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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13313


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (16:57): When speaking before question time, I named 17 mines in north-west Queensland that are on the drawing board as projects. To go ahead, they will need a rail system or some other method of transportation, they will require power and they will require water. Water is not a great problem for us insofar as most of the giant rivers in Australia flow into the Gulf of Carpentaria, so water can be reasonably adequately obtained. The federal government deserves very great praise for the initiative on the transmission line known as CopperString, which will take grid system power at long last into the mineral belt of Northern Australia. The minister, Mr Ferguson, has said on many occasions in this House that all of Australia's base metals are in the top one-third of Australia, if you like, and there is not a power station within 1,000 kilometres of where we need the power to be.

In my book History of Australia, which will be published shortly by Murdoch Books, we talk about developmentalism. That was an idea long since lost to this place. We heard the last speaker on the MPI telling us how wonderful the economics of Mr Keating and Mr Hawke were. Well, there was simply no development that took place in this country during that period of time; there was not a single item of infrastructure.

There was only one item of infrastructure built by the government that followed and, to their disgrace, it was the railway line from Adelaide to Darwin. It was a disgrace in the sense that it was a railway line from nowhere to nowhere through the biggest desert on Earth. It was built so that the Liberal Party could win the election in South Australia. If that railway line had been built from Tennant Creek across to Mount Isa, all of the great mineral wealth and all of the great agricultural wealth would have had quick and speedy access out through Darwin. The top third of that railway line from Adelaide to Darwin would have been very profitable indeed. But there was no such enlightenment. We were thinking politics; we were not thinking development.

Almost every member on the front bench of both sides of this parliament could not spell the word developmentalism. I do not say that to be denigrating of them, but one mob was there for 12 years and the other mob has been there for three and, if you like, 12 years before that. So for the best part of 30 years they have both been there and not one single piece of infrastructure was built in that time. I sat in the parliament in Brisbane for 20 years and in that time one of the biggest dams in Australia's history was built, the Burdekin. It was an initiative of the state government. The railway line that opened up the coalmining industry of Australia was built from Gladstone to a little railway siding called Blackwater. There were virtually no export coalmines in this country at the time that railway line was built. The giant port of Gladstone, one of the few ports in the world that can take 200,000-tonne shipping, was built. One of the four biggest power stations in the world was built at Gladstone. Those threes pieces of infrastructure facilitated the creation of Australia's aluminium industry and the creation of Australia's coal industry.

If we had the policies of the current Labor tradition and the Liberal tradition on the other side, then none of those great infrastructure projects would have been built because they would have said, 'Oh no, they have to pay for themselves.' If they had to pay for themselves, then they simply would not have been built. The railway line to Blackwater was not going to pay for itself—there was not a single mine there at the time. The people in this place do not seem to understand, because they have never been out in the real marketplace in the real world and most of them have never backed their judgment with their own money in their lives. They have never been involved in business and they have no experience of that sort of decision making. If they were out there, then they would understand that there is a chicken and egg situation. The mining company says, 'We cannot open a coalmine unless we have got a railway and a port.' The government says, 'Well, we are not going to build a railway to a port unless there are coalmines there.' It is the chicken and the egg.

Premier Beattie, in a very generous and gracious act, said that the coalmining industry of Australia was created by Bjelke-Petersen. I was there when those giant infrastructure items were built at great expense creating great debt. The Queensland government was the biggest borrowing government in Australian history by a long way and easily the most successful economically in the nation's history, because each of those resources that we built brought great wealth to the state of Queensland and great revenue to the people of Queensland. Some of us said there was a bit of bushranger stuff in that railway line and I suppose there was—more than most people know, actually.

There are 17 mining projects to be developed, the second biggest wind farm in the world is proposed to be opened at Hughenden along this copper string transmission line and at Pentland there is the biggest sugar project in world history which will produce 112 million tonnes of sugar a year being turned into ethanol and electricity. Renewable forever! The sun will shine, rain will fall from the skies and the Burdekin River will flow and a little bit will be diverted to spread out on this grass which we call sugar cane—this magnificent and magical product.

The other thing we need is to be able to get our product out of north-west Queensland. Why was Louis XIV, the Sun King, one of the most famous rulers in world history? Because he built canals all over France. In fact, at the end of his reign you could go by boat from the Mediterranean all the way to the English Channel. He deserves his place in history. Why was Peter the Great great? There are a number of reasons, but again the most famous was that he built canals. The easiest and cheapest way to move anything is on water. Everybody in this place knows that. The great growth of China was facilitated by the mighty canal and irrigation systems that were built by enlightened rulers in that country. Theodore Roosevelt is carved up on Mount Rushmore for three reasons. One reason he is famous is that he smashed Esso, Rockefeller's company. One of the other famous things that he did was to build the Panama Canal. These people were great because they built canals.

If you look at a map, the Gulf of Carpentaria is extremely flat. You can come 200 kilometres from the sea and still be only about 30 metres above sea level. It lends itself to the building of canals. We have giant iron ore deposits. We have never looked for iron ore, but when we were looking for copper, lead and zinc we stumbled across iron ore. According to media reports and the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, we have stumbled across some 900 million tonnes so far, but we cannot get it out. The only way is the railway line which is 1,000 kilometres from Townsville. We have got to get a canal built from the Albert River south from where we can access it to take this product out overseas very easily and cheaply.

I visited Moranbah with the state member, Mr Knuth. I was absolutely appalled when one of the councillors there, Mrs Baker, told us that Moranbah was going to have 3,000 or 4,000 workers on two sides, so Moranbah would be between these two great barracks areas of young men with nothing to do of an evening in the town when they are off-shift. This town would be turned into a barracks rather than a town.

If you give us a tiny bit of bitumen on which we can put two-acre allotments, we can provide civilised living for the tens of thousands of people that are needed in that area to make a civilised community that will be there for 100 years. You would know the issues that I am talking about, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the present, every single piece of infrastructure in Moranbah will be straining at the bit and collapsing to make foreign coalmining companies rich. I do not object to that—the fact that they are foreign I do—but the fact that our infrastructure is collapsing. (Time expired)