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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4485


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (17:29): I rise to speak on the latest artwork the Treasurer has created for us: his sixth and, hopefully, final budget. When the Treasurer stood up in parliament and gave his budget speech I thought he should have had a top hat, complete with rabbit, perhaps a deck of cards in his pocket, white gloves, a pigeon cage and the box and saw for the assistant, because it is probably the greatest work the Treasurer has done and an extraordinary example of his craft—that is, the art of illusion. Just like we had last year, we have a vast collection of smoke and mirrors when it comes to this budget. And this budget will suffer exactly the same fate as last year's budget, because the illusion can only last so long before the smoke clears and people see what is going on. I think the smoke has already cleared on this, because people have run a million miles away from this budget. It has been a very, very unpopular.

Last year's wafer-thin surplus promise, which the Treasurer promised and announced and re-promised and re-announced, with the Prime Minister doing the same thing—well, that was gone before the Treasurer even finished his budget speech last year. That promise was for a $1.5 billion surplus, we were told, with surpluses out over the forward estimates, the four-year life of the budget. Instead, what we have is a projected $18 billion deficit. Last year there was a $19.4 billion deficit, this year it is $18 billion, and on and on it is going to go. There is now no budget surplus until 2015-16—but if you believe that you would believe what the Treasurer said last year, that there was going to be a surplus. What does this do? This all adds to the nation's debt, and that debt continues to grow and grow and grow.

The gross debt is likely to exceed $300 billion. That is a figure we would were told we would never ever get to, but it is likely to blow that limit, to burst out. I recall the figure of $370-odd billion being announced as where we would hit peak debt. It is atrocious that this country is going to get that far into debt. At $300 billion, this nation is probably paying around $12 billion to $13 billion a year just in interest on that debt. That is a big number for most people to get their heads around. It equates to about $1½ million every hour. That is what the taxpayers will be facing: $1½ million every hour every day for the rest of the year, for the life of this government, and that figure will increase and increase as it keeps on racking the debt up and up and up.

The Gillard Labor government and the Rudd Labor government before it started their time in government with money in the bank and no net debt, yet we have managed to get to the situation we are in right now where the debt is growing and there is no sign that it is going to slow down. If we had actually used the money that was in the bank to spend on growth, on hard infrastructure, on stuff that was really needed to get the economy kicking along, it probably would not have been wasted, but the fact is that it has been. The fact is we have not seen substantial funding for major projects.

I can point to the Bruce Highway as one of the key infrastructure items that has gone begging with this government. Sure, there has been some work, but I have to tell you it is business as usual: the flood maintenance stuff, the run-of-the-mill stuff, stuff that was budgeted for and left over from the Howard years. All of that is being done, but there has not been anything substantial. We have places like the Yeppen flood plain in Rockhampton, where my good friend the LNP candidate for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, is trying to bring some representation to that area. That Yeppen flood plain is closed for 10 days a year on average and no supplies can get through for 10 days when it floods. That is the time frame. Trucks, freight and cars cannot get through. The Bruce Highway is basically shut down.

We have the Goorganga Plain in my electorate of Dawson, just at the Whitsunday coast area. It cuts off the Whitsunday coast airport from the tourism area of the Whitsundays. We have had situations where the area has been flooded and planes from Brisbane have sat on the tarmac. People have not been able to go anywhere because the bus could not get to the airport to pick them up and take them to the Whitsundays. So they have all got back on the plane and it has flown them back home to Brisbane. That area does not even have any planning funding allocated for it under this government.

We have Sandy Gully a bit further north near Bowen where there are significant flooding issues as well. We have perhaps the biggest construction project in northern Australia, the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion about to happen. People will need to get through the section of road to work there for the construction and also for the operations. But this area floods regularly. You are not going to get the workforce through there. So it is vital we get this area upgraded but there has been no funding for that under the life of this government.

The Horton River bridge a bit further along my electorate, also on the Bruce Highway, is very dangerous. It looks and feels very narrow. It is flood prone and, from the surveys I have conducted in my electorate, it is one of the top priority projects that people want to see sorted out by the government, but there has been no funding allocated to it under this government and no work done.

Then there is the Mackay Ring Road. It is vitally needed to get heavy vehicles off local roads in urban Mackay. It will basically become the Bruce Highway bypass of Mackay. It will link the port with the industrial centre of Paget so there are economic benefits as well with greater efficiencies and freight movements. For the residents of Mackay it eases the traffic congestion during the peak hours. The majority of the population of Mackay live north of the Pioneer River. We have this situation where the employment hub is in an area called Paget south of the river and also in the mines which are south and west of Mackay, so there are a lot of traffic log jams but only a minimal amount has been funded here.

We got $10 million which seems like a lot but it was $10 million for a study which started in November 2011 for completion midway through this year. They have identified a preferred route and there is public consultation underway but, once that is done, the funds run out. There is no more money to do anything else. The next stage has to be the detailed design and land resumptions. It is estimated to cost about $25 million for the detailed design and the hardship resumptions. That is probably up to $50 million if you are going to acquire the entire corridor. We actually had the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport come to Mackay. He talked about spending potentially $50 million as part of this supposed $4.1 billion commitment that the government is now on the even of an election saying they are going to spend over the next 10 years on the Bruce Highway. Well, hallelujah, they are late converts. But there is no money in the budget papers over the next financial year for it. There is no money from 1 July for any of these projects.

The Prime Minister came to Mackay at the end of April. The Daily Mercury, the local newspaper, reported that under the glare of the harsh North Queensland sun and the paper reporter under her nose, the Prime Minister said the money for the ring road would be in the next budget. Less than three weeks later we had the Treasurer bring down a budget with no funding for the ring road in it and certainly not for the next financial year, another broken promise for this government.

Curiously, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport flew in for a damage-control trip to Mackay about this. A journalists asked, 'Is this in the budget for 2013-14?' He said, 'It is in the budget.' He would not say the words 'for 2013-14'. He would not have dared say that. He dived and he dodged and he danced around that particular answer. I have to tell you why. It was found out today when the Department of Infrastructure and Transport's Mike Mrdak was before the Senate estimates committee. They asked him for about 15 minutes various different questions about this Bruce Highway funding package and what was going to be funded when. Again, just like the minister, there was a lot of diving and dancing. But the truth came out that it is split into two different parts—$1.844 billion is going to be funded from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and $1.09 billion will be funded from 2019-20 to 2022-23. The remainder of the funds are being spent this year on projects that have already been announced. The ring road and none of those projects I mentioned before are one of them. So it is about $1.2 billion less than what they said. More to the point, there is no funding for 2013-14. Surprise surprise!

The Labor candidate in my electorate and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport have been trying to pull the wool over people's eyes and tell them that the funding is there. But the fact is that funding does not happen until 2014-15. I am a Dr Who fan so unless the minister has a tardis that he can transport funding back in time, it is an impossibility. It is not happening. So they have been caught out and caught out badly with this lie that was told to the people of Mackay that there is going to be funding for the ring road in this budget, next financial year. We were told that by the Prime Minister when she visited Mackay in April. Senate estimates has brought out the truth. The funding is not there. It has been such a massive con job that they are now exposed, well and truly exposed for this fabrication.

There is more than the ring road and more than the Bruce Highway that needs to be done in the electorate of Dawson that we do not see any funding for in this budget. They are not big-ticket items and they are not pork-barrelling. They are just things that definitely need to be done. The Don River is one of those things that needs to be fixed. It is a river which does not flow much but when it flows, boy doesn't it flow. If you get a downpour you are going to get some serious flooding that is going to wipe out the community of Queens Beach and a lot of the agricultural crops around that community. It is a problem waiting to happen. There is a plan. The council is undertaking a study that will come out with some recommendations on how to actually fix it. We need to have some funding on the table for natural disaster mitigation and to do projects on problem areas such as this so we do not have that disaster. We need to get that funding and get it going before it is too late.

North Queensland produces an enormous amount of wealth for the entire nation. We just cannot seem to get the infrastructure out of government that we require to get on with the job of producing more of that wealth. We do not get our fair share. This government, I would have hoped, could have put up another regional development funding round before the election. It does not look like that is going to happen. Unfortunately, Mackay gymnastics is going to miss out. They have applied in the past for a measly $750,000 for a facility. Meanwhile, Geelong Cats in the national AFL comp gets $10 million for a stadium for that real small rural centre of Geelong. Meanwhile a poor little gymnastics club gets nothing. That situation I want to see reversed and I have a petition that I am going to be presenting to the House in the next coming week.

We have to be focused on what counts. This government is too busy being focused on leadership, on appeasing the Greens, buying votes and they have dropped the ball and lost control. We need the strong economy restored. The only way that can happen is through the coalition. (Time expired)