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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7957

Mr KATTER (1:47 PM) —The previous speaker really cannot come into this House to represent the ALP and stand up with a straight face—Dick Adams most certainly would not attempt to do it—when she represents a party that stopped the Franklin Dam from going ahead. The member for Franklin is making faces. Tell the House: did the ALP federal government—the party that you represent in this place—stop the Franklin Dam? You stand up here and tell us that you are doing a wonderful job. I have news for you: if you pick up the latest edition of National Geographic—I will help you out to save you a little bit of time with your research—you will see that it has Australia at 31 or 51 and America at 506. If you divide the population of America by that of Australia you will realise we are not doing very well in the renewables stakes at all. In fact, if you have a quick look at the two pages in National Geographic you will realise we are dragging the chain very badly indeed. I felt so sorry for poor little Tasmania over the Franklin Dam decision, which was made by a few people who will probably be kindly thought of as very peculiar and on the very margins of the belief systems of the rest of Australia. I do not know; the people in this place just do not seem to be able to get the message.

Mr Latham went down to Tasmania to tell us all that he was going to save the trees—at the expense of some jobs, of course. I rang my campaign director and said to change all the advertising. He said, ‘I’ve already changed it.’ We were advertising on the basis that we would have the balance of power. Once Latham said that, there was not going to be any balance of power; there was going to be a slaughter. And that was exactly what happened. People like Dick Adams, who represent their electorate and their people rather than their party, took a very strong stand and were handsomely rewarded by the voters down there. But he did not do it to be rewarded by the voters.

Mr Melham —The voters also rewarded Labor on the Franklin River. They were elected for 13 years after the Franklin decision.

Mr KATTER —I am only too happy to hear the interjections—

Mr Melham interjecting

Mr KATTER —If you would speak clearly I might be able to answer you.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—The member for Banks, if he continues to interject, will not remain in this House. The member for Kennedy has the call. The member for Banks will desist from interjection; otherwise, he will find himself out of this place.

Mr KATTER —Naturally, it hurts a bit, I suppose. Of course, the Leader of the Nationals at the time and John Howard, smelling blood in the water, raced down there to look after the jobs of the workers. People in this country are much more conscious of jobs now than they were then. If you think you are going to the polls on the basis of carbon, good luck, son. I will be very nice to the opposition. I will be working very hard to ingratiate myself with them.

Recently we had an illness in the family and I had to spend a few days in Sydney. I met a number of taxi drivers there. They seemed to be local blokes. I asked them what people were talking about in their taxis. They said, ‘Jobs, mate; people are just scared.’ They did not know I was a member of parliament. ‘They are just scared for their jobs. Blokes in business have businesses going broke. They are really worried.’ I said, ‘What about carbon?’ Two of the eight asked me what carbon was and the other six said that no-one was worried about that. As I have said many times in this House, I am not a sceptic; I am an anti. If you are going to argue with me that a few specs up here are going to stop the illumination from coming through, you are having a piece of me. Where I come from, if you try that on then someone will laugh at you. What I am saying is that even a person like me, who is anti, still says that we should pull on the reins here. There will be some problems that will arise if we keep increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And there are some serious ramifications in the ocean. I refer to the work of Katharina Fabricius and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, an internationally renowned institute in this respect.

If you are going to pull on the reins then look at doing something practical and real. Do not create another security which will be traded by Goldman Sachs, the share brokers, or Macquarie Bank and those sorts of people. All you are doing is setting up another security. As I have said in this place on a number of occasions, it is just a glorified MIS. It is a glorified way of diminishing your tax. That is all that is going to happen here. Do something practical and something real. I know the government is not comprised of people who can change a tyre on their car—nor is the opposition comprised of people who would know how to change a tyre on their car—but, surely, it can be practical enough to figure out that if you put a solar hot-water system on your roof you will diminish your energy needs. I will give you the figures on this by Steve Szokolay in his solar house book. Szokolay is probably the leading world authority in this area—though since deceased, I think. In that book, he delineates that 40 per cent of all domestic energy requirements are for the heating of water. I am not going to say you are going to remove all the heating of water, but you most certainly would remove 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the demand inside every house in Australia with solar hot water. If you cannot deliver it to every house in Australia, you most certainly can deliver to the government houses. I do not know what the figures are now, but at one stage when the Queensland government had responsibility for government housing about 25 per cent of the houses in Queensland were government housing, either state or federal. With a huge bulk contract of that size, you could deliver solar hot-water systems very cheaply. As I have said before in this House, when I was the Minister for Mines and Energy in the Queensland government this sort of thing would have postponed the necessity to build an 8,000 megawatt power station for another 10 years. That would have been the enormous saving from that one simple action.

I rise today to say that we are desperate for energy in north-west Queensland. Please do not put the cost of our mining operations up. There are probably four or five major mines operating at a loss. If you put another four, five or six per cent cost burden on them, they will simply not continue to operate. I did not allow all the foreign companies to buy our great mining companies, but this parliament did. It allowed our six great mining companies to be foreign owned. It may come as a shock and a surprise to some people in this place, but those foreign companies do not own those mines to be Santa Claus to Australians; they own those companies to make money. If they cannot make money out of a mine then they will close it. They might carry losses for two or three years—and they probably have done that now for two years—but they are not going to do it indefinitely.

Some of the Labor government members of this place were at the talk the other day by the man from Peabody. He said that not he nor any of the miners should be deceitful and say that mines were going to close. I observe that he would have been deceitful if he said they were not. If you dump a five per cent cost burden on the gross income of every mine in Australia and think they are going to stay open, obviously you have had no experience in business. I most certainly have had experience, and I can tell you they will not stay open. I represent 2½ thousand people who I think will be out of work if the government’s program as it now stands comes in. I urge the government to consider this.

I pay great tribute to Minister Ferguson, the Minister for Resources and Energy, for the excellent work he has done in developing a national energy corridor and for providing the open doors for our clean energy corridor. Before I sit down, let me say this to the House: yes, if you are going to subsidise the solar energy project, the sun can be used to boil water during the day, but it cannot boil water during the night. But if we have a biofuels project with that, which produces ethanol, then the sugarcane fibre that is left over can be burnt using the same boilers to produce electricity during the night. We would have a fully renewable system. You would have energy—petrol for motor cars and energy to switch on electric lights—for hundreds of years to come. The water that flows down that giant river, the third biggest river in Australia, will have a little bit diverted to grow the sugarcane and the sun will power our solar thermal power station. We can provide 450 megawatts. The other renewable projects in that clean energy corridor that stretches from south of Ingham all the way out to Mount Isa and through Pentland will provide 850 megawatts of renewable power as well as four per cent of Australia’s ethanol requirements. Two per cent of Australia’s power and four per cent of Australia’s petrol can be provided by this project.

We must sincerely thank Minister Ferguson, who has just entered the chamber, for the excellent work he has done in opening these doors of opportunity. But we plead with the government: if you proceed with the current policy then, as we read in the paper today, food prices will go up between four and seven per cent. Since most of our food is imported from overseas, I think that that is a very conservative estimate of the increase in the price of food. The price of electricity, according to the government’s own documentation, will go up somewhere between 22 and 46 per cent, if we are looking at a CPRS of 15. So the mother with two or three kids trying to make ends meet would be looking at a six per cent increase in her food prices and a 15 to 40 per cent increase in her electricity charges. We do not have to go down this path. There are other options available to the government that are realistic, that are practical and that will produce results. The clean energy corridor will provide the government—and we thank the government very much for their initiatives in this area—and the people of Australia with the possibility of supplying two per cent of their electricity needs and four per cent of their petrol needs. I must also add that the very excellent minister, Minister Ferguson, has brought to the attention of this House that we are running out of petrol in this country, that we have moved from 90 down to 30 per cent self-sufficiency over a five-year period.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Kennedy will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.