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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4205

Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (21:24): I am pleased to talk about Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014.

Australia is now at a significant crossroads. Without sounding too pessimistic, I think we must seriously be at a point where we sink or swim. I have previously described the looming federal election as one of the most definitive of our time. I say this in light of the delivery of the Treasurer's sixth deficit budget, one which was promised to be in surplus—and we had heard that more than 600 times. I highlight the importance of this year's election not to be alarmist but to highlight that Australia has choice to make.

The first choice is a Labor government that is obsessed with retaining power at any cost. It has no clear direction or plan to fix its mistakes. It has decimated the northern cattle industry. It is driving industry and jobs offshore. It has been hijacked by the extreme Left and is leading this nation down the path of economic ruin. The other choice is a coalition government, which I would be proud to be a part of, that stands ready to let business and industry do what they do best and to get out of their way. It will provide a stable environment for investments to create jobs. It will ease the cost of living by getting rid of the confidence-crushing taxes such as the carbon tax. It will end the border protection failures, get better communications to our regions sooner and make Australia strong again.

The Treasurer's presentation of the budget during the last sitting period said it all. His delivery was flat, dejected and unenthusiastic. To me this suggests one thing: the government is out of ideas. The signs are there, and the Gillard government has been repeatedly warned by the people, the businesses and industry. Those signs are evident. Budget deficits are normal since Labor came to power in 2007. In 2008-09 we had a $27 billion deficit; in 2009-10, a $54.5 billion deficit; in 2010-11, a $47.5 billion deficit; in 2011-12, a $43.4 billion deficit; and in 2012-13, a $19.4 billion deficit, which was supposed to be a surplus. And we have projections for 2013-14 of an $18.8 billion deficit and for 2014-15 of an $11 billion deficit. Our gross debt is to sail past $300 billion in the forward estimates. The Treasurer has lost control of his spending and forecasts and now wants to pass the blame on to the Treasury.

Both large and small businesses continue swimming in red and green tape. There are plenty of local examples of small businesses in Flynn that are struggling to survive. There is a two-speed economy in Central Queensland towns. Smaller employers who are not directly involved in the mining or gas industries are losing their workers to the higher paid mining and gas jobs.

Chinese growth continues to plateau, affecting our commodity prices, and we do not know what is around the corner there. However, we hope that commodity prices will bounce back and I hope that we are a part of supplying China and other parts of Asia with these commodities. There has been $100 billion worth of resource projects shelved or scrapped. I refer to the project in your electorate, Deputy Speaker Scott, for Wandoan coal which was proposed by Xstrata. That involved not only the mine at Wandoan but several other coal projects which would have use the railway link line to Banana and then on to the Wiggins Island project at Gladstone. These plans have all been shelved.

We face fierce competition from countries in Africa, from Indonesia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, which is a rising commodity supplier, and also from Canada and countries in South America. The high Australian dollar has also affected most of our exports; however, in the last few days we have seen it starting to fall as the United States dollar picks up. The car industry, as we all know, is on the brink.

The steel industry cannot compete with overseas prices; labour costs are too high for the productivity of the workforce. Trade tariffs are now working against us. For example, beef into Japan and Korea and dairy products into China have all been affected by the trade tariffs that are placed upon our products being exported into those Asian countries. This fact needs to be addressed ASAP. Our cement industry is fighting hard against imports. In fact, they cannot produce at the same price at which cement can be brought into Australia. The pig industry struggles to survive without subsidies while the countries from which we import our pig products subsidise their own products. So our pig farmers are behind the eight ball at the very start.

The fishing industry is another industry of concern, since 70 per cent of the fish we eat is from overseas. This is a disgrace considering we are an island nation with water all around us. Coal, coal seam gas and iron ore companies are struggling to keep existing mines and plants open. The setting up of new greenfield sites in any of the industries I have just named is getting harder and less attractive by the day—and, of course, that is why $100 billion of projects have been scrapped or shelved. Deutsche Bank's analysts of BHP and Rio Tinto coal operations in Australia have highlighted that operating costs have gone up some 320 per cent since 2005. The mining tax and the dreaded carbon tax have stifled existing businesses and households in Australia and sent our cost of living through the roof. By world standards we are a high cost country to live in. The tourism industry is impacted by the inflated cost of living. Industrial relations legislation must become fairer and more flexible to help kick-start the economy.

Those are some of the problems which, as I see it, we face as Australians. These are suggested solutions. No longer can this country afford a government which lacks direction and commitment to ensuring that we are well placed to deal with the challenges we face in a globalised economy. Everything is global these days. We are in the global export market. We must be competitive with other countries, but this is where we are falling behind. We need to refocus our attention on regional Australia and the valuable contribution which regional Australia makes and will continue to make in the future. We need a speedy resolution to trade agreements with South Korea and others in the Asia-Pacific basin to ensure that the cattle industry has every chance to become competitive in the global market. Our primary producers need their federal representatives to get off their backs and stop pandering to the extreme left. We need to unleash the potential of small, medium and big business by repealing thousands of regulations which have been imposed on them since 2007. This will give them the confidence to reinvest, encourage their children to carry on with the businesses and give them the confidence to employ.

The current NBN, especially in rural areas throughout Flynn, is a rank failure by anyone's standard. At the current rate of the rollout, it will be 100 years before the job is done. If you look on the NBN website, you will see that Gladstone, which is a major industrial town in Queensland, and Emerald to the west are barely on the radar. How will they get NBN services? It is quite strange to think that an NBN fibre-optic cable goes past the doors of Emerald, Monto and Mundubbera. The NBN fibre-optic cable has been put in by a private company called Leighton yet sits there in the trenches unused. It is a strange one indeed, and I cannot get to the bottom of the intended future of this fibre-optic cable.

By contrast, the coalition NBN will cost far less, provide a benchmark of 25 megabits per second and hit the regions first, which is good for my area. And all this will be done across Australia by 2016. The coalition can get rid of the carbon tax, which will ease the cost of living for families, take pressure off businesses and industry, and generate more confidence in the economy. We will also act responsibly and decisively to pay down the government debt. The $300 billion gross debt is costing us $20 million a day every day with interest. Seven days worth of interest would have paid for the Calliope Crossroads. For less than 20 days worth, the Yeppen flood plain upgrade would have been fully funded. One day's worth of interest could have paid for the high school at Calliope. We have to rein in debt to ensure that the essential overdue schemes like the NDIS are fully funded and achieve exactly what they need to achieve to fulfil our social obligations to people living with disability and their carers. This is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to a coalition government, we will further the cause of the Australian people, not just in the cities but in the regions, which are the backbone of the country.

I hear it every day back home in Flynn: even those who do not support me believe that we need change and that something has to give. In Central Queensland, people simply want government to govern responsibly, to protect them and, for the most part, to stay out of their lives. Flynn is a diverse electorate, rich with a buffet of industries and environmental assets that are the envy of the rest of the country. The region has so much potential, but it has been overlooked and neglected time and time again. So many budget deficits in a row stand testament to a government that is not capable of handling the change that is taking place in Flynn right now. Most of all, we have a government, a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who will not listen to the people of Australia. They plough on regardless, unaware that our economy is not good and needs urgent, radical change.

I will take the last minute or so to talk about the V457s, as were mentioned by the member for Throsby. It is a difficult situation, and I have this problem in my area, but I can tell the House that without V457s our meatworks in Rockhampton and Biloela would not be able to survive, nor would some of our citrus farms along the Burnett or in the Emerald region. We also make sure that those companies who bring in 457s make sure that Australians are always offered the jobs first. That is what we all stand by: jobs for Australians first. But, if we cannot get those people to come out of the cities, cities like Bundaberg, then we must import labour; otherwise, the fruit will go rotten on the ground, the cattle will not be processed, and the whole economy could grind to a halt.

Sitting suspended from 21:39 to 21:44