breath.

Let me turn to electricity. Close to half of Australia's export earnings comes directly or indirectly from mineral processing. That depends upon the price of electricity. The aluminium industry in Australia is one of the big three; coal, aluminium and iron ore have carried the economy of Australia for nearly half a century now. Why did we get aluminium? We produced virtually no aluminium in Australia except for the hydroelectricity produced in Tasmania, which is very cheap. Queensland got a massive aluminium industry because we had a restricted resource policy, a relentless resource policy. Every country on earth has a reserved resource policy. The Americans allow no gas to be exported from the United States unless there is no-one in the United States that wants that gas. That is called a reserved resource policy.

In Queensland, our opponents used to call us the agrarian socialists. I do not know what you would call the Country Party, the National Party now. It is part of the Liberal Party and has been for about 20 years. Under the Country Party regime we took I think two per cent of the coal mined in Queensland for free. If you mined coal in Queensland you gave a tiny two per cent to us, but that was enough to fire the Gladstone power station, which provided more than half of the state's electricity. We put out one and a half thousand million dollars for that power station, which was then half of the Queensland budget. You talk about borrowing—the biggest borrowing government in human history probably was the Queensland government. We borrowed it because we absolutely knew that when we could provide the most cost-effective, cheapest electricity in the world we would get the aluminium industry. So not only could we provide the consumers in Queensland with the cheapest electricity in the world because we had the biggest power station in the world and the economies of scale were magnificent, but it was fuelled by free coal. This is a mortal sin to the free marketeers, and don't let the ALP be hypocrites here. They have been governing most states and federally for most of the last 25 years and most of the selling-off was done by them. But these blokes on the government benches are now saying, 'What is left to sell?' They are scrounging around and they are finding a fair bit.

Let me return to electricity. Queensland had the cheapest electricity in the world. Under the socialists and then under the LNP it is now part of the Australian grid and this graph shows that we have the second highest electricity charges in the world. Our enemies used to call us agrarian socialists. Under agrarian socialism we had the cheapest charges in the world, and now we have the second highest charges in the world. There is the graph I asked for from the Library. Before corporatisation we were still amongst the cheaper electricity countries in the world. So that is not enough for them; they want full privatisation. A 400 per cent increase over 8½ years in electricity charges is not good enough. They have to get a lot more donations from their corporate backers. The previous speaker, the leader of the Greens in this place, referred to this sort of thing. I was the third-ranking minister in the Queensland government before it fell and I am not naive or so holier than thou enough to think that political parties are run on fresh air, and you have got to reward those people. For heaven's sake, reward them with knighthoods or reward them with places on boards, but do not reward them by giving them the people's assets.

The intellectual underpinnings of this are from Wat Tyler and Bishop Langton, one of the greatest men in human history. He drew up a document called the Magna Carta. If you want to know about it and understand about it, go and see the Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood. In that movie they said, 'You, Mr King, do not own these assets. The land, the water, the resources and assets of this nation do not belong to you, they belong to the people, and you have no right to sell them or to take them off us.' That is exactly what is taking place here. I do not notice too many outside of Mr Bandt and myself who are prepared to go out there and fight as our forebears did in the run-up to the Magna Carta. I do not notice too many Bishop Langtons around the place either.

Let us climb back down to specific examples. Tasmania had the cheapest electricity in the world, along with Queensland, because all of their electricity came from small hydro systems which were enormously cheap. They got the aluminium industry before Queensland did. Remember this is your second or third biggest export item for 50 years in Australia. This is an item that has been carrying the nation, with cheap electricity.

So I talked to the Deputy President of the ALP in Tasmania, a very erudite lady whose stepfather was Chief Justice, I think, for Tasmania. I said, 'Why do you now have the highest electricity charges in Australia and Australia is amongst the highest in the world?' She said that the reason is pretty simple. When you privatised the generating corporation they required a 20 per cent capex and profit. The capex had to be serviced and a profit had to be made—so there was 20 per cent. Then, the transmission corporation had to make 20 per cent—so that is 20 per cent on 20 per cent. Then, of course, the distribution and retailing arm had to make 20 per cent—so it is 20 per cent on 20 per cent on 20 per cent. So just straight off we had nearly a 100 per cent increase in the electricity charges in Tasmania—20 per cent on 20 per cent on 20 per cent, you can figure it out for yourself. If you start with $100 per unit you end up with $173. It is almost a doubling straight off.

Here you have a monopoly, or a monopoly shared by two or three people, because there are really only three generators in this country—you might argue four. I have always said the problem in this place is that your mummies and daddies never had you play Monopoly. If you played Monopoly you would know that when you own two utilities you have twice as much money per unit as when you own one utility. And if you own four utilities, for the same unit you have four times as much as if you owned only one utility. If you owned all of them then you have 700 per cent.

I want to turn to the industry that carried Australia, the coal industry, and that was built on— (Time expired)