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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4980


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (21:20): I rise tonight to raise serious issues affecting the Northern Territory. I have previously said in this place that most Territorians are a 3½-hour flight from the nearest capital city. We are remote and regional Australians and we are proud of our uniqueness and our frontier style approach. Our character defines us and we are proud of the community that we continue to build. Whilst my home is far away in distance and small in population, that is not reason enough for this Labor government to continually overlook the Northern Territory. Every major issue that the Labor government has created has had a huge impact on every Territorian. I do not mind telling you that Territorians are not very happy with the Gillard Labor government. There are many reasons why Territorians, like most Australians, have an issue with this government.

I would like to remind the House and, in particular, the Gillard Labor government members opposite that the Northern Territory's biggest industries are tourism, the cattle trade, road transport and the mining sector. We know that the Gillard Labor government knows that the mining and gas sector in the Territory is big. The Prime Minister was in Darwin last week to turn the first sod of a $33 billion project. I just hope that the Prime Minister does not have the reverse Midas touch on that significant project as she has with everything else that this Labor government has touched.

Each of these sectors will be affected in one way or another by poor Labor policy. Many sectors will be impacted by the carbon tax. And we already know what happened when this government stopped the live cattle trade. Territorians are still feeling the effects of that ridiculous decision. I have said in this place previously that nearly everything is freighted into the Territory. Everything from fruit and vegetables to general groceries and building materials is transported into the Territory, mostly by diesel road trains. The carbon tax will no doubt increase our freight costs as well.

The Northern Territory—in particular, Darwin and Palmerston—is going through a housing crisis, which is another point that I have raised many times in this place. The Northern Territory has multiple detention centres and not enough hospitals. This government has created more detention centre beds in my electorate than hospital beds—not something to be proud of. Whether it be the Gillard government's ban on live cattle exports, the minerals resource rent tax, the government's failure to deliver affordable housing or the toxic carbon tax, every piece of bad legislation hits the individual Northern Territorian. The combination of these broken promises, poor management and new taxes has already significantly hurt Territorians and will continue to hurt us all.

Another issue I have spoken about in this place before is the current healthcare situation in my electorate of Solomon. The Royal Darwin Hospital is under pressure from the detention centres. This has occurred because of the Gillard Labor government's failed border protection policy. I have heard the story all too often: when Territorians go to the emergency department the waiting times are getting much longer as doctors are required to see detainees before they can see citizens of this their own country. Adding to this, our ambulances are constantly being called out to the Wickham Point detention centre, which has stretched their capacity to care for the needs of Territorians.

I was horrified to hear the other day that some constituents think that, in an emergency situation, it would be much better to drive their own car rather than take the risk of waiting for an ambulance. We have learnt in recent days that it is not just the hospitals; the ambulance service and the police service that are under pressure because of the demands placed on the community by the illegal arrivals detained in our detention centres. Our legal aid centres are also under pressure. This is just a mess—a mess of the government's own doing.

To top it all off, the carbon tax is going to devastate the Northern Territory economy. The carbon tax will have an impact on everything, especially remoteness. Yet this government, rather than repealing this bad legislation, has chosen to play ostrich politics. It has its head stuck deep in the sand and it is hoping that the problems will go away. Well, they will not. Millions of Australians will be worse off under the carbon tax, and the compensation being handed out will not be enough. The carbon tax will drive up the cost of living for Australian families, and the money being delivered in the coming weeks by the government is simply a sweetener for the financial pain ahead. The compensation is a con, because on the government's own figures millions and millions of Australian households will be worse off under the carbon tax.

Every day in my electorate office we are getting calls and emails from people who have done the calculations and checked the website, and they are telling us that they are going to be worse off under the carbon tax. We cannot accept that best-case scenario from a government that delivered failings such as the pink batts program, the failed education revolution scheme, the inefficient solar rebate program, the set-top boxes to pensioners that cost more than a whole new television, the ban on live exports that destroyed years of international trade relationships and the $900 stimulus package that was sent to people living overseas or to people who were deceased. The government has failed in the past; what makes the Gillard Labor government think we can trust them now?

Many dual-income families will be worse off once they reach the typical income of a schoolteacher and a shop assistant, or a policeman and a part-time nurse. Self-funded retirees who do not qualify for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card will receive nothing, which includes all those under the age of 65. The longer this tax is in place, the worse the consequences will be for the economy, jobs and families. The 2012-13 budget confirms the government is forecasting the carbon tax to rise from $23 a tonne to $29 a tonne by 2015-16. The compensation simply will not be enough to outweigh the extra costs for Territorians who will be hit because of the carbon tax.

Take your typical Northern Territory family, for example—a mum, a dad and one child under the age of five. Both parents are working in one of the Northern Territory's major industries—tourism, public service, mining, the Defence Force or the cattle trade. Both mum and dad are on $75,000 a year, earning a combined income of $150,000 per annum. They will receive $281 in compensation, but they will be hit with $809 under the carbon tax. So they will be $528 a year worse off. This is simply unacceptable.

When the Prime Minister of Australia announced a carbon tax, she said it was a tax on big businesses, yet the government's own figures show that it is mums and dads who will have to fork out the extra money for this toxic tax. To make things worse, many small businesses in the Northern Territory are worried that this tax will spell the end for them. I have spoken to private airline operators, builders, building equipment suppliers, fish and chip shop owners, grocers, butchers, florists and market stallholders. All of them are telling me the same thing: this tax will make their costs go up. They will try to pass on their costs but no longer think that their businesses will be viable. It saddened me the other day to hear that for some small businesses this tax will be the final nail in the coffin.

The Prime Minister is in cahoots with the Greens and has introduced this tax at the worst possible time. This is the world's biggest carbon tax, and the Leader of the Greens, Christine Milne, is still talking about adding the carbon tax to petrol, which would add a minimum of 6½c per litre to the cost. I do not know about everywhere else, but we have already got high petrol costs in the Northern Territory, so that is another thing that is not going to be good for us. Families will be better off under a coalition government. We will remove the carbon tax and deliver tax cuts.

I will sum up with this final point. I understand that the Gillard Labor government's policy is going to hurt all Australians across the nation, but in my electorate of Solomon there is a housing crisis, the Royal Darwin Hospital is under immense pressure which is being caused by failed immigration policies, the small business community is still recovering from the ban of the live export trade and, to top it all off, the carbon tax is going to have a devastating impact on business as well as our already high cost of living. My grievance is with the Gillard Labor government and what its ridiculous, poorly-thought-out policies are doing to my electorate and my community and how it is hurting every single Territorian.