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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5178


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (16:28): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2011-2012 and the 2011 Labor budget. It is important that I place on record how little this budget delivers to the people of my electorate of Flynn. Flynn is a very productive electorate. It has aluminium and cement industries and coal-fired power stations. It is the beef capital of Australia. It has grain, citrus, sugar cane, small crops, cotton—it goes on and on. We add a lot to the Australian economy.

I want to expose this budget for what it is: all talk and no action. It is all smoke and mirrors. The government has shown again that it has no idea when it comes to nation building. It has no idea how to manage the big projects needed to secure Australia's future. I will give you some examples of how the Labor government budget fails not only the people of Flynn but the people of Australia. Firstly, the majority of workers in Central Queensland must drive long distances to and from work. Many work in mines and in the service industry and their homes are hundreds of kilometres from where they work. This budget will penalise these workers by slugging them for going into work. Under the 2011 Labor government budget, people who have no choice but to travel more than 40,000 kilometres per year will pay 20 per cent fringe benefits tax, up from the current seven per cent. On a $65,000 vehicle, a miner, a tradie or a salesman will shell out an additional $8,450 in tax. This is not just an attack on the mining industry; it hits the pockets of all kinds of workers who purchase a work vehicle through salary sacrifice and have to drive long distances in doing their work.

Secondly, the government must stand condemned for continually breaking election promises. It must stand condemned for building false hopes within the community only to let people down because it has no idea how to plan and manage projects within budget. I will give you some more examples of how the people of Flynn have been short-changed by the Gillard government and how they are being lied to by the Gillard government. These are just three examples. And you Labor guys over there had better put your fingers in your ears, because I know you do not want to hear this—that goes especially for the member for Capricornia, who has done her best on radio and in the papers to gloss over these issues without giving any idea at all when the real work will start.

Let us look at the Calliope Crossroads, the Yeppen bridge and the Gracemere upgrade—and then there is the Port Access Road. Promises made during the election campaign of 2007 and in 2010 have been pushed aside and replaced with a wide range of excuses. This is not good enough. There is an urgent need for the government to get back on track and stop hoodwinking the Australian public. The Calliope Crossroads presents a vital bit of infrastructure which enables Dawson Highway traffic to cross over the Bruce Highway at Calliope. It was promised, at a cost of $55 million, by both major parties in 2007. Labor failed to honour that promise during its first term of government. It was promised again in 2010, but by this time Labor had driven the cost up to $155 million. In the 2011 budget, however, there is nothing—only a few pennies for planning. This intersection has been planned to within an inch of its life. Millions have been spent by Labor planning for something, but they have no idea at all when this project is going to start. There have been suggestions that the original $55 million to complete the project will only cover the planning and resumption of land.

Likewise, another bridge for the Yeppen flood plain, with double lanes to Egans Hill and to Gracemere along the Capricorn Highway, is essential. The Gladstone Port Access Road is also an important project which so far has had no public consultation. We can all see the need for these projects, but nothing is being done to bring these plans to reality. In fact the government, in its latest budget, reveals that work will only start in 2014-15 and then only if the mining resource rent tax is approved. How many people will have to die on these roads before the government moves?

The reality is that the government cannot move on these issues because it is virtually bankrupt. It has transformed a strong surplus economy in 2007 into a basket case in just three years. In 2007, the coalition left the Australian people with billions of dollars in the bank. We are now borrowing in excess of $135 million a day and this budget seeks to increase our borrowings to $250 billion, up from $200 billion. We have wasted money on the failed pink batts program, the dodgy BER scheme and the countless other touchy-feely, feel-good projects. Labor has thrown money around like a drunken sailor, and I apologise to the drunken sailor for associating him with this government. The 2011 Labor government budget is an attack on middle Australians. It is an attack on working families. It is an attack on the hardworking men and women of Australia who work in our regional towns and cities.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to turn your attention to another very important issue affecting the people of Flynn. I refer to the proposal by the Labor government and the Greens to introduce a carbon tax into the Australian economic landscape. To pretend that a carbon tax will not cost several thousands of Queenslanders their jobs is in my opinion the height of gross stupidity or incompetence or both. Our forefathers and captains of industry have worked diligently over the last 200 years to establish a wide range of industries and development projects across Australia. We cannot let the Green-Independent-Labor government destroy our industrial base. My electorate is without doubt the carbon capital of Australia and it naturally follows that it will be that area of Australia that suffers most from the effect of a tax that will effectively make industry less competitive on the world market.

Like with everything else, this government skirts around the issues. They will not tell industry what price per tonne they will have to pay for this carbon. Is it going to be $26 per tonne or $45 per tonne? Maybe it is going to be $100 per tonne, as demanded by the Greens, or maybe it will be somewhere in between. Uncertainty destabilises our industries. The government has a responsibility to ensure that any change to the way businesses are taxed and regulated is carried out in a measured way over a long time frame. To pretend that this tax will improve world pollution and lower temperatures, when the government's own experts say any change in a thousand years will be minor, is dishonest. The reality is that this is a tax the government must have to help dig itself out of the fiscal hole it has created for the Australian people. Let us be honest about it. Tell the Australian people the truth. The government cannot manage money and we need the Australian public to yet again cop it on the chin.

The state of our health and community services in the electorate of Flynn is in urgent need of an overhaul. There is nothing in this budget to give the community any comfort at all. On 27 July 2010 Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, 'I want to be absolutely clear—mental health will be a second-term priority for this government.' The budget papers reveal that this is a tricky move by the Prime Minister. Most of the money will be delivered in five years time—the last year of the next term of the government. The budget shows that $500 million has been cut from regional programs. It is a snub to Central Queensland when $480 million of regional development funds has been allocated to the roads around Perth Airport.

In summary, this budget delivers nothing substantial to my electorate of Flynn. It eats into the incomes of hardworking families and will take jobs from Australia and place them overseas. The government is gambling with our country and our lives. There are no guarantees about the precarious world economy and yet this sham of a budget is based on the assumption that the economies of our trading partners will continue as they are today. Where will we be if these predicted downturns in China occur? What measures has the government taken to deal with another global economic disaster if it should happen? The government has left us no room to move. It has spent foolishly and has not provided for much needed infrastructure projects like the Bruce Highway and many other trouble spots around the area, especially our internal roads. I implore the government to get its priorities sorted out and concentrate on projects that will benefit Australians in the long term.