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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 6949


Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (15:48): I thank all those who stood to support me on this occasion. Perhaps they may even like to stay and listen to what I have to say. As the government lurches towards the end of its term Australians are looking for change. Frankly, they have had enough. They have had enough of three years of constant internal warfare which has just left the country with a feeling of despair. Here we are, just two days of parliamentary sittings left and just 80 days away from an election, and the government still has not made up its mind who its leader is going to be when it comes to this election campaign. Will it be the current Prime Minister or are we going to get a re-run of the previous Prime Minister? The facts are that, with all the division, the chaos and the dysfunction, neither is worthy of the Prime Minister's office. The party they purport to lead is not worthy of being entrusted with government. Both have proved that they cannot be trusted by the Australian people.

The coalition is focused on a better future for our country, focused on families and businesses. Labor have forgotten all about the people they purport to represent. They just look inwards. They are fighting amongst themselves. Australia's national interest does not get a look in. Families are forgotten. The people are forgotten. Is it any wonder that so many people look at their lives and wonder how the last three years could have been so wasted? They wonder how the opportunities that our country had, with the best terms of trade that it has enjoyed for ever, could have been squandered by a government that has no direction, knew not where it was going. This government was just being as creative as it possibly could be to develop and invent new taxes that actually hurt the Australian people and have sent our country backwards. Labor has just governed itself for almost six years now, self-obsessed and self-destructive. Around 40 new or higher taxes have been imposed on the Australian people.

Above all, Labor's carbon tax is hurting Australian families. It is costing jobs. It is sending manufacturing overseas, as was just alluded to in the previous debate. Under this government, three manufacturing jobs are being lost every hour. Is that the kind of record a Labor government would want to leave behind? The Treasurer said in his last budget that this budget would be about growth and jobs, except the budget forecasts lower growth and fewer jobs, more unemployment. There was a budget a few years ago that was about jobs, jobs, jobs. But this government has in fact stalled the rate of jobs growth and manufacturing jobs. Indeed, so many other jobs are being sent overseas on a daily basis.

But the carbon tax is slugging all Australian families, particularly those who live in the regions. For most of the last 12 months, the $23 per tonne carbon tax that Australians are paying has been more than five times higher than the rate in Europe. What is worse, our tax is much more comprehensive in its coverage of the economy. The European tax just touches a handful of industries. Many of Europe's key industries—the export industries, the food-processing industries—are exempt. If you go to New Zealand, the food-producing industry is exempt, but the rate is only 75c a tonne.

Australia has the world's biggest carbon tax and it has done the world's biggest damage. It is a tax that is costing jobs and hurting families. But Labor has not yet had enough. Next week the carbon tax goes up. It goes up to $24.15 per tonne, 32 times higher than New Zealand's effective rate of 75c a tonne. Is it any wonder, therefore, that jobs are moving to New Zealand, that the people at SPC, at Simplot and at so many of our processing industries are worried about their jobs going to New Zealand? Indeed, food processing was Australia's largest secondary industry, but it is largely now being exported to other countries, and permanently lost as a result of this government providing an uncompetitive environment in which to operate. Is it any wonder that Australian food producers are moving to New Zealand? Is it any wonder that Australian manufacturers are giving in to competition from Asia? They do not have any of these sorts of taxes to pay. They are not lumbered with these burdens.

People who live in regional communities have to pay over the odds when it comes to the cost of living, and the carbon tax just makes life harder for them. But there is more to come. If Labor are re-elected, the carbon tax will go up again next year, on 1 July 2014. It comes with an extra kick in the guts, especially for regional Australians. If the Rudd-Gillard soap opera gets another run, the carbon tax slug will hit road transport for the first time. The government have not actually legislated for this carbon tax on road transport, although the Prime Minister has reaffirmed again and again and again that they intend to do so. They would save the embarrassment of the members for New England and for Lyne from the magnitude of what they have done in supporting this tax on distance. But if this government is re-elected, there will be an increase in the carbon tax to above $25, and there will be a 7c a litre or thereabouts increase in the price of diesel.

That is going to make it more expensive to move things around our country. Every item on every shelf in every supermarket in the country will be more expensive as a result of the extension of the carbon tax to include transport fuel. That means higher costs of living for families. It means that everyone will have to pay more for the basics in life. If you happen to be unfortunate enough to live outside of a capital city, you will pay even more, because you have to pay more freight on everything that goes to your stores.

The reality is that this is a government that has lost touch with the impact of its policies on Australian families and on their lifestyles. It means that every Australian family lives with an Australian government that no longer cares about the impact on their lives and on their lifestyle. There will be less profits to go home and investments are being put on hold. More jobs are at risk, and the opportunities that have generally been regarded as the birthright of every Australian are disappearing. As a nation, we need to be investing in industries that create Australia's wealth—the mining industry, the farming industry, the manufacturing industry, the electricity generation industry, the tourism industry and small businesses. We should be supporting them, not penalising them. A coalition government will abolish the carbon tax. We will get our industries competitive again. We will give families hope for a better future.

Australians have also suffered from other taxes in Labor's plethora of taxes. What about the mining tax? This is a tax that has undermined investment and cost jobs, but the much promised windfall of revenue simply has not happened. For regional Australia, therefore, the so-called benefits from the regional investment fund have just disappeared—$2 billion simply taken away from that fund in the last budget, because the government recognised the money was not there. They have not earned the money because the tax, personally negotiated by the Prime Minister, has been a debacle. It is the bitter fruit of the secret deal hatched by the canny negotiator, our Prime Minister, with the three big miners. Big miners managed to carve themselves out of the mining tax and to leave the small miners to carry the can and so, not surprisingly, the can is empty.

The Treasurer stripped this $2 billion out of the regional infrastructure fund and moved another amount of money across to try and prop up the roads budget, which has basically been halved in this year's budget. The attempt to prop it up is to try to make the figures look as though they are not as disastrous as they actually are. A coalition government will abolish the mining tax as well. We will restore confidence to our great mining industry, and we will give them the opportunity to invest and to create jobs—jobs for Australian families and opportunities for our country.

Small business has been the backbone of our country for such a long, long time. But Labor's high-tax, high-debt and high-regulation merry-go-round is also undermining the engine room of our country. Under Labor's mismanagement, the engine room of our country has seized up because of a lack of confidence, a lack of optimism. As a nation we have stopped playing to our strengths. We have stopped looking after the engine in our economy. Small businesses are being vilified in the name of green dogma or union power and the tax binges from this government. Their costs are increasing, and the skids are being put under the millions of Australian jobs that they support. The job losses are mounting, and job security is simply a pipe dream, particularly for employers and employees in regional communities. Many of these industries are facing the impact of the carbon tax, which is affecting them not just directly through electricity prices but also through extra costs on things like the gases in their freezers. Shopkeepers are pulling out refrigerators and abattoirs are unable to afford to recharge their freezers because of all of these costs.

When employees and families feel as though their futures are threatened they can no longer afford to go for the holidays they once had, and so our tourism industry suffers. Our new industrial relations climate makes it so difficult for a restaurant to open on a weekend or to serve a cup of coffee after hours, reducing the pleasure of the experience of holidaying in our own country. It also reduces the pleasure for those coming to Australia, who have paid all the extra arrival taxes and so forth that this government has imposed only to be greeted with closed restaurants or special surcharges for weekends because businesses and restaurateurs are simply unable to afford the high costs of labour in this country. That does not make us competitive; that gives us disadvantages. That makes it harder to be successful in this country, and that is, sadly, the record of this government along with its endless regulations, destroying the spirit of somebody who may be wanting to invest in or to propose a new project.

A coalition government will slash red tape, saving at least $1 billion a year. We will reward those who are prepared to invest. We will reward those people who have the willingness to work hard in this country. We are prepared to back them when they back themselves, and to give them a real chance to succeed.

The reality is that this government has lost its way. Its proposed NBN, which is going to save the nation, is years and years behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget. There is virtually no-one signing up and there are more costly delays yet ahead. The wireless network, we are now told, is so far behind that fewer than 10 per cent of the target businesses and homes will be connected by 30 June. And the latest excuse that the NBN has for not being able to get its wireless up and running? They did not realise there were trees in Australia! The tall trees are blocking the signal. This is the whole scheme that never had a business plan, that does not know where it is going, but we certainly know it is not getting there. The reality is that Australians are being left without the services that they were promised. A coalition government will deliver fast broadband sooner and more cheaply, at an affordable rate.

This government has delivered a gross debt that is going to take generations to recover from. This government has left families without hope, without opportunity and in despair for the future of their country. We need a change. We need a new government. We need somebody who believes in our nation and who is prepared to back it, invest in it and make sure things happen—to give Australian families the hope, the reward and the opportunity that they need to build for themselves and for their families.