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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13346

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaSecond Deputy Speaker) (19:24): I rise this evening to speak on this Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 and the associated bills, which, of course, includes an amendment moved by the member for Kennedy to the second reading motion. This is a new tax; it cannot be cast as anything else. It is another new tax that this government wants to introduce and that will not only have an impact on the competitiveness of the mining sector in Australia but also, if the government is successful in getting it through both houses, rip more wealth out of the regions. We know from the experience we have had of this government, particularly with the regional development grants that came out only recently, where the money will end up: it will not end up back in the regions.

The government is telling us also that it wants to invest in the regions, and I will touch on that a bit later, but it also wants to use the tax to increase the superannuation savings guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent over the next six to seven years. That is a laudable objective. We all agree on this side of the House that we need to encourage people—workers and people in business—to put money aside for their own retirement, because we know that in years to come there will be a smaller group of Australians paying tax and there will not be the capacity to meet, you might say, the pension entitlements that we have in place today. So it is important that we plan now to make sure that we have superannuation savings accumulating during workers' working lives. But the government said that it will be using this money to increase the superannuation guarantee from nine to 12 per cent. It is going to be the small businesses paying that increase from nine per cent to 9¼ per cent to 9½ per cent and progressively upwards towards 12 per cent, not the government. When the Labor government under Hawke and Keating introduced compulsory superannuation, it was offset with what would otherwise have been a tax cut through the budget process, so it was not borne by the employer. But this will be borne by the small businesses, so it will be yet another tax applied to small business—albeit we on this side of the House support the need to encourage superannuation savings over people's working lives.

The government also said that they have pledged to set up a Regional Infrastructure Fund and also Infrastructure Australia to invest in road, rail and port infrastructure. It all sounds very nice, but the money is coming from this new tax. I just remind the House: when we were in government—the member for Cowper would remember this—did we introduce a new tax to start the progressive upgrade of the Pacific Highway? We did not introduce a new tax to do it.

Mr Hartsuyker: We did it from revenue.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: We did it from revenue, because we were prudent managers of budgets. The very successful Regional Partnerships program and the Sustainable Regions Program—if we want to refer to regional infrastructure—were programs run out of budget revenue. We did not introduce a new tax. It just demonstrates the way that this government thinks. If it wants to do something, it thinks, 'Where can we tax the taxpayers? Where can we tax, in this case, the resource sector? Where can we get more money?' It is about taxing and spending. That seems to be its whole modus operandi. It just cannot manage money.

I mentioned Labor's Regional Development Australia funding. We have had one round of that, and we have had all our regional development committees in our electorates. I encouraged mine in my electorate of Maranoa to get out there and get worthwhile projects. We have had local mayors and committees meeting and organisations and businesses putting their submissions forward. They were then short-listed by the Regional Development Australia committee. People travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles and gave their time to go through this process. Then, of course, the announcement came. West of the range in Queensland, not one project was funded, notwithstanding that we had some very, very worthwhile projects.

What is even more interesting is that the government says it was a program for regional Australia. In fact, at the opening of parliament, when the Prime Minister took the vote from the crossbenches to enable her to become Prime Minister, she said that she was going to be a Prime Minister for regional Australia. The very first chance she had with her government and her leadership to be able to deliver to regional Australia was with those announcements for regional Australia.

Labor holds just 23 of the 62 regional electorates in Australia. Most of the electorates are held by the coalition in regional Australia and yet in the first round of grants we were missing in action. Our electorates were somehow just not considered to be regional Australia. It is about trusting the government with money. Why would we support this new tax and trust them to do as they have pledged to do if they are successful in getting this legislation through both houses of parliament? We really cannot trust them.

We had wonderful projects put forward by organisations in my electorate. Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, you would know very well an area out there in western Queensland very near Mount Margaret—Plevna Downs. I think you may know the property well from your days when you were involved in the wool industry. Some magnificent dinosaur remains were recently discovered there. There is a wonderful project there and they need some regional development funds for that. A lot of work went into a very professional application. It had support from the oil and gas industry out in that part of the world and from the local government. But did the grant come through? No, it did not.

We submitted a regional development grant application in Longreach for the Stockman's Hall of Fame. We submitted one to establish a Barcaldine day care centre where there is not a day care centre today. If we are going to keep young people in rural and outback Australia, we have to have the infrastructure that supports young families. The regional council based out of Roma, the Maranoa Regional Council, had a great project to provide a new aged-care facility in the town of Mitchell so that they could keep their community together and so that people as they aged would have the confidence they could move from their home into an aged-care facility that was approved and accredited. Whilst the one they have now is a wonderful building, the community accepts that one day it will not meet accreditation standards and it is thinking about the future. Did it get funded? No.

I will certainly be watching the next round of funding. I have got all of my energy focused on those communities that put in applications before, making sure they meet the new guidelines because they have changed again. I will be encouraging them to shortlist two or three or four in each of the regional development areas in Maranoa, of which there are three, and submitting those projects again. I hope that this time we will see the process deliver for the genuine areas out there in regional Australia that have very worthwhile projects that do deserve the support of the government.

When I talk about the experience of dealing with Labor governments and how they manage money, there is no better example of the mismanagement of money than the Queensland Labor government. They have been in government almost continuously for a little over 20-odd years now. They are confronting the electorate next year. When it comes to managing money the Queensland Labor government just have not got a clue. Against the backdrop of the biggest mining and resources boom that we have seen in Queensland, the Labor government continue to rack up debt. They have racked up a $89 billion to $90 billion debt against the backdrop of the growth that we have had in the state of Queensland and the receipt of huge mining royalties. Against the backdrop of all that they were still able to mismanage the economy and rack up debt to the tune of $84 billion to $85 billion. I cannot give you an accurate figure but it is in that order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Not only have they racked up this debt against the backdrop of the biggest mining boom in Queensland where they received something like $3 billion in the 2008-09 year as mining royalties but this federal government, I understand, also want to get their fingers into that pie as well.

Queensland has also lost its triple-A credit rating. That is an absolute disgrace for the state of Queensland. No wonder Queenslanders are going to revolt against this government at the next state election. We have always believed in our great state of Queensland and the growth of Queensland. We do not take failure in Queensland, but we have a failed Labor government up there that has failed to manage the economy.

Mrs Prentice: It is a shame.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: It is a shame, as the member for Ryan interjects.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. DGH Adams ): Order! I ask the honourable member to come back to the bill.

Mr BRUCE SCOTT: I accept that, and I will come back to the bill, but I just wanted to demonstrate in that example that when it comes to managing economies we know we cannot trust Labor. Why would we trust them to go in and tax the mining sector, still manage the economy and deliver infrastructure for regional and rural Australia?

I notice that the Attorney-General of Queensland, the Hon. Paul Lucas, has put out a press release relating to the Queensland government wanting to get their fingers into some of this infrastructure money from Infrastructure Australia. They have listed some nationally significant, high-priority road projects. The Bruce Highway upgrade is in the early stages of development. The Cooroy to Curra section A is apparently ready to proceed and is 'nationally significant'. The Mackay ring-road is 'nationally significant'. That is the category they put them under. They have also listed the second range crossing at Toowoomba. It is a nationally significant crossing which I absolutely support. But, when it comes to a proposed pipeline and when it might be ready, it just says that the second range crossing has 'real potential'. It does not say it is ready to proceed. It just says it has got 'real potential'. We know it has got real potential, but we need more than that.

Then I go down the list and I think, 'The Warrego Highway will surely be listed by the Attorney-General in Queensland.' It should be on a nationally significant priority list, given the mining boom adjacent to and along the corridor of the Warrego Highway. But it comes under a second category. I am very happy that it is listed, but it is a new submission and it is 'ready to proceed'. I am certainly going to have my eyes open and I will be looking to see just how ready the ministers and the main roads department are—and they are already getting in Queensland $3 billion in royalties from the mining sector—to see some of that money rolled out into the Warrego Highway. Under the AusLink program, when we were in government, 20 per cent of the money for the national highways would come from state governments. It was not all going to come from the federal government. All I saw in this submission was that the Queensland minister said that the national highways are a federal responsibility and they are asking the Commonwealth to help fund these roads which are clearly a federal responsibility. I understood that it was also a part state responsibility, to the tune of 20 per cent.

I say to the House this evening: we just cannot trust this government with money. They now want to tax the resource sector, which is responsible for delivering enormous growth in my electorate, which is creating many more jobs. We want to be alert to the fact that this money can shift overnight to projects offshore where governments do not impose such punitive taxes on their profits and their development. That is a real concern to us and that is why we will be opposing this tax and this legislation.