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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Page: 12904

Mr KATTER (6:34 PM) —I have changed my position on this after a great deal of consideration, and I will bend the knee to no man. My children are the sixth generation to be living in country Australia. My father worked for 18 months to two years before he went away to university. I worked for 18 months to two years before I went away to university. My son worked for two years before he went away to university. If you want to go to university, you work to earn it.

A shortage of jobs has not been my experience in country areas. My experience is that in country areas we are desperately seeking people for poorly paid jobs, not the high-paying jobs. If kids are prepared to do those jobs, there is work there for them. That is one element of it. The sister of Tanya Pascoe, a member of my staff, was married to a cane farmer who had terrible times in the cane industry. I find the comments of the previous speaker, the Leader of the Nationals, quite amazing. He was the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia when the government fell. There were 40 per cent fewer people going on to complete secondary education—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr KATTER —I stand corrected. He was the second-ranking person in the National Party when the government fell. They were there for 13 years and at the end of 13 years 40 per cent fewer country people went on to complete secondary education. I would point out that the honourable member for Wide Bay is laughing.

Mr Truss —It is 11 years!

Mr KATTER —Eleven years, whatever. I am sorry I said 13 when it was 11 years! After 11 years of you in government, 40 per cent fewer people went on to complete their secondary education and then a further 40 per cent fewer people went on to complete tertiary education. And you have the hide to come into this place and say, ‘Where is your heart?’ I will say ‘Where was your heart when you concluded your time in office as agriculture minister; every four days a farmer in Australia was committing suicide—where was your heart?’

Mr Truss —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order as to relevance, but also the remark was offensive. To suggest that I was responsible for—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member for Wide Bay will resume his seat. The member for Kennedy has the call. The member for Kennedy will withdraw, please.

Mr KATTER —Withdraw what, Madam Deputy Speaker?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The reference to suicide.

Mr KATTER —No, I just quoted a figure. I did not attribute it to him. I just quoted a figure.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —If you are not attributing that is fine.

Mr KATTER —I most certainly say that I did not attribute it to him. I just said that at the conclusion of his time in office that was the figure.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Thank you.

Mr KATTER —If someone wants to say the figure is not correct, that is up to them.

Mr Pyne —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I, as much as anybody, am very patient with the member for Kennedy, but he did make it very clear that he was suggesting that when the member for Wide Bay was a minister he had something to do with suicides—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Sturt and Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The member for Kennedy would assist by just saying he withdraws and then we can progress with this important debate.

Mr KATTER —For the sake of getting on with this I withdraw whatever it is that offended these people.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Thank you.

Mr KATTER —Tanya Pascoe simply rang me up and said, ‘Next year I will have two children going to university. My husband is an independent builder. We don’t make a lot of money. I work here to try to supplement that.’ Her five kids are tramping in and out of our office all the time and it gives me very great joy to have them tramping in and out of our office as we all love the Pascoe kids. She said, ‘I desperately need that $4,000 and the only way that I can get it is if this legislation is passed.’ I am not some big-time politician coming here knowing all about everything. Here is a woman, a very intelligent lady, who has gone into it and that is what she is saying. She is saying, ‘If you vote for this I get the $4,000. If you don’t I don’t. There have got to be thousands of people in your electorate in this situation.’ So it is about $4,000 plus $1,000 a year. I think there is merit and integrity in some of the arguments coming from the opposition on this, and I want to put that on record. I do think that there needs to be a little bit more liberalisation of the means test and the employment test, so I would add that to my remarks. All I can say is I have a person who assures me that there are thousands in my electorate in this situation. This is a very intelligent lady, and her daughter is doing medicine at the university, which I am not surprised by. She works like a dog and her husband works like a dog to try to help these kids to get a better way of life. She would not be making a mistake on this issue. That is a person speaking from the heart.