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Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Page: 6565


Senator PRATT (2:52 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister please inform the Senate as to the Gorgon liquefied natural gas project which is to be developed off Western Australia? Specifically, what benefits is the project expected to bring, with particular reference to employment, export earnings and government revenue? More specifically, what opportunities is the project expected to create for Australian industry? What action has the joint venture taken to maximise these opportunities?

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Resume your seat, Senator Pratt. When there is silence we will proceed. Continue, Senator Pratt.


Senator PRATT —I was asking what action the joint venture has taken to maximise these opportunities. Also, what support has the Commonwealth provided to facilitate the joint venture’s engagement with local suppliers? How does this relate to the government’s wider agenda to increase Australian industry participation in major projects? (Time expired)


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Pratt for her question, and it is a pity the opposition was not more interested in creating jobs for Australians. The final investment decisions signed off by the Gorgon joint venturers yesterday will generate jobs and exports for Australians without Work Choices while making huge contributions to Australia’s greenhouse gas abatement worldwide. The project is to support 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the peak construction phase and 3,500 ongoing—


Senator Cormann interjecting—


Senator Sterle interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Carr, resume your seat. Senator Cormann and Senator Sterle, it is disorderly to engage in shouting across the chamber whilst Senator Carr is answering the question. Senator Carr, continue.


Senator CARR —The project will create some 3½ thousand ongoing direct and indirect jobs throughout its life. It will deliver around $300 billion in export earnings over the next 20 years. It will generate $40 billion in government revenue, which can be used to fund schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure for decades to come. It is a pity the opposition is not concerned about these matters. Critically, it will also use $33 billion worth of locally purchased goods and services. Our aim is to get more people buying Australian at home and abroad. The Gorgon joint venture development is an Australian Industry Participation Plan project, which will see that in early stages of the project there will be opportunities given for local firms to establish their competitive positions. It is working with the Industry Capability Network to identify Australian suppliers for the project, and the Commonwealth has granted the network $159,000 to support this work. The Gorgon project is also advertising upcoming program procurement contract opportunities on its website. (Time expired)


Senator PRATT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister please inform the Senate on further measures to support Australian industry participation through reform of the Enhanced Projects By-Law Scheme and the Tariff Concession System, as recently outlined in the Australian Government Procurement Statement released in July? What is the purpose of these programs and why is reform necessary? How will these reforms foreshadowed by the government increase transparency and accountability? What benefits can be expected to flow from the reform process, not only for industry but also for project proponents and consumers?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —Again, it is a pity the opposition is not interested in creating jobs for Australians. The reform package included a pledge to tighten guidelines for the Enhanced Projects By-Law Scheme and the Tariff Concession Scheme. Yesterday the Minister for Home Affairs and I started consultations on the proposed changes to both these import duty relief programs. These changes will ensure that clearer Australian industry participation plans are developed upfront when projects are being designed. They will ensure that people only apply for import duty concessions after making a genuine, and I emphasise the word ‘genuine’, attempt to establish that no Australian producer can supply suitable goods. We want to ensure that these programs give Australian industry a fair go and reduce costs for project proponents, for businesses and for consumers. (Time expired)


Senator PRATT —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how these reforms relate to the other measures announced in the Australian Government Procurement Statement? What are the key elements of this statement? What implications do they have for existing initiatives, such as the Industry Capability Network and Australian industry participation plans? What new initiatives are proposed?


Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Cormann has been making a series of gestures towards government ministers during this question time.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Order on both sides!


Senator Sterle interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Sterle! Senator Evans is on his feet to make a point of order. He is entitled to be heard and I need to hear what he is saying.


Senator Chris Evans —My point of order, Mr President, is if you would call Senator Cormann to order. His behaviour is, I think, unparliamentary. I have always been in favour of robust debate in this chamber but I think making signals to ministers when they are in the middle of their answering questions or a question is disorderly and I ask you to bring Senator Cormann to order.


The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. I have been watching to my right and listening to the matter that has been raised as part of the question. I cannot look at both sides at once.


Senator Chris Evans interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! I am saying at this stage there is no point of order. I will review the tape, and if there is a need to come back to the chamber then I will. But at this stage it is not possible for me to look at both sides at the one time, in spite of some of the capabilities people might think I have from time to time.


Senator Abetz —Mr President, I rise on a point of order.


The PRESIDENT —I have ruled on the point of order. Is this a separate point of order?


Senator Abetz —Yes, it is. Mr President, when you review the tape, I would invite you to come back into the chamber and report whether there is any substance to the quite outrageous allegation made on broadcast by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that slurs Senator Cormann. The gestures that Senator Cormann made, I am told, refer to numbers and there is the implication that the finger gestures were somehow inappropriate or rude. And to make that slur, Mr President, is as unparliamentary as that which the leader asserted.


Senator Chris Evans —No, if it was a slur then I would not have asserted it.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator Cormann —Mr President, on the same point of order: I just wanted to clarify that I was counting the number of questions that were being asked with my fingers, and if you rule that this is out of order, I will obviously—


The PRESIDENT —Senator Cormann, I had already—

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —I am trying to get question time to the situation where it can flow as smoothly as possible. I said there was no point of order. I said that I would get the tape reviewed. And I said that if needs be I would come back and report to the Senate—if needs be. But I will not come back to this Senate and report unnecessarily if there is nothing that happened on the tape. We will review the tape and we will review the Hansard.


Senator Abetz —Mr President, if I may have your indulgence: if the tape shows that there was nothing untoward done by Senator Cormann then you will not be reporting, but the assertion by the Leader of the Government in the Senate will remain on the Hansard and that is what the opposition objects to.


The PRESIDENT —I will review the totality of what has been raised and, if needs be, I will report back to the Senate. I will review the totality.


Senator Chris Evans interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Pratt, have you finished?


Senator PRATT —No, Mr President, and I would like to conclude my question, if I may. I would like to know how these measures improve the chances of local firms securing work on major projects and procurements, including those funded by the Commonwealth.


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I am keen to answer this question. The overall effect of the changes involves an extra $8.5 million—


Senator Conroy —How much?


Senator CARR —$8.5 million, Senator Conroy—over four years for the Industry Capability Network, which uses procurement experts to link Australian companies to project opportunities in Australia and overseas. It includes another $8.2 million over four years to appoint business specialists to supplier advocates to champion Australian industry, to develop networks and supply chain partnerships, and to improve competitiveness. It also includes $2.5 million over four years to extend the Australian Industry Participation Plan program to firms bidding for major Commonwealth contracts and work on Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects, including projects supported by the Build Australia Fund. Along with these reforms announced yesterday—(Time expired)


Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.