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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18594

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (3:09 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Would the minister advise the House of the government's commitment to the diesel fuel rebate. Are there any alternative policies, and what impact would they have on regional communities, including in my electorate of Dawson?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I thank the member for Dawson for her question. I can affirm that this government is committed to the diesel fuel rebate in full—no qualifications.

Mr Anderson —No new taxes!

Mr HOCKEY —No new taxes. I know how important that is to the member for Dawson, because the mining industry represents about $1,600 million to the Mackay economy every year—that is, nearly one-third of the regional economy. With the new mine at Hail Creek, employing 90 people, it is only too obvious how crucial mining is not just to that region but, importantly, to the whole of Australia. We know what sort of pressure the mining industry is under—global competition and currency volatility are having an impact—and yet, as a $32 billion exporter and an employer of 83,000 very hardworking people right across Australia, it is the bread and butter of many regional centres.

Mr HOCKEY —Is the member for Hotham suggesting they are not educated? Is that what he is suggesting?

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will address his remarks through the chair.

Mr HOCKEY —That is why many members on this side of the House, in the coalition, are horrified at the Labor Party's proposal to cut the diesel fuel rebate by nearly half a billion dollars to pay for the universities policy they have come up with. That is a new minerals tax of nearly half a billion dollars on mining workers and their families, and it is going to have a real impact on regional communities.

Mr Fitzgibbon —They also want to send their kids to university.

Mr HOCKEY —As one example, I want to know how the member for Hunter is going to explain Labor's—

Mr Anderson —Was he consulted? Do you think he knew?

Mr HOCKEY —I do not think he knew. I think he was fighting for preselection. The member for Hunter only won his preselection because I gave him an endorsement. I had to give him a reference to get him over the line.

Honourable member—Why did you do that?

Mr HOCKEY —I do not know why I did it. It was a flight of fancy; I was crazy at the time. Now that the member for Hunter has won preselection and now that he has got a battle with the CFMEU, I want to know how he is going to explain to the 7,000 people employed in the Hunter region in the coalmining industry how they are going to have to cope with this half a billion dollar mining tax slug from the Labor Party. I wonder how he is going to explain to the 1,500 workers at the Coal and Allied Hunter Valley operations why they have to pay for the education of lawyers and accountants at Sydney University, under Labor's new education policy. And I wonder what the member for Hunter is going to be saying to the 575 Hunter Valley businesses that rely on mining. What is he going to say to them when they are slugged with Labor's new mining tax? Why do they have to pay for a fine arts education or an architect's education, through the Labor Party's new policy? It is an obvious truth that the Labor Party has no regard for the real battlers out there. The Labor Party is not batting for the workers of Australia and it is not batting for regional Australia, and that might explain why the Labor Party holds only six out of 45 rural electorates across Australia.